SAP unveils analytic engine software-hardware combo

ORLANDO—On Day 3 of SapphireNOW 2010, SAP AG announced plans for a new in-memory analytic engine, a software and hardware combo, upon which SAP’s existing business intelligence tools can run faster. One exec described the home-grown technology as “one of the crown jewels” of the company.

“This is part of one of the most fundamental investments that we’re making that didn’t come from an acquisition. It’s organically built from SAP,” Sanjay Poonan, SAP executive vice-president and general manager for business user and LoB solutions and sales, told ComputerWorld Canada.

The real-time analytics engine, High-Performance Analytic Appliance (HANA), will run on hardware optimized for the job from vendors like Hewlett-Packard Co. and Intel Corp. Poonan said the idea is take advantage of advances in hardware like fallen disk prices and the availability of flash solid-state storage devices.

“So now we can put many of the powerful Business Objects reporting and analytical tools directly on top of that in-memory database,” said Poonan. SapphireNOW: SAP won’t dominate the infrastructure stack

The engine is also designed to support mixed workloads of analytic, performance management and transactional applications in that single environment.

Poonan said the direction SAP took in the creation of the engine was to look for the next “big innovation” atop the three layers it already does: information management, business intelligence, and analytics.

Moreover, users were demanding tools with which to deal with large data volumes in real-time and distribute that to a broader set of users via the Web and mobile, said Poonan. Areas like utilities, oil and gas and fraud detection are among the target markets for the engine.

Henry Morris, senior vice-president for worldwide software and services research with Framingham, Mass.-based IDC Ltd., told ComputerWorld Canada that ultimately the future in analytics is having a platform that will handle all a customer’s workload needs whether transactional or analytics.  

“When you have to do in-line analytics to do some analysis or drive next transaction, hopefully that can be automated by rules that reference the analytics,” said Morris. “That’s the new way that I think people will want to see, more and more, processes where they have to rethink the process.” 

Morris said SAP is a business-centric, rather than a stack, company that takes advantage of acquisitions to enable new kinds of business processes. With Sybase, for instance, Morris said the ability to manage mixed workloads on one engine is all part of the process. 

Onstage at the Day 3 keynote, Vishal Sikka, SAP chief technology officer said the announcement is an example of SAP innovating in an open ecosystem. Sikka invited 20 customers to sign up on the analytic engine. General availability is slated for end of 2010.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @kathleenlau

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