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SAP tying analytics to Google Maps, Earth

A new deal with Google could give SAP users an alternative to traditional GIS systems

SAP is planning to connect its analytics software with Google's Maps and Earth software, allowing users to mine insights from plotting business data against locations around the world, the companies announced Wednesday.

For example, a bank could figure out which regions have the most troubled housing markets by layering foreclosure data and the location of loan-holders on a map, SAP said.

SAP partners such as Centigon Solutions had already offered an integration with Google Maps, and Google has been offering a commercial version of its Maps APIs (application programming interfaces) for some time.

The advantage of the new tie-in is that SAP has inked a pact with Google for the use of 12 new APIs that give customers deep access to the mapping functions, including Street View, and allow them to build out customizations, said Jason Rose, senior director, business intelligence solution marketing. SAP's deal is good for three-and-a-half years, according to Rose.

Customers can expect the APIs to first surface with the "ramp-up" release of Business Objects 4.1, which is slated for late this year, Rose said. Ramp-up is SAP's term for the period when products are in controlled availability with a group of early adopters.

While Wednesday's announcement focused on analytics, customers can expect other SAP's products, such as its CRM (customer relationship management) software, to also tap the Google Maps APIs over time, according to Rose.

It's not clear whether the Google APIs will be made available to existing customers as part of their regular SAP maintenance payments, or sold separately. "Right now we're looking at the overall monetization strategy. We're still dotting the Is and crossing the Ts on that," Rose said.

Older versions of SAP's software, such as Business Objects XI 3.1, will be compatible with the APIs.

There's an obvious advantage to SAP customers going with SAP for Google Maps integration, versus a third party, said Forrester Research analyst Boris Evelson: "One versus two products to buy, install and maintain, plus one versus two vendors to blame when something doesn't work."

The Earth Builder APIs will also give SAP customers a potential alternative to traditional GIS (geographic information systems) from the likes of Pitney Bowes and ESRI, both of which already partner with SAP.

GIS platforms go beyond marking points on a map, adding concepts such as polygons, which denote a fixed geographic area, possibly with highly irregular boundaries. Therefore, a tour bus company could figure out how many diesel fueling stations are within 50 miles of a state park, for example. "[This] is what you really need for sophisticated logistics analysis," Evelson said.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com


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