June 5, 2019 is a day that will live in infamy for SAP BusinessObjects administrators. It was the date that Google released version 75 of its Chrome browser to the public. And in an instant, nearly every version of SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence stopped working.
Experienced SAP BusinessObjects administrators will remember the Javageddon crisis of 2013 (see my related article, Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste). In some ways, Google Chromageddon was even worse. With Javageddon, something bad was going to happen in the future so there was time to plan around it. Chromageddon happened without warning and the help desk calls from users started pouring in.
Kudos to SAP for their response. The issue was documented in SAP KB 2801734 (Web Intelligence document hangs or displays no data when opened from Google Chrome version) and a workaround appeared shortly after. And SAP KB 2801625 (Web Intelligence document hangs or displays no data when opened from Google Chrome version 75.0.3770.80) charted the progress of fixes for SAP BI 4.2 SP5, SP6, and SP7, all of which have all been released.
The problem was apparently a pain for more than just Web Intelligence users, as Google halted the rollout of Chrome 75 (see related Chrome Unboxed article, Google Halts Rollout of Chrome 75). Some Web Intelligence customers were going through frantic patch cycles when Google released Chrome 76, which magically resolved Web Intelligence problems without patching. So life goes on and Google intends to release Chrome 77 on September 10 (see Google Chrome Platform Status page).
I’m not entirely sure what we’ve learned from this episode, other than the success of our BI platforms does not rest with SAP alone. The other lesson we’re learning is that we used to live in a world where Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) was the preferred browser for the corporate desktop. We now live in a world where Google Chrome is currently the best browser for SAP analytics customers, with Microsoft Edge and Mozilla Firefox gunning for second place (see my related article, Which browser is best for SAP Analytics?). And this week, Microsoft put their Google Chromium revision of the Edge browser into beta (see Microsoft’s Edge Insider site). If your users still rely on IE, it’s definitely time to work with your organization’s desktop support team to insure better and modern browsers are available to your users.
SAP KB 2801734 – Web Intelligence document hangs or displays no data when opened from Google Chrome version (SAP S-ID required)
SAP KB 2801625 – Web Intelligence document hangs or displays no data when opened from Google Chrome version 75.0.3770.80 (SAP S-ID required)
Starting with SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.2 SP5, SAP began shipping a new BI Launch Pad built using Fiori design principals. Currently, the new launch pad only provides document viewing capabilities. A new Fiori-fied Web Intelligence editor won’t make its debut until SAP BI 4.3 next year. But if you’re rolling out analytics to new users, especially casual users, it makes sense to make their first experience the Fiori experience.
However, at the moment, there’s one modest setback. The helpful Web Assistant that pops up is a zombie. Meaning that even if you turn it off, it will be there to greet you the next time you log in.
You can access the new Fiorified launch pad at http://[servername]:[port number]/BOE/BILaunchpad.
The Web Assistant pops up as a collection of green circles. Click on a circle and a pop-up box appears to explain the feature. There’s also a ribbon at the bottom of the screen that also provides help text. In the example below, I clicked the green circle over the Folders link.
Clicking directly on one of the ribbon’s description boxes will highlight where the feature is on the screen. In the example below, I clicked on the Recycle Bin description.
To turn off the Web Assistant, click its icon, which is located in the top right corner of the BI Launch Pad.
You can now navigate around the new BI Launch Pad. Experienced users will recognize familiar features such as the Inbox, their folders, and the Recycle Bin.
To exit the new BI Launch Pad, click on the “person” icon in the top left corner (will we be able to add our photo in future versions?).
Click the Log Out button to exit the BI Launch Pad and return to the Log On screen.
Depending on which patch level you are using, you may experience a zombie Web Assistant that returns each and every time that you log into the Fiorified BI Launch Pad. According to SAP Note 2723208, the issue has been corrected in SAP BI 4.2 SP5 Patch 800 and the forthcoming SAP BI 4.2 SP7 (currently planned for the week of February 25, 2019). However, the note does not indicate that the issue has been corrected in any of the four released patches for SAP BI 4.2 SP6.
Since I have multiple customers using various patch levels of SAP BI 4.2 SP6, I’ve marked this note as a favorite so I’ll be notified about any updates.
SAP Note 2723208 – ‘Web Assistant’ is by default enabled for all users in Fiorified BI Launchpad for each login
With SAP Analytics Cloud’s new release schedule, you can slow down and speed up at the same time.
Since its inception in 2015 as SAP Cloud for Analytics, one of the features of SAP Analytics Cloud has been its rapid release strategy, with new versions of the product being released about every two weeks. An agile release strategy has many benefits for a new product coming into the marketplace. And certainly a cloud-based product can be updated more easily if the vendor is doing most of the heavy lifting.
But a hectic release schedule also has drawbacks, which I wrote about earlier in a piece entitled What we learned from 31 releases of SAP Lumira. In that article, I advocated that SAP should take a two-track approach to cloud releases, much as Microsoft does with Office and its Office Insider early adopter program.
Starting with version 2018.19 of SAP Analytics Cloud released last month, SAP is moving to a quarterly release schedule to “align with SAP’s global strategy for cloud application releases.” And to continue to satisfy early adopters, SAP is offering a Fast-Track subscription for organizations that continue to want to receive bi-weekly updates.
There’s more details and an FAQ on the SAP Analytics Cloud web site. You’ll also want to check out the video that I’ve embedded above. This new release schedule is great news for SAP Analytics Cloud users.
What are your experiences so far with SAP Analytics Cloud? And what do you think about the new quarterly release schedule? Leave a comment in the section below.
The new version of the sizing guide is dated “June 2017” and has been updated with information about the latest release of SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 support pack 4. The old Xcelsius-based BI4 Resource Usage Estimator, also known as the BI4 Sizing Estimator, has been retired in favor of the standard SAP Quick Sizer. The document also includes updated sizing guidance for Web Intelligence.
This sizing document is extremely important to SAP BI professionals and we’re grateful to see it continue to receive updates. Much thanks to Sathish Rajagopal and everyone at SAP who had a hand in creating the latest iteration of the SAP BusinessObjects BI4 Sizing Guide!
After the candles are blown out, here are some things to work on during the next year.
Happy Third Birthday, SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0! You came into the world on September 16, 2011, after a lengthy gestation. We’ve made a lot of memories together, from your birth to taking your first steps. Potty training took a bit longer than expected, but we eventually got there with your BI 4.1 release. And I’ve mostly gotten over that time you pooped in the bathtub. As the parent of three children, I’m familiar with children moving from “baby” to “toddler” to “preschooler”. Software doesn’t mature in the same way as human children. But just like with humans, some things that were expected, manageable or even “cute” in earlier years become wearisome after three years. So I’d like to mention ten things that I hope you’ll work on before your fourth birthday.
10. Group Hierarchy tree control with “too many objects”
We’re thankful that after three years, the “too many objects” error is largely solved in the BI Launch Pad (see related article, Too Many Objects in Your BI Launch Pad). I realize that BI Launch Pad users outnumber Central Management Console users. But any administrator with a large BI installation knows how tedious it is to live without a decent tree control.
9. User search feature in CMC
There are a lot of user attributes beyond just title and description. And I’d like to search any of them, thank you. Isn’t this just a few extra lines of code?
8. Server search feature in CMC
Although most servers are appropriately named, sometimes they just aren’t. Please make it easier to find a server by type (Adaptive Processing Server, Crystal Reports Cache Server) regardless of what somebody else decided to name it.
7. SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio server installation
We’ve suffered through poor SAP BusinessObjects Explorer administration since Explorer debuted as Polestar on the XI R2 platform. As you fold Explorer functionality into Lumira, please fold its administrative tasks into the Central Management Console (see related article, Family Planning).
5. Web Intelligence panel preference
Thankfully you provide a script, setGroupPreferences (see SAP KB 1659566 or SAP KB 1816617), but even simpler would be the ability to set the default Web Intelligence report panel via the CMC. But even better would be retiring the Java report panel in favor of a single kick-a__ HTML 5 panel. Which leads us to number 4.
Monitoring was a big marquee feature of the BI 4.0 launch. It’s a great first step, but it’s time to show us a more mature second generation of this important feature. Oh, and the Adobe Flash interface needs to go (see related article, Adobe Flash- Dying but not Dead Just Yet).
2. Promotion Management/Lifecycle Management
Everyone thought the Import Wizard was evil. Until it went away. Like monitoring, this was a marquee feature of the BI 4.0 and rightly so. Also like monitoring, it re-appeared in BI 4.1 largely unchanged.
There are over 80 articles in the SAP knowledge base about platform search. Most of them highlight a design flaw or document a workaround, which isn’t terribly flattering. Given that platform search is often the first feature a new user will try, it’s time to put away the duct tape and introduce the next generation of platform search to the SAP BI platform.
Make a wish, blow out the candles, and enjoy some well-deserved cake. But I hope you’ll take these things to heart over the next year.
What are your thoughts after three years of the SAP BI4 platform?
In SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1, the build date, build number, and product version no longer appear in the Central Management Console (CMC) under Settings -> Properties as they did in prior releases. Instead, the version number can be determined from Help -> About.
And the build date, build number, and product version can be found under Servers > Central Management Server > Metrics.
Thanks to SAP Product Support for helping me find the alternate locations.
When SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 first went into general availability in 2011, SAP recommended splitting both the Adaptive Processing Server (APS) and Adaptive Job Server (AJS) into smaller pieces. However SAP KB 1868751 with the chipper title of Sporadic and Random Scheduling Failures now recommends a single Adaptive Job Server per node. The difficulty with splitting the Adaptive Job Server is that “This [configuration] will result in errors due to the additional complexity and cross communication” and also cause splitting headaches for the BI administrator.
You should have confidence in a single Adaptive Job Server because each job is forked off as a separate child process by the operating system. But having multiple Adaptive Job Servers if you really want them sounds like something that shouldwork on paper but doesn’t in practice. The cynical part of my brain wonders if Apache Derby is responsible, as it is with BI4 monitoring.
If you currently have multiple Adaptive Job Servers per node in your business intelligence cluster, consider converting one of them to manage all services then disabling and eventually stopping the rest. Be sure to review the maximum jobs setting on each service type according to the number of CPUs per node. And verify that its destinations (BI Inbox, Email, FTP, and File System) are both enabled and configured identical to the multiple Adaptive Job Servers it replaces.
SAP BI 4.1 introduces a new look and a new wrinkle to the customization process.
NOTE: The techniques described here also work with SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.2.
SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 went into general availability on August 29, 2013 (see related EV Technologies article, SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 Now in General Availability). In addition to combining fixes from previous releases and introducing new features and platform support, there were some minor changes in how the BI Launchpad can be customized. I’ll walk through the changes in the properties file in this article and address the CSS customization features introduced in SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 Support Pack 4 in a future article.
The first thing to notice about SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 is that it installs Apache Tomcat 7 as the default web application server in place of Apache Tomcat 6 (SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 uses Tomcat 8). For upgrades to earlier versions, the installer will leave the Apache 6 files at C:\Program Files (x86)\SAP BusinessObjects\Tomcat6 and install Apache Tomcat 7 in the adjacent C:\Program Files (x86)\SAP BusinessObjects\tomcat.
Starting with BI 4.0, SAP uses properties files that can be easily changed using a text editor instead of the XML files used by XI 3.1. These files can be preserved during patch updates by following some simple steps.
The default location for properties files is the C:\Program Files (x86)\SAP BusinessObjects\tomcat\webapps\BOE\WEB-INF\config\default directory. To modify properties from their defaults, copy the desired properties file from the default directory to the adjacent custom directory, which is C:\Program Files (x86)\SAP BusinessObjects\tomcat\webapps\BOE\WEB-INF\config\custom. To make sure your changes are preserved and not lost the next time the WAR files are deployed (typically during patch upgrades), be sure to follow SAP Note 1615492 and copy the custom files to SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 4.0\warfiles\webapps\BOE\WEB-INF\config.
Customizing the BI Launchpad Login Page
The new BI 4.1 BI Launch Pad login has been streamlined in appearance from earlier versions. Long-time fans of the BusinessObjects brand will notice that the SAP BusinessObjects logo has disappeared in favor of the SAP logo (see related article, First Impressions of SAP BusinessObjects 4.1). In fact, the only mention of “BusinessObjects” is in a text string that we’re about to customize.
The appearance of the login screen is controlled by the default BIlaunchpad.properties file, located at C:\Program Files (x86)\SAP Business Objects\tomcat\webapps\BOE\WEB-INF\config\default.
In addition to the existing app.name, app.name.short, and app.name.greeting properties from previous releases, BI 4.1 introduces a new property, app.custom.product.name. It’s left unspecified but currently defaults to SAP BusinessObjects, which appears on the first line of the logon screen. The app.name.short parameter is also unspecified but defaults to BI Launch pad. The app.name property is not used on the login screen but instead is used for the <TITLE> of all interior pages of the BI Launch pad.
To customize the properties file, do not modify the original but instead copy it to adjacent directory C:\Program Files (x86)\SAP Business Objects\tomcat\webapps\BOE\WEB-INF\config\custom. I’ve shown the modifications below.After restarting Apache Tomcat, I can see the result of my customizations.
Once I log in, I can see the effect of the app.name parameter.
The rest of the customizations such as system name and authentication type are identical to previous versions.
Adding or changing Favicons
If you want to dress up your users’ browser with a favicon, overwrite the standard Tomcat favicon.ico file with your own at <INSTALLDIR>/tomcat/webapps/ROOT then restart Tomcat.
There are unique icons for the BI Launchpad, Central Management Console (CMC), and Explorer. I like to replace the BI Launchpad and Explorer favicons. I prefer to leave the CMC favicon as-is, as only a few people see it and it’s easier to find when multiple browser tabs are in use.
Place new InfoView.ico in C:Program Files (x86)\SAP BusinessObjects\tomcat\webapps\BOE\WEB-INF\eclips\plugins\webpath.InfoViewwebimages. Place new explorer.ico in C:Program Files (x86)\SAP BusinessObjects\tomcat\webapps\explorer.
Be sure to clear Tomcat cache C:\Program Files (x86)\SAP BusinessObjects\tomcat\work\Catalina\localhost before restarting.
Changing the Default Web Intelligence Paper Size
When SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 is initially installed, the default page size is A4. This international standard (see Wikipedia) is used nearly around the world but is not the same as the standard Letter size used in the United States and Canada.
Prior to BI 4.0, the default paper size was set in a file named defaultconfig.xml. But BI 4.x no longer uses this file to define default paper size. Instead, Web Intelligence now derives attributes like page size, header size, footer size, and margins from a Cascading Style Sheet (CSS), not the old XML configuration file. The procedure for changing the default paper size from A4 to Letter can be found on this article I wrote for the EV Technologies blog.
NOTE: Existing reports will still have the page size set when the document was saved; however, this modification will change the default page size setting for all new documents.
SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 Launch Pad Default Preferences
So that explains the mechanics of customization. But how to use it practically? Use the upgrade as an opportunity to educate your customers about yourbrand (see related article, Business Intelligence Branding). Don’t lose sleep over retraining users that the InfoView portal has been renamed as the BI Launch pad. Or wondering if and when SAP will finally pull the plug on the BusinessObjects brand.
I’m sure I’ll have more to share about BI 4.1 as I begin working daily with the new release. And I hope to write soon about using the CSS customization features recently introduced in BI 4.0 SP4. In the meantime, Christine Obry has provided some great information on the SAP Community Network and you can find the links below.
Christina Obry from SAP has written some excellent tutorials on the SAP Community Network, including some new capabilities added inBI4SP4 and higher:
Best practices for SAP BusinessObjects and antivirus software.
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with SAP BusinessObjects installations and antivirus software. My first experiences with installing XI R2 went badly when antivirus software was still running, frequently resulting in botched WAR file deployments. And who can forget the joy of SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 SP2 and its crawling installation process? Although the root cause was the Microsoft installer, SAP also advised in KB 1374386 to“disable the antivirus before starting the install so that this does not interfere with the install process”.
While most organizations rely on the big vendors like Symantec or McAfee (the latter company has a more colorful history than the former- hence the photo above), I recently had a situation with Trend Micro antivirus preventing the installation program from running properly. The installer would fail with a “failed to update cache for execution” error. The error can either be triggered by antivirus software (see SAP KB 1781641) although it can also be triggered by the Microsoft User Account Control (UAC) setting (see SAP KB 1671421).
Let’s review some best practices for working with SAP BusinessObjects and antivirus software.
Pre-installation Best Practices
During the kickoff meeting for an installation or upgrade project, determine the vendor and version of the antivirus software in use. Next, identify the person who administers the antivirus software who will assist, if necessary, during the installation process. It’s really important to identify this person, even if everyone in the kickoff meeting begins to stare uncomfortably at their shoes when you pose the question. Determine if the software can either be disabled for the duration of the installation process or if the folder location of the installation can be permanently exempted from scans. Lastly, find out if you can make the necessary changes yourself or if you’ll need to ask a system administrator. With my recent Trend Micro experience, I could see the antivirus software running in the Windows system tray but not any active exemptions. In addition, I had to ask an administrator to make the necessary exemptions from a centralized console that I did not have access to.
Installation Best Practices
Disable the services associated with the antivirus program so they are not running during the installation process. Work with your organization’s system administration team if you’re unable to figure out how to do this. It’s critical that the antivirus program doesn’t interfere with a successful installation of SAP BusinessObjects. The installation will be faster if the antivirus program isn’t analyzing it.
Post-installation Best Practices
Determine what the permanent solution for antivirus software will be after the installation of SAP BusinessObjects. Will the SAP installation folder be exempted from scans? Will specific SAP programs be exempted? Look for a permanent solution for dealing with antivirus software during the project kickoff meeting. If the exemptions are only temporary during the installation process, it is likely that they’ll become a thorn in somebody’s side when it comes time to apply a support pack or patch.
Thus Saith SAP
In many cases, it takes documentation from the vendor to successfully lobby for an exemption to corporate security policies. Here are some relevant knowledge base articles from SAP that you can reference to help your organization work toward a solution.
SAP KB 106267 – generic note about SAP and antivirus software, not specific to SAP BusinessObjects
SAP KB 1497394– Which files and directories should be excluded from an antivirus scan for SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence Platform products in Windows?
SAP KB 1781641 – “Failed to update cache for execution” error occurred while installing SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0.
SAP KB 1984459 – Which files and directories should be excluded from an antivirus scan for SAP Data Services
Do you have horror stories of SAP BusinessObjects installations gone bad due to antivirus software? Any best practices that I haven’t mentioned? Please share your thoughts below.
Nothing as exhilarating as having all eyes of the project team on you as you use Promotion Management (formerly known as Lifecycle Manager) to move SAP BusinessObjects universes and reports into production at the 11th hour.
I know what you’re thinking. “Did he create six Web Intelligence reports or only five?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is Promotion Management, the lifecycle management tool for the most powerful business intelligence suite in the world, and would blow your promotion job clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky?
Well, do ya, punk?
Today when I create and run a Promotion Management job, I get nervous, say a prayer, and hope I get lucky. I’m currently helping a customer apply a patch from BI 4.0 Support Pack 5 Patch 6 to Support Pack 6. Unfortunately, Promotion Management does not correctly calculate linked universe dependencies and the core universe does not get promoted to its proper destination (refer to SAP KB 1767657 for details). The issue was corrected in Support Pack 4 Patch 4; however, that patch- and many others- was forward fit to SP6 (refer to SAP BusinessObjects maintenance schedule and forward fit plan), not to SP5.
Let’s hope that SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1– which was released to customers (RTC) and into ramp-up this week- brings some improvements to the promotion management process when it goes into general availability (GA), expected in late Q3 2013.