On February 11th, we formally released the next major version of our advanced analytics product – SAP Predictive Analytics 2.0. This is a big release for us because it not only includes many customer-driven features, but it also finally brings our two predictive analysis tools together into a single solution:
SAP Predictive Analysis 1.x:
- SAP’s advanced analytics solution aimed at advanced business analysts and data scientists to analyze and visualize their data using powerful predictive algorithms, the “R” open-source statistical analysis language, and in-memory data mining capabilities. “SAP PA 1.x” is built upon the SAP Lumira codebase which also gives it excellent advanced visualization and data discovery capabilities as well.
SAP InfiniteInsight 7.x:
- SAP’s automated data preparation, predictive modeling, and scoring solution that allows business users to easily and quickly find meaning in their data without requiring the skills of a data scientist. “SAP II 7.x” is at the forefront of automated predictive analysis and includes the product set from SAP’s acquisition of KXEN in 2013.
Why Did We Have Two Products In The First Place?
Recognizing the natural evolution of business intelligence going from answering “what happened?” to the much more interesting “why did it happen?”, SAP created a new advanced analysis product in 2012 – SAP Predictive Analysis. This product was aimed at the data analysts and data scientists who until then had little choice but to develop modelling scripts and algorithms by hand and then apply algorithms to their data manually. SAP Predictive Analysis 1.x enabled users to analyze and visualize their data using pre-built algorithms from the open-source “R” library and graphically “chain” these modules together to perform complex analysis without a technically challenging and tedious manual modelling process.
Then in 2013, SAP acquired KXEN – which made a product called InfiniteInsight that enabled business users to automatically analyze their data without manual modelling or even requiring the skills of a data scientist or statistician. SAP InfiniteInsight 7.x contains its own intelligent and self-tuning algorithms that encapsulate much of the manual preparation and modelling work a data scientist would typically do so business users can focus on answering their business problems instead of deciding which algorithm to use and when.
Predictive Analytics 2.0 Bridges Two Worlds
SAP Predictive Analytics 2.0 brings these two products together into a single installable solution and contains the functionality and experiences of both products. But just to make things interesting, we have also changed the product name slightly – the unified solution is now called “SAP Predictive Analytics” and not “SAP Predictive Analysis”. 😛
When we set out to create a unified Predictive Analytics 2.0, we set out to balance three important factors:
UX Consistency: Existing customers upgrading to PA 2.0 need a high level of UX consistency to mitigate any disruption from the unification process. Therefore in PA 2.0:
- We’ve preserved the previous PA 1.x experience and renamed it as “Expert Analytics”.
- We’ve preserved the previous II 7.x experience and renamed it as “Automated Analytics”.
Users upgrading to PA 2.0 should feel right at home with whichever mode they have used before but now have a second set of capabilities they may not have had exposure to before.
UX Progression: While we preserved the traditional experience of both products, we are committed to bringing these together into a “next generation” experience that not only melds the “data scientist” and “business analyst” workflows together, but also makes them interoperable. PA 2.0 provides the foundation for this with a unified installer and users will see incremental changes in PA 2.1 and PA 2.2 rather than a wholesale change to a foreign interface.
Feature Progression: PA 2.0 introduces significant new features that truly warrant a “2.0” label and as you’ll see below, there’s something for everyone: BW user? Check. HANA customer? Check. Big Data person? Check. Hardcore data scientist? Check.
We believe this strategy properly balances the need for providing highly demanded new functionality in the existing products while creating a non-disruptive roadmap to a new product with a next generation experience that provides even stronger “automated” and “expert” capabilities than the current II 7.x and PA 1.x products offer.
New in SAP Predictive Analytics 2.0
Here’s a high level summary of the more notable advances in PA 2.0:
Expert Analytics (Formerly Predictive Analysis 1.x):
- SAP BW Connectivity: Strong feedback from our BW customers drove the requirement to easily access BEx queries and InfoProviders as a datasource for advanced analytics. This is an “offline” connectivity which means PA 2.0 connects to BW natively using BICS and downloads a dataset to the desktop. More information is available in these documents:
- SAP HANA Automated Predictive Library (APL) support: You can now use APL algorithms such as HANA Auto Classification, HANA Auto Clustering, and HANA Auto Regression directly in your analysis. The SAP APL allows HANA-native execution of automated analytics algorithms to implement a predictive modelling process on data stored in SAP HANA without requiring data extraction. You can find more information here:
- Custom SAP HANA Predictive Analysis Library (PAL) support: Custom components created using algorithms from the SAP HANA PAL can now be added and used in Expert Analytics. You can read more about this here:
Automated Analytics (Formerly InfiniteInsight 7.x):
- Apache Spark support: Automated Analytics now supports the Apache Spark framework in order to perform large scale data processing. The currently supported version of Spark is 1.1.0.
- SAP Automated Predictive Library (APL) support: You can now automatically generate models within HANA using SAP APL algorithms such as HANA Auto Classification, HANA Auto Clustering, and HANA Auto Regression that execute natively in SAP HANA without requiring data extraction. Again, more information here:
You can read more about these and other features of PA 2.0 in this doc: http://help.sap.com/businessobject/product_guides/pa20/en/pa20_whatsnew_en.pdf
How To Get Started?
We have a very comprehensive list of official product tutorials covering most (old and new) functionality:
Just The First Step On A Journey
Like any journey, there’s going to be a few steps along the way. We plan to deliver Predictive Analytics 2.1 in Q2 and you’ll see all the progress we’ve made at this year’s SAPPHIRE conference in May. There’s a lot going on in PA 2.1: improvements in R management for data scientists, predictive model management, and support for ultra-wide datasets are just a few highlights. The convergence theme will also continue in PA 2.1 and beyond as we get closer and closer to unveiling a next generation user experience optimized for predictive analysis workflows across both the data scientist and business analyst personas.
However PA 2.x on the desktop is only part of the story – we will also be offering advanced analytics services on SAP HANA Cloud Platform (HCP) for anyone to make their applications smarter and you’ll see even more integration of our next generation capabilities directly in other products like SAP Lumira, SAP Cloud for Planning, and Hybris Marketing.
As you can see, 2015 is going to be a BIG year for SAP Predictive Analytics. To keep up to date with the latest news, product updates, and discussions, make sure you are visiting the Predictive SCN Community here: SAP BusinessObjects Predictive Analytics If you have not already done so, now is a good time to set up alerts so that you are automatically alerted when something gets posted. Simply go to http://scn.sap.com/community/predictive-analysis and once you are logged in, select “Start email notifications” on the right hand “actions” menu.