RESEARCH & RESOURCES

SAP Launches Data Warehouse Search Tool

BusinessObjects Explorer designed to let any user query enterprise information in near real time via Web interface.

By Jeffrey Schwartz

SAP AG is the latest major software vendor looking to bring business intelligence to the masses launching a Web-based search interface that lets individuals query information from large data warehouses and ultimately other enterprise resources.

The company unveiled BusinessObjects Explorer at its annual Sapphire 2009 conference last week in Orlando, Fla. It was billed as the most significant technology developed to date by the combination of SAP and BusinessObjects, which SAP acquired last year for $6.8 billion.

"It really delivers something neither portfolio could have done on its own," said Marge Breya, executive vice president and general manager of SAP's Intelligence Platform group, speaking at a press conference.

Explorer evolved from a BusinessObjects-developed tool called Polestar, released in late 2007, which lets individuals conduct searches against data in SAP BusinessObjects XI 3.1 business intelligence platform. Using a Web-based interface, SAP officials said Explorer will now let any user, regardless of their knowledge of BI, query SAP's NetWeaver Business Warehouse Accelerator, the company's tool for creating data warehouses.

Using traditional Web-type searching techniques (such as entering key words), the company said users can query millions of records and render information and reports in a matter of seconds, based on in-memory processing technology co-developed by Intel.

As an example, beta customer Molson Coors has used it to determine profitability of specific products in certain regions. Using Explorer users could query 900 million records in BWA in less than three seconds. "People cannot believe how quickly the data is coming back," said Katrina Coyle, Molson Coors global information manager, speaking at the launch.

"Basically Explorer is serving their joint customer base with a highly scalable and fast query accelerator," said Forrester Research analyst James Kobielus, noting the company is striving to build out a full data warehouse platform.

SAP officials emphasized the broad appeal it sees for Explorer's Web-based interface, which also supports Adobe Flash plug-ins. It is designed to let anyone from a clerk to a business analyst or executive to find any kind of information that may be dispersed within an enterprise repository much like they perform a Google search.

"IT gets the ability to not only have a secure, reliable scalable environment but also in a way that is actually compliant, controllable etc," Breya said. "So users can explore whatever data they are allowed to get access to and the IT organization still can maintain the control of the data, and can maintain that clarity and quality of the data itself."

The initial version, due out this summer, will integrate only with SAP's NetWeaver Business Warehouse Accelerator. Later in the year, it will be able to query any non-SAP data sources, Breya said, adding that the tooling will evolve as well. "I think you will see us opening up our APIs for new visualizations and you will see a lot more machination added to the portfolio and the product here," she said. The company did not disclose pricing.

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of 1105 Media's ADTmag.com and news editor of Visual Studio Magazine. You can reach the author at jschwartz@1105media.com.

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