On April 8, I hosted a webinar and my guest was Neil Raden, an independent data warehouse analyst. The topic of the webinar was: “Accessing of SAP ERP data for business analytics purposes” – which was built upon Neil’s findings in his recent white paper about the complexities of the integration of SAP data into the enterprise data warehouse. The attendance and participation in the webinar clearly showed that there is a lot of interest and expertise in this space. As I think back about the questions we received, both Neil and I were surprised by the number of questions that were related to “real-time analytics on SAP.”
Something has drastically changed in the SAP community!
Note: The topic of real time analytics is not new! I won’t forget Neil’s reaction when the questions came up. It was like he was in a time warp back to the early 2000’s when he first wrote about that topic. Interestingly, Neil’s work is still very relevant today.
This made me wonder why this is so prominent in the SAP space now? What has changed in the SAP community? What has changed in the needs of the business?
My hypothesis is that when Neil originally wrote his paper (in 2003) R/3 was SAP (or SAP was R/3 whatever order you prefer) and integration with other applications or databases was not something that SAP had on the radar yet. This began to change when SAP BW became more popular and gained even more traction with the release of SAP’s suite of tools and modules (CRM, SRM, BPC, MDM, etc.) — although these solutions still clearly had the true SAP ‘Made in Germany’ DNA. Then came SAP’s planning tool APO, Netweaver XI (later PI) and, the 2007 acquisition of Business Objects (including BODS) which all accelerated SAP’s application integration techniques.
With Netweaver XI/PI and Business Objects Data Services, it became possible to integrate SAP R/3 in real time, making use of advanced messaging techniques like Idoc’s, RFC’s, and BAPI’s. These techniques all work very well for transaction system integration (EAI); however, these techniques do not have what it takes to provide real-time data feeds to the integrated data warehouse. At best a hybrid approach is possible. Back in 2000 my team worked on such a hybrid project at Hunter Douglas (Luxaflex). They combined classical ABAP-driven batch loads for managerial reports with real time capabilities (BAPI calls) for their more operational reporting needs. That was state-of-art in those days!
Finally, in 2010 SAP acquired Sybase and added a best of breed Data Replication software tool to the portfolio. With this integration technique, changed data is captured directly from the database taking the loads off of the R/3 application servers. This offers huge advantages, so it makes sense that this is now the recommended technique for loading data into the SAP HANA appliance.
“What has changed is that SAP has put the need for real-time data integration with R/3 on the (road) map!”
The main feature of our upcoming release of Teradata Analytics for SAP Solutions version 2.2 is a new data replication technique. Almost designed to prove my case, 10 years ago I was in the middle of working on a project for a large multinational company. One of my lead engineers, Arno Luijten, came to me with a proposal to try out a data replication tool to address the latencies introduced by the extraction of large volumes of changed data from SAP. We didn’t get very far at the time, because the technology and the business expectations were not ready for it. Fast forward to 2014 and we’re re-engaged with this same customer …. Luckily this time the business needs and the technology capabilities are ready to deliver!
In the coming months my team and I would like to take you on our SAP analytics journey.
In my next posts we will dive into the definition (and relativity) of real-time analytics and discuss the technical complexities of dealing with SAP including the pool and cluster tables. So, I hope I got you hooked for the rest of the series!