Most of the world’s very largest oil and gas companies run either SAP or Oracle enterprise systems. In fact, most of the world’s very largest companies run either one or the other. This year’s Sapphire, SAP’s annual user conference, being held May 11 to 14 in Orlando, Fla., wasn’t as jammed full of people or news as some previous years, but its themes reflected the current state of enterprise computing and the times we live in. Thus, what was presented at the global press conference was the idea of “clarity,” born of the comprehensive melding of business intelligence and the enterprise transactional system, primarily by means of the Google search metaphor, navigation, and visualization. On a practical level, John Schwartz, an SAP executive board member, said the major concerns for the company’s customers today include: 1) cost of ownership, and the need to reduce costs; 2) the need to speed deployments, as many customers still have purchased software sitting unused on their shelves; and 3) the need to give users a more “consumer” like experience. The company announced SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, which brings together search and navigation capabilities from the SAP BusinessObjects portfolio with SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse Accelerator, which together will enable users to traverse mountains of business data “at the speed of thought” and give them a clear view across their organizations. SAP maintains that research demonstrates too many business decisions are made based on gut feel. Using BusinessObjects Explorer will allows business users to gain insights based on “on-the-fly” questions, for a more immediate understanding of their business. Users enter key words into a search box, and based on the results are able to navigate the data and drill down into specific areas for further investigation. Visualization features will allow them to select and generate charts or reports that best represent the information. As is increasingly common for a range of applications, in-memory processing capabilities have been engineered into SAP NetWeaver BW Accelerator to optimize its performance. The demonstration at the press conference entailed the search of 366 million records in one-third of a second. Eventually these search and exploration capabilities will be applied to the entire enterprise system and not just the data warehouse. As always, when it comes to data warehousing and business intelligence, the rub comes with the need for master data management (MDM). If these vast amounts of data aren’t cleansed, the results can’t be trusted. SAP executives said at the press conference that the plan going forward was to give more and more of these responsibilities to the domain experts that know the data best. The strength of SAP, the company’s executives maintain, lies in the powerful combination of a full business intelligence platform, based on the Business Objects acquisition, and a transaction engine for all enterprise functions. This enables analytics capabilities at every point in the enterprise, combined with business process management, in either on-premise or on-demand modalities.