SAP Data Services is SAP’s data provisioning and ETL solution. But what does ETL mean? And what are the benefits of SAP Data Services (or BODS)? What functionalities does Data Services provide? In this blog I will answer these and other questions.

SAP Data Services has had several other names, including BusinessObjects Data Services. This name is also the reason that the product is generally referred to as BODS. BODS is an amalgamation of a number of products including Data Integrator and Data Quality. Data Integrator is a powerful ETL solution. Data Quality is a leader in improving data quality.

What is ETL?

The acronym ETL is a data warehousing term and stands for Extract, Transform, and Load. ETL describes the entire process of how data is loaded from the source systems until the loading into the Data Warehouse.

During the extraction step the data is extracted from the source systems and is made available for the next steps. The main goal is to obtain all the data from the sources so that the impact on the performance of the source systems is minimized. Generally, the data from the source systems is stored 1-on-1 in a ‘Staging Area’, which will serve as the input for the processing in the transformation phase.

In the transformation stage, a combination of rules is applied in order to transform the source data into the desired output. Examples of this are the bringing together of similar data from different source systems, the filtering of data, adding new calculations on the basis of data from the source systems, and converting measured values to the same units. This last example is for example, converting all currencies into Euros. Pivoting data, or execution pre-defined validation rules are also examples of Transformation steps.

After every transformation is performed, the data is loaded into the end goal, which is usually a Data Warehouse. Other goals, however, are not uncommon, for example, exporting text files so as to deliver these to legislative bodies or trade associations. Sometimes the enriched data is loaded back into one or more of the source systems after the transformations.

SAP Data Services’ (BODS) advantages

In The Netherlands BODS is mostly used to build ETL processes. Besides many conventional databases BODS also supports, applications (such as SAP, PeopleSoft and Salesforce.com), files (such as CSV, Excel) and mainframes. Newer technologies such as web services and Hadoop are also supported as data sources. There are, however, other products that can also do this. How does BODS set itself apart from the other players in the market?

The biggest distinction is the tight integration with other SAP products. This is especially evident in the extensive opportunities to take a look at data using SAP ECC and SAP BW. The ability to use the extractors, SAP BW uses these to take a look at data in SAP ECC, directly from BODS as a data source is unique. BODS is the only ETL solution on the market in which this is possible. In addition, the integration with SAP HANA, SAP’s in-memory platform, is much more extensive than in other ETL tools available on the market.

Finally BODS, can integrate structured data from databases, applications and such, but also unstructured data as a data source. Data Services is able to extract sentences from files from applications such as Word, Powerpoint, Excel, PDF and Outlook, as well as “understanding” data streams such as Twitter and Facebook, on a logical level. BODS can even analyses sentiment from these. I will discuss this further in a blog at a later stage.

SAP Data Services; the product for ETL end goals

In this first blog I gave a brief introduction of what SAP Data Services entails. The best product to transfer data from A to B for ETL purposes in the SAP portfolio. One of the most important advantages compared to other ETL products is the integration with both SAP and non-SAP sources, SAP BW and SAP HANA. This makes SAP Data Services the only ETL solution that can use the BW extractors as a data source. In addition, BODS is also capable of processing unstructured data and improving data quality. I will elaborate on this in subsequent blogs. Do you want to know more about SAP Data Services 4.2’s latest features? If so download the roadmap below.