SAP Hana Overshadows BusinessObjects 4.0 At Sapphire - InformationWeek
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Cindi Howson
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SAP Hana Overshadows BusinessObjects 4.0 At Sapphire

The in-memory appliance and the big BI release are both set for release next month, so why is it that only Hana got the limelight and customer testimonials at this week's event?

It wasn't discussed at Sapphire, but the other potential beneficiaries of Hana are third-party BI vendors and those customers. Hana supports both SQL and MDX query, simplifying access by third-party tools such as IBM Cognos, Oracle BIEE, and MicroStrategy. These vendors are currently forced to rely on BW's BAPI interface, which can be slow.

Not surprisingly, competitive BI vendors were not invited to participate in Hana's rampup, but both IBM Cognos and MicroStrategy say they will be quickly verifying support once the product becomes generally available (and I have yet to hear from Oracle).

The in-memory and real-time themes grabbed most of the attention at Sapphire, but two other top SAP priorities are mobility and collaboration. Mobility for SAP is far beyond traditional mobile BI initiatives in that it means supporting complex business processes. The capabilities are powered largely by Sybase mobile infrastructure.

Collaboration is a new breed of applications for SAP, focusing on people interactions rather than the company's historical process focus. Sales OnDemand is one of the first applications reflecting this shift, but the StreamWork collaboration platform will be central to this area of development.

SAP Business Objects 4.0 was mentioned in the keynotes, but that's about it. With 100 customers in ramp up, the product is expected to become generally available in June. Sikka claimed that version 4.0 is the "best release ever," and he said BusinessObjects founder Bernard Liautaud had complemented SAP on the improvements.

Sikka also declared that industry analysts are calling 4.0 the "best BI product," but he went on to rephrase "the largest market share" product (a big difference from "best product," but a nuance conveniently lost in the Twitter world). I suspect you won't get any industry analysts backing up Sikka's initial claim without qualifications, although the market share claim is correct.

I wanted to see SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 testimonials, ideally from customers who have gone through an upgrade. There were none. I remain in the skeptic's corner that customers will rush to embrace this new version. Taking advantage of the product's many sought-after improvements also brings a learning curve in design and administration. I'm still assessing just how steep that curve is.

On a side-note, I bumped into specialty vendor Roambi at Sapphire. The company has just released a cool new Roambi Flow product that lets business users publish magazine-style reports that can include charts, articles, and video all from an iPad. In a world of mega BI vendors, this startup is certainly differentiating itself and innovating in exciting ways.

Have you taken the 2011 Successful BI Survey yet? There's still time to rate your BI adoption, success, and vendor usage. Participants will receive summary highlights of the report.

Cindi Howson is the founder of BI Scorecard , an independent analyst firm that advises companies on BI tool strategies and offers in-depth business intelligence product reviews.

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