Outlook for 2012: a reality check for SAP BI technologies and our skills

Recently I participated in recording of the podcast ‘Debating the Value of SAP HANA’ (www.jonerp.com/content/view/417/89/). At the end, everyone was asked to give a brief insight into what they should expect in 2012. I shared my view there: “2012 is going to be the year of customer stories, not testimonials.” Perfectly recorded customer testimonials, as we saw them during last year at SAP events, will give way to real customer stories.  More and more customers will be implementing the latest and greatest from SAP in the Business Intelligence space: SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 and applications powered by SAP HANA, including SAP NetWeaver BW 7.3, as well as cloud applications.  The well-oiled SAP production machine is going to throw on the market many long awaited functionality and integration capabilities.

Let’s look in more detail at what may develop in 2012.

1. Recently the focus of SAP marketing messaging shifted from their in-memory technology and SAP HANA platform to the cloud-based products. It certainly makes sense, as SAP’s cloud offering is much closer to traditional SAP’s domain of business applications software, comparing to the technobuzz-intensive language of in-memory processing. SAP’s major focus in the cloud is on their ERP offering, like Business ByDesign, but BI professionals should keep an eye on SAP BusinessObjects BI-on-Demand solution. Not that actively promoted yet, it will be an interesting proposition for the SME market.

2. SAP HANA will keep growing in the business analytics world, but mainly through the SAP project code-named ‘BW Orange’ – SAP NetWeaver BW 7.30 powered by SAP HANA.  Currently in the ramp-up, BW Orange is expected to become generally available around Spring 2012. It has been rightfully called “the killer app” for HANA already by many. I cannot agree more. Although the ABAP-based analytics engine of BW 7.30 is not yet fully optimised for the power of in-memory computing, even current results available from early adopters are impressive. Almost every BW customer is asking about it, and with SAP adjusting HANA pricing towards market adoption, BW Orange will be a matter of when, not if, for many customers.

3. Also in Spring we should expect Feature Pack 3 for SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0. Earlier announced as Release 4.1, this Feature Pack will combine customer fixes with new functionality.  An interesting aspect of this new functionality will be the possibility of using the SAP HANA database as a repository for CMS and auditing data. It has been long expected, because today you can use SAP HANA only as a reporting repository with SAP BusinessObjects BI Platform 4.0.

4. For further adoption of SAP HANA for custombuilt data mart solutions, SAP has to deliver a complete Integrated Development Environment. The current modelling environment in SAP HANA Studio is missing debugging and code management functionality. It will be difficult to use the HANA Studio as an enterprise tool without these features. While waiting for this functionality, as a BI developer in the SAP space, you should start learning SQLScript – SAP’s new language for pushing application logic down into the HANA database engine. If your organisation does not have a HANA installation yet, you can start learning by signing up for https:// www.experiencesaphana.com/ and by requesting your access to a trial developer box to practice HANA on your own.

5. “Developers are back” said one of my colleagues, summarising his experience at the SAP TechEd conference in Madrid. Indeed. As just mentioned, SQLScript skills are just one of many that will be required among developers. According to SAP’s roadmap, many SDKs will be delivered in 2012, including the way to integrate BI data into your ERP and mobile applications.

6. Through SAP’s efforts to simplify system deployments via cloud and an appliance-like approach on one hand and then automating many tuning, integration and administration tasks, we should see shift of the “middle men” – people who were busy with these repetitive tasks – either into the higher layer of more business-focused development or into the deeper layer of technical system management in consolidated data centres.

7. Just a few weeks ago, SAP announced that new partners for their in-memory technology will include Tibco and Tableu (www.sap.com/corporate-en/press/newsroom/press-releases/ press.epx?pressid=18063). After years of integration of BusinessObjects with SAP products, it is a step in a new direction of re-opening SAP platforms for vendors who are competitors with SAP in some other areas.

In a nutshell, the speed of change is increasing and the responsibility for building lasting yet adoptable solutions lies on both side: on SAP as they are developing their software, and on ours as we are implementing it.

 

Vitaliy Rudnytskiy is master technology consultant with Hewlett-Packard, SAP Mentor at SAP Developers Network (sapmentors.sap.com), a blogger at Vital BI (VitalBI.  wordpress.com) and a speaker at many industry conferences.  He lives in the city of Wrocław in Poland.

 

This article was first published in Inside SAP December 2011. 

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