SAP HANA does Big Data...with ERP, CRM and BI savvy

Take a mega-vendor, give it a powerful in-memory Big Data product, combine with equal parts business software, and solutions that are (gasp!) enterprise-ready may result.
Written by Andrew Brust, Contributor

It’s no wonder that a SAP’s HANA in-memory database has caught the attention of many in the transactional, BI and Big Data worlds.  HANA uses memory as its primary medium, with disk being used merely for redundancy.  While there’s of course a limit to how much memory you can have on a single server, HANA employs a scale-out architecture that lets you expand the database beyond the single-server boundary.  And the memory across all nodes in the cluster is still usable as a single pool.

If terms like node, cluster and scale-out make you think of Big Data, that’s a reasonable reaction.  HANA’s most emblematic workloads are in the Big Data space.

Sentimental Big Data
That workload just got more directly business-focused.  Today, at the TDWI World Conference in San Diego, SAP announced general availability of the its rapid-deployment solution for sentiment intelligence with SAP HANA.  The solution hooks up HANA to Twitter, Facebook or any Web data source with a public API. It then puts text mining technology to work and enables Chief Marketing Officers and their teams to perform sentiment analysis on their brands and products.  SAP says an entire solution can be deployed in less than six weeks.

This is an important announcement for the Big Data world overall.  Having vertical solutions built out for in-memory Big Data technology is powerful, and marks a maturing of the product offerings in the Big Data world.  But there’s more to it than that.  What really makes SAP’s Big Data solution so powerful is SAP’s other products, and the company’s pedigree in producing them.

It’s the Enterprise, stupid
SAP is, arguably, the most representative company in the software category known as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).  ERP involves operational software that covers everything from supply chain management to human resources to general ledger accounting and more.  And if you’re going to do sentiment analysis on your products, shouldn’t you support it with connectivity to the operational databases that manage the production, sales and teams behind those products?

It’s not just about ERP, either.  SAP also has Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, enterprise social networking and collaboration software, and numerous other Enterprise software products that add context and relevancy to working with Big Data.

M & A, all the way
Beyond operational software, SAP is also a huge player in the business intelligence space, through development of its own assets in this category and acquisition of Business Objects back in 2007.  And don’t forget SAP’s more recent acquisition of Sybase in 2010, wherein it added relational, columnar and mobile database solutions to its portfolio of products.

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All this means that once SAP is done contextualizing Big Data through integration with its back office and sales force solutions, it’s got assets in place to do more.  SAP's products also help marketers do the analysis, reporting, data visualization and dashboard design necessary to disseminate the output of Big Data processes in a useable way. 

Crystal Ball
SAP is in the Big Data space, but it’s not just a Big Data company.  Like IBM, Microsoft and Oracle, it’s a "mega-vendor."  And SAP may well make the case that Big Data technology from mega-vendors has greater relevancy, especially in the enterprise, than Big Data technology from pure play companies.

The success of solutions like SAP’s for sentiment analysis, which integrate numerous portfolio technologies -- and which thus integrate numerous lines of business -- in Big Data analyses, is something to monitor carefully.  It will tell us a lot about what the Big Data world will look like when it matures and consolidates.

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