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Just as it seemed SAP customers were starting to sort out their BI strategies, here comes HANA, the next generation technology on which SAP will build and run its applications. Will HANA introduce questions around BI strategy the same way that SAP’s acquisition of BusinessObjects did?
SAP recognizes that with the introduction of HANA, there seem to be multiple technologies that solve very similar problems, says David Weisbeck, SAP’s senior vice president of BI and EIM. But don’t assume that the vendor will bring all these products together into one and stop supporting others.
SAP, in fact, wants to continue to provide customers with different options for different scenarios. Over time, SAP will make the roadmap simpler by having a lot more commonness to the technological underpinnings, just as it’s trying to do with SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 and some of the BEx tools.
In this interview, Weisbeck revisits SAP BusinessObjects’ strategy in talking about the roadmap for BEx products, such as Web Application Designer and Query Designer, and lends his take on the future of in-memory analytics promised with the BW and HANA roadmaps.
ASUGNews.com: Why does Web Application Designer remain in 4.0?
DAVID WEISBECK: We found that the vast majority, almost every BW customer actually, uses Web Application Designer. They use it to build an analytic and IT governance planning application. We added it in 4.0 to be able to publish the actual web application, application template in the BI 4.0 platform. We have a broad user base, and we want to make certain that they move to 4.0. We didn’t want to provide any roadblocks for them.
ASUGNews.com: What happens to BEX Query Designer down the road?
Weisbeck: It definitely remains. We recognize it is an extremely important tool—and we’ve gone further in 4.0 to make sure those investments are protected by supporting BICS, that native connectivity piece. So the long-term plan is definitely to simplify the connectivity. The path may seem somewhat counterintuitive because if you want to simplify the connectivity you have, of course, the BusinessObjects semantic layer, as a forefront of extraction technology, and you have the BEx Query Designer. And so adding support for all of the tools (WebIntelligence, Crystal Reports, etc.) for Query Designer might seem a little counterintuitive.
But I think it only seems counterintuitive until you realize what we’re trying to achieve which is to get to a common, single extraction. Our plan was not to leave customers behind; There’s not going to be a forced migration. Over time, we can start to blend the universe concept and Query Designer better, so it becomes a common capability to extract and design. We had to first make sure everything the customer invested in was supported.
ASUGNews.com: In light of the HANA announcements of late, should customers upgrade to BW 7.3?
Weisbeck: My simple answer would be upgrade. We’re trying to be careful not to position HANA as the enterprise data warehouse, at least in this current version. [Netweaver BW 7.3] represents major enhancements. I don’t think customers should be looking at BW and saying, “Can I just make a switch here and go to HANA?”
ASUGNews.com: What about BW customers running BWA?
Weisbeck: [BWA] absolutely remains. Every BW customer should be considering BWA if they have any sort of latency issues, where they think they can gain a valid advantage by providing information faster. BWA is definitely part of the in-memory family. It is very much the core technology that has come into HANA. They shouldn’t look at it again as HANA is a replacement for BWA.
ASUGNews.com: So customers shouldn’t hold off on buying BWA and wait for HANA?
Weisbeck: Correct. If the question is, should a customer wait and hold off on BWA, I would say don’t wait is the short answer.
The long answer is, people will recognize that there do seem to be multiple technologies that solve similar problems, so we’re very much conscious that we need to try to make it clear. Ultimately, that’s always going to be a case of looking at the particular situation. There are three simple scenarios where people should be considering one technology or another. There are three key technologies that customers might be considering for their analytics information storage needs. Those three are BW/BWA, Sybase IQ and HANA.
The simple guidance starts from looking at where you’re starting from.
You’ve already invested in BW, but perhaps there’s growth in your user population or volumes and responsiveness is something that is a challenge and you want to address that and say: How can I most simply and most powerfully increase responsiveness to all of this data? BWA is of course, a great solution. Also consider in this scenario that any customer that might not yet have deployed BW and has the need for the great content extractors—they want to consider BW with BWA even in a scenario where they haven’t yet invested in BW.
The second scenario, then, is you’ve clearly made an investment in the Business Suite. If we have a project or a general need for information from the suite, that needs to be made widely available—so rich analysis in real-time. You want to make this information available without having to do a lot of modeling to try to figure out aggregates and indexes; you know you need instant responsiveness on perhaps a large set of data. In this case, HANA is unparalleled in terms of what it can do on delivering on that value proposition. What separates this scenario: It’s not something that you started from BW. As general guidance, if you have not made an investment in BW, but you’re looking to get primarily Business Suite data, HANA can be a great solution.
The third scenario is data from many places and many sources, so you’re looking to get to that fantastic price and performance, when we look at the broad market, Sybase IQ is wonderful even by comparison to our competitors.