In the midst of all the announcements coming out of SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference, Hasso Plattner made waves during his keynote address as he shared news of data-oriented enhancements within SAP’s software stack. Some key elements of that stack will align more closely to help customers achieve the vision of the intelligent enterprise.

SAP HANA Cloud Services and SAP Cloud Platform now take center stage in much of SAP’s data offering, indicating the strategic direction of its component technologies that could follow. Let’s break these announcements and technology substrata apart to understand how they fit together.

The Depths of Data Lakes

The technology industry doesn’t often refer to core tech principles or constructs in two (or more) different senses, though there are some exceptions. One area where there is some ambiguity is the data lake.

Wiki definitions refer to the data lake as a repository of unstructured and semistructured data that resides in its raw format, often as source system data. In some cases the data lake can become a data swamp, which is usually a data lake that is either inaccessible to its intended users or is providing little value.

In other descriptions, the data lake is a more positive place where organizations can hold onto unstructured data for an indefinite (or at least undefined) period of time until they find they need to use it.

Navigating Your Data

The tough part (if your firm does choose to turn on the pipe and fill up the data lake) is knowing how to stay afloat on it. There’s a logical journey happening here. SAP is saying that data lakes are okay, but you need to have a means of navigating the waters. It’s about connecting data, discovering data types and values, and then orchestrating that data so you can channel it toward applications where it will be of use.

This informs the way the company is now positioning SAP HANA services offered under SAP Cloud Platform. This is the SAP HANA database, provided in the cloud, where it can act as a single gateway to data of any size to address the challenges of distributed data landscapes, including data lakes.

On stage with Hasso, Gerrit Kazmaier, senior vice president of SAP HANA and analytics explained, “The HANA cloud services are really about bringing the brilliance of SAP HANA to any data. And by any data, I mean data of any size and regardless of where it resides.”

Streaming Through the SAP Data Hub

Key products to this discussion are SAP Data Intelligence and SAP Data Hub. The company positions SAP Data Intelligence as a higher-level plane for end-to-end data management and machine learning. It is designed to give users more control of their data, models, and deployments. You can use it in conjunction with SAP Data Hub and SAP Leonardo Machine Learning Foundation as one integrated cloud offering.

SAP Data Hub is designed to allow connection to public, private, and hybrid cloud resources across both SAP and non-SAP systems. It offers a user interface “cockpit” with a view of data source scheduling and discovery. And it features a landscape status readout that lets the user know which data zones across which systems are connected and which are disconnected.

Users can profile, preview, and view data and its corresponding metadata, as well as apply simple operators. For more complex processes, a machine learning algorithms library is available to help customers toward what SAP calls Guided Outcomes.

A Navigation Plan for Your Data Journey

SAP currently offers 15 Guided Outcomes, which are software intelligence packages that bring together multiple SAP products frequently used together. In the first wave, SAP addresses five categories of business outcomes including cost optimization, revenue growth, customer experience, total workforce management, and product and service excellence.

This template-style packaging of defined best practice procedures, plans, and processes reflects the advantages of the prepackaged solutions offered through SAP Leonardo. By making obscure previously used datasets (but preserving the shape, model, and flow of the data being processed), SAP can provide technically validated shortcuts. Some of the Guided Outcome packages address cross-industry issues, while others are designed for specific industries.

A Visual Take on Your Data

SAP Guided Outcomes also include visual tools to “map out” business processes that are available for display when businesses present their results via the SAP Digital Boardroom. Designed to provide a single source of truth across all areas of a business, this technology includes interactive touchscreen dashboards, charts, and controls.

To further develop its data visualization capabilities, SAP Analytics Cloud now offers visual formulas for users to create planning scenarios and carry out advanced collaborative enterprise planning across teams. According to SAP, new integration exists with SAP Integrated Business Planning to help users gain visibility across important KPIs in the SAP Digital Boardroom.

Integrating Intelligent Data

We also should mention SAP Data Warehouse Cloud here. This technology is built with SAP HANA Cloud Services to unite heterogeneous data in one zone to maintain its security, trust, and semantic richness. Currently available through a beta program, users can have access to their organization’s entire data landscape to translate it into value in line-of-business (LoB) areas. This new offer is available through a pay-as-you-go, flexible pricing model based on your consumption.

It’s also worth mentioning that SAP and OpenText are strengthening their partnership with plans to extend SAP Cloud Platform with unstructured content for the intelligent enterprise. OpenText is a Canadian-born enterprise information management company that specializes in digitizing processes and supply chains through analytics and AI-powered intelligence.

SAP says that the two companies will work to provide enterprise-scale document management as a service on SAP Cloud Platform with future integration into SAP S/4HANA Cloud and other intelligent enterprise applications to follow. These services—in hand with SAP visual tools, SAP outcome advancements, SAP analytics functions, and other key SAP technology cornerstones—are intended to help customers improve the flow of all types of information to help them achieve their business goals.

Channeling Data Lakes to Data Pipelines

If we bring the results of these guided outcome advantages and visual tooling options back home to the SAP Data Hub again, then we can use the technology to shape policy management and identity control alongside security logging. In this way, organizations can decide who has access to what data across the business. This shows how users can go from data lakes to data pipelines, where the flow of information is channeled in ways that work for a customer’s specific business requirements.

Data lakes, data hubs, and data pipelines are all water-based analogies for good reason. Businesses could certainly find themselves turning on a firehose if they connect to all the information streams that currently exist. With the amount of big data that's generated so far, this is likely an area of business technology about to grow. Just don’t forget to chart your course and bring your swimsuit and life preserver if you choose to dive in.

Interested in learning more about the SAP Cloud Platform? Join us for a “Road Map Webinar: SAP Cloud Platform Integration” to learn how you can apply the platform today. To keep the data discussion going with your peers and industry experts, join us for ASUG Experience for Enterprise Information Management (EIM) in Minneapolis in October.