Wednesday, June 17, 2009

SAP Launches Data Warehouse Search Tool

By Jeffrey Schwartz05/13/2009

SAP AG, the latest major software vendor looking to bring business intelligence (BI) to the masses, is launching a Web-based search interface that lets individuals query information from large data warehouses and ultimately other enterprise resources.

The company yesterday unveiled BusinessObjects Explorer at its annual Sapphire 2009 conference taking place this week in Orlando, Fla. It is billed as the most significant technology developed by SAP and Business Objects, which SAP acquired last year for $6.8 billion.

"It really delivers something neither portfolio could have done on its own," said Marge Breya, executive vice president and general manager of SAP's Intelligence Platform group, speaking at a press conference that was webcast from Sapphire.

Explorer evolved from a Business Objects-developed tool called Polestar, released in late 2007, which lets individuals conduct searches against data in the SAP BusinessObjects XI 3.1 BI platform. Using a Web-based interface, SAP officials said Explorer will now let any user, regardless of their knowledge of BI, query SAP's NetWeaver Business Warehouse Accelerator (BWA), the company's tooling for creating data warehouses.

Using traditional Web-type searching techniques such as entering key words, the company said users can query millions of records and render information and reports in a matter of seconds, based on in-memory processing technology co-developed by Intel.

As an example, beta customer Molson Coors has used Explorer to determine profitability of specific products in certain regions. Using Explorer, users could query 900 million records in BWA in less than three seconds. "People cannot believe how quickly the data is coming back," said Katrina Coyle, Molson Coors' global information manager, at the launch.

"Basically, Explorer is serving their joint customer base with a highly scalable and fast query accelerator," said Forrester Research analyst James Kobielus, noting the company is striving to build out a full data warehouse platform.

SAP officials emphasized the broad appeal it sees for Explorer's Web-based interface, which also supports Adobe Flash plug-ins. It is designed to let anyone -- from a clerk to a business analyst or executive -- find any kind of information that may be dispersed within an enterprise repository in much the same way they would perform a Google search.

"IT gets the ability to not only have a secure, reliable, scalable environment but also in a way that is actually compliant, controllable, etc.," Breya said. "So users can explore whatever data they are allowed to get access to and the IT organization still can maintain the control of the data, and can maintain that clarity and quality of the data itself."

The initial version, due out this summer, will integrate only with BWA. Later this year, it will be able to query any non-SAP data sources, Breya said, adding that the tooling will also evolve. "I think you will see us opening up our APIs for new visualizations and you will see a lot more machination added to the portfolio and the product here," she said. The company did not disclose pricing.