Unlocking mass data for instant use

By Paul Webel, GM of Business Analytics, Technology and Line of Business solutions at SAP Africa

JohannesburgWhile everyone is aware of the exponential growth of data in organisations, the reality is – it is merely data stored in many diverse locations in many different formats, says Paul Webel, GM of Business Analytics, Technology and Line of Business solutions at SAP Africa.

Gartner predicts that on average enterprise data will grow by 650% over the next five years*. The costs to administer, manage and maintain multiple data marts, warehouses and transactional systems are spiralling higher, while IT budgets are rapidly reducing.

In recent years, the challenge for most organisations has been how to access and convert all of this data into useful, meaningful information that can be used to inform strategy and make decisions in real-time. The solution to this challenge is enterprise information management (EIM), which in itself is not new. The real question is how to simultaneously access information in a transactional system and the masses of stored data in other parts of the organisation to enable informed real-time decision-making?

This requirement is being spurred on by the relentless need for organisations to provide their clients, staff and business partners with instantaneous access to information from a multitude of sources, in a format that can be consumed in real-time by everyone. Unless organisations adapt to this trend, they stand a chance of losing their competitive edge driven by a world demanding rapid responses to almost every query.

So, while many organisations today can effectively extract data from multiple systems, transform it to meet their operational needs and load it onto databases or into data warehouses, this process is not immediate. It can take up to a few hours, which is acceptable for coming up with “what if” scenarios or formulating strategy for the next 10 years, but it is not fast enough for real-time analyses, consumption and communication.

And this is where the future of EIM lies – immediate access to information – especially with the explosion of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook (for the instantaneous audiences), which are perfect platforms for businesses to respond to customers’ queries in real-time.

Technology is evolving and we are now able to support real-time queries under transactional systems. The solution lies in the latest in-memory computing technology of which SAP’s high performance analytical appliance or HANA is an example.

SAP HANA appliance can analyse massive amounts of data – up to 360 times faster than traditional databases, which enables organisations to instantly explore and analyse data from virtually any data source in real-time. Data is captured in-memory as business happens and flexible views expose analytic information rapidly. In addition, external data can be added to analytic models to expand analysis across the entire organisation, and this includes structured, unstructured and event information.

A large consumer products retail company wanted to analyse all its point of sale (POS) data to predict demand, especially during promotions where inventory levels can be unexpectedly and suddenly diminished (or not). Ideally, it wished to target restocking shelves with 48-hour turnaround. The data set it needed to analyse each cycle was 460 billion records (or 40 Terabytes), a set of data that was unworkable with any real speed using its current database platform. The company chose to employ a high performing analytics solution to work in concert with its existing transactional system. It achieved 20 times faster analysis with 200 times better price and performance. Most importantly, it moved from five days down to two days for shelf turnaround, and took great leaps to eliminate out of stock situations during promotions.

Looking ahead, organisations understand the need to align EIM strategy with long-term business strategy. They are aware it is one thing to collect all the data and another thing using it effectively via the Internet or mobile devices. They know instantaneous access to information will become increasingly more critical in the future – both from a commercial and individual perspective. This is an exciting space to be in and the new technology presents a quantum leap in terms of performance and technology, and a faster, more efficient way of doing business.

* Source: Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations & Management Summit 2009, Orlando

Editorial contacts

Ogilvy Public Relations South Africa
Keshia Govindsamy
+27 11 709 9639