SAP adds data migration to ERP arsenal

SAP's Data Migration services leverage information management products acquired from Business Objects

Leveraging its acquisition of Business Objects last year, SAP unveiled a set of Data Migration services that includes SAP frameworks, methodology, and best practices plus Business Objects' information management products.

Termed a "turnkey solution" by SAP executives, the offering once again brings to the fore the long-running debate held within companies of whether to go with a single solution provider such as SAP or turn to point solution providers who can typically add greater depth with a targeted tool.

[ See also: "SAP and Business Objects explain strategy shifts" ]

Whether migrating data from older ERP legacy systems or from ERP solutions inherited through a merger or acquisition, the key is de-risking the migration process as much as is it is about reducing investments of time and money, according to Philip Howard, senior analyst with Bloor Research.

Howard believes SAP's latest tool compares favorably with the typical ETL (extract, transform, load) tools from Informatica or IBM's DataStage. However, he says the point solution providers still have an edge.

"Against the newer, specialist migration products from companies like Celona Technologies and REVER, then the answer is these companies have additional capabilities that go significantly beyond those of the traditional ETL vendors," said Howard.

The decision of which route to go -- point solution or single-stack provider -- depends on whether a company is willing to wait for SAP to add similar features and thus reduce the number of applications IT has to support or opts to go with a feature-rich, targeted solution from yet another boutique vendor.

The SAP solution, however, appears unique enough for SAP to be added to Gartner's Leader Quadrant for data integration tools.

"We are the first vendor in four years to enter the magic quadrant for information management. Up until now, it was a two-horse race with Informatica and IBM," said Franz Aman, vice president, Business Intelligence Platforms at Business Objects and SAP.

Business Objects now gives SAP users industry-standard migration and mapping tools, such as those for transforming data to separate fields or combing multiple fields.

The graphical modeling components also allow business users to automate by writing rules and incorporating exception handling. For example, if a company is combining sales commission fields from two separate ERP systems that define commissions differently, the calculations from various fields can be adjusted to create a new sales commission field. If fields need to be in a range -- for example, between 0 and 100 -- a field without an entry would have a workflow that drives exception handling.

"The huge difference is that previously companies had to do manual scripting, extract data, manipulate the data, and then load it in. It became a mess created by hand and batches, and then they had to try to debug this," said Aman.

Howard says that if SAP is delivering the templates as promised that understand both current and previous versions of SAP, then this is indeed a unique and significant plus for its customers.

"It could standardize the migration process," Howard said.

SAP Data Migration services is available now.