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SAP Unveils Bundles of Enterprise, Mid-Market, SMB BI Tools

SAP outlines an "Applied Analytics" push that will have it competing with SAS and other powerhouses in the market for industry-specific analytic applications.

SAP AG recently announced a line of packaged analytic bundles based on its Sybase IQ columnar database and SAP BusinessObjects Data Integrator software. The software giant announced "analytics edition" flavors of its SAP BusinessObjects BI suite; SAP BusinessObjects BI platform; SAP BusinessObjects BI, Edge; and SAP Crystal Server.

The "analytics editions" are part of a trend: over the last 12 months, SAP has pushed analytic capabilities into its BusinessObjects business intelligence (BI) products -- including Business Objects Edge, a package that it pitches to mid-market customers.

This summer, for example, the company introduced Feature Pack 3 for the BusinessObjects BI Suite as well as a new visual exploration tool, Visual Intelligence.

The new analytics editions are a departure, too, according to Paul Clark, senior director of marketing with SAP. He positions them as part of a shift in SAP's focus toward so-called "applied analytics," a blanket term he says actually addresses three distinct categories.

  • Industry-specific analytic applications, which -- in purpose if not in functionality -- are similar to industry-specific apps marketed by competitors IBM Corp. and SAS Institute Inc. (SAP already offers several industry-specific apps, such as Business Planning and Consolidation for Banking.)
  • Content: scorecards, dashboards, and KPIs designed to support or enrich certain use cases in specific verticals.
  • Embedded analytics: SAP plans to embed analytic functions for vertical use cases inside its enterprise software packages, such as its CRM offering.

Because they fall into the second category, SAP's analytics editions aren't full-fledged or industry-specific analytic applications. Instead, they bundle either BusinessObjects or Crystal with a columnar analytic engine (Sybase IQ), creditable DI technology (Data Integrator), and light analytic content (in other words, the dashboards, scorecards, models, and KPIs typically associated with industry-specific use cases, such as human resource management in health care or insurance claims optimization).

"There's a lot of untapped knowledge for those really specific use cases, but it's a major leap to go from that to creating a fully-fledged [analytic] application that you're going to be supporting over time," Clark explains. Thus, SAP's pitch to business users.

On the back-end, SAP hopes that Sybase IQ and Data Integrator will appeal to another, non-business audience. "For the IT folks, we've brought in two components that we don't typically package together: the data integration piece and Sybase IQ," he points out. "One advantage of using Sybase IQ is that ... you can embed [or machine learning] routines inside [IQ itself]."

A Good (But Not Exactly Original) Idea?

SAP's broader push with Applied Analytics isn't unlike what vendors such as IBM and (especially) SAS have been doing for a decade or more: developing and marketing software packages designed to target specific industry use cases.

SAS, for example, markets a range of industry-specific offerings, from its foundational risk and fraud detection packages (now consolidated under its umbrella "SAS Enterprise Financial Crimes Framework") to its anti-money laundering, human capital intelligence, national security, and other targeted offerings. SAS likewise embeds its analytic technology -- including its industry-specific analytics -- inside data warehouse platforms from IBM Corp. (Netezza) and Teradata Corp.

Clark concedes that there's at least a facile resemblance, but stresses that Applied Analytics in general -- and SAP's new analytic editions, in particular -- are aimed at a very different customer class. In most cases, these customers haven't yet standardized on a BI or analytics platform. They may -- or may not -- be SAP ERP customers. Nor does SAP intend to target existing users of analytic technologies from SAS, IBM Corp., or other vendors.

"That [competitive displacement] isn't really the primary target," Clark says. "We get a lot of customers who are looking for a single package … to do the BI, to do the analytics server."

In most cases, he claims, shops are still using ad hoc configurations of homegrown and packaged software -- e.g., a reporting tool (such as SQL Server Reporting Services) and an analytic facility such as SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) -- to address their analytic needs.

This isn't simply inelegant, Clark contends: it's unproductive and fundamentally ungovernable, too. "What typically happens is the customer will end up building something like this themselves, but to build an application like this requires a lot of back and forth between IT and the business. That's one of the hardest phases of creating the application," he concludes.

"By giving them these analytic editions, we've shortened that cycle significantly. That's the basic idea [i.e., shortening the cycle]: we've found that customers are already building some form of analytic applications themselves [anyway] whenever they buy BI technology."

At this point, Clark says, SAP isn't pitching HANA, its beefy analytic appliance, as part of Applied Analytics. "The HANA story … today is very focused on an SAP environment … so the biggest beneficiaries so far from an analytics perspective are the users of [SAP] BW. If you're using BW, you can now put that on to HANA and get the power of HANA immediately," he explains.

"What the [analytic editions] packages allow us to address are customers who are not necessarily using SAP ERP, [or are] actually using a broad array of DW systems that they have not brought into BW. They're looking for an analytical system that is not necessarily tied to SAP."

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