SAP Unveils Data Migration Service

SAP and Business Objects tout an all-in-one migration service that's purpose-built for SAP environments.

ERP giant SAP AG this week announced a new data migration product and services package, the aptly-titled SAP Data Migration, that combines its own in-house implementation expertise and data integration middleware from its Business Objects subsidiary. It's the latest in a series of data migration-centric packages, from Informatica Corp., IBM Corp., Oracle Corp., and other players.

SAP, which positions Data Migration as a means to accelerate integration efforts in SAP ERP environments, says it offers something unique: an all-in-one migration service purpose built for SAP environments.

It's a teeming marketplace. Earlier this year, Informatica launched its first branded data migration service, Informatica Data Migration Suite (see http://esj.com/business_intelligence/article.aspx?EditorialsID=8814). IBM and Oracle also market data migration offerings, both of which address what Philip Russom, senior manager with TDWI Research, has called the two broad practices of data integration: analytic data integration -- which is typically associated with business intelligence (BI) and data warehousing (DW) initiatives -- and operational data integration, which takes the form of ERP-driven integration or migration efforts.

Not every data integration vendor can credibly claim to address both practices, Russom says. This is particularly the case in data migration scenarios where customers need to move data (and clean or transform it) between and among ERP systems. Data migration efforts can benefit from the cleansing capabilities of a best-of-breed data quality (DQ) tool, Russom says, just as the transformative (and connective) capabilities of a best-of-breed ETL tool can come in handy, too.

"The term 'data migration' makes it sound like you could just fork-lift data from system A to system B and be done with it, but there's far, far more to it," Russom told Bi This Week. "The systems involved will have different data models and data content, so there's a need for substantial data transformation, which an ETL tool can easily handle.

"The more 'legacy' the data is, the greater its problems and opportunities for improvement, which data quality tools can provide," Russom continues. Data migration shouldn't simply be an end unto itself, either. "Any data management professional worth his salt will not just move data, but also improve its metadata and master data," he says. "To even get started with a data migration/consolidation project, you need to do a lot of data profiling up front, then monitor data after movement to validate its quality and proper usage."

Offloading the Heavy Lifting

Another trick is getting such tooling to integrate and meaningfully interoperate with one's ERP software. That's the heavy-lifting part of the effort, and that's just what SAP says its new Data Migration service helps accelerate.

For one thing, notes Franz Aman, vice-president for BI platform marketing with SAP's Business Objects subsidiary, his company can credibly claim ERP integration expertise in a couple of key respects. First, he argues, SAP's in-house services team knows SAP's software -- arguably better, he insists, than any other service provider. Second, Business Objects -- whose Data Integrator and Firstlogic-derived DQ offering comprise Data Migration's software special sauce -- can claim especiall SAP connectivity expertise. After all, its Data Integrator tool is based on the former Acta ETL technology; Acta, which Business Objects acquired five years ago, was a specialist in SAP connectivity. (Acta used to market plug-and-play SAP data marts, dubbed RapidMarts; Business Objects revived and significantly expanded this program.)

"A lot of the traditional expertise that [Business Objects] always had around SAP, that's part of the product [Data Migration] that's engineered in. We have that expertise; we kept that in-house. That capability, combined with the SAP services expertise -- that combination makes it killer," he contends. "I don't doubt that our competitors have some experience in SAP accounts as well, but how would they have the ability to have that long-standing expertise that we've included? How would they have the ability to have [a product similar to] the Acta technology? [Acta has] been specializing [in SAP integration] for so long, longer than anyone else out there in the marketplace."

The point, Aman claims, is that SAP Data Migration takes a good chunk of the risk out of the equation. SAP isn't promising a turnkey data migration effort, he stresses, but it is promising more speed and less pain than if customers pursue migration by other means.

"There's a huge need just in terms of traditional ETL, moving data around, making sure that you can move your transactions and flows properly. This is moving away from custom scripting and doing it by hand. The risk is very high when you do these projects. 80 percent of them run over time or over budget. At the end of the day, no customer has the appetite to go into big risk here and potentially see a cost overrun of 20 or 30 or even 40 percent," he asserts.

"We want to make sure that we take all of that [risk] out for customers. We provide one solution -- services, tools, the product you need. You have one company, one vendor to work with. You can rest assured that you're not going to see these [projects] go over time and over budget."

Aman stops short of guaranteeing an on-time, under-budget finish, of course. "There's not a guarantee included in this offering. These are, at the end of the day, certainly custom projects. The reason why customers can be so sure that we're going to do a good job is that we've seen so many of these ERP projects," he points out. "The expertise of the SAP services -- no one else has that kind of expertise. If anyone can do a really good job in sizing, scoping, and understanding the pitfalls based on this expertise, it's SAP services."

TDWI's Russom likes what he sees in SAP Data Migration, which he says is making its debut at a particularly propitious time -- during an uptick in operational data integration efforts.

"Business Objects' data management tool portfolio has tools for all this. Plus, because of the history of some of these tools, they have long-standing support for data in highly complex SAP environments," he says.

"Business Objects has focused most of this decade on building up a portfolio of tools for their definition of enterprise information management, so they have a fairly comprehensive array of data integration and related tools that could be applied to data migration and other projects for operational data integration. Both Business Objects and SAP have been building up their professional services practices for data management."