SAP, Oracle Offerings Draw Battle Lines Over BI

As usual, the cloud has something to do with it.

It’s standard practice among IT firms to announce a new product just as a rival rolls out a similar offering, the better to steal a bit of the latter’s thunder. So it’s no surprise that, as SAP headed into its Sapphire Now conference this week in Orlando, Oracle announced a small collection of new business-intelligence applications.

The timing of the respective announcements wasn’t surprising. But the content of those announcements illustrates what could be an emerging dichotomy among business-intelligence and Big Data vendors.

SAP is using Sapphire Now to push the cloud, specifically its SAP HANA Cloud Platform for “real time” enterprise functionality. Announced last week, SAP’s cloud delivers a variety of ERP, CRM, data-warehousing, and other applications. As its name suggests, the platform relies heavily on HANA, SAP’s proprietary in-memory technology.

SAP is making an enormous bet on HANA as a competitive differentiator, having extended the technology to an ever-increasing number of its products. The cloud is likewise a big step; while the tech industry as a whole has gravitated to the cloud as a way to deliver products and services, it’s a relatively new tool in the context of Big Data, where demanding analytics and massive datasets can potentially run at an unacceptable crawl through all but the speediest data-pipes.

Oracle has also begun to embrace the cloud as a business-software delivery system, although one could argue it lacks the enthusiasm of some other IT vendors in the space; after all, the company still profits enormously from selling integrated hardware-software stacks, and its big cloud push only began in mid-2012—years after some of its rivals. For its part, Oracle argues that the hardware-software combination is optimum for delivering peak performance.

Nor have Oracle’s cloud efforts borne significant fruit: the company’s revenues for its fiscal 2013 Q3 were down 1 percent, to $9.0 billion, while new software licenses and cloud-software subscription revenues dipped 2 percent, to $2.3 billion.

Oracle’s “Let’s Steal a Bit of SAP’s Thunder” announcement doesn’t drop the word “cloud” at any point, but it does signal some expanded functionality in the business-intelligence space. Oracle Business Intelligence (BI) Applications Release 11.1.1.7.1 includes a handful of enhancements, including a streamlined user interface and new visualizations; among its features is Oracle Indirect Spend Planning, which the company bills as “the industry’s first and only in-memory planning application for spend analysis and forecasting.” So, um, take that, SAP? There’s also an in-memory application for academic institutions, designed to help pair resources with student needs (among other functions).

SAP is using a giant conference to tout its cloud integration. Oracle has proven somewhat reluctant over the past year to promote its cloud efforts with the same fervor as other companies, although its enthusiasm for dropping the term “in-memory” in its latest announcement hints that it’s more than happy to hammer the competition in other areas. The billion-dollar question is whether SAP and other BI companies embracing the cloud to this degree are correct, and the technology is commensurate with their promises and goals—or if, as in Oracle’s case, there’s reason to be more reluctant about the push into the cloud, at least as far as analytics are concerned.

 

Image: mamagio/Shutterstock.com

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