Briefing Insights: Safyr – The Metadata Middleware for Packaged Application Software Like SAP

BARC analyst Timm Grosser

Impressions of Silwood Technology’s Safyr product by Timm Grosser of BARC

The challenge

Extracting data from packaged application software such as ERP or CRM systems is a challenge. The reason for this is the encapsulation of the data. In the system, the data lies in complex data models that are incomprehensible and inaccessible without knowledge of the access logic. Experts are needed to find and compile the data in packaged application software in painstaking work for the most diverse use cases. This is a service that many customers pay for dearly with many man-days. Silwood promises to make this easier and considerably less time-consuming.

This is where Safyr comes into play. Safyr is a type of metadata middleware product from Silwood Technology, which helps users to understand, find and provide the metadata in packaged applications, especially in a business sense, for further use in data catalogs, data governance tools, data modeling tools and others.

Silwood Technology Limited

Silwood Technology Limited was founded in 1992, is privately owned and has its headquarters in Ascot, Berkshire, UK. The company has 10 employees and serves major customers in various industries worldwide such as ATB Financial, AMD, Deutsche Post, Homeland Security, P&G and Unilever. Silwood gains market access mainly through its technology partners, who sell or promote Safyr, especially when it comes to obtaining metadata from SAP systems and Salesforce (see Figure 1 for further supported sources). Its partners include well-known software providers such as Collibra, Informatica, Data Advantage Group, Infogix, erwin, Idera and ASG. The list of data governance tools and data catalogs also shows that Silwood is currently experiencing a renaissance. With the noticeably increasing demand for data catalog solutions, the question of integrating metadata from packaged application software is also growing and with it the market for Silwood. Direct distribution is more laborious and is mainly pursued via the free downloadable trial version (available on the Silwood Technology website).

The goal

Silwood’s message is simple: It offers metadata discovery software for packaged application software, pursuing three goals:

  1. “Discover” – metadata extraction into a Safyr repository;
  2. “Scope” – analysis of metadata and grouping them into meaningful groups; and
  3. “Deliver” – the export of the prepared metadata to data modeling tools, data catalogs, files or other systems

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Figure 1: Safyr Architecture

Application scenarios

Safyr can be used in a variety of ways, ranging from data governance and data cataloging, master data management, data integration, BI and data warehouse scenarios to support for data and application migration. It can help in all cases where transparency to data in packaged application software is required. The solution is particularly interesting for the creation of data catalogs when it comes to transferring knowledge from ERP and CRM systems to the data catalogs.

The “Safyr” technology

Safyr is a software product which focuses on metadata in large, complex packaged application software (see Figure 1). The software can be installed as a full client on Windows computers. Licensing is based on the type of source system (SAP S/4HANA, SAP ECC, SAP BW, JD Edwards, etc.) and the number of named users.

The tool guides the user step-by-step through the “Discover, Scope and Deliver” process and supports the preparation of metadata in an understandable way. It also supports the ability to deal with customized tables correctly in the metadata. The maintenance and preparation of the metadata is done manually using standard tools, if desired with the support of a wizard. Support for additional functions such as ML is not provided.

Access to the standard application software is system-specific (e.g., ABAP modules are supplied for SAP, which the customer must install on the SAP system). These are then addressed via RFC and deliver the extract to Safyr’s own metadata repository and model for further processing. Oracle is accessed via SQL to the data dictionary, Salesforce is connected via API, etc. The goal of supplying its own metadata model is to create a standard and to become robust against possible changes in the source systems.

In the tool itself, tables and contents can be searched in the extracts. Hierarchy information from source systems is taken into account and included. The user curates the metadata (business, technical) and summarizes the tables with their descriptions in meaningful “subject areas” in a business sense. A subject area can then contain 1 to n tables and their relationship information.

The metadata constructed in this way can then be exported directly to various tools (see Figure 2).

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Figure 2: Export of metadata in Safyr

For the visualization of metadata, Silwood offers the Data Model Browser as a separate function. This helps with the visual navigation in metadata and is a feature that many data catalogs do not currently have.

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Figure 3: Visualization of data models

Analyst opinion

In my opinion, Safyr is a highly interesting product, especially since (meta)data extraction around standard application software always brings its own challenges. Experts are quickly needed to help you understand your own data, which is cryptically hidden in the applications to prepare them (e.g., for data cataloging). Of course there are special tools, but none that I know of covers extraction, preparation and provision in one tool. The extraction of metadata, for example from SAP, often ends in many man-days for external consultants. Silwood Technology’s Safyr product may be a thorn in the side of many consultants or it may open up the opportunity for smaller consulting firms to offer the same service more quickly.

It is of course questionable how quickly Silwood’s small Ascot-based team can keep up with the dynamic developments of SAP and other providers. Without doubt, Silwood is also a highly potential takeover candidate for the data catalog providers of this world.

Nevertheless, I see Silwood Technologies as a very interesting, attractively priced vendor and an opportunity for customers, especially when it comes to better understanding and using their own data.