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5/19/2010
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SAP Announces In-Memory Analysis Technology

Business Analytic Engine promises business-user-accessible analysis of real-time information.

SAP's executives have had a lot to say about in-memory and column-store database technology in recent weeks. Wednesday at SAPPHIRE, the company announced plans for two specific products: The SAP Business Analytic Engine and a related High-Performance Analytic Appliance to be built on hardware from partners HP and IBM.

Promising "real, real-time analysis without risk," SAP executives Vishal Sikka, CTO, and Hasso Plattner, Executive Board Chairman, detailed the technology, which will blend up-to-the-minute transactional information from within SAP applications with historical data and other external data to enable real-time planning, optimization and analysis applications.

An SAP press release stated the products would be available within 12 months, but Sikka said he's pressing for release by the end of 2010.

At the core of the SAP Business Analytic Engine is the in-memory and column-oriented database technology that the company has previously used in the Business Warehouse Accelerator and SAP BusinessObjects Explorer products. On top of the engine is a business-user-friendly data-modeling interface that is said to make it easy for business analysts to bring data in from multiple systems and model real-time analysis, planning or optimization applications.

The High-Performance Analytic Appliance is the SAP Business Analytic Engine delivered as a pre-integrated, ready-to-run, hardware-software offering. It will be delivered by partners starting with HP, and also IBM, much as the SAP BusinessObjects Explorer and BW Accelerator appliances are currently offered to customers. The availability of a software-only engine suggests that cloud-based and embedded deployments are also a possibility.

The SAP Business Analytic Engine and the related appliance will initially supplement, rather than replace, the relational databases underlying SAP applications and existing data warehouses. As such it would bring the benefits of real-time analysis without ripping and replacing existing systems. Ultimately, however, Plattner laid out a vision whereby SAP's new combined transactional and OLAP engine will replace both data warehouses and the relational databases running under SAP apps.

How long will it take for that transition to take place? In a press conference Wednesday, co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe said the coming release is but the first step in a six-step vision for bringing the technology to market. Analytic loads will be the first to move to the engine, he said, but it will be many years before the engine can become the underlying database for SAP applications.

Throughout this week, SAP executives have stressed that the company embraces an open ecosystem and partnerships with other best-of-breed vendors. Addressing the implications of introducing a product that could ultimately replace data warehouses and other databases, co-CEO Bill McDermott said SAP had briefed partners including IBM, HP, EMC and Cisco on its plans. Partners are eager to embrace the innovation, he said, and said they will find opportunities to build new products and services around the engine.

"As far as I know, there's only one company that thinks they have to sell everything to every customer that would be most threatened by this," McDermott said, in an obvious reference to Oracle. "We're not overly concerned about this at this time."

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