The quickly changing mélange of SAP's Business Intelligence and data management tools can be a bit hard to follow....
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One piece of the puzzle that has remained relatively constant in both name and function over the years is the SAP Data Services product. Picked up as part of the BusinessObjects data management tools suite and now called SAP Data Services, the product is currently on version 4.2, support pack 2.
SAP Data Services is a data integration and transformation software application. It allows users to develop and execute workflows that take data from predefined sources called data stores (applications, Web services, flat-files, databases, etc.) and then allows the user to combine, transform, and refine that data, and then output the results back to the same or different data stores.
In addition to standard data transformation functions like joins, lookups, filters, aggregations, and calculations, SAP Data Services offers functionality for text analysis, data profiling and auditing, and data quality operations such as matching, geocoding, and address standardization. It also supports changed-data capture, which is an important capability for providing input data to both data-warehousing and stream-processing systems. Lastly, Data Services supports both batch processing, which is the traditional approach to data transformation, and real-time services that allow applications to query Data Services and get an immediate response based on a predefined workflow.
In the marketplace, Data Services fits into a similar role to Informatica's flagship product, or Pentaho's Kettle product. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, but the basic idea is very similar.
In the SAP landscape, Data Services integrates with a large number of other products including Data Quality Management, Information Steward, Business Warehouse, Master Data Management, and others, all for different purposes, whileusing different methods. For specific information, it's best to check the reference guides on help.sap.com.
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