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Commentary

SAP Expands Big Data Push

SAP resells Intel and Hortonworks Hadoop distributions, adds big data applications, connectors and scientists.
If there's one area where SAP could bring big data to life, it's in the applications arena. So the planned introduction of seven big data-enabled applications is a welcome development. The first of these new apps, SAP Demand Signal Management, will blend retail point-of-sale data with internal or public market research data and consumer sentiment insights from high-volume, loosely structured social network feeds. This blend of multi-structured data types demands the combination of SAP Hana and Hadoop.

The other apps expected to be introduced by year end include Fraud Management, Customer Engagement Intelligence, Audience Discovery and Targeting, Customer Value Intelligence, Social Contact Intelligence, and Account Intelligence. The common big data theme across the customer-centric apps seems to be sentiment analysis drawn from social networks.

[ Want more on Workday's approach to big data? Read Workday Big Data Drive Starts Small. ]

SAP isn't the only enterprise apps vendor venturing into big data. In a separate announcement this week, Workday announced its efforts to make big data analysis practical and real by introducing 10 templates (five each for human capital management and financial management) alongside its new Workday Big Data Analytics module.

The last pillar in SAP's expanded big data strategy is the establishment of an SAP Data Science organization, which is staffed by approximately 100 math, analytics and statistics experts. Many of these employees joined SAP in 2005 as part of the Khimetrics acquisition. That core team has since been augmented by data scientists with knowledge of algorithms, machine learning and other big data techniques, according to Kahn.

The newly big data-focused team will help SAP develop new applications, and it will help customers assess available data, develop insights, build custom apps, and adapt and extend SAP applications, the company said.

SAP's extended partnerships fall short of the efforts IBM, Microsoft and Teradata have made to make Hadoop part of their respective data-management environments. Nonetheless, SAP is offering a choice, and with the introduction of big data applications and a big data team, it's going beyond the token effort, made by HP and Oracle, of offering a Hadoop appliance running largely on somebody else's software.

Add in SAP's BI and analytics software, the promise of acquiring KXEN and SAP's spectrum of databases -- from SybaseIQ for deep, structured history, Sybase Anywhere for mobile and Hana for in-memory performance -- and it looks like SAP is developing rich opportunities to make use of big data.