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10/28/2009
10:56 AM
Fritz Nelson
Fritz Nelson
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Pre-Beta: SAP Expands BI On Demand (Video)

It's exciting to see this part of SAP: nimble, open, swift, even on demand. Last week, the company began showing pre-beta versions of several new software as a service technologies, code named 12 Sprints and Kona, one meant to provide a collaborative decision-making environment, the other to provide users with an on demand BI experience. We got an up close look, and filmed it, ReviewCam style, and even took a glance at SAP's newest BusinessObjects Explorer.

It's exciting to see this part of SAP: nimble, open, swift, even on demand. Last week, the company began showing pre-beta versions of several new software as a service technologies, code named 12 Sprints and Kona, one meant to provide a collaborative decision-making environment, the other to provide users with an on demand BI experience. We got an up close look, and filmed it, ReviewCam style, and even took a glance at SAP's newest BusinessObjects Explorer.You can watch the video below.

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We began with 12 Sprints, which I can best describe as a collaborative workspace, with a combination of project management and data sharing. You can pull in rich data feeds and share knowledge and make decisions, all in real time. In some ways, it resembles the modern Wiki. Where we explored other tools that help find and analyze data, 12 Sprints is where you would bring the most pertinent information back for team decision making.

Kona is a full business intelligence tool, but delivered as a service. It has dashboard-like qualities, but you can also use it to drill into data. You can also take data from Kona and expose it in the 12 Sprints activity space.

Both 12 Sprints and Kona are cloud-based applications, run by SAP. Neither are available today, but both are expected to enter beta testing in November, with full release set for the first quarter (Kona) and first half (12 Sprints) of 2010. You can purchase these tools standalone, but they are meant to work with existing data sources. I couldn't weasel pricing out of SAP for either product just yet. Kona will be a part of the next version of SAP's BusinessObjects Explorer OnDemand. Note: Kona and 12 Sprints are just code names for now.

Correction: SAP's BusinessObjects Explorer OnDemand will be a part of Kona in the future.

SAP's Business Objects Explorer, which isn't new at all (SAP rolled it out this past May) is a web-based tool that offers search and easy navigation to get accelerated access to huge data stores. Initially, those data stores had to be SAP's NetWeaver Business Warehouse, but the version SAP demonstrated (and this is brand new) can use multiple data stores, including Oracle databases, Teradata data warehouse, and even Excel spreadsheets. SAP would not provide pricing for this.

In the demonstration, SAP took a dive into 85 million records -- not only was this extremely fast, but the data access is extremely visual. You can change the output to any type of chart, but one of the intriguing features is the ability to represent the data in a tag cloud (with, say, the largest revenue items shown with prominence), and as you scroll over the items, the data is exposed. SAP also demonstrated a heat map, and as with most of the charts you can just select and drag parts of it to filter the data further. Finally, you can export, bookmark or e-mail any of these data views for quick access and sharing (and this can all be sent back to 12 Sprints, as an example, and all collaborators can see the data populate a project in real time).

There's even an iPhone business explorer, where you can search, pull data, drill down, and send the data back to a 12 Sprints project, again all in real time.

12 Sprints, Kona and BusinessObjects Explorer can come as stand-alone tools, but are also integrated with other SAP offerings as well. In this data-driven world, it's about time SAP got cracking on something like this.

Fritz Nelson is an Executive Editor at InformationWeek and the Executive Producer of TechWebTV. Fritz writes about startups and established companies alike, but likes to exploit multiple forms of media into his writing.

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