The project flow in the SAP Co-Innovation lab (COIL) in Palo Alto has maintained a fast pace since the beginning of the year and many project teams are now preparing project content for SAP SapphireNow to be featured in various campuses, forums and from partners and firms exhibiting at the event.
I hope to get additional posts out before the first of June to share some insights into other project outcomes to look for if you intend to be in Orlando, but first I want to offer an update on the second phase of the SAP HANA-powered geospatial project work being pursued by SAP NS2 with some new partners here in the COIL.
This particular project is comprised of four dimensions to demonstrate how a SAP HANA-enabled real time data platform for Real-Time-Situation-Awareness fully meets the requirements of the intelligent community. SAP HANA is such a great choice for this solution because it not only takes advantage of the in memory database and multiple parallel processing but additionally for its ability to provide spatial and textual data analysis and all of its libraries for predictive analytics.
You can read previous posts describing the RTSA project work done up to now as this post will zero in on what’s beginning to spin up as the 2nd phase of this SAP NS2 project. For some quick context, here’s a quick definition for RTSA-
The SAP NS2 RTSA platform is used to demonstrate its complete capability using some select scenarios and models to uncover obvious and non-obvious data relationships regarding the “who, what, when, where, why and how “questions” that an analysts needs to answer as it relates to the context of an operational mission.
Before describing the framework of the project and some of its key milestones, I think it’s worth talking a bit about just how incredibly important the use of geospatial and geo-human intelligence is becoming. While there is a lot of geospatial capability emerging in software today, working with large volumes of data is clearly something that the government has been managing for a long time and long before the media attention and hyperbole so typical of the big data topic today. It therefore requires a great deal of diligence and tenacity to fully understand how to build an end to end solution set that can hope to satisfy the often very sophisticated needs of the Intelligence Community (IC) and the agencies comprising its foundation.
To gain a more thorough view of all this, our colleagues at SAP NS2 invited me to join them for a few days at the Geo-Intelligence Symposium (GeoInt) run by the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) in Tampa just a few weeks ago. It was there where they were demonstrating alongside of COIL sponsor Cisco, some of the project demos for geospatial RTSA that have been created out of the project work at COIL.
I checked out some sessions, attended the keynote from Director of Intelligence James R. Clapper and visited with a number of exhibitors. What I observed provided a sense for the different categories of geospatial data applications and solutions that exist and where vendors seem most focused. I also tried to take note of what the attending audience seemed to find of high interest. Clearly there exists keen interest in overlaying human cultural and societal data to location and incorporating intelligence from human networks. The topic of human terrain mapping seems to be the big focus within the geospatial intelligence community.
Among the many different geospatial enabled products being showcased however, I found very little in the way of off the shelf approaches among the various solutions like using commodity hardware and software necessary to solve some of the data analytics challenges that different US Government agencies now face. I saw a lot more of what I would call very complex solutions requiring a lot of systems integration time and custom development. So it has become even clearer to me going into phase 2, how valuable the SAP NS2 project at COIL has become.
The team has really produced some rock solid work through close collaboration with both SAP development and some very talented partners not to mention having done some excellent requirements elicitation from the customer(s) and managing useful iterations of coding to then deliver final project outputs like white papers, demos, reference architectures and best practices. The office of the CTO for SAP NS2 has identified its overall goals for each of the next four POCs that seek to deliver outputs of value to the SAP NS2 customer base:
- Situational Awareness – collecting data (type of data, method of data collection, location of data , time of collection, etc.) in the correctcontext (the type of analysis required by a particular mission) that is required to support mission objectives so short and long term patterns of behavior and trends can be discovered, correlated and recognized
- Strategic Foresight – provide the ability to perform anticipatory analysis about future patterns of behavior and likely trends based on prior and present conditions and events
- “Big Data Analytics” – advance current tradecraft practices that will enhance the analysts ability to discover, visualize and curate intelligence products locally from an increasing number of diverse collection sources (higher data growth, more data variety, data comes at the analyst much faster than it did in the past – velocity) and controlled distribution these products to the appropriate recipients.
The tradecraft enhancements also need to include the problem solving and predictive modeling capabilities to drive real-time tipping and queuing to support automated and human-in-the-loop re-tasking of collection assets to collect additional data to support on-going real-time analyses. In Real Time (or as real-time as possible) with significantly less dependence of batch processing.
It is the goal of this SAP NS2 COIL project to provide an end-to-end process for that spans information discovery through analysis process improvement.
The following table highlights four key areas that need to be consolidated into a single architecture construct instead of multiple applications performing the same function across multiple organizational boundaries.
In consideration of this consolidation requirement, the key objectives for the POC are:
- Provide a platform that will enable users to discover information by creating contextual queries that cross location and repository boundaries and having the results provided as a graph of related nodes and attributes instead of searching for data manually and assembling the results of many searches into a coherent information artifact.
- Provide a platform that will integrate easily within the existing IT strategy for “cloud” based computing
- Innovate by using property graph technology as the basis for managing, processing and analyzing “INT” objects and their associated meta data
- Provide a mechanism that will allow users to curate their own objects and attributes locally without disturbing the “Source Baseline” of “INT” objects and associated meta-data.
- Allow users the ability to discover information temporally, geospatially, textual context, meta data context or in any combination
Among the 4 project focus areas; there is one that I am quite interested to know more. The project team will develop a use case for Armed Conflict Analysis (ACA) via Link/Graph Analysis.
The result of this POC will show how SAP HANA can be used as a central property graph repository that integrates data from multiple sources, performs sophisticated property graph analysis, which is a “table stake” in the IC and DoD ISR community. SAP NS2 will demonstrate that the IC can enhance manual processing and exploitation activities while allowing existing desktop capabilities such as Renoir to extract a complete graph or, a subset of a graph, and to create locally curated intelligence products.
At this moment, the team is getting project provisioning requirements identified and planning deployment of new partner supplied hardware and software. COIL is pleased to welcome Nutanix to the SAP Co-Innovation Lab in Palo Alto and joining SAP NS2 for Phase 2 where it will contribute its 2U appliance, comprised of 4 nodes. Each node runs an industry standard hypervisor and the Nutanix controller VM delivering an exceptional virtual computing platform.
The RTSA platform will use the nodes for a Smart Graph construction engine, RTDP for Real Time Analytics (hot storage of graph objects and attributes, a Near line repository for warm graph objects and meta data accessed via federated query by the RTDP platform and the 4th appliance in the event that data needs to be replicated in real time for a different location.
I’ll be posting a future blog post to tell you more about how these nodes fit into the real time data platform architecture and also possibly share some other interesting news coming from other projects as Nutanix spins up at COIL in June.
There will be other partner components from Luciad and DigitalGlobe, contributing to a specific Human Geography Information Analysis (HGIS) POC. In this collaborative work, SAP NS2 is extending its concept of a geobase for intelligence analysis. Working with DigitalGlobe, it has enhanced their fragmented human geography database and created a model that allows for the seamless integration of physical geography data elements as defined by the National Geospace Intelligence Agency (NGA) human geography thematic data layers as defined by NGA integrated with armed conflict databases. SAP NS2 will demonstrate a comprehensive Human Geography Information System (HGIS) that incorporates integrated functionality from multiple SAP HANA engines: graph engine, geospatial engine, text analysis engine.
There is no single application that can be applied to comprehensively cover how the IC intends to pursue it new method for data curation; a smart user interface is called for. For example, the work done on the HGIS POC using Luciad will be incorporated for situational awareness. Some user interface techniques from the RTSA POC will be used for those functions that have yet to be defined and best suited for light weight, HTML5 and the use of new SAP AG visualization prototypes used for complex graph visualization.
This fusion of human geography with geospatial for the purpose of armed conflict analysis is a serious topic representing one of 3 major areas of research, this one examining the influence of topography, borders and resource availability on the occurrence of international and intra-state war.
Given the numerous SAP HANA projects COIL has enabled, it is frequently given very good visibility in to the platform’s diverse capabilities. A rich variety of COIL Palo Alto projects generates a confluence of intersects where participants from different projects will connect and identify new partnering and co-innovation to pursue. COIL additionally touches some of the newest development initiatives within SAP through different projects whether it is the Start-up Focus or Cloudframe teams working at COIL or teams engaging with partners in workshop sessions covering the latest topics like design thinking, SAP HANA High Availability and Disaster Recovery, Suite on HANA, Fiori and SAP Lumira.
These most recent efforts to strengthen the SAP user experience in a simple yet elegant way and are underscoring new ways in which to analyze interact and visualize data. It’s exciting to see and yet I hope that all of the energy and work going into GUI development for SAP analytics and data visualization will still allow ample room for SAP to continue working with select partners to enhance the overall visual experience of its software. What is impressive with Luciad for instance, is that its real time visualization user interface matches the speed of the SAP HANA back-end analytics processing. Such rich visual rendering of all location and human network data analyzed via SAP HANA drives right at the core requirements of the IC community.
It’s pretty clear that the geospatial technology and innovation frontier will remain vivid with such sophisticated use by government organizations like the National Ground Intelligence Center, the DoD or Department of Homeland Security and other similar agencies that comprise the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC).
What is also clear is that the geospatial technologies and techniques already avidly consumed by the IC, is quickly expanding into several existing and emerging industries. There were geospatial discussion tracks and content focused upon civilian applications.
It might suggest COIL should watch for if not help to incite new projects that can reuse the sophisticated geospatial and location-based RTSA framework and functionality. Projects of interest from regulated industries but other industries too like retail. Consider for example the use of geospatial innovations which would allow the extraction of data from commercial and private aircraft in real-time. There are some who believe such new capabilities may be difficult for a single company to forge but could certainly be realized through co-innovation where multiple partners participate.
COIL would be very on-board to see this sort of project work form up here. If you have some thoughts or interest in such project; work; please let us know!