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Oracle's GoldenGate acquisition shows SAP data integration gaps

Oracle's GoldenGate acquisition calls out gaps in SAP's integration portfolio that some analysts say SAP will need to fill with an acquisition of its own.

Oracle's acquisition of real-time data integration vendor GoldenGate highlights weaknesses in SAP BusinessObjects' information management portfolio that SAP may need to fill with an acquisition of its own, according to analysts.

Demand is high within the SAP customer base for the real-time data integration and availability services for applications and databases that GoldenGate provides, according to Forrester Research's Rob Karel. Integration tops the list of challenges he hears from SAP customers, who are struggling with upgrades, as well as migrations from legacy applications.

"SAP cannot afford to ignore it and really needs to move quickly on this," said Karel, a principal analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester. "One of the biggest pain points out there in the market is support for SAP migrations."

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GoldenGate targets two markets. The first is real-time data integration known as change data capture (CDC), which transmits changes in a data source to a given target in real time, according to Karel. It is most often used to synchronize operational applications for real-time business intelligence.

GoldenGate also provides support for active-active environments, data migrations and synchronizations between old and new systems, Karel said.

Oracle is buying GoldenGate because it enables zero-downtime migrations and upgrades, according to Philip Howard, research director at London-based Bloor Research. It will enable customers to upgrade or migrate applications and databases, consolidate applications, and create MDM hubs without ever taking anything offline, he wrote in a research note to clients.

It's this ability to support active-active environments and synchronization between old and new environments as customers deal with migrations and upgrades that has been a pervasive need in the SAP customer base, Karel said.

Meanwhile, SAP BusinessObjects has been weak on this point of CDC and replication, particularly in heterogeneous environments, according to Ted Friedman, vice president, distinguished analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Research. Its emphasis has been on ETL with its Data Integrator and data federation with its Data Federator product. SAP has also partnered with vendors like Attunity to add more real-time capabilities, he said.

"BusinessObjects Data Integrator has some change data capture capabilities, but it's certainly nowhere near as robust as GoldenGate," Friedman said.

SAP said that it provides real-time capabilities in its Data Services and Data Federator products, as well as SAP NetWeaver PI.

"We have three different solutions that can also support real-time needs. It depends on how customers want to architect their environment," said Philip On, director of product marketing for SAP BusinessObjects.

SAP is working hard on its BusinessObjects portfolio to provide more of these services, Karel said. It is also boosting its data integration portfolio in other areas. This week, it announced new versions of its Data Services and Data Federator products.

The enhanced Data Services product, used for loading data into a data warehouse, now provides data integration and data quality services in one offering, On said. Among other enhancements, it will make it easier for SAP customers to access and improve data from non-SAP sources and load it into their SAP Business Warehouse, the vendor's data warehouse. Prior to the enhancement, customers needed a third-party ETL tool to accomplish this.

For extracting that data, On said, SAP has improved its Data Federator. Customers can now go directly to the underlying BW tables, bypassing the OLAP tables. This will allow customers to run reports against SAP BW twice as fast as they currently can.

That said, SAP hasn't yet delivered the total package.

"That's not meeting their [clients'] needs at all," Karel said. "NetWeaver PI is a great utility to connect homogeneous SAP applications, but it's nowhere near as flexible, especially when dealing with heterogeneous environments."

Some combination of organic development and perhaps an acquisition may be necessary to meet more customers' needs, analysts said.

The trouble is that there aren't too many pure-play data integration vendors in this area left to buy. GoldenGate is now gone, and DataMirror was acquired by IBM more than two years ago, Friedman said. That leaves Attunity, Vision Solutions and HiT Software.

"If they're really serious about making the SAP BusinessObjects unit a leader in broad-scale data management space, I think this is something they've got to be focused on," Friedman said. "The pickings are kind of slim. Attunity's probably the best of the bunch."

But AMR Research senior vice president Jim Shepherd said Oracle's pick-up in this market doesn't represent any kind of a direct threat to SAP. It's important to Oracle because it's a powerful piece of technology for a database vendor and for the markets like banking and telecommunications that Oracle is going after.

"GoldenGate is the market leader, and the estimates are that they're about a $10 million company," Shepherd said. "It's not like it's a market space that represents a huge amount of money."

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