Big data has yet to deliver on its promises. At least that’s what Ken Tsai, vice president, head of cloud platform and data management at SAP told CMSWire. 

In the past, he's even referred to data lakes as data swamps, and he wasn’t entirely kidding.

“Big data means very little without business context,” he said.

This morning at CeBIT 2016 in Hanover, Germany, SAP announced SAP HANA Vora is now generally available (GA). It is an Apache Spark-based in-memory query engine that brings contextual analytics across all data stored in Hadoop, enterprise systems and other distributed data sources.

Understanding Data in Context

Until now, Tsai told CMSWire, the focus around big data has been building the distributed computing framework. “Data comes quickly and figuring out how to store it and manage it is essential. After all, one day we could be looking at 100,000 nodes,” he said. 

Though that may seem far-fetched at the moment, Tsai insisted that it could become reality in the not so distant future.

Figuring out how to get value out of all of that data is today’s challenge and it’s one that SAP claims it has solved with SAP HANA Vora. 

“Vora” takes its name form “voracious.” It was built to bring business context to insights derived from big data and to then push big data signals into operational applications.

In other words, SAP HANA Vora makes big data actionable. Its most immediate adopters will probably be SAP customers which might seem limiting until you consider that 74 percent of the world’s transaction revenue touches an SAP system. It’s worth noting too that insights gleaned through SAP HANA Vora can be leveraged via Oracle and other vendor solutions as well.

Practically Speaking

While all of this big data talk may seem obtuse, here’s how SAP HANA Vora might be applied in the real world: 

When a shopper walks into a store, insights gleaned via external information stored in a data lake (Hadoop) might reveal what kind of products other shoppers “like me” purchased and how presenting a coupon or an add-on product might influence behavior and such. Most of us have seen this on sites like Amazon where it says “people also bought xxx.”

Bring SAP HANA Vora into the mix, and an individual’s specific transactional history can be added, helping the merchant know who his customer is as an individual. Marry the two together and the probability of a desired outcome increases substantially.

“This is the golden age of big data,” said Tsai. “This is when we begin to see value.”

It’s an impressive accomplishment, according to Constellation Research analyst Holger Mueller.

“It’s  good to see SAP bringing the enterprise application DNA to the table. For now it looks like it is hierarchy capabilities, an important concept for enterprise applications, traditionally missing on the Hadoop side,” he told CMSWire. He also noted that SAP HANA Vora gives SAP its very own big data play.

Though SAP would likely claim it already had one, it’s clear that Tsai sees Vora as a game-changer, one that could be as wildly successful as SAP HANA itself.

Deeper, Actionable Insights

There will certainly be those who say that actionable insights gleaned from big data have been around for quite a while. 

The reality is that, at least up until now, according to analysts, big data hasn’t lived up to its aspirations. 

Forrester, in its Wave for “Big Data Hadoop Distributions, Q1 2016,” stated, “On average, between 60 percent and 73 percent of all data within an enterprise goes unused for business intelligence (BI) and analytics. That’s unacceptable in an age where deeper, actionable insights, especially about customers, are a competitive necessity.”

How SAP HANA Vora Works

SAP HANA Vora leverages and extends the Apache Spark execution framework to provide enriched interactive analytics on Hadoop. The core foundation of SAP HANA’s in memory platform, is complemented by SAP HANA Vora, which is designed to add insight across large volumes of operational and contextual data taken from enterprise applications, data warehouses, data lakes and edge Internet of Things (IoT) sensors. Vora brings compute to the data.

The specific wins realized by companies who tested Vora include:

  • Data correlation for making precise contextual decisions — Enables mashup of operational business data with external unstructured data sources for more powerful analytics
  • Simplified management of big data — Allows data to be processed locally on a Hadoop cluster, removing any data ownership and integration challenges
  • Online analytical processing (OLAP) modeling capabilities on Hadoop data — Makes real-time drill-down analysis possible on large volumes of Hadoop data distributed across thousands of nodes

SAP HANA Vora works with the Apache Hadoop and Apache Spark providers of  choice including Cloudera, Databricks, Hortonworks and MapR.

Sharing is Caring

Though SAP Hana Vora is clearly a proprietary solution, the company recently open sourced a data hierarchy modeling feature and a data sources application program interface (API) extension to the Apache Spark ecosystem.

Tsai said that SAP plans to strengthen its commitment to the developer community by continuing to make more open source contributions in the future.

This signals that SAP understands and marches in step with developers’ preferences for open source solutions and vendor contributions. In a world where developers are the kingmakers, this is a must.