March Madness Road Trip Diary

<I’ve been meaning to get this out, but life seems to always get in the way.  I wanted to document as many details as possible, this way I don’t forget any as I get any older!>

With losses to Saint Louis and Butler, an entry to the NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament was looking bleak for La Salle University.  But with the last pick, the NCAA Selection Committee chose the Explorers for a First Round/First Four game against Boise State University.  Formerly known as a ‘Play-In Game’, it was still a seat at the table for my alma mater.  Not having played a tournament game in 20 years, this  was big and I decided that I was going to drive to Dayton to see the game.  Surprising me though, was Staci’s suggestion that I take Abby along for the ride. It was the beginning of the new quarter, her extended spring break started a few days later and she’s a straight A student.  Spending some quality father/daughter time was alright by me.  I rented a car from our local Enterprise office and we left Wednesday morning and drove to Dayton, Ohio.  The University of Dayton arena was the First Four site to see whether the Explorers would come away with a #13 seed and enter the bracket of 64.

What I didn’t expect was to enter one of the most memorable two week periods of my entire life. A roller coaster ride for my family, alma mater and friends that could be described as ‘once in a lifetime’.  So here’s the long-form Travel Diary!

Day 1: Royersford to Dayton

  • 8 hour drive
  • 520 miles

We headed off in our trusty Enterprise rental, a Mazda 6.  I’ve always had good luck with renting Mazda’s from Enterprise, as they usually include Bluetooth and are pretty comfortable to drive.  I decided to tempt fate and told the clerk to give me unlimited miles all the way to Missouri, just in case.

We left Royersford and headed due west.  The lovely PA Turnpike and I-70 was our trek and we arrived at our hotel in Dayton a little before 3ish.  By good luck, we ran into Jim Gulick in the hotel lobby, La Salle Athletics Alumni head and he gave us a parking pass and instruction to the night’s Pre-Game Reception.  Abby and I caught a few hours rest and headed down to the reception, where we ran into some good friends and fellow road trippers from Royersford!  It was great to see Wade Brosius and his son Jack had the same idea as we did.

This was the most common sight of the road trip.

Picking up our tickets from the players/VIP entrance was pretty neat and we headed into the Dayton arena.  What a great spot for basketball!  The arena was large, but not monstrous. I think that an arena like Dayton’s is something that La Salle could strive for, as long as the entire University community is behind it.

It was great to see an actual crowd of folks there rooting the team on.  Students made the drive from Philly, as well as alumni, both local to Ohio and not.  Even seemed that the Dayton fans who stayed were rooting for a fellow Atlantic 10 team. Of course, I would be remiss in discussing fans rooting for the team without mentioning our very own ‘Glitter Bro’!  It was great to see the energy that he brought to each game and more importantly, am proud to call him friend and brother.  Big props to Lieutenant Colonel Douglas LeVien, USA.  Ringleader of the Glitter Bros, Sigma Phi Epsilon brother and friend.  Way to represent!

Final Score: La Salle 80, Boise State 71

First Round Score…AKA ‘Play-in Game’.

Staci, Abby and I decided- Father & Daughter would drive to the Round of 64 (Second Round) game in Kansas City.  Our alma mater was now a #13 seed, set to face off against #4 Kansas State in what seemed to be a home game for K-State.

Thoughts and ideas on HANA…definitely not at HANA speed.

(Opening Note: I do not profess to be a HANA or 'big data' expert. I'm primarily an Analytics architect in a relational world. But I'm a geek and HANA intrigues me.) That curiosity has definitely been piqued in over the last month, starting with the launch of HANA Enterprise Cloud right before Sapphire/ASUG Annual Conference. And of course, the subsequent references during and after the conference.

The overall picture has begun to become a bit clearer through the murky waters. I've been using these blogs as my primers:


Since I do not profess myself a HANA guru, I have NO intention of writing anything to the level of the above. But from the outside looking in, what does all of this movement seem to say? SAP is pushing forward with it's 'all in' HANA strategy, correct? Given the technical effort, marketing push and recent news- that's pretty obvious.

On that note, I've heard some interesting discussions regarding the latest HANA Enterprise Cloud and HANA Cloud Platform announcements. Some SI's/partners/consultants think that SAP might be moving into some of their key spaces. Others think SAP is taking a logical step by offering these services and challenging partners to step up their game, while reaping the benefit of solidifying the HANA market with a level of expertise that currently SAP (and a few select partners) can currently offer. Personally, I think that only time and actual customer purchasing will really tell. Once HANA becomes a commodity, does SAP bow out of the cloud hosting model? These are probably questions that don't have clear answers now, only in the future. But it doesn't make them any less fun to discuss.

Turning to my home turf, what about Analytics? There has been a lot of discussion back and forth about the future of the semantic layer. Today, each semantic layer has a necessary use case/requirement. But what about in the future? Does HANA survive 'the Game' and take 'the Prize'? There can be only one.

Can (or even should) SAP really position HANA as the one 'semantic layer to rule them all'? Companies who can't/won't buy HANA as a database may be open to purchasing HANA as a 'BI Accelerator'. At this point- is HANA any different than installing the 'accelerator' server for other vendor's Analytics tools? Can I can model my data views in HANA and since all the SAP BI tools connect to HANA natively, HANA BI Accelerator Edition is the semantic layer? In the perfect world of my brain- this works. Of course, the reality is starkly different. Licensing, fees, server installs and configurations, designer tools…the list could go on and on.

Think about the possibilities. One semantic layer: a common business layer that brings a single vision of your data. (Yes, yes- I am sure that some may call this data federation. But in some enterprises, that is a 'dirty term' and not easily implemented.) Perhaps that's too Utopian of a vision. Disparate systems, databases, security requirements- that is the reality in most enterprises. What if I could model my HANA layer to connect to my big relational warehouse and a smaller departmental database; bring the data back into HANA and make it available for my Analytics tools. Once my query is done, the dataset is blown away- no persistence. This makes HANA an Analytics 'Appliance' or 'Accelerator' and not an 'in-memory' database. Are there use cases for this kind of implementation?

Perhaps another option is to break out the database from the application engine and use the engine only as your new semantic layer? Instead of connecting to a UNV/UNX/etc, you connect to a 'model' that lives in HANA. No data is brought back, HANA acts as the semantic layer to your data. SAP or agnostic datasources? Doesn't matter. BI developers now have one tool to connect and model. Use cases for this particular implementation may be easier to come by, but is it actually doable?

Did you notice a lot of questions above? Me too- that's why I wrote this blog. I think that there are still untapped markets and possibilities regarding HANA. Does SAP continue to drive the market to a place it thinks and hope that when it gets there, the price and time to production are commiserate with the public perception (and reality)? Or can SAP let the marketplace drive where to go next?