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May 21, 2013 in Big Data, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Intelligence (BI), Business Performance Management (BPM), Cloud Computing, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Financial Performance Management (FPM), Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Information Applications (IA), Information Management (IM), Operational Performance Management (OPM), Social Media, Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), Workforce Performance Management (WPM) | Tags: Big Data, Business Analytics, CFO, CIO, CMO, HP, Mobile Technology, Predictive Analytics, SAP, SAP EPM, SAP HANA, SAP Lumira, SAPPHIRE, Tagetik, Teradata | by Mark Smith | Leave a comment
At this year’s annual SAP user conference, SAPPHIRE, the technology giant showed advances in its cloud and in-memory computing efforts. It has completed the migration of its conventional application suite and portfolio of tools to operate on SAP HANA, its in-memory computing platform, and made improvements in its cloud computing environment, SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud. The last time I analyzed SAP HANA was when it won our firm’s 2012 Overall IT Technology Innovation Award. Now HANA has been transitioned from just a database technology into a broad platform. SAP wisely consolidated its efforts previously known as SAP NetWeaver into SAP HANA. This resolves some confusion regarding HANA and NetWeaver in the cloud, which I assessed. The recently announced SAP HANA Platform now provides the enterprise class of HANA implementation in the cloud. It comes with a trial edition of the data and visual discovery technology now called SAP Lumira, whose price has been reduced to encourage adoption (and which I discuss more below). The use of in-memory databases for big data is accelerating: According to our technology innovation research, 22 percent of organizations are planning to use this technology over the next two years, and through 2015 it will have a higher growth rate than other approaches.
SAP HANA is gaining functionality as a platform and has made an important step forward with its service pack 6. This new release expands integration of the technology into data across its applications and systems. HANA now has virtualized access to data in Hadoop and a range of other databases along with supporting the necessary data integration. Integrated with Sybase SQL Anywhere, HANA enhances mobile use of that technology; it also works with Sybase ESP to integrate event streams and machine data, and with Sybase Replication Server to connect with Sybase ASE and other databases. HANA’s increased spatial processing capacity handles this type of data, which then can be accessed by tools and applications. Our latest research into location analytics finds new applicability for this across business processes and our next-generation business intelligence research reveals that applying location-based analytics is important to 40 percent of organizations. The latest version of HANA has advanced data modeling capabilities through SAP HANA Studio to make it easier to use data and build a range of business models including predictive ones. Majorities of research participants said that such capability through predictive analytics provides a competitive advantage (68%) and new revenue opportunities (55%).
SAP supports text or natural-language processing needs. At some point I hope it enables HANA to dynamically create text as a result of its analytics; that could communicate better with people than just showing charts and data. This capability already is available in the workforce analytics products of SuccessFactors, whose Headlines technology won our 2012 Overall Business Innovation Technology Innovation Award; however, that does not yet seem to be part of SAP HANA and other applications, which could be a business benefit and product differentiator.
SAP also is expanding its software partner ecosystem to spread use of HANA with a range of applications. An early example is Tagetik, whichprovides its financial application suite on HANA for in-memory computing. SAP also announced recognition of innovative SAP HANA based applications including Warwick Analytics and Semantic Visions that are well worth examining. SAP also is adding integration points with other network storage, data center integration and even business intelligence and analytics. To this point, however, not many vendors are certified on SAP HANA, and my inquiries with various software company executives found they have more work to do and are not getting strong support from SAP to streamline the process to become certified. Elsewhere in its technology ecosystem, SAP announced further cooperation with HP in what is called Project Kraken to create an appliance with 16 processors and 12 terabytes of memory, designed to operate SAP HANA effectively for any range of analytical and transactional needs. Success of this computing appliance is equally important to HP, which is in a do-or die-battle against IBM and Oracle who are advancing in this area. At the same time SAP’s one-time partner Teradata has a competitive approach, whose recent advances in in-memory computing with its new intelligent memory and appliance that I assessed is well worth examining.
HANA is now part of SAP’s overall business intelligence strategy, as my colleague Tony Cosentino has pointed out. This is a positive step as the company works through the challenges of keeping a very large customer base happy as it moves its product line into the future. One of its key points for its future is the newly announced SAP Lumira, which was previously known as SAP Visual Intelligence, a more self-explanatory product name for the intended audience that is engaged in business analytics or even big data analytics. SAP Lumira is really the new face of its business intelligence products whether on-premises or in the cloud; it meets a need for discovery technology, which I outlined and is important to the future of business analytics. This was challenged by partners MicroStrategy and Tableau who were demonstrating their approaches at SAPPHIRE showing its competitive approach and how it can make good use of data from SAP and inevitably SAP HANA as they work through integration of the technology. Our research into technology innovation found that data and visual discovery is not available to 19 percent of organizations, ranking third behind the most unavailable predictive analytics (27%). SAP Lumira interoperates with other SAP products along with supporting Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. SAP also has released SAP BusinessObjects 4.1 with improved access to Hadoop through MapReduce and Hive, and also to Oracle’s Exadata and Essbase technologies. A new edition of SAP Crystal Server and Edge edition furthers support of BI for small and midsize businesses (SMB). SAP continues to have fierce competition in IT departments for BI and to overcome it is working to help business analysts and management use business analytics.
In the realm of business applications, SAP has fulfilled its promise to make HANA the underlying platform across on-premises deployments and the cloud. Its SAP Business One application suite version 9 is designed for SMB and runs with HANA and even Microsoft SQL Server. Simultaneously, the SAP Business Suite is now available on SAP HANA. As my colleague Robert Kugel explained, that makes it possible for customers to avoid using Microsoft or Oracle database technology and take advantage of new technology and applications built on HANA. Examples of this are SAP’s release of its fraud management application on HANA, which Robert assessed, as he did for advances in its EPM portfolio for finance. A word of caution here: Companies that use SAP’s applications on third-party databases have to be careful as the license in most cases only allows for application-specific access to the database, limiting the potential of other business uses. The range of new applications and tools running on HANA is steadily increasing as partners make progress adapting to it; SAP’s digital marketplace dedicated to HANA shows what is available.
SAP is so bullish on its ability to design consumer-friendly applications that it also announced efforts to bring that quality into the enterprise through the SAP Fiori apps for common business functions; it also has simplified the user experience of its applications. This is nothing new for SAP which has long emphasized usability and made improvements in a continuous improvement cycle. SAP has invested significantly into the user experience and created AppHaus to build demonstrations of the latest advances. Even so, after looking at the range of new applications, I think SAP still has to improve upon the user experience and design of the applications. SAP is heading in the right direction, but it ought to build an application assembly and design environment that the teams at SAP, and its customers and partners, all can use to build people-centric applications, especially for use on the Web and mobile devices. I got to test applications that demonstrate user experience advancements, but they all were custom-built, and I saw others with primitive user interfaces for business applications; these fall short in trying to engage users across a range of experience and facilitate the natural collaborative aspects of their responsibilities. Those aspects are critical, as our research across every line of business finds usability to be the top evaluation category for software evaluation, and it was the top criterion in 64 percent of all organizations. My analysis suggests that SAP needs to consider the critical aspects of personalization based on role, responsibility and experience and adapt the user experience to them. As well, less can be more when presenting information for the majority of business purposes, and guiding individuals to what is relevant is more important that piling up charts or information on the screen.
Separately from its HANA efforts, SAP has advanced enterprise-class readiness for mobile technology, has outlined a comprehensive mobility framework and deepened support for security through a partnership with Mocana for any applications that embrace SAP’s mobile portfolio and technology. This addresses an evident need, as our technology innovation research into mobile technology finds the top barrier to business deployment is security and risk issues, found in 47 percent of organizations. SAP has to also consider in the world of BYOD the preference for native platforms (39%) over the Web or HTML5 (33%), along with no preference (20%); it won’t be easy for SAP to make everyone happy, especially when half of individuals have a distinct preference for their type of smartphone or tablet. Our research finds fewer than one-third (32%) of people satisfied with their organization’s mobile access to applications and information. I did not hear much about SAP HANA in the company’s mobile strategy except that it powers tools and applications that operate on a smartphone or tablet. But overall SAP is investing more into advancing mobile technology than other technology suppliers, and its potential is yet to be realized as business and IT begin a transformation to mobile readiness.
Since my analysis after last year’s SAPPHIRE SAP has brought to reality its cloud computing strategy with products that are now available. I thought that more could have been highlighted in SAP’s sustainability efforts in including its software, for which last year we provided a 2012 Leadership Award to its customer Danone for its use of SAP products. I was more surprised that SAP was rather quiet about its efforts in business and social collaboration as it works to transform its technology by embedding the Jam product in its software. SAP is working to ensure its products are simple but sophisticated, available on any platform or device and localized to any country in the world – and that they operate on SAP HANA. It is also working to deliver faster methods to onboard and experience its software through rapid deployment. SAP’s focus is to inject the technology innovations into its platform and applications while also supporting what our technology innovation research finds is the desire for a variety of access methods: on-premises, on-demand and hosted approaches that are distributing quite rapidly. It is clear that organizations want choice in how they access technology and applications; SAP is prepared to address this as it enters a new era of opportunity built on SAP HANA.
CEO & Chief Research Officer
May 1, 2013 in Big Data, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Intelligence (BI), Business Mobility, Business Performance Management (BPM), Cloud Computing, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Financial Performance Management (FPM), Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Information Applications (IA), Information Management (IM), IT Performance Management (ITPM), Location Intelligence, Operational Intelligence, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Sales Performance Management (SPM), Social Media, Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), Workforce Performance Management (WPM) | Tags: Big Data, Business Analytics, CFO, CIO, Cloud Computing, COO, mobile, Oracle, Social Collaboration, Social Media | by Mark Smith | Leave a comment
I was recently at Oracle Analyst World which is the vendor’s annual gathering of technology industry analysts. Its executives and others in the products organization deliver the latest news on where the titan is focusing efforts to expand its technology and markets. This year, against the background of the consumer and business markets embracing mobile and cloud computing, Oracle is working to sound like a more friendly supplier that can help remove legacy issues and inefficiencies that plague CIOs and data centers. Oracle also used this forum to attract IT departments to the technology advances it has made across its deep and broad portfolio of products. Oracle has more than 3,900 software products and more than 3,000 software patents that indicate its significant investment in R&D. Now the company is beginning to release improved products more frequently, which most customers now expect from technology vendors.
To analysts Oracle emphasized four enterprise imperatives: big data, cloud computing, mobility and social media. These are among the six technology innovations our firm tracks – Oracle does not prioritize advancements in the other two at the top level, business and social collaboration and business analytics, although it offers products for them and are part of its significantly large product portfolio. There was significant time spent discussing their engineered systems of server, software and storage technology, which are targeted to transform data centers. This is a big-money center of opportunity for Oracle as IT organizations strive to streamline data processing and be more cost-effective in operations. Oracle also is furthering vertical integration of its technologies. Speakers invoked analogies to Steve Jobs and the innovative efforts of Apple, but that is really not a relevant comparison, as the dynamics of consumer markets do not translate to the business aspect of technology, whether it is rented by business units or purchased and installed by IT and are not as easily convinced about vertically integrated technology for business. The two constituents of business and IT and their approach to software continues to evolving differently, as I recently assessed. But even so my analysis of Oracle’s imperatives comes in the context of simplifying IT while pushing innovation.
Let’s look first at big data, a market that continues to grow across the spectrum of technology used to capture, store and access business information. Our benchmark research on the topic finds that the RDBMS has reached a saturation point, being used in 80 percent of organizations, while other technologies have smaller penetration but will grow significantly until the end of 2015: in-memory databases (22%), Hadoop (20%) and data warehouse appliances (19%) all will be deployed in that time. Our research shows that the expanding volume, velocity and variety of data are important across types of big data technology, and Oracle is investing to ensure that IT organizations see it as a viable option for all of them. Oracle is embracing Hadoop broadly, from loading to data services, to ensure it can utilize the HCatalog metadata and Hive-based methods in its business intelligence efforts. The latest Oracle Big Data Appliance, Oracle Exadata and Oracle Exalytics, which include its BI software, are designed to serve organizations that have limited resources and time to fine-tune their configuration. In my analysis Oracle has not been as aggressive as it could be on communicating the value of big data and now in conjunction with its acquisition of Endeca is beginning to focus on what we call information optimization, which ultimately is the value derived from big data, as I have pointed out.
I also think Oracle should look at more tightly coupling big data with its business intelligence and analytics to help business analysts in using large amounts of data. For example, the largest needs for big data according to our research are what-if analysis and forecasting (44%), predictive analytics (41%) and visualization (37%). Oracle has products for all of these, but they should be part of a more integrated presentation and technology stack for organizations to use them more easily.
In both big data and business analytics overall, where Oracle has a broad portfolio of products, its acquisition of Endeca shows real promise, achieving advances in information discovery, interactivity and visualization as well as self-service access to information. Oracle is working to make its BI products as appealing to the business side as they have been to IT organizations but still needs to make clear the value to analysts, let alone those in managerial or management roles. In this area improvements in the user experience are critical: According to our benchmark research usability is the top priority for organizations evaluating new software.
My colleague Tony Cosentino recently covered Oracle’s latest release of business intelligence. He notes that it shows steps in the right direction but lacks integration or use of Oracle’s latest mobile and collaboration technology. Here the company cannot rely on the perspective of IT, which does not consider these aspects important; our business technology innovation research shows that the lines of business have them as two of the top three priorities. Not much is new in the mobile aspects of Oracle BI, although I pointed out at the beginning of last year that it needed significant improvement and requires more frequent updates.
Oracle also is slow in advancing its analytic applications across ERP, CRM, EPM for finance and industry-specific analytics; users in these areas need to transition from tools and dashboards of charts to applications that help not just measure performance but act on and manage it more effectively. Oracle has decided to concentrate its more advanced analytics and visualization on operating against the Oracle Exalytics appliance. This limited approach could hinder its potential as business analysts are less interested in having an appliance package than in tools and software they can use for business analytics with big data or not.
For cloud computing, Oracle is beginning to see returns on its investments in a range of engineered systems that can operate across private or public clouds in single or multitenant approaches; the approach also encompasses storage through archiving data to its Oracle Virtual Networking. Along with IBM, followed by HP and Dell, Oracle is working to turn its range of software into a competitive advantage and appeal to a growing population in IT that realizes it must emphasize usability of technology to meet the next round of business on a more timely and continuous basis.
In the realm of business applications, Oracle is working to support them in whatever combinations users want, even in a single organization. It has made its global data centers available for any level of demand on a 24-by-seven basis. With the acquisitions of RightNow and Eloqua it has become relevant in customer services and marketing applications. Oracle’s intention is to supercharge its efforts in the B2C markets and to provide more choices for customers. It has continued development of its Social Relationship Management and utilization of social media but but hasn’t caught up with point providers Attensity, Clarabridge and Kana. I believe Oracle will also need to address multichannel contact centers and the dynamic aspects of customer interactions. Mobile and social channels are driving a new generation of technology that Oracle is not now competitive with. At the analyst gathering I heard almost no references to its efforts in sales force automation and other sales-related tools where Salesforce is sharply focused and Microsoft is rapidly advancing. In our 2012 Value Index on Sales Applications Oracle showed a very competitive offering and earned a tie at the top spot, but it cannot afford to be complacent here. In fact Oracle’s Fusion for CRM in sales has integrated forecasting (65%) and analytics (47%) more tightly than Salesforce, addressing the top two priorities of sales organizations found in our Sales on the Cutting Edge research. Oracle is more effective in its suite of applications for human capital management (HCM), which has fully integrated its purchase of Taleo; it now has a convincing discussion of its cloud services to help HR and all employees be more efficient. Oracle also has progressed with its Fusion Applications; as I pointed out last year Oracle Fusion applications are now available in on-premises, hosted and software as a service (SaaS) methods. I like the innovation in the mobile technology that it is showing in areas like HCM. My largest concern is the continued lack of focus on the Office of Finance; Oracle’s enterprise performance management (EPM) application is still embedded within its middleware approach to BI and those in finance are most interested in business applications for their processes. Oracle’s potential to help Finance is significant but the split of its accounting and finance applications for management and operations remains a barrier that is an organizational challenge for Oracle than the buying audience readiness to advance its application portfolio.
It is positive that Oracle has gone beyond just virtualizing or cloud-enabling its applications into in-memory processing to take advantage of the growing potential of computing and memory capacity. Oracle sees its ability to handle data cache and grid in-memory as a competitive advantage, and its Oracle Database 12c and TimesTen can take advantage of D-RAM and Flash. In-memory capabilities are also important for accelerating the performance of its BI offering, which can now operate in a variety of options with its caching methods. Its acceleration of investment into in-memory and other next-generation applications for business comes just in time, as SAP continues its investment into Hana to power its applications. Oracle at this point seems to have a more comprehensive approach than SAP but will need to get these applications deployed in more organizations and build its customer reference base. Also, faster is not always better, and the usability and interactivity of the applications with the business processes will determine its future success.
For business and social collaboration, the Oracle Social Network is just beginning to roll out as part of its applications, which according to our research is how businesses would most prefer to access this type of software. With rollouts coming in HCM and SFA, the next year will critical for Oracle to build a strong reputation in this category; over the last decade it made many attempts to satisfy the business audience, which in the end cares about collaboration as a business technology and not as middleware, which is how Oracle has classified it. While many in the industry including IT analysts have not prioritized collaboration as important, this is more of a result to their focus on the IT organization and not one of the needs of business to collaborate and streamline their business processes and actions that require rapid coordination and dialogue. Oracle is smart to make collaboration part of its business applications first, as this is the most frequently selected deployment method in 43 percent of organizations, but other approaches including integrated with Microsoft Office (40%) and embedded as part of business intelligence (28%) or a stand-alone product (23%) are not far behind; we conclude that many organizations prefer a mixed approach. I like Oracle’s use of activity streams, broadcasting and discussion forums, all of which are part of the new evaluation criteria for social collaboration in business as we see a shift from the outdated approaches of just sharing folders and documents or posting links to files within a portal. Oracle’s offering is well integrated and now with collaboration being the second most important innovation priority in organizations, there is opportunity for Oracle if it can move forward faster with what I believe now is a good business and social collaboration software offering.
As Oracle’s opportunity grows with its range of new applications and tools for big data and business analytics, its challenges lie in marketing and presenting them to the business buyers who are leading a new wave of technology adoption; these people want to be spoken to in the language of business and time to value and will not be patient with technobabble. If Oracle can communicate with them, business buyers will find more than perhaps they expect in the Oracle portfolio of products and its ability to help them work better.
CEO & Chief Research Officer