BI (Nearly) MIA at SAP's SAPPHIRE Event

The topic of BI was largely missing in action at this week's SAPPHIRE event, though John Schwarz, CEO of Business Objects, an SAP Company, did give a keynote address today. One of the highlights of the presentation was a demo of the Polestar search interface running on top of the SAP BI Accelerator - more evidence that in-memory technology is getting fast-track attention.

Doug Henschen, Executive Editor, Enterprise Apps

May 6, 2008

4 Min Read

The topic of business intelligence was largely missing in action at this week's SAPPHIRE event, though John Schwarz, CEO of Business Objects, an SAP Company, did give a keynote address today (albeit at 4:30 pm - not exactly prime time). One of the highlights of the presentation was a demo of Polestar running on top of the SAP BI Accelerator. Polestar is Business Object's search-style interface for BI while BIA is SAP's in-memory analytic appliance. The demo presented more evidence that in-memory technology will get fast-track attention in the SAP/Business Objects integration.The only BI-related hard news at SAPPHIRE has been a minor Business Objects-related partnership announcement. The big news from Orlando is clearly the announcement of NetWeaver Business Process Management and NetWeaver Rules Management, developments we've been expecting for some time and which Sandy Kemsley has blogged about in detail.

Schwarz's keynote largely revisited many now-familiar slides and positioning statements on the SAP-Business Objects combination, though he did customize it to the SAP-customer audience. The demos were fresher, highlighting capabilities available since the BusinessObjects XI 3.0 release in mid February. SAP has previously made statements about plans to bundle Polestar and BIA, but this was the first time I've seen it running live.

For those who haven't seen Polestar, it's pretty impressive. "It's aimed at those for whom right-clicking is too complicated," explained Donald McCormick, the product marketing VP who handled the demo. "They need something dead simple… Polestar is going to open up BI to a new class of casual user."

When I hear "dead simple" and "BI meets search," I picture a Google-like search box on a bare white page, but Polestar puts query results in context with a nice array of data visualizations. As you select new dimensions and drill down, animations take you from one cut of the data to another to help you understand what you're looking at.

"The one thing we worried about when we were developing Polestar was that people would start throwing buckets of data into it because it's so easy to use," said McCormick. "We were genuinely worried about scalability, but with the SAP acquisition, we came across the BI Accelerator."

McCormick then popped open an instance of Polestar running on BIA on top of a Business Warehouse said to be at SAP's headquarters in Walldorf, Germany. Clicks between dimensions showed that the analyses were examining about one billion records, yet the lag between views was little more than a second. Most importantly, the in-memory approach means "there are no pre-defined paths, and I didn't have to pre-define hierarchies," said McCormick. "I have full latitude to explore all available data in the warehouse."

Unfortunately, McCormick could only say that the Polestar-BIA combination will "hopefully be available later this year," which kind of took the wind out of my sails.

The second demo during Schwarz's presentation covered the slick, Web 2.0-style Xcelsius interface delivering results from Business Objects Text Analytics, which is based on the text-mining technology acquired with Inxight. McCormick gave the impression things like voice-of-the-customer text analysis capabilities are unique and new in the market, but Inxight, Clarabridge, SAS and others pioneered this stuff long ago (see this week's story on what Gaylord Hotels already has running in production).

The last demo showed GRC (governance, risk and compliance) assets from SAP integrated with EPM (enterprise performance management) apps from Business Objects, but I'm guessing a CFO could make better sense of the nuances than I could. The next step will be to bring the same level of integration to operational areas, Schwarz said, but again the promise was to do it "later this year." In short, most of the big payoffs in the SAP-Business Objects combination are somewhere over the horizon.The topic of BI was largely missing in action at this week's SAPPHIRE event, though John Schwarz, CEO of Business Objects, an SAP Company, did give a keynote address today. One of the highlights of the presentation was a demo of the Polestar search interface running on top of the SAP BI Accelerator - more evidence that in-memory technology is getting fast-track attention.

About the Author(s)

Doug Henschen

Executive Editor, Enterprise Apps

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 Transform Magazine, and Executive Editor at DM News. He has covered IT and data-driven marketing for more than 15 years.

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like


More Insights