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SAP inks another partnership to enhance NetWeaver BW

A new partnership between SAP and HP will have SAP Business Information Warehouse (BW) running on the Neoview data warehouse platform. SAP says the arrangement will improve BW's scalability.

PHOENIX -- Responding to customer demand and analyst criticisms of the performance and scalability of its NetWeaver Business Warehouse (BW), SAP has deepened its partnership with Hewlett-Packard Co.

According to the joint announcement made Tuesday at SAP TechEd 2009, SAP NetWeaver BW will be available running on top of HP's more powerful Neoview data warehouse hardware platform, which boasts a massively parallel processing (MPP), shared-nothing architecture and is designed to handle large volumes of data and users. The joint offering, currently known as the HP Neoview Foundation for SAP NetWeaver BW, will allow BW to significantly increase the amount of data it can process, said Franz Aman, vice president of intelligence platform product marketing for SAP's BusinessObjects division.

The deal will deliver more than just improved performance, said Kevin Block, global alliance manager with HP, during an interview at TechEd.

"It comes down to a more granular level of data available to the system," Block said. "Today, BW has to aggregate data and summarize to the point that in big installations, the data loses a lot of its character and meaning. If we can store more history, longer periods of history and more detail, that will allow BW users to do things with the data that they weren't able to do before."

Companies might be able to spot trends or do more detailed analysis than has been possible before, he said.

Development of the joint offering is in progress, and not likely to hit the market until mid-2010. Customers will be able to buy the complete package from either SAP or HP, but neither vendor would reveal pricing details. Since it is still in development, both also declined to provide metrics regarding SAP BW's potential improved scalability.

"The more integrated a BI solution we can deliver to them jointly, the better off our customers are going to be," SAP's Aman said. "It's not quite a turnkey, but as close to that as we can make it."

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SAP BW has received its share of criticism for lacking the ability to quickly query large volumes of data. In a May research report to clients, Boris Evelson of Forrester Research noted that SAP BW "only scales out to tens of terabytes in a clustered symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) environment, while a growing range of rivals scales into the hundreds or thousands of terabytes."

SAP's Aman said BW's scalability deficiencies have largely been the result of efforts to keep the product open to any of a number of underlying databases.

"It has had performance drawbacks," he said.

For current BW customers, the transition to BW supported by Neoview will be "very straightforward. It is an over-the-weekend kind of migration," Aman said. Deployments for new BW/Neoview customers could be more complicated, however.

Analyst cautiously optimistic on SAP-HP's announcement

While the addition of Neoview is "definitely good news" for BW users, it isn't likely to have an impact for some time, said Forrester's Evelson. "It doesn't mean much to customers today," he said. "But maybe in a year after it's live with good references, maybe it's time to take a look at it."

More significant, Evelson said, is that the partnership involves cross-training of HP and SAP services consultants. HP, which acquired consulting firms Knightsbridge in 2006 and EDS in 2008, has a more "strategic" services business than SAP, he said, similar if not as large as IBM's Global Services division.

Customers "need somebody with a large vision that can help customers make an overall information strategy," not just assist on deployments and maintenance of specific products, he said -- expertise that SAP lacks. As part of the partnership, HP will share its services expertise with SAP.

"BI is all about multiple components that need to get integrated," Evelson said, noting that BW is "robust," but "has many moving parts." So the "much more significant part is the expansion of the services," he said.

Comparisons to Teradata top of mind for TechEd session attendees

The move comes six months after SAP made a similar deal with Teradata

James Kreth, chief BI architect for Intel, which uses HP servers, Teradata's platform, SAP and a variety of front-end BI tools, attended a TechEd session on the deal to make sure that the new SAP-HP offering had a similar concept and architecture as the Teradata agreement. His main concern is that SAP have a consistent architecture for BW on MPP platforms, so his setup is not "a one-off" and gets the support and development attention he needs. Kreth's other main interest is the outlook for in-memory technology in his overall BI architecture.

"The interesting piece for us is -- when do we apply in-memory and where do we apply it in the stack? With multiple front-end tools, we've got a decision to make on where we do the in-memory caching and where we put the optimizations," Kreth said. "The lower it is for us in the stack, the better, because we're a heterogeneous environment."

SAP's partnership approach to improve its data warehousing capabilities contrasts that of rival Oracle. In line with its penchant for acquisitions, Oracle is in the midst of buying Sun Microsystems, whose hardware could shore up and improve performance of Oracle's data warehousing and business intelligence products. Of note, Sun Microsystems had a booth here at TechEd 2009, with signage and data sheets touting SAP NetWeaver BWA on Sun and other Sun solutions for SAP environments.

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