Internet Explorer is a compatibility solution. We’re not supporting new web standards for it and, while many sites work fine, developers by and large just aren’t testing for Internet Explorer these days.
SAP, if you love your BI platform users, it’s time to set them free.
In 1985, Sting stunned the world with Dream of the Blue Turtles, his first solo album after breaking up with The Police. The “hybrid” recording wasn’t jazzy enough for jazz purists nor rocky enough for fans of The Police. But his ambitious effort to combine rock-and-roll with jazz musicians Omar Hakim, Darryl Jones, Kenny Kirkland, Branford Marsalis, Dolette McDonald, and Janice Pendarvis yielded several hit singles and insured that Sting would be a relevant artist for the next several decades.
It’s clear from current product roadmaps that SAP’s hybrid approach to analytics is to place all future analytics innovation into SAP Analytics Cloud while keeping the on-premise BI platform, its universe semantic layer, and its Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence document formats at arms length with reduced levels of future investment. SAP’s analytics strategy makes sense if you run most or all of your business with SAP applications, whether it’s the on-premise business suite or cloud applications like Ariba, Concur, Fieldglass, and SuccessFactors. The strategy makes less sense the more non-SAP applications power your organization. And as anticipated, the strategy makes the least sense to customers whose only SAP product is the on-premise SAP BusinessObjects BI platform.
But instead of winners and losers, what if SAP’s analytics strategy was changed so everyone became a winner? Let’s explore some ideas.
In the age of Qlik and Tableau, a third-party market has sprung up to provide universe-based data to non-SAP tools. In a curious arrangement, these vendors have LLC’ed themselves to be annoying to SAP product managers without being financially lucrative enough to attract the interest of SAP’s legal department.
No offense to their creators who are fulfilling a market need. But these products should not need to exist. SAP itself should provide the best universe support to both its own analytics tools and beyond – let’s call it “Universes Everywhere”.
Update May 2016: SAP BO connectivity is no longer available.
With SAP Analytics Cloud restricting the universe to be on-premise, what does SAP have to lose by licensing universe support to Microsoft, Tableau, Qlik, or whoever wants it? Customers would be delighted, probably save for the extra cost of some kind of new BI platform license that legalizes such third-party tool support. Microstrategy adopted a similar approach this year, insuring that its customers are delighted enough to keep licensing Microstrategy’s core technology platform while using their data visualization tool of choice. (see related ZDNet article, Enterprise, self-service BI hook up: MicroStrategy releases connectors for Power BI, Tableau, Qlik).
Web Intelligence Explorer
As part of a renewed commitment to the universe semantic layer and innovation specifically targeted to the on-premise BI platform, SAP should commit developers to an updated version of the BI platform (4.3? 5.0?) with a new version of SAP BusinessObjects Explorer – one that does not rely on Adobe Flash- as its centerpiece. Keep in mind that Explorer without a Flash UI already exists – as SAP BusinessObjects Mobile for iOS. The Explorer web client should be written as tightly coupled to Fiori-fied Web Intelligence as architecturally possible and its Flash-based back-end should be ported to the Fiori-fied BI Admin Console that made its debut with SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP5 (see related article, The Road Unexplored: A Future for SAP BusinessObjects Explorer). SAP customers shouldn’t have to look to other vendors to find the next generation of search-based data discovery (see related article, The Road Unexplored: Alternatives to SAP BusinessObjects Explorer).
If SAP Won’t Invest It Should Divest
It’s perfectly understandable that SAP Analytics Cloud is tightly coupled to SAP’s business applications. What’s less clear is why perfectly good software used by thousands of customers has to die on the vine rather than succeed on its own terms. Even webOS– originally developed by Palm to compete with Apple’s iOS- was given a second life powering LG televisions and appliances. It’s even been open sourced (see related Verge article, webOS ready to move beyond TVs, says LG). If universe technology is no longer a strategic fit to SAP, it should be liberated as open source or put up for sale on the open market. SAP acquired BusinessObjects for approximately €5 billion in 2008 (see SAP’s press release, SAP to Acquire Business Objects in Friendly Takeover). I’m confident SAP could get a good return on its decade-old investment and create favorable terms to OEM the software from its new owner until its current hybrid BI strategy is fully realized in the cloud.
SAP, if you love your classic BusinessObjects customers, set them free!
Should SAP continue to invest in the universe semantic layer? Should it put the technology up for sale? Or open source it? I would love to hear your thoughts on how ALL of SAP’s current analytics customers can have a happy ending.
SAP Visual Intelligence 1.0 (the original product name for what we now know as Lumira) was originally released as 64-bit. SAP Visual Intelligence 1.07 added 32-bit support based on customer feedback. I’m not surprised that SAP acted to meet customers wishes, but I was surprised that giving users, especially power users, a 64-bit operating system was such a large obstacle for SAP customers. Most of these same customers were deploying 32-bit Windows 7 on 64-bit hardware. Starting with the iPhone 5Sand iOS 7, even pocket-sized smartphones sport 64-bit processors and operating systems.
SAP introduced its new “in-memory database engine”, formerly known as the much hipper “velocity engine”, in the latest 64-bit edition of Lumira Desktop, version 1.23 (see related SAP Community Network article, What’s New in SAP Lumira 1.23). The 32-bit edition of Lumira Desktop will move into its impending retirement with the older IQ-based database engine. However, Lumira has reached a point in its development where new features (on the Lumira 1.26 desktop and soon to be on the BI 4.1 server) will require this new engine.
The new in-memory database engine will soon come to the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 platform as an add-on, allowing visualizations created with SAP Lumira Desktop to be viewed and refreshed in the BI Launch Pad (see related SAP Community Network article, Planned Native Integration of Lumira into BI Platform Details).
Will SAP BI 4.2 Client Tools Go 64-bit?
With SAP Lumira, SAP Design Studio, and even SAP Data Services Designer already available in 64-bit editions, will SAP BI 4.2 introduce 64-bit editions of “go-forward” client tools like Crystal Reports for Enterprise, Information Design Tool, and Web Intelligence Rich Client? Or does “interoperability” in the SAP BI tool simplification diagram mean that future versions of Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence will receive an adrenaline boost and also take advantage of the in-memory database engine?
At this point, nobody outside of SAP knows but I’m sure we’ll hear more details in the latter half of 2015.
Is Your Organization Ready for 64-bits?
One thing is clear. Now is the time to install 64-bit Windows on the workstations of your Business Intelligence Competency Center (BICC) team and the power users you support. Let your SAP Lumira Desktop pilot act as a catalyst in discussions with your enterprise desktop support organization. And while Microsoft is planning a 32-bit edition of its upcoming Windows 10, offer to be guinea pigs for your organization’s Windows 10 pilot, insuring that 64-bit Windows 10 will be the operating system deployed to your core constituencies.
Some tips for getting your Crystal Reports to the BI 4.1 platform.
I recently wrapped up a BI 4.1 upgrade project that was 80% Crystal Reports and 20% Web Intelligence. The SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 system was older than the tenure of the team that supported it, so some of its tribal knowledge had been lost. One of the things that we overlooked was printing requirements. Very few Crystal Reports were actually scheduled to print; however, many of Crystal Reports had printers defined.
While the challenges were few and easily managed, here are some lessons learned that I’ll be applying to my next BI 4.1 upgrade project.
Install Printer Drivers as Part of BI4 Prerequisites
Either immediately before or immediately after BI 4.1 installation but before you begin using the Upgrade Management Tool, take a few moments to install the most common printer drivers in use in your organization. At a minimum, take a walk around your work area and install printer drivers for those models. And choose one of those nearby printers to be the default printer for each node in your SAP BusinessObjects cluster.
Missing printer drivers can significantly increase migration time of Crystal Reports via the Upgrade Management Tool (SAP KB 1701318) requiring the timeout to be increased (SAP KB 1804414). We didn’t realize the reason for needing a much higher timeout was the lack of printer drivers. We had already migrated the content and moved onto testing, only to learn that scheduled Crystal Reports with defined printers would have a job status of running but never complete. Which leads to the next best practice.
Install Crystal Reports 2013 On the Job Server
In our development environment, we installed Crystal Reports 2013 on the node containing the Adaptive Job Server. Depending on which development tools you’re using, you may also want to install the SAP BusinessObjects Client Tools (Web Intelligence Rich Client, et. al.), Crystal Reports for Enterprise, and Dashboards, as they can be helpful when troubleshooting. In most cases, running a Crystal Report in the client yields much more actionable troubleshooting information then the brief error from the Adaptive Job Server.
And with printer drivers in particular, Crystal Reports 2013 offered to install them automatically.
While I wouldn’t criticize somebody for installing the clients on a production node, we never identified an issue that required it. Plus, being stingy with client installs means fewer things to patch later.
Remove Unneeded Printer Specifications from Crystal Reports
If your Crystal Report doesn’t have a schedule to print requirement, you’re better off not specifying a printer.
A printer specification can slow the overall performance of a Crystal Report (see SAP KB 1197593 and 1205023).
A printer specification can prevent an InfoView (or BI Launch Pad) user from printing a Crystal Report to the default desktop printer (SAP KB 1202786).
Unfortunately, there’s no way to make “no printer” the default (see SAP KB 1220244).
To remove the printer specification, simply choose File -> Page Setup from the Crystal Reports 2013 menu and check the “No Printer” box (shown unchecked). This action should be on your checklist prior to publishing a Crystal Report to the BI platform. Or something to verify before promoting the Crystal Report to a higher environment with Promotion Management.
Make Sure Printed Reports Still Deliver Value
We discovered that one of our printed Crystal Reports was no longer in use. In fact, the defined printer was nowhere to be found. SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 would run the job anyway with a result of “success”. But BI 4.1 ran the same job with a result of “failed” because the printer was missing and therefore did not send a response.
Consult with users to see if they’d rather receive a printed report on a shared file system or via email. Or simply run the reports on-demand from the BI Launch Pad when necessary. Keep track of any print jobs that you halt in a spreadsheet with its average number of pages and printing frequency. When your upgrade is complete, you can compute the annual cost savings of making the BI 4.1 system more “green” than the one it replaced.
Don’t know who “owns” a printed report? I won’t tell anyone if you simply stop delivering the report after BI 4.1 cutover and see if anyone calls to complain.
Influence SAP to Bring Feature Parity to Web Intelligence
Desktop Intelligence also had the ability to schedule to a printer but this feature is still lacking in the latest versions of Web Intelligence (see related article, All the Desktop Intelligence That’s Fit to Print). The idea is “under review” by SAP but has languished in the SAP Idea Place for nearly four years. Nobody should be forced into porting an existing Desktop Intelligence or Web Intelligence document to Crystal Reports simply because they have a printing requirement.
There’s still some 32-bit code lurking in the BI 4 platform.
One of the marquee features of SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 and BI 4.1 is that is 64-bit. But is important to note that it is mostly 64-bit- not fully 64-bit. Certain portions of server code are still 32-bit, which is why SAP by default installs the software in the 32-bit program files directory C:Program Files (x86) instead of the 64-bit program files directory C:Program Files (and you should, too).
BI platform servers are a combination of 32-bit and 64-bit processes. Some servers additionally launch 32-bit and 64-bit child processes. To use the correct version of third-party libraries (32-bit vs 64-bit) with BI platform processes, you must set separate environment variables for each version on the machine hosting BI platform. You must then set an additional environment variable that contains a comma-separated list of those environment variables that have 32-bit and 64-bit versions. When a process is launched by BI platform, it will select the appropriate variable depending on whether the process is 32-bit or 64-bit.
I wished that the documentation spelled out all the 32-bit scenarios explicitly instead of just saying “Some servers”. So here’s my attempt at filling in some of the 32-bit details.
Classic Crystal Reports 20xx
Crystal Reports on the BI 4 platform comes in two varieties. First, there is Crystal Reports for Enterprise, which is an Eclipse-based design tool for creating Crystal Reports. Although the designer is 32-bit, the server processes that support it are 64-bit. Second, there is “classic” Crystal Reports 2011 for BI 4.0 (and now Crystal Reports 2013 for BI 4.1 and Crystal Reports 2016 for BI 4.2). These versions are the successor of Crystal Reports 2008 that paired with the SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 platform. Both the client tool and the server process are 32-bit. If you have legacy Crystal Reports, you’ll either want to migrate them to Crystal Reports for Enterprise or be sure to install 32-bit database middleware to support them.
Practically speaking, this means that you will need to install both 32-bit and 64-bit database drivers for data sources that power classic Crystal Reports. For SQL Server/ODBC, create 32-bit DSN’s that are identical to the 64-bit DSN’s. For Oracle, install both the 32-bit and 64-bit drivers, being sure to copy an identical tnsnames.ora to each. Oracle users will want to take a look at my related article, Installing Two Oracle Clients on One Server.
SAP BW via Classic UNV Universes
Another scenario where 32-bit code is used is when Web Intelligence reports use the classic UNV semantic layer to access SAP BW. In previous versions of the SAP BI platform, these requests were handled by the then-32-bit Web Intelligence Processing Server. However, a different workflow in BI 4.0 routes these requests through the 32-bit ConnectionServer32 server process. Because the connection server is 32-bit, it can only handle about 1.8 GB of RAM before things go pear-shaped. The scenario is described in SAP KB 1756239, Classic universes that use a BAPI connection to SAP BW use the 32-bit Connection Server on BI 4.0 for Windows. As with legacy Crystal Reports, SAP recommends moving these Web Intelligence reports to a UNX universe on BW or a direct BICS connection. SAP BI 4.1 SP1 adds an additional wrinkle, as it includes a 64-bit SAP BW driver. However, it only gets installed with a BI 4.1 full installation. If you’re upgrading an existing BI 4.0 installation, you’ll want to do a “change” installation from the Windows Control Panel and add the SAPBW64 driver. SAP KB 1930558, How to utilize the 64-bit SAP BAPI driver with UNV universes in BI 4.x (Windows), has mostly correct instructions on how to do this. Take a moment to review the list as you may also want to add the new 64-bit Data Direct ODBC, Hadoop HIVE or OData drivers. Or go crazy and add the dBase driver, too.
A valid discussion in 2003 is a false argument ten years later.
Should you use Crystal Reports? Or Web Intelligence instead?
These were valid questions in 2004. But today, Crystal Reports versus Web Intelligence is a false argument.
In 2003, Desktop Intelligence was the only BI tool in the BusinessObjects suite, a try-to-do-everything tool, from highly formatted to ad hoc.
In a similar way, Crystal Reports- prior to the BusinessObjects acquisition of Crystal Decisions- took a similar approach. Crystal Reports 10 introduced Business Views as the response to the BusinessObjects semantic layer, the universe. And later in XI R2, Crystal Reports Explorer, an interactive web-based report designer, was introduced as the weak (and post-merger) response to Web Intelligence.
This topic was part of a lively Diversified Semantic Layer podcast in February 2012. Listen to SAP Crystal Reports vs. Web Intelligence part 1 and part 2.
Follow the Diversified Semantic Layer on Twitter
We didn’t have a name for it back in 2003, but both vendors were adopting what we can now call the Microsoft Windows 8 approach- the have-it-all approach- where a single OS is used for both mobile and desktop experiences (see related article, First Impressions of Microsoft Windows 8).
SAP is using an approach similar to Apple’s. Apple has a tailored mobile experience and a tailored desktop experience. But each relies on a common, shared foundation. Just as Apple reuses the fundamental components of its desktop OS under the hood of its mobile OS, SAP has a common semantic layer, a common charting engine (the Visualization/CVOM service), a common portal (BI Launchpad) etc. while accommodating different kinds of users and user experiences. Both Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence support bursting (publications) but to different degrees (Crystal has the upper hand here).
And redundant components are slowly being trimmed from the product portfolio. Crystal Reports Explorer was retired on the XI R2 platform. And although Business Views are still supported in Crystal Reports 2013, it’s only to support legacy reports. There’s no Business View support in Crystal Reports for Enterprise. Instead, CR4E favors universes created by the Information Design Tool (UNX). The SAP roadmap also articulates that Design Studio is the eventual successor to Dashboards (formerly Xcelsius). Even though neither Crystal Reports with Business Views nor Dashboards have an automated tool akin to the Report Conversion Tool that is used to convert Desktop Intelligence reports into Web Intelligence reports.
So Crystal doesn’t have to be good at “everything” anymore. It can excel at highly formatted reports. And Web Intelligence doesn’t have to be good at “everything” anymore. It can be easy and interactive. And tools like Analysis, Design Studio, Explorer, and Lumira fit in too. But Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence are still the primary go-to tools, as Raphael Branger describes in his recent article, The Rule of Thumb for SAP BusinessObjects Tool Selection. Raphael describes the unique strengths of both Web Intelligence and Crystal Reports. What was “either/or” when the tools were on two separate vendor teams is now “both/and” under SAP.
In some use cases, both Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence will work equally well. But be open to the idea that in certain scenarios, one will solve the problem better than the other.
Thumbnail images for SAP Mobile BI 5.0 should be 208×208 pixels.
Remember those really attractive 216 pixels wide by 122 pixels high thumbnail images you created for SAP Mobile BI 4.4 (see related article, SAP Mobile BI 4.4 Thumbnails)? Here’s an example.
Here’s how the same thumbnail appears in Mobile BI 5.0 for Apple iOS.
The thumbnails appear squashed because amidst the other UI enhancements in Mobile BI 5.0 and higher, SAP has adopted an Instagram-like square thumbnail size of 208 by 208 pixels. The new size is documented in the Administrator and Report Designer’s Guide available on the SAP Help Portal. Aside from the difference in dimensions, the procedure for creating and using thumbnails is unchanged from the previous version of Mobile BI.
For iOS, thumbnail images only appear on the iPad, not the iPhone. I do not have an Android tablet to verify how thumbnails work and there is no mention of thumbnails in the Android guide.
Be sure to put a line item in your mobile BI project plan to either resize your organization’s logo yourself or ask somebody in the corporate art department to help you out. You’ll want to create a JPEG or PNG image that’s less than 100 KB in size and has the dimensions of 216 pixels wide by 122 pixels high. In addition to your organization’s logo, you’ll want to create some additional thumbnails for various subject areas like finance. Using stock photography (I recommend iStockphoto) or images culled from your organization’s official web site.
I’m no Adobe Photoshop expert, but I’ve been able to produce great results with Pixelmator for Mac OS X, a very affordable image editor in the Apple App Store.
I’m confident that the mobile thumbnail dimensions will be documented in the forthcoming SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 manuals. But until then, remember 216 by 122.
Still making fun of the Microsoft Windows ODBC panel.
The new Information Design Tool (IDT) in SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0, like the other client tools in the suite, is a 32-bit application. Even if the IDT is installed on a 64-bit version of Microsoft Windows, it wants to use 32-bit ODBC DSN’s created with the 32-bit ODBC panel, not 64-bit DSN’s. If you attempt to create a new universe connection and specify a 64-bit DSN name, the following error appears.
[Microsoft][ODBC Driver Manager] The specified DSN contains an architecture mismatch between the Driver and Application
To resolve the issue, make sure you’re using the 32-bit ODBC panel (see related article) at C:WindowsSysWoW64Odbcad32.exe. If you are running the client tools and server on the same platform, create a 32-bit ODBC DSN for the Information Design Tool and a 64-bit ODBC DSN for the server (BI Launchpad, Web Intelligence Processing Server, etc.). Make sure both DSN’s have identical names.
Remember that Crystal Reports 2011, Crystal Reports 2013, and Crystal Reports for Enterprise clients are also 32-bit. If they are installed on the BI4 server (which is supported, but oddly enough not recommended), they will also require 32-bit ODBC connections even though the Crystal Reports Processing Server requires 64-bit ODBC connections. Note that the legacy Crystal Reports 2011/2013 Processing Server will also require 32-bit ODBC connections.
What’s New in Version 4.2.0
• Display of hierarchical content from data sources supported in SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence
• Support for iPhone (iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S)
• Enhancements to home screen for better organization of BI content
• Application password for secure offline data storage
• Support for authenticated reverse proxy deployment scenarios
I’m surprised by the support for iPhone/iPod Touch. Anyone else? I must have been sleeping through the roadmap presentation. It made total sense to me for SAP to focus only on tablets as phones have too small of a work area for something like a Web Intelligence or Crystal Reports document. Still, the phone is an important form factor and I’m glad to see SAP extend support to it.
I really appreciate the SAP notes and the fact they are referenced right in the iTunes App Store. The SAP Help Portal has turned into a bloated mess and it’s really difficult to figure out which category from the drop down list will produce the desired documentation. I’ve been told that the Explorer mobile app team will begin putting SAP Notes in their App Store documentation beginning with Explorer 4.0.8.
Notice that the app doesn’t have an “Administrators Guide” but an “Administrator and Report Designer’s Guide”, so you might find the “Users Guide” a bit thin. It may be a bit unintuitive to your report developers that they need to thumb through the Adminstrator Guide, but Web Intelligence and Crystal Report designers should definitely read through it.
Keep in mind that if you’re using SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 Feature Pack 3 or higher (for example, Support Pack 4), the old mobile infrastructure no longer exists in favor of the new mobile architecture originally introduced to support this application. SAP Note 1713028 contains all of the interesting details. Also, certain features such as support for Crystal Reports require Support Pack 2 Patch 14 or higher.