SAP’s Data Warehouse Cloud is evolving, gaining new features and a new name, Datasphere, as the company addresses continued diversification of the enterprise data.
It’s part of SAP’s move to become a more significant player in the business data fabric space, said Irfan Khan, SAP’s chief product officer for its HANA database and analytics.
Khan said SAP is going beyond the usual capabilities of a data fabric by preserving the business context of the data it carries.
“We want to preserve the business semantics and the business context of that data,” he said. “We’re not going to have customers make a compromise between accessing the data virtually or federating the data.”
The competitive threat SAP faces in this space, said IDC analyst Dan Vesset, is that the data landscape is becoming more diverse.
“You have SAP applications and you have more and more of somebody else’s applications in the same environment, and the question then is, where’s the center of gravity? Who has the most pull?” he said.
Khan acknowledged the threat is influencing SAP’s product development.
“A significant part of SAP’s evolution towards this new strategy is recognising that no single vendor will own the entire customer stack,” he said. “That customer stack is in fact very heterogeneous.”
In the past, SAP and other vendors have assumed that if they create a new product, customers will move their data to it — but that has not always worked out well for either vendors or customers.
SAP is no longer taking a hard line on moving data to its applications, Khan said.
“If you’re running a marketing campaign, more likely you’ll need to have access to SAP data,” he said. “But it just makes it a lot easier to have access to the SAP context through the business data fabric, through Datasphere, without having to redundantly move the data, lose the context, lose semantics, and then have to go to the painful exercise of having to reconstitute all that again.”
The new functions Datasphere offers over Data Warehouse Cloud include automated data cataloging, simplified data replication, and improved data modeling.
The move from Data Warehouse Cloud to Datasphere will be easy, according to Khan: Existing customers will automatically have access to the new functionality and will be charged for usage under their regular SAP consumption agreement. “There’s nothing more to pay if you don’t use it,” he said.
SAP is also opening it up to partners to add new functionality and make it easier to access data from other platforms through Datasphere.
“We want to make it very easy for SAP’s data to be accessed and to be extended with business context through Datasphere,” he said. “But we’ll also use our new data ecosystem participants.”
Four partners are signed up to offer Datasphere integrations at launch. Collibra plans to offer enterprises a way to build a complete catalog, with lineage, of all their SAP and non-SAP data. Confluent will connect its cloud-native data streaming platform to Datasphere, making it possible to connect SAP and external applications in real time. Plus, Databricks is making it possible for users of its data lakehouse to integrate it with SAP applications, preserving semantics when data are shared. And DataRobot is helping customers to build automated machine learning capabilities on Datasphere.
SAP has chosen its initial partners to cover a broad range of functions with little overlap between them, noted Vesset. But that doesn’t mean there’s no overlap with Datasphere itself.
Take Datasphere’s new data cataloging and governance functions, for instance. “Theoretically, one could just use Collibra,” Vesset said.
However, he said, SAP will have greater knowledge of the metadata associated with the data held in its applications that the catalog is supposed to capture, and it can invest more in integration with its partners. “If you’re an SAP ERP customer, or if you have multiple SAP enterprise applications, probably the easier path would be to use SAP’s product first, and then use something like Collibra for other data that’s not SAP,” he said.
Four partners are a start, but to make a success of this new strategy to help customers integrate SAP and non-SAP applications into their data fabric, “They absolutely need more, because they need to get to where their clients are, and their clients will have many different tools,” he said.
SAP is offering nothing enterprises can’t find elsewhere — at a price. “You can build any of these tools yourself from open-source technologies, but there’s a cost associated with that. That’s the build, buy, or partner decision that every large organisation needs to make,” Vesset said.
“SAP is hoping that their solution will provide enough efficiency and cost savings for clients to come to them.”