Partners See Expanded Business Analytics Opportunities With SAP's HANA Vora

SAP is expanding the big data capabilities of its HANA in-memory system with SAP HANA Vora, an in-memory query engine that applies contextual analytics to data stored in Hadoop, enterprise systems and other distributed data sources.

Walldorf, Germany-based SAP revealed the general availability of Vora on Tuesday, although some partners have already launched projects at customer sites working with the new software.

"We've been pushing on -- and pioneering in -- in-memory technology in recent years," said Ken Tsai, SAP vice president of cloud platform and data management, product marketing, in an interview with CRN. That includes HANA, the in-memory database and application server that's become the platform for many of SAP's products.

[Related: SAP, Accenture Expand Alliance With S/4HANA Development Initiatives]

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The Vora software is expected to generate a range of opportunities for SAP's systems integrator and strategic service provider partners, Tsai said, from data integration and analytics projects to business transformation initiatives.

"We are already getting a lot of traction with this, especially in life sciences," said Sean Moore, the U.S. North America practice leader for SAP analytics, big data and HANA, at Paris-based Capgemini in an interview with CRN. He sees Vora applications potentially spanning a broad range of industries.

While Moore said his practice's sales have generally been about 80 percent traditional business intelligence implementations and 20 percent more "disruptive or innovative solutions," he expects Vora to increase the latter percentage this year.

According to SAP, Vora creates a bridge between HANA and Apache Hadoop, the open-source data storage and processing software that's become the core of many organizations' big data projects. The new product leverages and extends the execution framework of Apache Spark, the in-memory processing engine, to provide interactive analytics for data stored in Hadoop clusters. It also works with large volumes of operational and contextual data from enterprise applications, data warehouses, data lakes and edge Internet of Things sensors.

By extending queries out to multiple data sources, Vora enables mashups of operational business data with external unstructured data for analysis, according to SAP, and simplifies the management of big data by allowing it to be processed locally on Hadoop clusters. And it makes online analytical processing (OLAP) possible with Hadoop data -- even when that data is distributed across thousands of nodes.

"We want to democratize data access across all types of workloads," Tsai said. Businesses can use SAP's Lumira data discovery and visualization tools, as well as data visualization tools from other vendors, as front-end analysis software with Vora, he added.

Vora creates a number of opportunities for solution providers, according to Tsai, such as leveraging data for business transformation projects. SAP sells largely by industry, packaging its software specifically for 25 vertical markets, and channel partners can add their own vertical industry expertise to sell Vora-based knowledge-sharing and line-of-business solutions, Tsai said.

"Customers are looking for ways in which to transform themselves into digital enterprises -- solving problems like fraud and real-time marketing," said John Appleby, general manager of London-based solution provider and SAP partner Bluefin Solutions Inc., in a statement. He said Vora could build on Hadoop data lakes, make the data accessible with enterprise in-memory computing and bring context to the data using data science tools.

Capgemini's Moore calls Vora a natural extension to HANA, making it possible to automate the kinds of projects that previously required lots of development and integration work.

Capgemini already has several early Vora projects underway, including at a medical device manufacturer that analyzes flu contagion data to develop forecasts for its products. Moore said that with Vora the company has developed rolling three-year forecasts by querying the company's own sales, order management and inventory data, along with data from the Centers for Disease Control, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Google Flu Trends and Twitter's flu tracking system.

CSC, Falls Church, Va., is another SAP partner that sees potential Vora opportunities. "With SAP HANA Vora and CSC Big Data Platform as a Service, we expect to help companies overcome the batch-oriented limitations of Hadoop and incorporate insights from data lakes interactively and in real time for more complete, context-savvy business processes," said Jim Kaskade, vice president and general manager of big data and analytics at system integrator CSC, in a statement.