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Warehouses under construction

Oracle plans to introduce tools next week designed to help users of SAP America's applications to build data warehouses atop Oracle databases.

Database maker Oracle next week plans to introduce tools designed to help users of SAP America's applications to build data warehouses atop Oracle databases.

Data warehouses and related tools allow companies to perform complex analyses on data including spotting trends in customer buying, employee spending, and product development patterns.

Oracle will introduce the Warehouse Toolkit for SAP, an application for extracting information from SAP's R/3 data repository, which contains reports on financial, human resources, and other R/3 applications. The toolkit can be used to populate an Oracle database for data warehousing use.

Analysts said the toolkit will help users perform vital analyses on operational data that has, up until now, been locked in R/3's proprietary repository. Even though R/3 is based on an Oracle database, its complex data structure has made data extraction notoriously difficult. The company has promised to simplify the data structure in a future release.

"R/3 is completely closed and proprietary. SAP needs to fix that," said Bill McSpadden, president of Plant-Wide Research Group, a market research firm in North Billerica, Massachusetts. "Right now the data repository is a bit kludgy."

SAP, for its part, will announce a new version of R/3, dubbed R/3 version 4.0, due to ship in mid-1997. That version will be the first implementation of a new component-based architecture that will eventually allow users to selectively install R/3 application modules.

"Eventually, SAP will have an all-new version of R/3 that will be loosely coupled with a common network manager," said McSpadden. "For customers, the advantage will be the ability to put different R/3 modules into the same environment to support separate departments within a company." The first SAP module to receive a "componentized" face lift will be its human resources application.

The Warehouse Toolkit is free, but to be useful, it requires a roughly $8,000 to $10,000 investment in Oracle software, including Oracle's Developer/2000 toolset and an Oracle database license, according to the company.

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