Many things spring to mind when you think SAP HANA. You may think depth and speed. You may also think user difficulty or even lengthy deployment times.
One thing you don’t think is agility. Cloud-based business intelligence (BI) vendor Birst aims to change that with this week’s announcement that it is now possible to integrate Birst with HANA.
Dumbing it Down
At first glance, this is not an obvious partnership. HANA is known for its complexity or even end-user difficulties. Birst is one of a new generation of BI vendors that are making it possible to optimize the value of data, in a matter of weeks rather than the months it can take for a traditional BI deployment.
In fact only last week, Birst pointed out that it can cut the deployment times to as little as four weeks, depending on the circumstances. Southard Jones, vice president of product strategy at Birst, also told us then that one of the big market drivers at the moment is the demand by business users for quick, easy-to-use, powerful analytics.
SAP HANA doesn’t really seem to fit the bill in respect to the easy-to-use requirement, nor does integration with HANA appear to answer any of the other demands. To find out more about this integration and what it offers we went back to Jones at Birst and asked about the thinking behind it.
He pointed out that despite HANA's muscle, there are two things that are rarely highlighted:
There has been a lot of hype about how fast it is and how it has a lot of memory. But one of the things that is not mentioned so often is that there a lot of HANA sitting on shelves that is not being used, just because it is so difficult to use. The other thing that is rarely mentioned is that not a lot of BI tools do a good job sitting on top of HANA because it is relatively new and [enterprises] don’t necessarily know how to optimize it. So this integration is about providing something for enterprises that had HANA sitting there doing nothing or for enterprises who want to be rapidly deploy it and use HANA One."
SAP HANA One is a relatively inexpensive, private cloud-based instance of the HANA platform, hosted in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud.
Birst is providing a new native cloud alternative for SAP customers who have previously had to choose between aging legacy BI tools — that can take months to implement and require large teams to support — and limited data discovery tools that are restricted to analysts and create information anarchy with silos of analysis.
With Birst for SAP HANA, business users have the power to run analytics, including visualizations, dashboards and reports, on the fastest database available today. But Birst’s contribution here is not just sitting on top of HANA.
We are not just going to sit on top of HANA like the other releases, but are going to sit around HANA. We are automating the process of creating a warehouse inside of HANA. We take the raw data, extract it and transform and place it in HANA. The result is that while all the queries take place in side of HANA, it is going to take a tenth of the maintenance and a tenth of the people to actually run it. In effect, if offers you all the agility that users are looking for from BI today, but integrated with the fattest in-memory solution that is on the market at the moment. Ultimately, with Birst, SAP users can access their existing HANA data live and combine it with their other data sources."
Birst SAP HANA Integratiion
While there is a lot of emphasis on agility in this release, it is the speed that should impress business users, given that the time it takes to develop business insights using this integration is going to increase dramatically.
Speed Is Key
Robert Neale, EMEA Marketing Director at Birst, noted in a blog post about the release that speed is the key:
There is no point having the fastest database on the planet if it still takes you months to deliver information to the business. With Birst, [and HANA] you can have your data ready for reporting in a matter of hours."
He points out that by SAP’s own benchmark test on a 100TB 100 billion row data set, almost all queries ran in less than a second. "The real business benefit is what you can do with that speed. More analyses run on more data can give you insights into your business that were just not possible with these old compromised systems,” he said.