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Former Member
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It’s been a while since a major release of BusinessObjects/SAP BI so  4.0 is a big deal – over a million person hours invested. SAP’s overall  focus is to help companies “run smarter” and obviously the work on BI  4.0 has to be part of this overall environment – how do analytics help  companies run more effectively, more consistently, more efficiently.  With 4.0 SAP took a broader look than just the BusinessObjects portfolio  – this release pulls together the whole portfolio of Business Analytics  products at SAP along with reference architectures and analytic  applications (largely pre-defined content, dashboards and reports for  application areas).

Running smarter to SAP means Knowing your business better, Deciding  with confidence and Acting boldly. The big themes in this release are:

  1. Big Data in Real Time
  2. Insight with confidence across business and social data
  3. Instant, powerful BI in your hands
    f course this seems to mean BI on high-end mobile devices rather than  pushing BI into the hands of people who don’t have those devices or any  interest in using BI tools. Ho hum.
  4. Best fit, right size, right now

The key element in the big data in real-time is SAP HANA – High  Performance Analytic Appliance. This pre-configured hardware/software  stack is designed to support in memory analytic processing based around a  columnar database. Obviously the size of blades available has increased  steadily while the cost of memory has dropped dramatically, changing  the dynamics for in-memory processing and pushing this towards being a  pervasive approach more quickly than you might have thought.

HANA calculates everything on the fly, avoiding the need for  specialized/localized tuning, and is designed to support the SAP  Business Suite, SAP Netweaver BW, SAP BusinessObjects and other  interfaces for third parties like SQL. It is designed to provide  real-time analysis and be a flexible foundation that minimizes data  duplication. And while this supports integration with SAP Netweaver BW  (the data warehouse offering from SAP), companies could commit to HANA  only and use BusinessObjects directly against it. Companies committed to  SAP Netweaver BW can use the BW Accelerator and those doing non-SAP  data could use Sybase IQ, all with the BusinessObjects stack on top.  They expect over time for the various products to collapse down to a  more streamlined suite that still supports these three use cases.  Interestingly there is some work around FuzzyLogix too along with some  thinking about when it might make sense to bring this kind of  in-database analytics to the in-memory offering.

New SAP Business Objects Universe design tool gives the Universe two  separate layers working together – a data foundation layer and a  business layer. The separation of perspectives allows data architects to  work with the potentially very complex data sources while the business  analyst can work with this to define a business vocabulary. The data  foundation layer has been worked on to make it more scalable and to  handle multi-source data more easily – you can build a single Universe  across a federated data set. It also handles multi-dimensional data more  effectively. Once the Universe is defined it can be easily used within  things like the dashboard designer.

Now today this does not allow either predictive analytic outputs to  be rapidly integrated into these Universes nor can models be built  against these Universes. Similarly the rules engines (BRFplus and Netweaver BRM)  cannot access the Universes directly. Both of these are recognized as  important scenarios, however, and SAP is working on integrating  Universes in these ways. This of course is excellent news as a coherent  semantic layer across reports, dashboards, predictive analytics and  business rules is a great platform for Decision Management.

The new Information Steward product has some interesting features but  it sadly introduces a new rules format for data quality rules. As many  of these rules will also be used in checking transactions for  completeness and validity in the applications it would have been nice if  these could have been reused. Over time there is a clear desire on  SAP’s part to reduce the need for rules to be written in multiple  formats – what they need (and what I hope they will build) is some good  federated rule management so that you can apply common rules in multiple  contexts. After all, as I always tell people, rule management will  trump rule execution in the end.

Lots of interesting stuff.