Monday, November 06, 2006

SAP is the market leader in Analytic Applications!

It is with great delight that I announce what we have known for quite some time internally: SAP is the market leader in Analytic Applications according to IDC. To further extend our leadership, we also announced the GA of our xApp Analytic composites, which allow customers for the first time to realize the promise of combining transactional and analytical information in the context of a business process to facilitate decision-making.

In parallel with this announcement, we also had two announcements on the infrastructure side: on the BI platform side, entitled SAP Reports Significant Market Share Gain in Business Intelligence, which details the great improvements we’ve made on the infrastructure side and our customers’ successes with NetWeaver BI 2004s and NetWeaver Business Intelligence Accelerator, and on the MDM side, entitled SAP Leads Product Information Management Market Worldwide, that articulates SAP’s leadership in the Product Information Management market. From the combination of these announcements, it should be clear that SAP is clearly serious about the Business Intelligence and Performance Management market and have numerous customer successes to prove it.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Existing Oracle Customers Get More Confused: When should they use Sunopsis, Oracle Warehouse Builder, Informatica, or Ascential?

Oracle announced that it would be acquiring Sunopsis, a data integration vendor with solid products. Well, you can't fault Oracle for giving their customers choices! Existing Oracle customers already had THREE SEPARATE ETL tools that they had to use with Oracle products even BEFORE this acquisition:

  • existing ETL technologies of Oracle Warehouse Builder which they just made a big deal about how they had enhanced significantly in their latest release. Guess it couldn't have been THAT good.
  • existing OEM relationship they have with Informatica that they inherited from Siebel Analytics.
  • existing OEM relationship they have with Ascential that they inherited from PeopleSoft.

And now, Sunopsis. So for Oracle customers who owned PeopleSoft HCM, and Siebel CRM, and Oracle ERP, what should they use for their data integration needs? Contrast this with SAP, who has pursued an organic growth strategy and has one set of data integration tools for our applications across the entire enterprise. NetWeaver Business Intelligence includes sophisticated ETL capabilities that support analytic applications in every major horizontal: CRM, HCM, FIN, SCM, SRM, and PLM. With over 12,000 installations, and referenceable customers in every vertical we must be doing something right.

So, thank you, Oracle for continuing to give customers a reason to take the Safe Passage to SAP. We look forward to you acquiring even more companies that overlap directly with your existing assets and continue to confuse your installed base.

Does SAP really provide a Data Warehouse that requires no tuning or aggregates?

Mark Rittman, one of the sharpest minds in the Analytics and Business Intelligence space, had this to say about my previous post on SAP's Business Intelligence Accelerator: "Neshan Bardolliwalla (sic) talks about SAP's new in-memory BI accelerator that requires no tuning or need to build aggregates (as my son says, "yeah...right.")" It is hard to believe for those of us who have been in this industry for a while, but it is absolutely true. Here is an excerpt from my response to Mark which I posted as a comment on his website.

While I am not at liberty to disclose the detailed internals of the product, consider that a 64-bit computer can address 16 exibytes of memory. So, if you were take your ENTIRE data warehouse at its MOST granular level, without ANY aggregates whatsoever, put it in main memory, index that data, and then use clever on-the-fly search techniques to locate that data, you could most certainly eliminate the need for aggregates or any tuning whatsoever. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and yes, I didn’t believe it when I heard it either.

With today’s technology and Moore’s law continuing to operate, the need for disk-based database systems will continue to become less relevant as memory-based systems become cheaper to exploit and algorithms continue to be developed that allow one to search the addressable space of memory that a 64 bit processor is capable of addressing.

To put this into perspective, to get the same performance that BIA provides from an RDBMS vendor would cost about TEN TIMES as much.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

SAP's BI Accelerator - The future is in memory-based data warehouses

Well, the cat is finally out of the bag. Renee Boucher Ferguson, an excellent reporter at eWeek, broke the story last month about how SAP was moving to use in-memory technology in our BI Accelerator product. In an article in yesterday's edition of eWeek, she interviews Shai Agassi about the implications of this technology for data warehouses and even systems that need transactional storage.

The BI Accelerator is an amazing piece of technology that has become very popular very quickly among SAP's NetWeaver BI customers. Imagine a scenario where there is no query tuning or aggregate building in your data warehouse. Ever. The entire data warehouse at the most granular level is stored in addressable memory and indexed in such a way that performance is blindingly fast. We have seen unbelievable performance gains using this technology, and I'm excited by the possibilities of where we at SAP will continue to push the boundaries of what can be done with it.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Oracle's inability to focus and execute in BI

Dan Everett is a sharp guy who I had the privilege of working with when I was at Hyperion Solutions. I was pleased to hear that he recently jointed Ventana Research. In his analysis of Oracle's recent BI announcement, he makes the following comment:
Oracle's BI focus has been inconsistent in the past - making major announcements
and looking to generate revenue from BI one year, but in the next, making no
announcements and offering BI as a loss leader to generate database revenue.

I couldn't have said it better myself. Oracle has been dabbling in BI for more than a decade, but aside from their excellent database, has never executed in this space in any other part of the BI stack. History has shown over and over again that no matter how good their acquired products may be, if the champions of those products are not the ones with the political influence to ensure their viability, then Oracle will squash them for the products that were developed in house.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Contrasting Oracle's BI "Strategy" with SAP's BI Strategy

I was very pleased to see some great coverage today on SAP's Analytics and BI Strategy in the following article by Stephen Swoyer in Enterprise Systems: SAP Speaks Softly, but Carries a BIg Stick.

"For example, last month Oracle announced its first-ever Oracle Business Intelligence Suite product, which incorporates analytics capabilities Oracle acquired from the former Siebel Systems Inc. In promoting its new business intelligence (BI) suite offering, Oracle took the fight right to the BI pure-plays, arguing—in effect—that its ERP, database, and applications experience functioned to give it an especial insight into BI. "

"SAP could credibly make the same claim—perhaps even more so than Oracle. But the German ERP giant’s strategy has instead been content to quietly flesh out its own Netweaver-based BI stack, even as it downplays its own ambitions in the broader business intelligence marketplace."

I think Stephen was being very polite. Oracle's BI "strategy" is to make a big public proclamation to disguise the fact that they are throwing a huge bunch of products with disparate architectures, development teams, roadmaps, etc. into one big frying pan and hoping that their customers will get an Analytics omelette, when they are more likely to get salmonella.

How exactly does one "Fuse" the following products for each of the applications stacks that Oracle now possesses?

If you own Oracle applications, your BI and Analytics stack might include:
  • Front-End: Oracle Daily Business Intelligence and Oracle Discoverer
  • ETL: Oracle Warehouse Builder
  • Data Warehouse: Oracle 10g
If you were a PeopleSoft customer, your BI and Analytics stack might include:
  • Front-End: Crystal and/or SQR for Formatted Reporting
  • ETL: First Informatica PowerMart, then Ascential DataStage
  • Data Warehouse: PeopleSoft EPM

If you were a Siebel Business Analytics customer, your BI and Analytics stack might include:

  • Front-End: Siebel Business Analytics for OLAP and Actuate for Formatted Reporting
  • ETL: Informatica PowerCenter
  • Data Warehouse: Siebel Relationship Management Warehouse

What a mess! I don't even know what the J.D. Edwards folks had, but it probably was different from the other three. So is Oracle going to consolidate all of these and somehow derive value for their customers in the process? And they are offering lifetime support for all of the existing products? It seems more likely that Oracle is going to do what Oracle has always done best historically, which is to extract value from its customers at their expense. Do you think Siebel Business Analytics customers are going to continue using Informatica for the long haul? Do you think PeopleSoft customers will continue to use Ascential for the long haul? Do you think Actuate figures into Oracle's long term plans? It took Oracle all of a few weeks to rip out IBM's hosting of Siebel's OnDemand offering and replace it with their own, so I'm sure they'll be happy to concede revenues for their slow growth database business to their acquired companies' erstwhile partners.

Let's contrast this with SAP's NetWeaver BI stack and SAP Analytics. If you are an SAP customer, here is what you get with SAP NetWeaver BI (and we don't charge you extra for it either):

  • Front-End: BEx Suite - Integrated front-end tools for both Excel and web-based business intelligence. SAP Analytics - highly useable and flexible Analytical Applications targeted to specific roles in specific business processes.
  • ETL: SAP NetWeaver BI provides a highly functional ETL stack, with change data capture, trickle-feed capabilities, and advanced data lineage capabilities. Think it's only for SAP data sources? We have reference customers who use it strictly for non-SAP data.
  • Data Warehouse: SAP NetWeaver BI includes a full-featured ROLAP engine and a plethora of preconfigured relational cubes that customers can leverage out of the box to speed up deployment.

We at SAP like to do right by our customers and use this as our means of acquiring more of them. If you look under the covers, you will find us to offer a complete BI and Analytics stack capable of competing with anyone in the market. And it was built in house. And it runs on one stack, NetWeaver. Just don't expect us to host a four hour webcast to prove it. You can just ask the customers who chose us as their trusted partner, not whom we bought from someone else.

Monday, March 13, 2006

SAP Business Community for SAP xApp Analytics

Thanks to all of you who have written so enthusiastically and asked for further information about SAP xApp Analytics. SAP Business Community is offering a dedicated area specifically for SAP Analytics. You'll benefit from the following:

Webcasts & Online Demos
View Webcast replays, download slides, and read transcripts from presentations about SAP Analytics. Plus, view a demo and see how your employees can use SAP Analytics to make smart decisions, take fast action, and achieve strategic goals.

Discussion Forum
Participate in interesting and informative discussions, ask questions, and share advice about SAP Analytics.

Hear from SAP Executive Board members, who offer insight into why analytics are crucial to addressing today's challenges and to capitalizing on tomorrow's opportunities.

Brochures & White Papers
Read brochures and white papers that offer more detail about SAP Analytics, including an IDC white paper "Making Business Processes Dynamic by Embedding Intelligence".

News & Articles
This section features the most recent SAP press releases and news stories that provide meaningful information on SAP Analytics.

More Information on SAP Analytics
Learn more about SAP Analytics and its features & functions, business benefits, and more.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Value of High Impact Visualization with SAP Analytics

I'm out here this week at TDWI in Las Vegas and had the opportunity to attend Stephen Few's excellent presentation on "Designing Charts to Enlighten". Stephen is an expert in data visualization and really does a great job of helping business presenters to think about how to simplify data visualization by approaching it as an act of explicit design with the intent of delivering the right message to its recipients. For example, I would not have thought of this, but even something as simple as line types (thick versus thin) can convey the importance of the elements they represent. He offers a number of examples of better versus worse design principles on his website which are well worth checking out.

This bring up the more important point of the value of the quality of visualization in general and it is particularly pertinent to my current employer. SAP has long been associated with many positives in software industry in terms of comprehensiveness of functionality, industry-specific business process logic, etc., but the visuals of our UI were never really a focus of our efforts until very recently. This has given our software the reputation of being very difficult to use, and it's well-earned. It is an incredible shame from a business standpoint that SAP offers some of the most comprehensive application functionality on the planet, yet many customers have refused to use the functionality because they don't find it user-friendly.

I'm happy to say that we are starting to really "get it" however and have made and will continue to make a lot of improvements in our software via the paradigm of what we call "user-centered design". You can read about it at the SAP Design Guild, which is a great resource for UI designers. Of specific note to BI however, is that we realized that customers had so much valuable SAP data in their existing environments that they would love to be able to distribute to a MUCH wider-variety of folks. I'm not talking about the users who know the difference between a "dimension" and a "measure" or who want "multidimensional slice and dice with unbalanced hierarchies." We and a number of our partners already have great tools for this type of user.

But what nobody else in our industry aside from SAP is offering are analytical applications geared towards the common business user, the folks who really don't know and don't care to know about "dimensions" and "measures". But what they do understand are intuitive visualizations like charts and gauges, and they definitely understand their business processes. If they could be provided with applications that fused analytical content with the operations they perform in their transactional systems in a highly intuitive way, wouldn't they be far more productive? We think so, and this is the promise of our analytical applications, SAP Analytics.

Check out the application below, which we lovingly refer to as the "Blocked Order List":

This is an analytical application for a credit manager. As part of her job, she has to decide whether customers whose credit is exceeeded should be allowed to have their orders go through. See any "dimensions" or "measures"? See a separate "report tab" and an "action-link" back to the transactional system to actually conduct the transaction? No! It's all here, right on this screen. All the analytical and transactional data that the credit manager needs to make a good business decision appears in a very user-friendly manner along with three buttons that actually allow her to make the decision right there on the spot. How much training do you think it would take any credit manager to use this application? How about five minutes? And yet, how much better would her decisions be if she actually made them with this information right at her fingertips? This is the power of our analytical applications, and we are only getting started.

If you are tired of developing or having your staff develop reports that sit in people's inboxes or on their portal screens or even worse, are never used at all, then you owe it to yourself to check out SAP Analytics!