SAP's SVP of HANA Enterprise Cloud has confirmed that 20 customers are live in the hosting environment, with hundreds more in the sales pipeline.

Stephen Spears explained that Q3 was the first full quarter for the recently announced cloud service, and coming out of that quarter SAP now has "hundreds of customers in the funnel". Spears said that the customers signing up are a mixture of companies new to HANA and those already using it on-premise.

HANA is SAP's flagship in-memory platform, which will eventually underpin all of its applications in the future. The software giant announced its Enterprise Cloud for HANA - essentially a third-party hosted private cloud environment - back in May.

ComputerworldUK spoke to Spears at SAP's Database & Technology Partner Summit in Barcelona this week.

"There are a number of clear benefits. HANA can be deployed much faster - you don't have to go through the process of procuring, provisioning and running HANA as a customer. We know that cycle takes three to six months. We are talking about compressing that into two to three weeks," he said.

However, Spears also noted that the total cost of ownership (TCO) will depend on how long a company typically sweats its assets for. Although some will see it as an advantage to move from a capex model to a cloud-based opex one, if a customer sits on their hardware for many years the TCO for the HANA Enterprise Cloud will be more expensive than on-premise.

But if a company is typically doing a technical refresh of its kit every three years or so, the Enterprise Cloud TCO works out at the same or less, said Spears.

He explained that most of the interest for the cloud service is likely to come from mid-market companies outside of the FTSE200, where capital expenditure is tight.

Spears also warned customers that although the benefits of HANA are clear, and can be accelerated in a cloud environment, to not expect it to be as simple as flicking a switch.

"There is this perception that your standard implementation goes away when you move to the cloud - the thought is that if you are running this app in the cloud, it's like signing up to be on Facebook or something. It's not," said Spears.

"You still have the same rigours of the ITIL process - those have to exist, even though your infrastructure is in the cloud. I think that's the hardest thing for the customer to digest."

He added: "You still have to have a project plan, you still have to go through design, build, and test. It just so happens you don't have to own and run the infrastructure behind it."