SAP Improves Prediction With Big Data, Geospatial Analysis - InformationWeek

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9/11/2014
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SAP Improves Prediction With Big Data, Geospatial Analysis

SAP InfiniteInsight brings Hadoop and location data into predictive models. BusinessObjects ties data-integrity knot with SAP Lumira.

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SAP made two important announcements on the data-analysis front on Thursday, introducing support for Hadoop and geospatial data through its InfiniteInsights advanced analytics product and unveiling long-sought-after ties between its Lumira data-discovery tools and BusinessObjects suite.

InfiniteInsight joined the SAP family through last year's acquisition of KXEN, and it was sought after for its ability to enable non-PhDs to build and tweak predictive models without the manual, iterative steps associated with conventional analytics software.

With the InfiniteInsights 7.0 release this week, the product gained support for big data sources including Hadoop Hive 11 and 12 as well as Pivotal's high-scale Greenplum 4.2 database. The release also adds support for KML, GML, and shapefile geospatial data formats. Hive is the Hadoop framework's SQL query engine, and with access to Hive tables, InfiniteInsights can add sensor data, log file data, clickstreams, and other data types typically stored in Hadoop into predictive models. And whether in Hadoop or other sources, geospatial latitude and longitude data can now be brought directly into InfiniteInsight predictive models.

[Want more on SAP InfinteInsight? Read SAP: Advanced Analytics Not Just For PhDs Anymore.]

Likely applications include predictive maintenance, churn, fraud, social network, and image-based analyses. SAP customer John Deere, for example, is building a predictive maintenance application for its farm and construction equipment, and Hadoop would be an obvious high-scale, low-cost choice for storing high-scale sensor and geospatial telematics data.

Fraud analyses done by banks and churn analyses done by telecom providers often include geospatial and social-network-influencer dimensions. Here, too, Hive and geospatial support will make predictive work easier.

"Customers previously had to handle geospatial dimensions outside of the [InfiniteInsights] predictive models," said SAP's Chandran Saravana, senior director of advanced analytics, in a phone interview with InformationWeek. "Now they can build everything into the model and it eliminates the need for external coding."

SAP Lumira, the vendor's data-discovery product seen above, is now integrated with the SAP BusinessObjects business intelligence suite.
SAP Lumira, the vendor's data-discovery product seen above, is now integrated with the SAP BusinessObjects business intelligence suite.

With this week's release of SAP Lumira 1.19 and SAP BusinessObjects 4.1, the big news is integration of the two products. BusinessObjects is the company's flagship business intelligence suite, used by more than 45,000 customers. Two-year-old SAP Lumira is a data-discovery product created in response to demands for self service and visual data analysis of the kind popularized by the likes of Tableau Software and Qlik. While these tools are easy to use, what they tend to lack is the top-down control and unifying data models enforced by conventional BI systems.

By integrating the two products, SAP says those using Lumira can draw on trusted data held in BusinessObjects Universes (that product's name for IT-approved data models). What's more, dashboards, charts, and other data visualizations created in Lumira can be exported back to BusinessObjects, where administrative layers ensure user- and role-based access control.

"IT can now manage, control, and administer the data while giving business analysts and end users the flexibility to have self-service access to information," Nic Smith, SAP's senior director of analytics product marketing, told InformationWeek.

Another important feature introduced in Lumira 1.19 is an Infographics feature for building data-visualizations combining graphs, charts, and story lines. Infographics are increasingly being used in board rooms, sales presentations, and media appeals. This feature was covered extensively in InformationWeek in BI expert Cindi Howson's comparative review, "Visual Data Discovery: 4 Storytelling Approaches Compared."

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Doug Henschen is Executive Editor of InformationWeek, where he covers the intersection of enterprise applications with information management, business intelligence, big data and analytics. He previously served as editor in chief of Intelligent Enterprise, editor in chief of ... View Full Bio

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D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
9/12/2014 | 12:10:24 PM
Expert opinion from Cindi Howson
Cindi Howson of BI Scorecard wrote the book on BusinessObjects (several editions, in fact), so I asked her for her take on SAP's new Lumira-BusinessObject integrations. Here it is:

SAP Lumira is doing most well in data prep, which allows for business-user transformations and ELT without coding. The universe connectivity lets users to combine enterprise, modeled, governed data sources with personal and departmental data sources. Everyone is trying to find the balance between using governed data and agility. Nobody wants to get back to spreadsheet chaos, multiple versions of the truth, and anarchy.

The data-discovery vendors didn't start with modeled data sources or a metadata layer, so this is something that each is addressing in varying ways. For the BI platform vendors, the answer varies vendor by vendor. MicroStrategy Visual Insight and SAS Visual Analytics can also access their respective metadata layers (project, information map).

Lumira is on an agile development cycle (unlike the BI platform). SAP has been rapidly improving Lumira with releases every 6-8 weeks. They most need to continue to improve the presentation and visualization capabilities.

-- Cindi Howson

D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
9/11/2014 | 1:47:34 PM
Re: Freedom of data exploration vs. control
This integration announcement is SAP's first attempt to deliver the best of both worlds, and it was just released today so it's hard to say whether they've succeeded. I've asked people who have been breifed in depth to comment (watch for that), but in general, I would say that vendors like Tableau Software and Qlik still stand out as best of breed on self-service data discovery. SAP, Oracle, IBM, Microstrategy and other BI incumbents have all added data-discovery modules, but that hasn't cooled off rapid growth for Tableau and Qlik. Microsoft, too, talks a good game about data discovery with Excel, but the lack of unifying semantic models for Microsoft and others can lead to chaos in which different people have different interpretations of what's meant by "sales," "products," and other dimensions of data that aren't locked down in a consistent model. 
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
9/11/2014 | 1:34:23 PM
Re: Freedom of data exploration vs. control
I agree that self-service is the holy grail. How would you rate SAP's efforts to date to get Lumira users to true self-service without creating the version problems that you reference, Doug?
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
9/11/2014 | 12:20:10 PM
Freedom of data exploration vs. control
The Holy Grail is giving users easy-to-use, self-service data analysis tools that don't require support from IT while also having top-down control over data, so that it is trusted and consistent, and over access to data and analyses (for obvious reasons). SAP asserts that best-of-breed data-discovery tools like Tableau Software and Qlik have not incorporated top-down with controls akin to BusinessObjects Universes -- a core data model that ensures consistent interpretation of data. The danger in not conforming data to consistent interpretation is silos of analysis and multiple versions of the truth. We've seen those problems before, and they're hard to overcome.
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