Xcelsius and Session Management in SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.0

Increasing session timeouts for Xcelsius dashboards.

I’m currently on a team building Xcelsius 2008 SP1 dashboards using Query as a Web Service (QaaWS). I’d like to talk about the steps that we went through to increase the default timeout value of our executive dashboards. We’re currently evaluating SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 to see if it corrects some issues we’ve been encountering in XI 3.0, specifically regarding dropped sessions on Xcelsius+QaaWS dashboards that rely on the CELogonToken for the user’s identity.

Out of the box, the default timeout values for the web applications, the Web Intelligence Processing Server, and QaaWS are all 20 minutes. To increase the timeout, several activities are required.

1. Modify the session-config parameter to the desired number of minutes. For example, the default location for the InfoView web.xml is C:Program FilesBusiness ObjectsTomcat55webappsInfoViewAppWEB-INF


<session-config>
<session-timeout>60</session-timeout>
</session-config>

Do this for all web applications. According to the illuminating BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.0 InfoView and Central Management Console Session Management (available from the SAP Help Portal but sent to me by my good friend Bob Dissinger), it is “strongly recommended that when updating the time-out value for 1 web-app that all other web-apps are updated to an equal value.” So in addition to InfoViewApp, be sure to update AnalyticalReporting, InfoViewAppActions, PlatformServices, etc.

2. Next, modify the Idle Connection Timeout (minutes): parameter for the Web Intelligence Processing Server. Be sure to restart the server (off hours if a production system) so the parameter takes effect; the procedure for restart is a bit different in XI 3.x than XI R2.

 

Web Intelligence Session Timeout3. Combined, the above two actions increase the timeout for Web Intelligence documents. However, a third modification is needed specifically for QaaWS. The value for the Enterprise Session timeout is modifiable by adding a property value to the dsws.properties file in the Web Services Provider web application. This file is found in the dswsbobje.war or BusinessProcessBI.war web application in the folder WEB-INF/classes.


# Increase timeout from 20 to 65 minutes. Value set in seconds
session.timeout=3900

This last step was uncovered by my manager, Alan Mayer, and is documented in SAP KB 1244342 (S-ID required). We opted to set the value slightly higher because we would rather a user get bumped off of InfoView rather than potentially see a dashboard become inoperative.

In a future post, I’ll describe the redesigned Query as a Web Service (QaaWS) application in XI 3.1, which sports an enhanced user interface compared to versions XI R2 and XI 3.0. I’ll also talk about the plumbing changes to QaaWS as well as the inclusion of QaaWS as a management area in the CMC (hooray – we have folders!). I’ll also tell you how we migrated Xcelsius dashboards and QaaWS from XI 3.0 to XI 3.1 and why we chose Windows 2003 Server 32-bit after a brief flirtation running XI 3.0 on WIndows 2003 Server 64-bit. Until then…

2008 GBN Business Objects User Conference – Updated Presentation

As promised in today’s breakout, attendees of the GBN Business Objects User Conference in can download the final version of CMC Essentials. It contains mostly minor tweaks compared to the version that was available prior to the conference. If you weren’t able to attend the conference, all Integra Solutions presentations should be available from the Integra Solutions Library over the next few weeks.

2008 GBN Business Objects User Conference – Day 3

Today was day 3 of the GBN Business Objects conference at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas. It was the last day, so activities ended at noon with a few box lunch sessions instead of a full day of activities. Overall, the first GBN conference was a success. Sure, those of us who have attended Insight during previous years could tell that the budget was smaller (no pyrotechnics or dance troupes), but it was still a pretty good conference. After all, we had “real” breakfast this morning – fairly yummy breakfast burritos – when breakfast on day 3 last year consisted of weak coffee and NutriGrain bars out of a box.

The first breakout I attended today was… mine. My topic was CMC Essentials, comparing the security features of XI R2 and XI 3.0/XI 3.1 and demonstrating how the new Business Objects release provides improvements to administrators. A surprising number of people filled the room given that my presentation was so early on the conference’s last day. According to my colleague Dave Rathbun, several had to sit on the floor due to the lack of chairs. A big “thank you” goes out to Dave Rathbun and Amy Betten of Integra Solutions for helping everything go smoothly. Another big “thank you” goes to my very supportive local user group friends like Sandra Brotje (NOBOUG), Tammy Datri (PGBOUG chairperson), and Eileen King (NOBOUG chairperson). Even Giles Farrow of Business Objects, a long-time organizer of Business Objects user conferences, stopped by to make sure everything was going well. It’s humbling to be selected as a speaker and even more humbling to talk to a receptive audience. I’m grateful for today’s experience and hope that it was beneficial to my listeners.

Next, Meredith McLarty, also from Integra Solutions/Quorum Business Solutions presented Auditing for Anyone. Meredith compared auditing in XI R2 and XI 3.0, noting the latter’s improvements such as Desktop Intelligence auditing.

Next was Improved Lifecycle Management for Business Intelligence by David Brockington of Business Objects, who discussed the new Lifecycle Manager available with Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.1. Although it’s packaged as a separate application in this release, Lifecycle Manager will be integrated into the CMC in its next release. Business Objects customers currently use the Import Wizard for LCM, which can be challenging. I’m looking forward to working with this new capability.

The last breakout I attended was Creating More Meaningful Data Visualizations in Xcelsius by Dan Robertson, a senior sales consultant with Business Objects. Dan presented some very helpful best practices for visualization projects. I had met Dan, a Michigan resident, at a NOBOUG meeting last year. As with Tim Ziemba’s appearance on Monday, Business Objects would do well to send more support engineers and sales consultants to these events to share their expertise. Nice job, Dan.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back to work on my exciting executive dashboard project. I’ll be creating BIAR files and taking backups as we plan to upgrade our environment from XI 3.0 to XI 3.1.

I’m curious how many of my readers attended the GBN this year and what their overall impressions were. As always, feel free to post your comments.

2008 Global BusinessObjects Network User Conference – Day 1

Day one of GBN 2008

Today was the first day of the GBN Business Objects conference at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas. It started with a keynote from John Schwartz, CEO of Business Objects, now a division of SAP. John used sailing metaphors to encourage organizations to continue making strides with business intelligence to help weather economic storms. There were no new product introductions, as the flagship BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 was quietly released earlier in the month. However, there were a few product demonstrations from the Business Objects Labs, such as the ability to post back data to a data source. Conspicuously absent was any discussion of the product roadmap. Also conspicuously absent was Bernard Liautaud, founder of Business Objects. No offense to John, but Bernard’s absence was yet another reminder of the consequences of adding “a division of SAP” to the Business Objects corporate logo.

Next, Ryan Goodman gave a well-attended session entitled “Next Generation of Dashboards Using Xcelsius 2008”. There wasn’t much new information for existing Xcelsius 2008 customers, but he did take the time to show off the new custom Xcelsius components developed by his company, Centigon Solutions.

One of the best sessions I attended was by Tom Nather of the Cleveland Clinic, entitled “Implement Sign On with Dashboards and Xcelsius 2008”. He was joined on stage by Tim Ziemba, a Business Objects support engineer, and discussed SSO using both Trusted Authentication and Vintela. These gentlemen did a great job going narrow and deep on an important topic that has historically not been well documented by Business Objects. Note to Business Objects: get more knowledgeable support engineers like Tim in front of customers at these events.

The least useful presentation of the day goes to Business Objects, with their “Where is Business Objects Headed with Dashboards and Scorecards”. After being promised with the latest information, it appears that the answer is “We don’t know, check back in 2010”. On the Dashboards and Visualization side, the answer is clear: Xcelsius, Xcelsius, Xcelsius!!! Oh, and Dashboard Builder, which as of earlier this year is included as “standard” on all Business Objects Enterprise and Business Objects Edge Series editions. The real mystery is regarding performance management. The end of life (EOL) has been declared for analytics in Dashboard Builder as well as the existing Performance Manager product. These features/products are being phased out in favor of the ironically named SAP Strategy Management, obtained by SAP’s February 2007 acquisition of Pilot Software. Ironic, as nobody at Business Objects seems to be clearly managing the strategy for performance management. The lights in the auditorium went out several times during the presentation, perhaps a metaphor for the current product roadmap, which consisted of black text on dark brown boxes – very illuminating indeed.

Day one of the conference concluded with “Virtually Yours, a great presentation on virtualization and Business Objects. And I’m not just saying this because the presentation was given by Alan Mayer, my manager at Integra Solutions. Alan was joined on stage by James Landis of Southwest Airlines. The breakout provided solid information about both the benefits and challenges of using products such as VMware. It was a timely topic that provided balance to the seemingly endless Xcelsius 2008 breakouts that saturate this year’s conference schedule.

2008 GBN Business Objects User Conference – Preview

Monday is the beginning of the Global Business Objects Network’s (GBN) annual Business Objects User Conference in Dallas, Texas. This will be the first Business Objects user conference since merger with SAP, the first post-Insight user conference, and (at least for me) the first user conference held during a downturn in the overall US economy.

I’m looking forward to networking with my peers, consuming fajitas and guacamole, and presenting my breakout, CMC Essentials. My presentation focuses on Business Objects security administration, comparing XI R2 against XI 3.0 and XI 3.1. I’ll begin with a brief history of Business Objects administration, then move onto the security features that XI R2 and XI 3.x share. Most of my time will be spent discussing and demonstrating the the new security features of XI 3.x like custom access levels, scope of rights, the Permissions Explorer and Security Query.

On a personal note, it’s my first breakout as a member of Integra Solutions, a business unit of Quorum Business Solutions. As Darth Vader said, “The circle is now complete.” When I attended my first Business Objects conference in 2005, I had never heard of Integra Solutions but attended several breakout sessions by Alan Mayer, Dave Rathbun and others. Now, these outstanding professionals are my friends and co-workers. Please join Integra Solutions at the following breakout sessions:

Virtually Yours, by Alan Mayer and James Landis
Monday, October 20, 2008
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Wedgewood

Extreme Reporting, by Alan Mayer
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
9:15 AM – 10:15 AM
Wedgewood

Universe Designer Essentials and Beyond, by Dave Rathbun
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
1:30 PM – 2:30 PM
Wedgewood

CMC Essentials, by Dallas Marks
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
8:00 AM – 9:00 AM
Metropolitan Ballroom

Auditing for Anyone, by Meredith McLarty
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
9:15 AM – 10:15 AM
Metropolitan Ballroom

I’ll be blogging live from the conference. See you in Dallas!

Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.1 now available!

UPDATE: The Business Objects web site was updated yesterday, 10/08/2008, the same day as my previous post was published.

In addition to adding .NET support, which was omitted from initial XI 3.0 launch, there are new features, small and great, sprinkled throughout the entire platform. As an instructor, I’ll be looking forward getting my new XI 3.1 manuals to see how new features like Content Lifecycle Management (LCM) are covered.

All information. All people. One platform. But I’d still like a new XI 3.1 T-shirt and bumper sticker…

Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.1 now available?

SAP Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.1is here. Maybe.

It appears that SAP Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.1 has been quietly released. Yes? No? Maybe? Where’s the fanfare? The official press release? And my free T-shirt and bumper sticker?

I was able to download the ISO image from the old Business Objects ESD site, although it appears to also be available from the SAP Support Portal. I assume that the ESD site will be sunsetted after the bitter taste of last July’s support migration disappears, although I find it easier to navigate than SAP’s alternative. The documentation for XI 3.1 is available from the SAP Help Portal.

I’ll try to build a virtual machine over the next few days and report my findings. It’s been a bit hectic between my executive dashboard project and upcoming user conference presentation in Dallas, Texas. Assuming that the build is error-free, a reasonable concern given Business Objects’ track record, my client will also be installing XI 3.1 on a test server.

According to this BusinessObjects Board (BOB) thread, it doesn’t seem like anyone has performed a successful install yet. Have you installed XI 3.1? Your results to this blog post are welcome.

You’re not as smart as you think you are

The formula is correct – maybe.

You’ve got to admire the new confidence-building features of Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.0. When you validate a Web Intelligence formula (I’m using the Web Intelligence Rich Client here), you receive the following message:

Web Intelligence The Formula Is Correct

I must admit – receiving a message such as this one boosts your confidence, kind of like a Hallmark moment from Business Objects. It’s nice to know that Business Objects thinks you’re smart. Unfortunately, the message only means that your formula is syntactically correct. Whether or not the formula results are correct requires logical thinking and thorough testing.

If only Web Intelligence could ascertain that I had done my job correctly. Now that would be true Business Intelligence. Until then, perhaps “The formula is valid” would be a more accurate message.

Fun with 64-bit Windows and ODBC

Running 32-bit SAP BusinessObjects on 64-bit Windows OS

My current client is running Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.0 on Microsoft Windows 2003 R2 Standard 64-bit edition. This project is my first experience with a 64-bit Windows product.

Part of the project involves migrating Crystal Reports from Crystal Enterprise 10 to Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.0. Many of these reports use DataDirect ODBC drivers to the client’s Baan system. Business Objects provides free but limited versions of the DataDirect 5.3 drivers for Crystal Reports 2008, which we have installed on the Business Objects Enterprise server.

Windows 2003 Server 64-bit edition has two different ODBC data source administrators. The standard administrator via the Windows control panel only displays 64-bit system DSNs. This is not immediately obvious. Thankfully, somebody smarter than me pointed out that 32-bit system DSNs are accessed via a different version of the ODBC data source administrator.

The 32-bit version of the Odbcad32.exe file is located in the %systemdrive%WindowsSysWoW64 folder.
The 64-bit version of the Odbcad32.exe file is located in the %systemdrive%WindowsSystem32 folder.

I’m not aware of a standard shortcut to the 32-bit panel from the Windows Start menu, but of course you can easily create your own. For more information about this topic, read the Microsoft support knowledge base, article 942976.

Customizing SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1

Learn how to customize the InfoView login screen, replace the default logo, and adjust the default paper size.

I’ve had the privilege of working with a client that is currently using Crystal Reports and Crystal Enterprise 10 but wants executive dashboards. Because of the desired feature set, the client has adopted SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.0, Xcelsius 2008, and Query as a Web Service (QaaWS). This will also be my first experience with Business Objects on 64-bit Windows (see related article on 64-bit Windows and ODBC), so I’m excited.

IMPORTANT: This article covers customizations for SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI R2 and SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1.  If you’re working with later releases, please read Customizing SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 or Customizing SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1. Be aware that not every customization you can dream of is supported (see SAP KB 1218598 – Support policy on customizing SAP BusinessObjects InfoView, BI Launch Pad, and other applications).

I’m doing a bit of minor customization. I’m pleased to report that although the file locations have changed, many of the tricks used with BusinessObjects Enterprise XI Release 2 still apply.

I prefer to make a backup copy of all affected files prior to making modifications. I also encourage you to copy the modified files to a safe location unaffected by patching, as service packs and fix packs will redeploy WAR files and wipe out your customizations. If SAP BusinessObjects Explorer is part of your deployment, make sure it is installed and patched before making modifications, since the Explorer installer will also redeploy WAR files and wipe out your changes.

Changing the Default Logo
I discovered the secret location by clearing the “Display Business Objects logo” box in the CMC’s InfoView Properties, then checking the radio button for “Display custom logo”. By leaving the default value of logo.jpg, I was able to log into InfoView and display the properties of the broken image link. The default image still goes in the schema.blue folder like XI R2, but the path is now C:\Program Files\Business Objects\Tomcat55\webapps\InfoViewAppres\schema.blue.

Customizing the InfoView Login Page
The procedure for customizing the InfoView Login page is also very similar to XI Release 2, other than the web.xml file now lives at C:Program FilesBusiness ObjectsTomcat55webappsInfoViewAppWEB-INFweb.xml. As before, you’ll want to restart Apache Tomcat to see your changes in effect. Curiously, Business Objects XI 3.0 hides the CMS/cluster name and authentication type out-of-the box (frequent customization requests).

For XI Release 2, the app.name parameter controls some text on the login screen as well as the HTML <TITLE> tag throughout the user’s session. The <TITLE> tag trick is pretty cool, as the text that you choose will always be what users see when their browser window is minimized. So you may want to change the value from InfoView to CompanyName BI Portal. And the app.name.greeting, which by default is BusinessObjects, can be modified so users are greeted by Welcome to Our BI Portal instead of Welcome to BusinessObjects.

SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 handles InfoView Login page customization in a slightly different way.  The app.name.short attribute is used for the “greeting” and the <TITLE> tag of the InfoView home page while app.name is used for the <TITLE> tag of all other InfoView pages.  The app.name.greeting does not appear to be used.

Changing the Default Web Intelligence Paper Size
Although the rest of the world has standardized on A4 paper, the United States uses a slightly different Letter size. When Business Objects Enterprise is initially installed, the default page size is A4. In XI R2, this situation is easily corrected by modifying the defaultconfig.xml file. The Java and .NET versions of Web Intelligence each have their own defaultconfig.xml file.

NOTE: Existing Web Intelligence documents will still have the page size set when the document was saved; however, this modification will change the default setting for all new documents.

If you are using the included Tomcat web application server, the defaultconfig.xml file for XI R2 is located at C:Program FilesBusiness ObjectsTomcatwebappsbusinessobjectsenterprise115desktoplaunchwebiAppletAppletConfig. The defaultconfig.xml file for SAP Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.0/XI 3.1 is located in a slightly different location at C:Program FilesBusiness ObjectsTomcat55webappsAnalyticalReportingwebiAppletAppletConfig.

Changing the InfoView and CMC Favicons

The InfoView favicon, InfoView.ico, is located in the Tomcat55\webapps\InfoViewApp\res\general folder and the CMC favicon, CMC.ico, is located in the Tomcat55\webapps\CmcApp\images folder.  Make backup copies of the originals, just in case, then replace with your organization’s favicon.ico.  Explorer uses the default Tomcat favicon, located in the Tomcat55\webapps\ROOT folder, so you’ll want to replace it as well. You’ll need to restart Tomcat and possibly even delete your browser’s cache before you’ll notice the new icons in your browser.

Conclusion
That’s all I have for now. There’s no customer requirement to customize the style sheet, and the client hasn’t used their new environment long enough to want any features disabled (discussions, information on demand) by tweaking additional XML files. But stay tuned…

It’s nice to know that it’s still possible to tailor the InfoView user experience. However, the drawback to the current approach is that you’re always in danger of a service pack or fix pack overwriting these files. Perhaps a future release will add common customizations as parameters that can be controlled via the application configuration in the CMC.

UPDATE (03/15/2013): Minor updates based on an experience applying SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 SP6 (Service Pack 6).

UPDATE (08/23/2012): I renamed this article as “Customizing SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1” instead of “XI 3.0” and added details for changing favicons.

Do you have a favorite customization for XI 3.1? Please share with the world as a comment to this post.