Internal SAP document reveals potential plans for next-gen BI, 'HANA Explorer'

A spokesman cautions that there are no firm plans to make a product out of the technologies discussed

SAP is working on a number of potential next-generation BI (business intelligence) technologies meant to exploit the company's HANA in-memory database, including a new version of the popular Explorer visualization tool, according to an internal document posted on the company's website.

While SAP has consistently said that HANA will serve as a foundation for new software development moving forward, the document, which is dated September and marked "strictly confidential," provides an array of previously unknown specifics about its potential plans on the analytics front.

Titled "HANA Explorer -- Technical Session," it details how the HANA Explorer architecture would differ from the "classical" version.

A "classical BI stack" includes a browser layer for rendering user interfaces; a Web application server for UI orchestration and generation; BI back-end services; and a third-party database, according to the document.

But HANA Explorer would have a two-tier stack, with the browser acting as "the front-end client hosting the HTML5/JS application," the document states. "UI orchestration is moved from the app tier up to the client."

Meanwhile, "HANA as a platform provides the web-channel connectivity, and hosts the HANA BI Services deployed in the XS engine," it adds.

No network configuration or connectivity management would be required and the "only visible protocol boundary needed for HANA BI is HTTP(s) endpoints," the document adds.

The document describes SAP's apparent intentions to form a "common BI foundation" consisting of the two-tier architecture with HTML serving "as UI tech everywhere," from the browser to the desktop and mobile devices, and the HANA platform providing identity, authorization models, content lifecycle management and other functions.

Meanwhile, SAP is also developing a new Visual Analytic Language that would serve as "the visualization engine behind HANA Explorer," the document adds.

"VAL is our implementation of a grammar-based visualization library, implemented as a Javascript library rendering in SVG," it states.

It's not clear when or even if HANA Explorer will become an actual product.

The document is "technology concept material that we are discussing with our customers at events such as SAPPHIRE and TechEd as well as in our SAP Communities to gather and incorporate customer feedback and validation," an SAP spokesman said via email on Tuesday. "Generally speaking, these types of technology concepts may or may not become official SAP products, and no decision has been made as of yet about whether or when we move forward with turning the concept below into product."

More information may be forthcoming later this year, the spokesman added.

Overall, SAP's BI plans for HANA have been well-telegraphed, with executives repeatedly framing the platform as the future convergence point for all of the company's technologies. The description of HANA Explorer and the underlying architecture also falls in line with SAP's contention that HANA will reduce complexity in customers' IT environments.

HANA is also SAP's fastest-selling new product in history, according to the vendor. SAP is expected to give an update on HANA sales during its quarterly earnings conference call on Wednesday.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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