Analytics – Cloud or On-premise?

This is the first blog post in the Blog Series regarding SAP Analytics cloud. The Goal of this Blog is to provide an overview of SAP Analytics Cloud and how it can be compared to SAP's on premise BI Platform.

Why Analytics in Cloud?

“I don’t need a hard disk in my computer if I can get to the server faster… carrying around these non-connected computers is byzantine by comparison.”

This was a famous quote by Steve Jobs emphasizing that Cloud Computing is going to be the future and as expected more and more Enterprises are slowly moving their Business Software into the Cloud and Analytics is no exception.

Today Analytics is not just Reporting, but about Big data, Predictive, data mining as well other advanced Analytic Capabilities and of course making the right Information available to the right Users anytime, anywhere and therefore Analytics is a Perfect fit for the Cloud. Let us have a look at some of the advantages that cloud Analytics offer in comparison to the on premise BI Solutions:

  • Fast and flexible Deployment – It is no secret that the Installation and Deployment of any on- premise BI Solution for ex: SAP BW is a tedious task and requires resources involving high costs. With a cloud based Analytics Platform, all these efforts cloud be avoided as the Software will be hosted in the Cloud and hence need not be deployed.
  • Low / No Maintenance costs – Not the just the initial Deployment but also regular Product upgrades for ex: Upgrading from SAP BI 4.1 to 4.2 needs a lot of time and efforts, with Cloud Analytics this is not required as the maintenance activities are performed by the provider and end user need not bother about this.
  • Empowering the User with self-service BI – A good Analytics Solution is not just about reporting, but also enabling an end user to create his own reports, Visualizations without depending on IT and Cloud Analytics just does that.
  • Simplified Collaboration and Sharing of Data – Enhanced Options for Collaboration like Live Discussions and screen sharing compared to on premise BI platform, where Reports are shared mostly via Emails.

There are currently many cloud based Analytics Solutions available in the Market like Tableau Cloud, IBM Cognos in Cloud, SAP Cloud for Analytics. The Goal of this Blog is to provide an Overview of SAP Analytics Cloud and how it can be compared to SAP’s on premise BI Platform.

SAP Analytics Cloud Overview

SAP Analytics for Cloud is a Software as a service BI Solution for the cloud providing all the important BI functionalities like data Modeling, Reporting, visualizing, Planning, Predictive, , Governance Risk and Compliance and Self Service Analytic capabilities all in one unified product as compared to isolated BI products for Reporting, planning or Predictive. SAP Analytics Cloud is built on the powerful HANA Cloud Platform , which makes it flexible, Extensible, possibility of integration with third party Applications and provides access to different cloud and on premise Data sources and Applications in a modern and engaging User Interface.

SAP Analytics Cloud Architecture

SAP Cloud for Analytics consists of three main layers, which make up the architecture:

Core Capabilities: This Layer is responsible for providing all the Key Product Capabilities such as Data Connectivity, Modeling, Data Wrangling, Story experience, Collaboration and Administration

Analytic Capabilities: This layer provides the three key Analytic capabilities in SAP Cloud for Analytics that is BI, Planning and Predictive enabling Users to perform these three Operations without any problem

Applications Layer: This Layer based on HANA Cloud Platform provides the possibility to create new Analytic Applications and integrate them with SAP Cloud for Analytics. SAP Digital Boardroom, SAP Analytics hub are examples of such applications.

 

The 3 Key Dimensions of SAP Analytics Cloud

SAP Cloud Analytics combines the 3 important Analytics functionalities BI for Reporting, Business Planing and Predictive in a single product.

SAP Cloud for Analytics offers a range of powerful Business Intelligence functionalities like:

Data Acquisition:

SAP Cloud for Analytics provides the possibility to both virtually access the data from the source system for reporting or physically replicate the data into SAP Analytics cloud.

Data Modeling :

With the help of an interactive wizard the user can create his own data model either Analytic Data model or a planning Data model based on cloud as well as on premise data sources.

Creating Dashboards / Stories:

Similar to SAP Lumira Discovery Users can create their own Dashboards (Stories) in a simple way based on any data model.

Authorization:

Depending on the Data Acquisition used, User Security and Authorization can be either imported form the source system for ex: directly from HANA or can be directly created in SAP Analytics cloud.

Furthermore, Data Acquisition from some source systems can be scheduled as a job.

 

Planning:

Business Planning is undoubtedly an Important Process, as it is responsible for stating the direction and financial objectives of an organization. Planning is performed at various functions and levels within a company for ex: Sales Planning, Financial Planning. SAP Analytics Cloud enables the functional user to create their own Planning data model with the possibility to directly read / write data authorization on the data model and create different Versions like Actual, Forecast and Budget unlike an Analytic model. SAP Analytics cloud provides some specific Planning features like Report Calculations, Planning Functions like Distribution and Spreading, Value driver Tress and so on. SAP Analytics cloud planning is completely integrated with SAP BPC with the possibility of loading SAP BPC Data into Analytics cloud and Vice Versa.

Predictive:

Along with Big Data, Predictive Analytics off late has become one of the most hot and interesting topics in Analytics space. SAP Cloud for Analytics offers very interesting features like Time series forecasting for projecting future outcomes for ex: projecting future Revenue using powerful Forecasting Algorithms, Possibility to integrate R Visualizations into Analytics for cloud using R connector service, Smart data discovery ( Guided Machine discovery) for uncovering key influencers of Business KPIs and predicting the KPI value based on historical data using classification and Regression Techniques, Smart Insights for getting textual and visual insights on particular data point and other features like Smart grouping and Smart insights. These features in SAP Analytics cloud help data scientists and Business User to with insights from Advanced Analytics and therefore the possibility to predict future outcomes accurately.

 

Supported Data Sources (Both Cloud and on Premise)

As mentioned earlier SAP Analytics cloud provides the possibility to access both cloud and on premise data sources. Some of the cloud based data sources that are supported are Concur, Google Drive, SAP Success Factors and OData Services. HCP, Salesforce, Field glass etc. On premise data sources like SAP ECC, SAP BW, S/4 HANA, HANA, BW4HANA, SAP BO Universe, Databases like Teradata, MSSQL.

There is the flexibility either to import the data physically into Analytics cloud or to use a live / online connection where the Data stays in the source System for ex: S/4 HANA, the choice of data acquisition depends on the user scenario for instance importing data can be avoided when large amount of data is involved, it is important to note some important functions like data blending, Planning and even Predictive are not currently possible with Live data connections.

 

 SAP Analytics Cloud vs SAP BI Platform

Many Enterprises are currently using the on premise Analytics Application by SAP Known as SAP Business Objects Enterprise, as of version 4.2 SAP BO platform offers many interesting and exciting features like commentary, Geo data visualization, Support for Big data like Hadoop, SAP Vora, Direct access to HANA, S4 HANA and so on. Let us make a comparison between the on-Premise SAP BO Platform and SAP Analytics Cloud to see where the advantages and disadvantages with Cloud are for Analytics.

 

 

In Conclusion, we can see that the biggest advantage with Analytics cloud is the all in one approach BI, Planning and Predictive in one Platform, which is unfortunately not possible with SAP BO on premise. On the other hand, SAP BO offers diverse reporting tools and Analytics cloud only the possibility to create stories and advanced reporting capabilities like Publications, SAP BO Central Management Console for User administration, Authentication and so on.

SAP Digital Boardroom

SAP Digital Boardroom is a Presentation and Collaboration Tool based on SAP Business objects cloud for the executive Management in a company. A lot of time and effort is invested into preparing the executive presentations on reflecting company situation for ex: Quarterly KPI results like Net revenue, Operating Income., but this is all Static content in PowerPoint . With SAP Digital Boardroom the Presentations can be more dynamic with real time access to key Business Information from Source systems and all the prepared content from SAP Analytics Cloud for ex: KPIs from Smart Finance module in S4 HANA, which provides a complete picture of the Company Situation in real time. SAP Digital Boardroom helps Executives to understand:

What is the current Situation of my company?

How did we get here?

Predictive and Planning – What is the future outcome and how can we do better?

Summary

SAP Cloud for Analytics definitely offers a lot of advantages compared to the on premise SAP BO Platform like reduced IT related Costs, Less Maintenance, Empowering the business user to do Analytics on their own (Self-service), Enhanced tools for Collaboration like SAP Digital Boardroom, where as SAP Business Objects Platform provides a robust, stable and scalable Analytics Platform, Total ownership over the Analytics Platform, diversified Reporting Tools. Therefore, the decision whether to go with a cloud based Analytics platform or on premise depends on the company’s priorities, IT Strategy and User scenario. Any ways, a hybrid approach where a combination of both Cloud and on Premise Analytics is also feasible for ex: SAP BO Enterprise (On premise) for standard and corporate reporting and SAP Analytics cloud for self-service reporting, Data discovery and more end user focused analytics.

 

Introduction to SAP Analytics Cloud – Youtube Video: