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SAP Data Warehouse Cloud may democratize data analytics

SAP's new SAP Data Warehouse Cloud promises to make data analytics more accessible to the business. It's a needed addition to SAP's analytics portfolio, but faces well-established BI competition.

SAP Data Warehouse Cloud is the latest products entrant designed to democratize data analytics.

SAP Data Warehouse Cloud is a data warehouse as a service product that became generally available in October. It connects a variety of data sources but enables organizations to decide where and how they want to keep and access the data.

It includes some features that should make it attractive to business users, particularly for those already running SAP systems, but SAP Data Warehouse Cloud faces a crowded market. Still, it's a product SAP clearly needs to remain competitive in the data warehouse and data analytics game, according to one analyst.

Dan LahlDan Lahl

Making data analytics more applicable and accessible to the business is the main goal of SAP Data Warehouse Cloud, said Dan Lahl, SAP vice president of product marketing.

"In SAP Data Warehouse Cloud we've added new things to the data warehouses that allow customers to define their own data sets, and either virtualize or pull in that data so they can make decisions on exactly the data they want to look at," Lahl said. "Usually you get five guys with four spreadsheets and everybody's arguing over who's got the data and the decision of record. SAP Data Warehouse Cloud will either virtualize or move data, specifically to the information the customer needs, and then the business user decides what dashboards or what reports they want to use on that data. It's getting to business decisions more quickly for business users."

One feature, Spaces, enables business users to align data in ways that are aligned with their business or process needs.

"Data warehouses used to take a long time to build. It was very expensive, it took a number of people to build them, and by the time you got to build the reports that you wanted, nobody wanted them anymore," Lahl said. "This is kind of the antithesis of that, getting the business user to look and access the data they want and then build reporting and visualizations off of that."

SAP Data Warehouse Cloud also includes SAP Analytics Cloud, which provides built-in reporting and dashboard capabilities.

Opening up analytics

Velux Group, a global manufacturing of windows based in Horsholm, Denmark, has been evaluating SAP Data Warehouse Cloud as a key part in the evolution of its data analytics program. The company has 27 production sites in 10 countries, sales offices in 40 countries, and 11,500 employees.

Andreas MadsenAndreas Madsen

Velux Group is a longtime SAP customer, running SAP ECC for ERP and BusinessObjects BI and Business Warehouse (BW) for data analytics and storage. However, the company has run into some limitations with BusinessObjects and is looking to overcome those limitations with SAP Data Warehouse Cloud, said Andreas Madsen, senior data and analytics partner at Velux.

Velux is in the process of developing a new business model to sell more directly to consumers, in addition to the traditional channel of installers and resellers.

"Normally, it's the installers and dealers that actually sell our windows -- we sell through them. So we don't know that much about our end users, but that's changing as we're moving into the online market as well," Madsen said.

Direct selling requires more flexibility than what Velux's current systems offer.

"There's a transition in what we need to know about our end users and how we use data," he said. "And although we have a very good, well-functioning ECC system, BW, and some classic reporting, it's really hard to navigate in, it's really hard to explore data when everything is structured in the data warehouse."

The ultimate strategic goal is for Velux to become more customer-centric, and Madsen said that in order to do this, the company needs a more open data platform that enables business users to link the data as needed.

"There is a world outside of our corporate enterprise systems. We cover all the business processes in Velux, but if you look at marketing they might have 50 or 60 different databases that that they use data from, they need to be able to cater to that data as well," Madsen said. "It's important data, but it's not something that we are in control of, so we need to give them a platform where they can operate and then combine that with the enterprise data."

SAP's needed reaction to data analytics market

SAP Data Warehouse Cloud is a necessary evolution of SAP's HANA-based data analytics approach, especially given the crowded, competitive analytics market, said Dana Gardner, president and principal analyst with Interarbor Solutions LLC.

It needs to be noted that SAP is reacting to the market rather than making the market.
Dana GardnerPresident and principal analyst, Interarbor Solutions LLC

"There are lot of companies out there like Qlik, Tableau, and others that are making inroads and we're seeing more of this analytics as a service and the democratization of data," Gardner said. "SAP is recognizing that they need to compete better in all aspects of data analytics and not just the enterprise systems of record integration part of it. But it needs to be noted that SAP is reacting to the market rather than making the market."

Dana GardnerDana Gardner

The SAP Data Warehouse Cloud approach focuses on the democratization of data analytics and makes it simple and automated behind the scenes, so that more business users get the types of analytics they need based on their business role and what work they are doing, Gardner said.

"You don't want to make data analytics just available to data scientists. It's time to break down the ivory tower," he said. "The more people that use more analytics in your organization, the better you're going to be as a company, so it's important that SAP gets aggressive and out on front on this."

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