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SAP goes after SAS, IBM with predictive analysis software

SAP is hoping to stake out some turf in the predictive analytics software market with a new application called BusinessObjects Predictive Analysis, the software giant announced yesterday.

The application is now in “ramp-up,” SAP’s term for a controlled initial release period. It comes with a set of predictive algorithms and also allows the use of algorithms from the open-source R language for statistical analysis.

Predictive analytics differs from traditional BI (business intelligence) software. Instead of running static reports on sales data or inventory levels, the point is to explore and model business data, searching for correlations and trends that provide insight into future events, customer behaviors and other areas.

“The market and our customers have been anxiously waiting to hear a concrete predictive strategy from SAP. The time has come,” said Mani Gill, VP and GM of business intelligence solutions.

SAP will compete with well-established predictive analytics products from the likes of SAS Institute, IBM’s SPSS division and Oracle, as well a number of startups, such as Revolution Analytics, that are based on supporting R.

BusinessObjects Predictive Analysis will be offered in stand-alone form, but SAP also plans to couple it with the HANA in-memory database, which has a library of statistical functions, according to a statement. The software will also support access to other databases, including Oracle’s, according to Gill.

Users will have access to “beautiful advanced visualisations and data exploration, all with a drag-and-drop interface for data selection, preparation and processing,” SAP said. It will be possible to push results out to other SAP BI applications, mobile devices and Microsoft Office, the company added.

“Predictive analytics is still a data statistician game, but people across the organisation are demanding predictive insights. We want to give all users what they need,” Gill said.

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