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The NBA drafts SAP HANA for stats-hungry fans

Todd Morrison

In what might be the perfect nexus for any sports trivia obsessed IT nerd, the NBA said it's now running its NBA.com fan site on HANA, SAP's

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new in-memory database platform, giving people the chance to crunch the glut of information and statistics for the league's teams and players at faster speeds.

We know our fans are just super hungry for stats.

Michael Gliedman,
senior vice president and chief information officer for the NBA

"We know our fans are just super hungry for stats," said Michael Gliedman, senior vice president and chief information officer for the NBA. "[The statistics section] is a very well-trafficked piece of NBA.com. They're always looking for new angles on stuff that's happening in the game."

Gliedman said the league previously developed an internal statistics tool, which it began letting members of the media use at last year's All-Star game. "The tool allowed them to do some advanced segmentation analysis of stats, and they really, really loved it."

Building a similar kind of arrangement, but on top of SAP HANA, gives the NBA the ability to scale that functionality for a much larger audience, Gliedman said. "Fans can now do that advanced kind of segmentation themselves."

The project is scheduled to launch sometime next season, Gliedman said. While the site will be built in HTML5, the NBA may incorporate SAP Business Explorer into future versions of the site in order to give users more ways to manipulate and segment the data, he added.

The site will also have a tight integration with social media tools so users can share their findings.

The NBA currently uses Oracle PeopleSoft for its core financials and human capital management, but runs it on an SAP Sybase IQ database, according to Gliedman. The NBA also uses SuccessFactors, now a SAP company, for salary management. The NBA decided to go with SAP HANA to run the new statistical site because of the simplified architecture and range of SAP business intelligence (BI) tools the league could deploy, in conjunction with SAP Data Services software.

"[SAP] really got what we were talking about and understood what they were trying to achieve. It just seemed like a good partnership between the two of us. [The BusinessObjects] tools are going to help us jump-start a lot of the visualizations. That complete package of in-memory tools, plus the BusinessObjects tools, plus Business Explorer, was really exciting for us," Gliedman said.

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"Traditionally when you build an [Info]Cube, you have to structure the data ahead of time. With the HANA and the BI tools, we can bring in many more sources and not have to worry about putting fences around the data, and structuring that data ahead of time," Gliedman said.

The NBA recently determined it had 4.5 quadrillion segments of statistical data, making it a perfect fit for HANA's ability to process massive amounts of data, he said. "That's what this platform is perfect for. It's about allowing you to match up different types of data sets in a very fluid way."

Of course, it's not the first time SAP has touted its connections with professional sports.

Officials from Major League Baseball recently spoke about how they're using customized SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 applications to pinpoint anything from what type of injury a player is most likely to experience (hamstring strain), to how a pitcher's exact release point changes over time.