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Doug Henschen
Doug Henschen
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SAP Announces Blockbuster BusinessObjects Upgrade

Business intelligence and information management suites are synchronized and enhanced in a feature-packed release highlighting real-time analysis.

All-New Capabilities

By synchronizing the EIM and BI tool sets, SAP has underscored the importance of data-integration and data-management activities as the first steps to better intelligence. Indeed, many of the enhancements in 4.0 revolve around information management.

A new Information Steward application, for example, supports data quality initiatives by providing interfaces for data owners to analyze and continuously monitor the completeness, accuracy and consistency of data sources. The application provides key performance indicator scorecards that help stewards report on progress toward data quality goals.

SAP has integrated text mining and entity extraction technologies into the EIM suite, turning what used to be a separate option into standard functionality. Gained through BusinessObject's Insight acquisition, text mining and entity extraction is used to analyze unstructured data such as e-mail messages, open-ended survey questions or comments shared on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. These are building blocks for so-called sentiment analysis applications that let you decipher the collective opinions of customers, employees and other influencers.

In yet another EIM enhancement, SAP has adapted complex event processing technologies from Sybase to deliver BusinessObjects Event Insight. The application can be used to monitor dynamic data in real time and then trigger alerts or actions in response to changed or anticipated conditions.

CN plans to use Event Insight to monitor telemetry data on freight trains travelling across its vast rail network. "Fuel is our second largest cost after salaries, so we plan to use Event Insight to gain real-time visibility and insight for more efficient train handling," Capes said. As an example, an Event-Insight-powered dashboard could show CN the average speed and range-to-refueling for specific trains. It could also predict arrival times amid dynamic weather conditions or track maintenance operations.

Event Insight adds to the huge emphasis SAP had already placed on real-time insight with last year's debut of the High Performance Analytic Appliance (better known as Hana). But SAP isn't alone in delivering real-time BI. Cognos, for example, introduced real-time dashboarding with it's Cognos Now! appliance several years ago, and IBM added (non-appliance-based) platform capabilities in last year's IBM Cognos 10 release. Oracle also stepped up event monitoring and triggers in its latest BI product release.

High Points Of 4.0 Enhancements
Dashboards get direct access to the metadata layer, boosting cross-suite consistency
Federated search and text mining are standard functions, easing access to and analysis of unstructured data, such as e-mails and social network comments
New Event Insight supports real-time monitoring, alerting, and prediction
Upgrade to native 64-bit computing improves query and in-memory analysis performance

What To Look Out For

In a behind-the-scenes upgrade aimed at improved performance, BusinessObjects 4.0 moves up to native 64-bit computing. SAP touts that as an upgrade and a benefit -- and indeed it goes hand-in-hand with in-memory computing and real-time query and analysis -- but it's also a requirement. If your data center is not yet running 64-bit servers and operating systems, you'll have to upgrade. That could be a costly upgrade, but SAP says few customers have yet to make that leap.

"When we say 64-bit is required, we're only talking about the server infrastructure," clarified Dave Weisbeck, senior vice president of BI/EIM solution management at SAP. "People can still use 32-bit hardware at the client level, but when we polled our customers, we found they are invariably already on 64-bit hardware in their data centers."

But even at the data center level, the leap to 64-bit may challenging for midsize companies. Nonetheless, plans call for the BusinessObjects Edge-Series products for small- and midsize-businesses to move to the BusinessObjects 4.0 code base by the end of 2011 (thus requiring 64-bit servers). One SAP executive said the company is exploring the possibility of some form of 32-bit support for Edge products, but 4.0 runs on 64-bit servers and operating systems. Period. Check your particulars to see if the upgrade changes your BusinessObjects licensing costs.

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