May 16, 2012 – SAP launched new data visualization software that taps into one of its standby BI releases and relies heavily on HANA, the in-memory database that’s a big part of the vendor’s future.

SAP Visual Intelligence, a desktop version of its BusinessObjects Explorer software, enables layered views, queries and report building that SAP intends to be led by business users.

The origin of the visualization capabilities come from the Polestar search and discovery solution from BusinessObjects, says Mani Gill, VP and GM of BI Solution Management at SAP. SAP acquired BusinessObjects for nearly $7 billion in 2008 and has revamped its information management offerings over the last 16 months. Different from the older solution, Visual Intelligence includes personalized dashboards, custom hierarchies from various desktop and business data sets, dimensional and trellis visuals, and connections to forecasting data, with additional views for mobile devices.

“[Visual Intelligence] is designed for the business analyst who understands data and would do very, very well in Excel,” Gill says. “It’s about data manipulation … and getting away from that cycle where IT creates a report and it’s not exactly what business was looking for.”

The visualization software also solely runs data configurations on SAP’s HANA platform, which has been central to other SAP data warehousing and retrieval updates in the past few months. Gill says the HANA connection isn’t so much a bigger push for the platform as it is a reliance on the quick data interactions for large data sets afforded an in-memory platform. He added that access to other database offerings will be available by summer 2012.

Forrester Principal Analyst Boris Evelson calls the current reliance only on HANA “a caveat” for more general adoption. However, Evelson says the quick access and data queries work well when based on an in-memory model.

“Explorer and HANA – and also other tools from QlikView, TIBCO Spotfire, Microsoft PowerPivot and Tableau Software – allow visual data discovery and exploration where there’s no data model and no predetermined paths. So now you can uncover patterns and dependencies you didn’t even know existed,” says Evelson.

The release is among of a slew of announcements coming from SAP’s annual SAPPHIRE user conference. In the opening keynote at the conference Monday, co-CEO Bill McDermott rolled out new mobile applications as part of a “shift driven by epic consumer demand for instant anywhere mobility and for intense social connectivity.” SAP also announced plans to accelerate its cloud strategy for finance, HR, customer management and procurement.

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