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4/3/2012
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SAP Jumps On Predictive Analytics Bandwagon

SAP supports R statistical programming language, following in the footsteps of rivals. So what's new about this predictive software?

Big Data Talent War: 10 Analytics Job Trends
Big Data Talent War: 10 Analytics Job Trends
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With the announcement of SAP BusinessObjects Predictive Analysis software on Tuesday, one could almost ask, what vendor with analytic aspirations doesn't now support the R statistical programming language?

Information Builders, Tibco Spotfire, IBM SPSS, SAS, and, most recently, Oracle have all embraced R, not to mention startups like Alpine Data Labs and Revolution Analytics that have built entire companies around the language.

Why all the attention to R? "Because 60% to 70% of professionals who do predictive analytics use R, so it's the dominant language out there," Jason Kuo, an SAP group product marketing manager, told InformationWeek.

SAP headed down the R path many months ago knowing it wanted to replace analytics software sourced from SPSS and embedded in a current BusinessObjects analytics module--that deal was struck before BI competitor IBM acquired SPSS. The Predictive Analysis module has been in SAP-controlled "ramp up" release since January, as Cindi Howson recently reported, but it won't be generally available until September. Is it worth waiting for? For customers in the SAP fold, at least, it's an option worth considering.

[ Want the scoop on Oracle's option? Read Oracle Analytics Package Expands In-Database Processing Options. ]

For SAP customers, it's important to know that Predictive Analysis is designed to work with both SAP applications and Hana in-memory technology, tapping into the same data sources and extending visualization and predictive capabilities into decision-support scenarios.

"There are the professional data analysts and the quants, which analytics tools have been serving for a long time," said Kuo. "But we're bringing analytics to people who don't know anything about predictive algorithms."

As for BusinessObjects customers who don't use SAP apps or databases, the most compelling thing about Predictive Analysis is integration with the rest of the BI suite and, again, the advanced data-visualization capabilities, which include scatter plots, cluster analyses, parallel-processing charts and other visualization options that have emerged in the big-data era.

In truth, SAP is doing what a lot of rivals are doing to get predictive: giving R open-source software an easier-to-use graphical user interface (as Information Builders and Oracle have done), providing advanced visualizations (as Tibco Spotfire has done), and providing links to BI suites (as IBM and SAS have done).

Where SAP BusinessObjects Predictive Analysis stands out is in offering a viable, well-integrated alternative uniquely designed for SAP and SAP BusinessObjects customers. That's a vast potential customer base that just might like having a single source for apps, databases, BI, and analytics software.

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