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October 3, 2013

Playing Stadium Tycoon with HANA and Hadoop

Isaac Lopez

In the video game Roller Coaster Tycoon, players would build and manage an amusement park while being able to see the thoughts of their patrons in real time as they walk through and experience the park. Through social media, Hadoop, and HANA, the software giant SAP says the same type of interaction can be created in the real world.

Last month, SAP announced that they are endorsing two major distributions of Apache Hadoop to underlie its HANA in-memory analytics engine. Intel and Hortonworks came away with the cash and prizes, and SAP now has two new partners as they get out and evangelize just what they can accomplish together.

The company is having some fun with it, having piled its marketing team into a “big data bus,” touring around from event to event to raise the profile of the HANA analytics engine and how it can serve businesses through real time data applications.

One interesting application involves real time analytics at a football stadium (or really any sporting event). David Jonker, a product director with SAP, explains how, by using Hadoop collecting sensor data (including social media) and SAP HANA, event directors can run a customer service simulation that gives a visual representation of trouble spots within the stadium.

By integrating as much data about the customers and their stadium experience as possible, service managers are theoretically able to identify troubled customers by name or customer level (i.e. are they a season ticket holder). And if the customer is using social media, they can register specific complaints. With this information, the service managers can determine if they need to take action to mitigate the customer’s issue.

It’s an interesting case example to share, as SAP goes on the road to talk about what Hadoop and HANA can do together. Having just determined its Hadoop distro partners, SAP is hoping that the endorsement combined with the strength of its partner’s own standing will give more businesses the confidence to move forward with plans to seize on the unstructured data within their organizational reach.

“Hadoop is…a young technology, not even a decade old,” wrote Irfan Khan, a general manager with SAP’s big data group in a recent article. “That’s why a mere 10% of respondents in a recent TDWI survey of enterprises say they currently have the file system running in their organizations. Most companies aren’t sure what other technologies Hadoop needs to be an effective tool in their data center.”

Khan explained that SAP’s hope is that with its full-throated commitment to Hadoop through these reseller agreements, CIOs will more quickly embrace Hadoop and SAP HANA as a real-time analytical solution. “To succeed in the marketplace, emerging enterprise systems like Hadoop need established vendors to embrace them, otherwise most CIOs will not deploy them into their data centers,” wrote Khan. “With these partnerships, we minimize a CIO’s risk… [and] eliminate the problem of whom to contact for Hadoop support.”

For the other Hadoop distributions in the space, SAP’s choice to go with Hortonworks can be seen as a serious blow because it reveals a rising new reality in the market place where Hadoop is concerned. For a company like SAP, Intel is a safe choice, despite the fact that it’s the new kid on the Hadoop block. However the choice of Hortonworks is a bit of a shock to the Hadoop system, where startup distro vendors like Cloudera and MapR have been jockeying to ride in the shotgun seat that Hortonworks is now sitting.

There aren’t a ton of companies like SAP that can bring “enterprise-ready” credibility to a Hadoop distribution by adding its stamp to it. Just like with an electoral primary race, once the market coalesces around a particular candidate, things can move very quickly.

Related items:

Is Intel Raining on the Hadoop Distro Startup Parade? 

IBM Ships Hadoop Appliance for the Big-Skills Challenged 

Hadoop Speed Up From Lustre Will Attract Enterprises