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SAP Takes Another Whack at Cloud Computing

The software is supposed to be for “casual” BI users underserved by what is already on the market

SAP Session at Cloud Expo

SAP claimed Wednesday to have dumbed down its BusinessObjects business intelligence software to create BusinessObjects BI OnDemand, described as "BI for the rest of us," a dicey Web 2.0 move for a company that muffed its low-end web-based Business ByDesign venture.

The software, described as a complete BI toolset that perforce will compete mostly with start-ups, is supposed to be for "casual" BI users underserved by what is already on the market. SAP wants to up penetration from 25% to 70% or 80%.

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Famous for some of the world's most complicated, installation-defying software, SAP says that neophytes won't need any experience or training to use the stuff.

Brad Peters, CEO of Birst, one of the start-ups SAP's SaaS BI software will compete with, says the widgetry is merely a recycled cloud-mounted version of BusinessObjects' two- or three-year-old Explorer software, a small step up from Excel, and that he'd be happy to meet SAP on any street corner anywhere and go mano a mano. He'll buy drinks after he wipes the floor with SAP.

He's confident any of the pure play SaaS houses would issue the same challenge.

Anyway, IDC figures the cloud represents less than 3% of the BI market, but should grow three times faster than the overall BI space, reaching 5% in the next five years, which is why SAP is doing what it's doing.

Its widgetry is supposed to let business users access and visually navigate data from any source via BusinessObjects' Explorer exploration and visualization software, combine that data in a few clicks, and follow a guided path that walks them through reporting and analysis.

SAP says it brings together all SaaS BI solutions from the BusinessObjects portfolio and anticipates that customers will now be able to come to it for all their on-premise and on-demand BI needs rather than assemble a patchwork quilt.

The cloud package is said to access all on-demand and on-premise data - including SAP data and data from - surprise! surprise!! - Salesforce.com's customer relationship management (CRM) application - as well as other third-party programs - plus the user's own desktop.

It will have a scalable - albeit undisclosed - subscription pricing that allows for trying the product before buying one of three planned editions - from a comprehensive version with limited storage to one with more advanced capabilities that handles larger data volumes.

The pricing and packaging is supposed to let even casual users move from individual use to departmental-wide deployments. SAP says they will be able to build out their SaaS BI system from a complete set of front-end tools to add back-end capabilities, such as a hosted data warehouse and development environment and single sign-on security.

The widgetry is also supposed to be a channel product later this year. Oco Inc, an SAP OEM that focuses on large enterprises and the upper-mid market, will carry it immediately as an industry-specific and line of business-specific solution for, say, transportation concerns.

SaaS BI is still a work in progress. SAP means to update it monthly based on feedback, eventually giving it a customer feedback feature that monitors and analyzes customer usage trends and automatically updates the platform to reflect individual use needs.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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