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SAP and SAS Partnership Develops In-Memory Analytics for Big Data

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SAP and SAS have signed a strategic agreement to develop data management and analytics solutions that allow SAS’s analytics applications to run on SAP’s HANA in-memory platform. The aim is to deliver real-time data analysis, with early solutions due in the first half of next year.

The partners plan to develop high-performance solutions across a number of industries including financial services, telecoms, retail, consumer products and manufacturing. Rather than taking a technical stance, they will target business areas – in financial services, areas such as risk management, anti-money laundering or high frequency trading – that require a combination of advanced analytics running on an in-memory platform designed to yield high-value results.

Ken Tsai, head of SAP Hana product marketing and vice president of technology innovation platforms at SAP, says: “Working with SAS is part of SAP’s initiative to reach out to independent software vendors (ISVs) and consider the possibility of running their apps on the SAP Hana platform. For SAP Hana to grow, we need to take on provocative alternatives to SAP apps.”

SAP is working with some small ISVs that may compete with its own enterprise apps, but Tsai says SAS’s analytic apps have very little overlap with SAP’s and have been oriented to data science and computational work rather than the business markets addressed by SAP. What does turn up in the same user set ups are both SAS applications and the SAP Hanna platform. On this, he comments: “We see customers running the solutions side by side and we have found some customers using both solutions but in different departments. Our aim is to bring both together, SAS apps on the SAP Hana platform and also the native algos that are in the platform.”

The end result of the collaboration is expected to enable massive parallelisation of computationally intense workloads in-memory. This should support big data solutions that could not previously be delivered. The joint technology in a single environment should also help to eliminate data movement, duplication and reconciliation, as well as simplify the IT landscape, reduce costs and deliver real-time performance.

To achieve these outcomes, SAP and SAS are following a rigorous route that started with the partnership agreement that will develop joint technology and product roadmaps for both companies. The companies have since concluded testing work to optimise deep technical integration of their technologies and are now planning to sign up a few existing customers, 50/50 from each company, that will work with them to look at and validate SAS applications running on SAP Hana.

Following approaches from financial services companies on in-memory development and considering that the sector is most advanced in these technologies, SAP assures some customers in the validation process will be financial services firms, although they have not yet been selected or named.

The goal of the pilot programme is to build and prioritise the companies’ joint technology throughout 2014. Tsai expects initial solutions to be available in the first half of the year, but in terms of what these will be, he says: “Everything is fluid at the moment as we will be driven by customer requirements and feedback. There are no specific scenarios for financial services yet, although we could, perhaps, look at making data available for predicative analysis or forecast risk exposure across an organisation. We will define the scenarios with customers and then shape them using big data analysis in real time.”

With technical integration of SAS’s applications and the SAP Hana platform complete and the companies embarking on the pilot that will work with customers to validate specific solutions, the final step along the route, for the time being at least, is how to take the solutions to market. This, says Tsai, has yet to be decided.

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