The gents over at the Diversified Semantic Layer (Greg Myers, Jamie Oswald and Eric Vallo) podcast had themselves a spirited discussion around SAP Analytics latest mantra, ‘The Network of Truth’. Make sure to check out the show notes over on SCN for a good laugh and handy reference guide, too. The discussion was always cordial, but got animated when discussing Greg’s theory that perhaps the ‘Network of Truth’ may have some legs to it. I left this comment on Eric’s Show Notes blog: “I’m going to lean towards Greg’s side of the rumble. I agree with a lot of what he’s saying, plus it’ll be a fair fight now.” I figured I’d expand that thought a little bit outside the SCN comment box.
I see where Greg is going with his line of thinking. The whole ‘Network of Truth’ theory (and not the SAP marketing end of it- take the tools out of the equation and think in broader terms) is something along the lines of the evolution of how people utilize data. My take? As data access becomes faster and faster, conventional relational data warehouses become a commodity. Some businesses will require a data warehouse structure in order to aggregate disparate sources, group it together and make it logical. But it won’t need to live in a slower relational data warehouse. If the analytics tools that access that data don’t adapt, they’ll be left behind.
To Jamie’s point, ad hoc and ‘green bar’ reporting won’t be going away anytime soon, either. Folks are going to want formatted reports, ad hoc report access and the like for years to come. The question should be: How do we manage the needs and expectations of those ‘classic’ users with the changes and new methodology that newer analytics tools are seeming to bring? Think about it- just a few years ago, BI teams were just getting their hands around analytics for mobile devices! What will the landscape look like in the next 5 years? A common semantic layer, perhaps? Jamie and I are agreement about what we think the benedits of a unified semantic layer could be. (Heck, we’ve both blogged about it before.)
But like a fully implemented ‘Network of Truth’, a common semantic layer (likely based on HANA) is some time in the future. Then again, so are Greg’s musings from the podcast. It’s going to take transformational changes in how we consume and utilize data to see where the ‘next big thing’ is coming from…and leading us to.