Integrating SAP data with PDI


Data should be accessible for analyses. But oftentimes it´s not. It can be locked in systems across the organization and you just don´t have a clue how to get access to it. Or the time. That´s why I´m excited to have Christopher Keller at Pentaho Community Meeting: he will present a connector for extracting data from SAP systems and processing them in PDI.

Christopher, who are you?

I´m Head of Consulting Big Data Analytics at it-novum. I´m responsible for our consulting team and our customers. I have been with it-novum and the field of business intelligence for 7 years starting with my thesis about data warehousing. When I did my master studies, Stefan ask me to support him in a row of projects and I was happy to help out. So, my professional career is closely connected to Pentaho. The fact that my department has grown from 4 people in 2010 to more than 20 not only shows Pentaho’s rapid progress but also the growing demand for big data analytics solutions.

How come that you developed a connector for SAP and Pentaho?

Well, I think the answer is pretty clear: SAP is the standard ERP solution in a lot of enterprises. By combining it with Pentaho, users get important insights from their data to create real business value.

The idea of the connector is actually kind of old. In 2010, we already had developed a Pentaho connector for extracting data from SAP systems. Due to other projects, we didn´t follow up on it. However, as customers kept on approaching us for a way to extract and analyze their SAP data, we turned back to our initial project.

Another point is that there has been a SAP connector for many years. However, it doesn´t support newer Pentaho versions and isn´t updated anymore. As there were some things that we didn´t like so much about it and missed some important features like SAP BW support we decided to create a completely new one based on our customers’ and Pentaho’s feedback.

Pentaho has an open architecture and open interfaces. Why did you develop a connector then?

It´s not as easy as it seems. Of course, Pentaho is completely open. However, integration capabilities of PDI are limited when it comes down to integrating data from SAP systems. If you have a skilled IT department with lots of time, a raw PDI solution might work for you. But most organizations don´t have this time not speaking of the budget. For those we have developed the connector. Once installed, it imports data from SAP via mouse click.

Let me point out another thing: analyzing SAP data is crucial for organizations as some of the most important data is stored in SAP systems. And it´s crucial to blend this data with data from other data sources to get the big picture. Pentaho’s strength lies here: integrating data and blending it with other information to analyze it across the entire enterprise. The connector closes the gap between the SAP and the analytics world.

What are the benefits for users?

Working with data in SAP systems isn’t easy. Besides the proprietary formats used by SAP and the data’s transaction-oriented character, the learning curve for developers is very high and personnel is quite expensive. Also, don´t forget that SAP programmers usually aren´t data integration experts – they might be ABAP geniuses but mostly have never heard of data processes.

Connecting SAP to Pentaho means that you can use SAP data for strategic and tactical decisions. By loading the data in a Pentaho data warehouse, it can be prepared and enriched with information from other systems (customer/sales, production, servicemanagement…). Data processes can be automated and standardized saving a lot of time and money. Processing SAP data in Pentaho also means that your data wins in terms of quality: it makes your business decisions better. With Pentaho/SAP Connector, application scenarios and use cases such as onboarding, blending or offloading of SAP data can easily be realized.

Using Pentaho as analytics frontend enables you to analyze SAP data in a very flexible and easy way. The connector provides seamless integration with SAP ERP and SAP BW and supports Metadata Injection. Concerning SAP steps, it supports SAP ERP Table Input, SAP BW/ERP RFC Executor, and SAP BW DSO Input. We are currently working on incuding more SAP steps.

What are you expecting from Pentaho Community Meeting?

Three Gs: great ideas, great talks, great people (uh, and great drinks :)). The community around Pentaho has an amazing vibe and I look forward to feeling it again. Every year, I´m baffled again how much is going on around that platform. It´s so dynamic! With the Hitachi Vantara acquisition I expect even more dynamics to come from disruptive topics like IoT and AI. And of course I can´t wait to be in Bologna and meet the Italian community!

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