SAP has put yet another nail in the coffin of Desktop Intelligence.
SAP has put yet another nail in the coffin of Desktop Intelligence with Free-Hand SQL in the recent release of Support Pack 6 for SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1. Steve Yemm has put together an excellent tutorial on the SAP Community Network (see related SCN article, Web Intelligence Free Hand SQL (FHSQL)/Stored Procedures in BI4.1 SP06). I’d like to show just a couple of extra formatting nuances not in Steve’s article.
Free-Hand SQL isn’t a silver bullet (see related article, Free-Hand SQL Isn’t Free), but it is a bullet. It can help query data that no existing universe can access. Web Intelligence now uses a workflow that will seem very familiar to Desktop Intelligence users.
I’m going to use the Web Intelligence Java applet and choose the new Free-Hand SQL option for creating a new document.
Next, I’ll choose a universe connection.
For my query, I’ll paste SQL from an eFashion query for Year, State, and Sales Revenue into the Query Script editor, essentially a large text box.
The Query Script “editor” provides the same editing features as its Desktop Intelligence predecessor- none. However, it is possible to validate that the SQL you pasted from elsewhere is valid.
Notice that Web Intelligence inferred that the aggregate function SUM should be interpreted as a measure object. However, the object naming isn’t terribly creative.
That is why you’ll want to add aliases to your SQL statement.
You can manually rename objects, which is helpful for setting column headings. Here I changed Sales_Revenue into Sales Revenue.
And voila! The results are exactly what we expect. Except unlike data from the eFashion universe, measures aren’t well-formatted.
Simply right-click on any value in the Sales Revenue column and choose Format Number. It’s near the bottom of what seems to be the world’s longest right-click menu. Does anyone else hope that Web Intelligence 4.2 will have shorter right-click menus?
Choose the desired numeric format.
And there you have it, a Web Intelligence document that uses Free-Hand SQL.
Some additional observations. The new Free-Hand SQL is also available in the Web Intelligence Rich Client…
However, it is missing from the HTML panel.
UPDATE: The Free-hand SQL option now appears in the BI 4.2 SP4 HTML panel, where only the Analysis View query option is missing.
In addition to creating new Web Intelligence reports from Free-Hand SQL, this feature provides new capabilities to the Report Conversion Tool, which were actually introduced earlier in Support Pack 5. Prior to SP5, Desktop Intelligence documents with free-hand SQL were converted by placing the SQL into a derived table of a new universe (see related article, Retiring Desktop Intelligence Free-Hand SQL). This approach could become problematic when hundreds of Desktop Intelligence documents were spawning hundreds of new single-use universes. The Report Conversion Tool no longer needs to create a universe to successfully convert free-hand SQL documents.
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?
Microsoft IE11 may be “fast and fluid” but first be sure your BI platform patch level provides support.
Today, November 12, 2013, Microsoft Windows Update tried to lure me into accepting the “Important Update” of Microsoft Internet Explorer 11 (IE 11) for Windows 7.
Most organizations carefully release browser updates to the masses after internal testing. So you most likely haven’t been tempted by the PC you use at the office. But like me, you may be tempted at home. Although as of this writing IE 11 isn’t on the support list (see the SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 Supported Platforms/PAM), support should be forthcoming (UPDATE: see updated notes at bottom of this article).
Web Intelligence users will want to read the fine print on the BI 4.1 PAM. As of February 2013 Oracle has stopped releasing updates for Java 6. SAP will accordingly drop support for Java 6 with the release of BI 4.1 SP2, expected later this month (see the official SAP Analytics Maintenance Schedule).
I don’t have any confirmation from SAP, but I would expect BI 4.1 SP2- the final support pack of 2013- to include support for Windows 8.1 as a client operating system and Microsoft IE 11 as a supported browser for both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. But for now, stick with Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 or (depending on your patch level) Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 7.
SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 (updated April 3, 2014)
Released on February 14, 2013, SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 Service Pack 6 has support for Microsoft Internet Explorer 10 (although compatibility view display mode is required to render some pages accurately). Service Pack 6 supports Microsoft Windows 8 and Microsoft Windows Server 2012.
SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 Service Pack 7 was released on March 28, 2014 and its updated Product Availability Matrix indicates that both IE 10 and IE 11 are supported, although “compatibility view display mode is required to render some pages accurately”. SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 Service Pack 7 also adds support for Microsoft Windows 8.1 and Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2.
SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 (updated April 3, 2014)
Microsoft Internet Explorer 11 is supported in SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 Support Pack 9 and higher on Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2008 R2, and Windows Server 2012 R2. Note that Support Pack 9 is the first to support Microsoft Windows 8.1 (see related article, SAP BusinessObjects Support for Windows 8.1) and Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2. A footnote indicates that “IE 11 is not supported with Analysis, edition for OLAP”. SAP HANA users should note that SAP BI 4.1 SP2 is required for SAP HANA SPS07.
SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 (updated April 3, 2014)
Microsoft Internet Explorer 11 is partially supported in SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 Support Pack 2 and fully supported in Support Pack 3 and higher. Both support packs provide support for Microsoft Windows 8.1 (see related article, SAP BusinessObjects Support for Windows 8.1) and Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2. But because IE11 is not yet supported by Support Pack 2, users of these operating systems are encouraged to use a supported version of Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. SAP HANA users should also note that SAP BI 4.1 SP2 or higher is required for SAP HANA SPS07.
SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.2
(updated March 1, 2017)
Microsoft Internet Explorer 11 is supported by all versions of SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2.
End-users will see the following warning beginning September 8, 2013 at approximately 17:00 PDT, just in time for the upcoming ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference.
Much ink could be spilled on why SAP could allow something like this to happen. But it has already happened. So we should follow Benjamin Zander’s advice and see the possibilities in the situation (see related article, The Art of Possibility).
I’m sorry for the trouble that the expired Java certificate has created for SAP’s BusinessObjects customers. And I’m grateful that- because I don’t work for SAP- I didn’t have to be part of any unpleasant conversations that have occurred within the walls of SAP over the past two weeks.
But I’m glad that the certificate is expiring. Because once the dust settles I believe the incident will be a catalyst for positive change.
If SAP had any doubts before the Web Intelligence Java Certificate crisis, it should now be acutely aware that Web Intelligence is of profound importance to many of its business intelligence customers. And while customers and partners are grateful for innovations like SAP HANA and Lumira, we still need SAP to be passionately committed to what they probably refer to as “legacy” tools.
Customers have spent nearly the last decade migrating from Desktop Intelligence to Web Intelligence. Some are still converting (see related article, Desktop Intelligence – Back for a Limited Time). We need SAP to clearly commit to supporting Web Intelligence. But more than that, we need SAP to commit to modernizing Web Intelligence for the nextdecade.
Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is correct in stating that we should never let a serious crisis go to waste. It truly is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.
Don’t waste the opportunity at this week’s ASUG conference to let SAP know how important Web Intelligence and the universe semantic layer is to your organization. Don’t waste the opportunity to discuss using Web Intelligence with BW. Don’t be afraid to approach them- even the ones in suits. They are attending the conference specifically to meet you. If you are not attending the conference, please have this important conversation with your SAP customer representatives.
And should you need to call SAP Support about expiring Java certificates this week, don’t waste the opportunity to be gracious and courteous. What’s done is done. SAP Support has done their best to prepare for this moment. Help them help you put the issue to rest. It’s easier for everyone involved if there isn’t any shouting.
Last week at its World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple introduced a product that nobody was really anticipating – iWork for iCloud. iWork is Apple’s productivity suite that includes word processing (Pages), spreadsheet (Numbers) and presentation (Keynote) capabilities. Originally designed for the Mac, the apps have also been available on iOS for some time. Later this year, the desktop and mobile apps will be joined by cloud-based siblings, allowing users to access any document from any device (desktop, mobile, web). You can watch the entire WWDC keynoteon Apple’s web site.
What was particularly stunning about the WWDC demo were the gorgeous animations and transitions in Keynote, rendered in a web browser without any reliance on plug-ins like Adobe Flash or Oracle Java. iWork for iCloud works on either Macs or PCs with Safari 6.0.3 or later, Chrome 27.0.1 or later, and Internet Explorer 9.0.8 or later.
In a similar way, modern browsers have enabled analytics vendors like Tableau to bring browser-based authoring not only to the desktop but to mobile devices as well (see related article, Tableau 8 Roadshow). If the existence of Tableau 8 and Apple iWork for iCloud isn’t enough proof that the time is right for Java-free Web Intelligence, perhaps the existence of SAP KB 1754269 and SAP KB 1868143 is.
In Apple’s Java plug-in for OS X, for reasons related to platform security, Apple has blocked some of the APIs used by the BI 4.0 Web Intelligence Rich Internet Application (Java Applet). We are working with Apple to design and implement a fix. We plan to deliver a fix in H1 2013.
Web Intelligence relies on Java for many of its advanced features (see related article, The Other Web Intelligence Feature Gap). After being criticized for Java-based security holes, Apple has released new Java updates that have the unfortunate side-effect of crippling Web Intelligence. A difficult spot for a company that appears on SAP’s customer list as well as its supported platforms list.
Even Windows PCs think the Web Intelligence Java Report Panel is unsafe (see my related article on EV Technologies blog, Is Web Intelligence Unsafe?).
I am ready for SAP to deliver 100% SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence with zero plug-ins. I have no inside knowledge that SAP is working toward this goal. But I hope that I’ll see a developer labs preview on the upcoming SAP BusinessObjects User Conference keynote stage.
SAP KB 1930493 – When using the Java viewer or Rich Internet Application for web intelligence with Java 7 update 45, a Java warning pop up appears every time you close it
SAP KB 1904873 – Web Intelligence Rich Internet Applet loads slower after installing Java 7 Update 25
SAP KB 1899825 – Expired Web Intelligence Java Certificates for SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0
SAP KB 1851792 – In BI 4.x and XI 3.1 when using Java 7 update 21 and Java 6 update 45 when you close the Web Intelligence Rich Internet Application in the browser you will get a prompt to Block unsafe components
SAP KB 1754269 – When will Web Intelligence Rich Internet Application support Apple Safari 6 browser?
Some serious (really) reflection on the future of the SAP BI platform.
Last month, I took a light-hearted look at the future of the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence platform (see related article, A Glimpse of SAP BusinessObjects BI 5.0). This month, I’d like to make some serious predictions about what the next major iteration of SAP’s BI platform will look like. There’s no public roadmap or timetable for the next major release. SAP is putting the final touches on BI 4.1– which should go into General Availability (GA) later this year. And SAP is already making noises about BI 4.2 coming in 2014.
But it’s fun to dream. Let’s begin!
64-bit Client Tools
I predict that the first broad theme of the BI 5.0 release will be fully 64-bit code. With the server platform already mostly (but not entirely) 64-bit, I predict that BI 5.0 will be the first release of SAP’s BI suite to not include 32-bit client tools. By the time BI 5.0 arrives, 32-bit Windows XP will be officially retired and most corporate desktops will be running modern 64-bit operating systems.
SAP hasn’t made any official announcements, but to get to a 64-bit-only world, we’ll need a transition period where client tools are, like SAP Lumira (formerly SAP Visual Intelligence), offered in both 32-bit and 64-bit editions. SAP Data Services already offers its design tools in both 32-bit and 64-bit flavors. SAP Lumira was exclusively 64-bit when introduced, but enough customers balked so SAP responded with a 32-bit edition (SAP Visual Intelligence 1.07 in December 2012). For Not So Big Data, I guess.
Some of the existing 32-bit client tools, such as Crystal Reports 2011/2013, have already been classified as “legacy,” meaning that SAP will use the transition to 64-bit to leave these tools in the cyber dustbin of history. Here are some of the side-effects of a 64-bit-only future.
The End of Desktop Intelligence (finally)
While SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 marked the formal end of Desktop Intelligence, this year’s BI 4.1 will mark the formal return of Desktop Intelligence. Sort of (see related article, Desktop Intelligence – Back for a Limited Time). But as Desktop Intelligence is a 32-bit client, it will not find a home in the brave new world of BI 5.0. Unless SAP reconsiders my Desktop Intelligence fantasy (see related article, Hell Freezes Over).
The End of Crystal Reports 2011/2013 and Business View Manager
As part of the BI 4.0 launch, SAP introduced Crystal Reports for Enterprise, a fresh start for Crystal Reports based on the Eclipse platform. Although a feature gap presently exists between Crystal Reports 2011 (soon to be Crystal Reports 2013) and Crystal Reports for Enterprise, the gap will be largely closed. Expect Crystal Reports for Enterprise 5.0 to be the only edition of Crystal Reports compatible with the BI 5.0 suite. And goodbye Business View Manager (and therefore Business Views). It was fun while it lasted.
The End of Xcelsius
With the road map for SAP Dashboards paving a freeway to Design Studio (see related articles, The Future of SAP Dashboardsand Between an Xcelsius Rock and a Dashboard Design Hard Place), expect Dashboards (formerly known as Xcelsius) to not be part of the BI 5.0 suite. Buried next to it will be Live Office (we’re hearing rumors of Live Office functionality moving to Analysis for Microsoft Office) and Query as a Web Service (QaaWS).
The End of the (Classic) Universe
Although it’s entirely possible that BEx will be the only supported semantic layer in BI 5.0 (just kidding), it’s more likely that the classic UNV universe will be retired in favor of the UNX universe. The current Universe Design Tool (formerly known as Designer) is 32-bit code that will not be transitioning to 64-bit. Expect this one to be as controversial as the retirement of Desktop Intelligence, with the current UNX generating Information Design Tool widely perceived as immature in comparison to its 32-bit UNV generating ancestor.
Plug-In Free Browsing
I predict that the second broad theme of the BI 5.0 suite will be plug-in free browsing, largely based on HTML 5. Not only will this move be good news for desktops, it will help SAP further its “Mobile First” strategy for analytics.
The End of Adobe Flash
I predict that BI 5.0 will be the first version of the platform to completely eliminate Adobe Flash. I killed off the 32-bit Xcelsius/Dashboards tool in the previous section. The other major component relying on Adobe Flash is the data discovery tool known as Explorer. While the upcoming Explorer 4.1 architecture will largely be unchanged from the current 4.0, expect Explorer to either gradually or abruptly end its dependence on Adobe Flash (see related article, Family Planning).
The End of Java
I predict that BI 5.0 will be the first version of the platform to eliminate both ActiveX and Java plug-ins. While Crystal Reports on the BI 4.0 platform still offers ActiveX and Java-based viewers in addition to HTML, expect them to be retired in favor of an HTML 5 approach. Similarly, Web Intelligence 4.0 offers both a Web and a “Rich Internet Application” (aka Java) edition. Unfortunately, the Rich Internet Application offers robust functionality compared to its “Poor Internet Application” web-based cousin (see related article, The Other Web Intelligence Feature Gap). But expect this to change. With Tableau having recently introduced mobile and web authoring in Tableau 8 (see related article, Tableau 8 Roadshow), perhaps we’ll see similar functionality in Visual Intelligence- and hopefully Web Intelligence- long before BI 5.0 arrives.
Not Your Father’s BW
I predict that the third broad theme of BI 5.0 will be a reimagined Business Warehouse that fully embraces technology from both SAP HANA and SAP Sybase (for the latter, see SAP Mentor Clint Vosloo’s related SCN article, SAP’s big play in the EDW Space – But does any-one know about it?). Unlike traditional BusinessObjects customers who are told that all of their favorite toys are being taken away, BW customers are reassuringly told that “BW isn’t going anywhere”. BW may not be going anywhere, but it will be going faster.
As SAP HANA matures we’ll see it transform from one of many possible database foundations for BW to the premier database foundation for BW. SAP HANA is also moving from simply a database server to a robust application server. Read this excerpt from Thomas Jung’s recent article about SAP HANA Extended Application Services,
The core concept of SAP HANA Extended Application Services is to embed a full featured application server, web server, and development environment within the SAP HANA appliance itself. However this isn’t just another piece of software installed on the same hardware as SAP HANA; instead SAP has decided to truly integrate this new application services functionality directly into the deepest parts of the SAP HANA database itself, giving it an opportunity for performance and access to SAP HANA differentiating features that no other application server has.
So it’s likely that SAP HANA DNA will show up in the BI 5.0 platform in places that we don’t expect it today.
The Road Ahead
If these predictions are correct, a lot of legacy code will be pruned from the SAP BI platform. Could SAP BI 5.0 be the lean and fast Snow Leopard edition I’ve been waiting for (see related article, SAP BusinessObjects Snow Leopard Edition)? We must wait and see.
What are your thoughts about a future BI 5.0 platform?
Much attention has focused on the Web Intelligence feature gap with Desktop Intelligence. But recent security concerns have focused attention on the other Web Intelligence feature gap.
Ever since the 2004 BusinessObjects roadmap described the eventual retirement of Desktop Intelligence, much attention has been paid to the feature gap between Desktop Intelligence and its successor Web Intelligence. Today, the feature gap is much more narrow than it was in Web Intelligence 6.0 or even Web Intelligence XI R1 or XI R2 (remember when lack of support for synchronized data providers was a big deal?). And Web Intelligence has evolved to contain exclusive features like input controls, advanced charting and mobility support. When Desktop Intelligence disappeared with the release of SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 two years ago, concerns from long-term customers become more pronounced. The forthcoming Desktop Intelligence Compatibility Pack will debut later this year in BI 4.1 to address those concerns. And the current product roadmap will continue closing the Deski-to-Webi feature gap in BI 4.1 and BI 4.2.
But there is a second Web Intelligence feature gap that demands increasing attention, and that is the gap between the HTML (web) and Java-based (Rich Internet Application) versions of Web Intelligence. The best Web Intelligence experience has always required Java in the web browser and BI 4.0 is no exception. The web version continues to evolve but is always behind its more powerful Java-based relative.
Here are the preferences in the SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 InfoView portal:
And here are similar preferences in the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 BI Launch Pad:
Despite the name changes from version to version, there’s always a Java and a non-Java version of Web Intelligence.
In BI 4.0, the following features are currently exclusive to the Java-based Rich Internet Application:
Query support for BEx and Analysis Views
Custom Cascading Style Sheets
Custom number formats
Many usability features in the Java-based UI, including Data View
There’s also a third feature gap- Web Intelligence features like bullet graphs and scorecards that are only supported on the Mobile BI app- but I’ll discuss those in a future article.
Ten years ago, it was impossible to create rich, engaging web applications without relying on plugins like Java or Adobe Flash. However, today’s modern browsers provide a different canvas for application developers to paint on. Tomorrow, on Wednesday, March 6, 2013, ASUG and SAP will present a webcast entitled What’s New in Web Intelligence 4.1. I hope that we’ll see that the roadmap for Web Intelligence leads to a Java-free future.
How is your organization coping with Java security woes?
Some important changes regarding Java are in the works for SAP BusinessObjects BI customers.
Some important changes regarding Java are in the works for SAP BusinessObjects BI customers. Java 6 will officially reach its end of life in February 2013 but SAP is already removing it from the latest editions SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 and SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0. Java 7 support is coming to the BI platform, but not here just yet. I have detailed these changes on the EV Technologies blog.