Traditional business intelligence is increasingly converging with predictive analytics as companies focus less on analyzing historical data and more on trying to get an edge on their competitors by predicting future outcomes. Software giant SAP last year began rolling out predictive applications built on its HANA in-memory analytics platform, including Smart Meter Analytics, which helps utility companies identify energy-consumption patterns and perform customer segmentation.
Any business user interacting with these applications benefits from their built-in predictive capabilities, which is one aspect of SAP's predictive analytics strategy, said Mani Gill, vice president and general manager of BI Solutions for SAP. The company is now expanding that strategy with BusinessObjects Predictive Analysis Software, a tool for predictive modeling and advanced visualization.
Noting that much of the heavy lifting of predictive modeling involves preparing and visualizing data, Gill said analysts can create models by using the software's built-in predictive algorithms, algorithms from HANA's Predictive Analytic Library or any of some 3,500 algorithms created by contributors to the open source R data analysis and statistical language.
SAP has made the use of R as seamless as possible, Gill said. "You don’t need to step out and design something in R and bring it into the tool. You just connect to the algorithm, and it has an R in front of it; that’s the only difference."
The software matches up well with HANA, which SAP is positioning at the center of its data strategies, because users can run predictive models in-memory within the database. In a blog post, Gill writes that running BusinessObjects Predictive Analysis on top of HANA is the "one-two punch of this announcement," as "users can put speed and power behind their predictive strategy and deliver predictive insights from 'Big Data' in real-time."
However, it can also access other vendor databases like SQL and Oracle, can access flat files and spreadsheets and can pull data from SAP BusinessObjects Universes. Gill calls this ability "another proof point of our commitment to heterogeneity that SAP made to customers almost five years ago when we acquired BusinessObjects."
Gill said SAP also plans to make some of the power of HANA available to non-HANA users by offering an "attractively priced" option that will include a restricted runtime license of HANA that can be used only for predictive modeling scenarios.
Insights created using the tool can be delivered to dashboards, alerts and mobile devices, or accessed by other analytics solutions from SAP such as its BusinessObjects platform or by Microsoft Office applications.
The software is currently available through the company's Ramp-Up program, which is SAP's approach to releasing production software to a limited number of customers. It will be generally available later this year.