SAP's HANA group and Opera Solutions announced this morning at SAP's Sapphire conference that they have formed a technology partnership. The partnership will foster the implementation and adoption of Opera Solutions' Signal Hub technology atop the HANA (High Performance ANalytic Appliance) product.
In 2010, SAP announced its HANA in-memory, real-time, Big Data appliance. It provides the infrastructure and platform for doing analytics on Big Data in real-time. And like lots of good infrastructure/platform plays, it shines brightest when value-added products sit on top of it.
Enter New Jersey-based Opera Solutions. The company offers predictive analytics through a combination of technology and services that are geared to specific industry verticals. And these aren't merely the templates and accelerator kits that some BI vendors sell. Instead, Opera offers what it calls Signal Hubs, which automate the process of sifting through unrefined Big Data to get to smaller, manageable data sets.
I think of Signal Hubs as a combination of statistical models and what we used to call "expert systems" back in the 1980s. Think of them as equal parts math and subject-matter-specific rules that can be applied to raw data and separate signal from noise. Combine the Signal Hubs with the services of data scientists who have business domain expertise, and you'll get a pretty decent picture of what Opera brings to the table.
Now SAP HANA and Opera Solutions are partnering, allowing Signal Hubs to be run on the SAP appliance, and allowing the Signal Hubs to be more accurate and created more quickly. Normally, Signal Hubs summarize and create a "DNA" of data, but within the Real-Time environment of HANA, Signal Hubs won't need to do that.
Opera is on a real tear. In addition to this partnership, Opera announced in April its acquisition of BIQ and Lexington Analytics. BIQ provides procurement analytics software; Lexington Analytics distributes BIQ and offers professional services around it. And in March, Opera announced its acquisition of Commendo, an Austrian firm specializing in "recommendation engine" technology (think Amazon and the phrase "You might also like..."). Commendo was a member of the consortium that won Netflix's $1 million recommendation improvement contest.
That's a lot of movement in a two-month period. But the people from Opera I've come across are very shrewd and bright. For instance, I met with Arnab Gupta, the firm's CEO, back in March of this year and he immediately impressed me as a thought leader in Big Data.
HANA is not a commodity hardware solution and Opera's products are not open source. But when Big Data is going to drive the business, it's the return on investment that matters. If you build super-accurate models and build them quickly, then your business will get better value out of your data. That's what Big Data is all about, so let's be open to different business models and see how things shake out.