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SAP shores up SAP NetWeaver BW with Teradata

SAP customers can now run SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (BW) on Teradata, with a partnership announced yesterday.

NetWeaver Business Warehouse (BW) will run on Teradata databases, a move that analysts say is great news for SAP NetWeaver BW customers.

The move shores up SAP NetWeaver BW's deficiencies, which include a reputation for slow query responses, limited data volume scalability, and limited visibility into non-SAP data, according to Philip Russom, senior manager of research at The Data Warehousing Institute (TDWI).

"The new SAP-Teradata combination has great potential for curing these weaknesses," Russom said in an email response. "Thanks to the SAP-Teradata combination, I feel we'll see even more BW implementations in the future."

The Teradata option will appeal to customers that have Teradata already and were forced until now to run SAP NetWeaver BW on a different platform, according to Boris Evelson, principal analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research. NetWeaver BW is currently supported only on Oracle, IBM and Microsoft SQL databases. It will also appeal to SAP customers growing through mergers and acquisitions that will need to accommodate larger sets of data, according to Evelson.

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But don't expect SAP customers who are running NetWeaver BW on SQL Server to rush to move to Teradata, he said. Teradata is still a very expensive proposition compared with SQL Server.

Before this partnership, if a company ran SAP and Teradata, the data was stored as relational data in Teradata, according to Mark Whitehorn of PenguinSoft Consulting Ltd. A copy -- called a shadow copy -- was extracted and held in SAP. It was then restructured, and SAP analytics ran against that restructured shadow copy, Whitehorn said in an email response.

In the new model, Teradata is the data warehouse layer, above that is SAP NetWeaver BW and NetWeaver BW Accelerator, and above that, the front-end analytical tools, according to Whitehorn. The data is held in Teradata as before, but no shadow copy is produced. So there is only one data warehouse, which is held as relational data in Teradata.

The move enhances the back end of SAP's business intelligence portfolio. While SAP's acquisition of Business Objects gave it a great front end, the back end was still lacking, Evelson said. The data warehouse in SAP NetWeaver BW is more of a departmental data mart, he said -- it never scaled to hundreds of terabytes, it didn't have lots of the infrastructure an enterprise-class data warehouse should have, and it was never very stable.

"If you look at the SAP business intelligence portfolio, it is very heavy on the front end as opposed to the back end," Evelson said. "Now, basing BW on top of Teradata, that's great."

Teradata provides better storage and scalability in the 25 terabyte area, according to Tim Lang, vice president of product management for SAP BusinessObjects.

The new partnership also enhances support for Teradata, Lang said. SAP customers can call their SAP support line if they have issues with Teradata.

"There's a much stronger connection on the support side as well," he said. "There's a lot of advantages we bring together in a joint solution, particularly when talking about very large datasets."

Russom thinks the SAP-Teradata partnership will spur larger SAP BW implementations because of the scalability assured via Teradata. Likewise, improvements to query performance and broader access to enterprise data made possible by this combination will lead to more SAP ERP users adopting "operational business intelligence" and other time-sensitive, data-driven business practices, he said.

The partnership also heightens the speculation that SAP is interested in acquiring Teradata -- a rumor that surfaced earlier this year, according to Madan Sheina, principal analyst with London-based Ovum Research.

The acquisition would be a wise move on SAP's part, Evelson believes. As consolidation in the industry continues to lead the news of the day (e.g., Oracle's recent Sun acquisition ), partnering with companies will become increasingly difficult.

"I think [buying Teradata] would make a lot of sense," Evelson said. "The major piece SAP is missing is really an enterprise-class data warehouse."

But Sheina said that the Teradata-SAP partnership also underscores something that is becoming a competitive advantage for SAP -- its continued emphasis on platform neutrality.

"SAP is perhaps unique among the big four BI plays in that it is agnostic about which database platform to do data warehousing on," Sheina said in an email response. "Such an option also gives SAP an opportunity to earn revenue for itself rather than [its] biggest applications [and BI] rival."

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