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SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 to offer fully integrated data management

The long-awaited SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 business intelligence platform hits the streets later this month and enterprise information management and in-memory will be a focus.

The long-awaited new version of SAP’s flagship business intelligence (BI) platform -- SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 -- is fully integrated with many of the software giant’s enterprise information management (EIM) tools, company officials said.

That means users will no longer have to worry about clunky integration points between the BI platform and the company’s Data Services suite, which includes tools for data integration, data quality assurance, data profiling and more, said Dave Weisbeck, SAP’s senior vice president of BI and EIM solution management. It also means full integration with SAP tools for sentiment analysis, metadata management and event insight, among others.

“The integration of our [BI and EIM] suites historically had a harder line division between them,” Weisbeck said. “There were certainly points of integration, but they were not a single platform as they are with this release.”

Speculation about BusinessObjects 4.0, the first major release of the BI platform in more than three years, has been steadily building in recent months. The new update will officially be released Feb. 23 at a lavish press event in New York, SAP officials said.

SAP acquired BusinessObjects SA back in 2008 and quickly positioned the vendor’s market-leading technology as the cornerstone of its then emerging BI software strategy.

“[SAP has] an installed base that it has to satisfy where optimization of the BusinessObjects platform for [SAP NetWeaver and SAP Enterprise Data Warehousing] data sources is a very high priority,” said Rita Sallam, a BI research director with Stamford, Conn., research firm Gartner Inc. “It also has its traditional BusinessObjects installed base, much of which doesn’t have SAP in their environment, and they are really anticipating the new features and functions that have been promised for a long time in the 4.0 release.”

The major theme of BusinessObjects 4.0 is the integration between BI and EIM -- right down to the level of a common login for each user and administrator, Weisbeck said. The two product suites will also be available separately.

“There are multiple cuts of the onion, so to speak,” he explained. “We’ll price it and package it so that people can get what they need and is appropriate for them.”

BusinessObjects 4.0 will be fully integrated with SAP Information Steward, a soon-to-be released product that helps organizations manage, implement and maintain data governance practices. The product lets users define who is responsible for information at different stages of its lifecycle. Weisbeck said the software has been engineered for ease-of-use because most data stewards tend to be business workers.

The new version will also integrate the complex event processing (CEP) technology that SAP acquired when it purchased database and mobile technology vendor Sybase. The CEP technology -- which allows users to define, manage and predict things like events and exceptional conditions -- will be married to the BusinessObjects 4.0 infrastructure for use in monitoring scenarios where users need to be informed instantly when an action needs to be taken.

Other key areas of focus in BusinessObjects 4.0 and subsequent updates will include mobility and in-memory database technologies, according to SAP.

“Their existing mobile strategy and mobile capability to date has been very focused on the Blackberry,” Gartner’s Sallam said. “The 4.0 release will expand that capability to the iPhone and the iPad.”

The in-memory capabilities of BusinessObjects 4.0 will center on HANA, SAP’s newly introduced computing engine that allows massive amounts of data to be processed almost instantaneously.

“SAP has a product that typically sits on top of [HANA] called Explorer,” Sallam explained. “But the new release will allow any BusinessObjects tools to run on top of the in-memory appliance.”

Organizations considering a move to SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 should be aware of SAP’s clear distinction between an upgrade and a migration, Weisbeck said.

“Despite the level of investment, this is an upgrade version and not a migration version,” he said.  “So users aren’t going to have to go and re-create content.”

Pricing details for BusinessObjects 4.0 were not disclosed. Weisbeck said SAP is still evaluating different ways to approach licensing policies “but at this stage it’s not fundamentally different from what we’ve done historically.”

SAP has been known to get less-than-stellar reviews for product quality and support in recent years, Sallam said. That’s why those looking at SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 may want to wait until early adopters work out any potential kinks or instabilities.

“I think there will be a set of early adopters, and the majority of organizations will take a wait-and-see approach,” she said.

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