Keeping data in memory instead of pulling it in from a disk can speed up the processing of that data by orders of magnitude, which is why database companies have been vying for a share of the in-memory database market. IBM, Oracle, and Microsoft introduced versions of such databases this year, while SAP has been selling its Hana product for the past three years. Smaller companies including Aero-spike, VoltDB, and MemSQL have all been getting into the act as well.
What they promise is a way to speed up activities that are important to businesses, such as processing transactions with their customers or analyzing the ever-growing quantities of information those transactions produce. "I think the potential is enormous," says Amit Sinha, senior vice president for marketing at SAP, headquartered in Walldorf, Germany. "Changing the data center from disk to memory has huge implications."