SAP has released on Wednesday its business intelligence (BI) accelerator which it co-developed with Intel.

The two companies first announced they were working on the analytical engine a year ago.

SAP also worked closely with both IBM and HP, along with Intel. The engine enables customers to quickly analyse and query huge amounts of their business data on the fly without having to pre-aggregate and store the information in a database prior to querying it. The accelerator interfaces with SAP's NetWeaver business intelligence software.

"It gives a Google-like experience on collections of data," Shai Agassi, president of SAP's product and technology group, said in an address at the company's US Sapphire user conference. In the lab, SAP thought BI accelerator was "beyond cool," he said, but the company was curious to see how users took to the engine.

The BI accelerator comes pre-installed on blade servers from IBM or HP powered by Intel's 64-bit Xeon processor.

SAP shipped BI accelerator to 30 initial customers in October 2005 including Novartis, The Coca-Cola Company, British Petroleum. Once it had implemented the engine, beverage manufacturer Coca-Cola saw the time to run a query against 60 million rows of data drop from 30 to three seconds, Agassi said.

BP used BI accelerator to more rapidly query five fiscal quarters of its retail data gathered from all its gas stations across Europe amounting to over one billion data records.

For testing the accelerator, SAP has recently been using blades based on Intel's latest dual-core Xeon processor, code-named Woodcrest, and has seen a doubling in performance speeds versus the older Xeon chips it initially used last year, Agassi said.

The BI accelerator will help bring SAP closer to "the Holy Grail of providing analytics to the masses," Agassi said. The engine can feed query reports to users via the Duet integration SAP has announced between its applications and Microsoft's software.
It may also use Project Muse, SAP's upcoming new user interface for its offerings.

SAP may look for the BI accelerator to run on blades from vendors other than HP and IBM, Agassi said. "We expect thousands of the devices to go out to the market," he added.

Although SAP hasn't formally released pricing for BI accelerator, in his keynote, Agassi priced the engine at a little under US$200,000.