SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, R.I.P.

Is this the end of the line for SAP BusinessObjects Explorer?

SAP BusinessObjects Explorer Tombstone

BusinessObjects tool selection, circa 2004.

Desktop Intelligence is like smoking. If you’re not presently using Desktop Intelligence, don’t start.

SAP BusinessObjects tool selection, circa October 2012

If you’re not presently using SAP BusinessObjects Xcelsius, don’t start using it.

Yours truly in Between an Xcelsius Rock and Dashboard Hard Place

SAP BusinessObjects tool selection, circa September 2014

If you’re not presently using SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, don’t start using it.

As part of the simplification of its analytics portfolio, SAP has decided to fold Explorer functionality into Lumira.

SAP BI Simplified Portfolio

 

Lumira Server uses the SAP HANA platform, so it’s not going to be immediately attractive to every customer- especially one that doesn’t use the SAP Business Suite. For customers that won’t adopt Lumira Server and SAP HANA, SAP plans to support Explorer “as-is”.

In these situations, like with SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, we won’t make you move your existing content. We’ll respect that existing investment, allow you to continue with what you have today, and at the same time start to bring ‘Explorer-like’ capabilities into the converged BI experience (in this case, SAP Lumira).

Jayne Landry, Run Simple: Convergence of the SAP BusinessObjects BI Product Portfolio

After the recent #askSAP webcast, I still had my doubts, which I voiced on Twitter.

Explorer as-is for customers on the XI 3.1 platform is a product that SAP stopped developing in 2012 for a platform that won’t officially be retired until the end of 2015. Customers currently patching XI 3.1 to the latest SP6 or SP7 have to cross their fingers and pray that SAP BusinessObjects Explorer XI 3.2 SP4 will still work properly.

Explorer-32-No-Longer-In-Maintenance-01A

Explorer-32-No-Longer-In-Maintenance-02A

Explorer as-is for customers using the BI 4 platform is a product that hasn’t seen a significant update since the addition of exploration views in BI 4.0 Feature Pack 3. Explorer has some clearly unique and attractive features in the larger SAP BI portfolio but is in need of modernization and refinement (see my wish list in related article, Family Planning or listen to the Diversified Semantic Layer podcast, Explorer Gets No Love).

SAP recently announced a HANA-free edition of Lumira Server, to be named Lumira, Edge Edition (see SAP Community Network Article, SAP Lumira, Edge edition: What Is It?). But it remains unclear if Lumira, Edge Edition will provide a HANA-free migration path for existing Explorer customers or merely a server back-end to support SAP Lumira Desktop. Perhaps we’ll learn more about Explorer’s future during tomorrow’s #askSAP community call, How SAP Lumira stacks up against the competition.

Customers already meeting business challenges with Explorer should continue to do so. But I’m still unsure that adopting Explorer is wise for customers who haven’t yet begun to use it, without a clear migration path that doesn’t require SAP HANA. Perhaps “don’t start using it” is too strong advice. But like smoking or using Desktop Intelligence, SAP analytics customers should carefully weigh the risks before starting what could turn into a nasty habit.

What are your thoughts on the roadmap for SAP BusinessObjects Explorer? Would you still recommend it’s first-time use in 2014?

SAP Lumira and Eclipse

Is SAP Lumira standing in Tableau’s shadow or merely obscured by an Eclipse?

Is SAP Lumira standing in Tableau’s shadow or merely obscured by an Eclipse? We’ll find out on Thursday, December 11 when Jayne Landry, Ty Miller, and Henry Banks join SAP Mentor John Appleby for a conversation about How SAP Lumira stacks up against the competition (click link to learn more and register).

Lumira Splash ScreenEclipse is an open source integrated development environment and is primarily used to write and debug software in a multitude of programming languages. Eclipse has been adopted by SAP as the foundation behind many of its development tools like SAP HANA Studio, Design Studio, Crystal Reports for Enterprise, and the Information Design Tool. Eclipse is also the foundation for business user tools like SAP Lumira. Eclipse is attractive to SAP because of its broad industry support. Because it’s built with Java-based technology, it provides SAP flexibility in reassigning software developers across multiple projects without the need for retraining.

SAP Lumira and Active Directory

One of the drawbacks of Eclipse is the integration of Microsoft Active Directory. It’s done via Kerberos and requires manual configuration, similar to how BI administrators configure Active Directory on the BI platform. I particularly enjoy the whining from universe developers when they figure out they have to manually set up AD. Every single time they patch the Information Design Tool.

Just like the Information Design Tool, Lumira also requires manual configuration of Active Directory (see SAP KB 1995864Cannot connect to Universe using Windows AD from SAP Lumira desktop). Every time Lumira is updated (which is frequent- Lumira is presently on version 1.20 as of this writing). Annoying IT-savvy developers is one thing, but annoying business users is different altogether, especially since users can outnumber developers by orders of magnitude in a typical organization.

Eclipse vs Native Apps

In addition to the manual AD setup, one of my other concerns about Lumira is the potential overhead that Eclipse adds versus if Lumira was a native bare-metal Windows application. Since there isn’t yet a Mac-native version of SAP Lumira, I currently run it locally on a 4 GB virtual machine or on a hefty Windows Server via Remote Desktop. Neither method is suited to accurately demonstrating how responsive the Lumira user experience is on a high-performance desktop or laptop.

SAP Lumira + Design Studio = Match Made in Heaven

While there are some drawbacks to SAP’s use of Eclipse, there are also benefits. Eclipse provides a common platform to support interoperability across the toolset. SAP’s simplification strategy goes beyond simply narrowing down a sprawling analytics portfolio to two tools- Lumira for business users and Design Studio for developers. It’s about allowing these business users and developers to work together on a common platform for creating analytics. SAP Lumira 1.20 and SAP Design Studio 1.4 are the first releases that begin to fulfill SAP’s vision of interoperability and we’ll see this trend accelerate with the Lumira and Design Studio releases planned for 2015.

 

SAP BI Simplified PortfolioGiven that Crystal Reports for Enterprise, Lumira, and Design Studio are built on the Eclipse platform, one wonders if the Web Intelligence Rich Client will one day be ported to an Eclipse foundation.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to Thursday’s #askSAP community call.

What are your thoughts about SAP Lumira’s Eclipse foundation?

For Further Reading

  • Follow the #askSAP conversation on Twitter
  • Eclipse integrated development environment (IDE) on Wikipedia
  • The official Eclipse Foundation web site
  • SAP KB 1621106 – How to configure Information Design Tool (IDT) for with Microsoft Windows Active Directory (AD)
  • SAP KB 1765515 – I do not want to configure each Information Design Tool (IDT) client with AD configuration files
  • SAP KB 1995864 – How to configure SAP Lumira Desktop with Microsoft Windows Active Directory (AD)

POLL RESULTS: What do you think about SAP’s BI Strategy and Direction?

Do SAP analytics customers just not care anymore? Or simply big Phil Collins fans?

Which 80’s hit captures your reaction to today’s #askSAP webcast for BI Strategy and Direction? According to my unscientific poll, 38% of the respondents had a negative reaction ranging from “Shattered Dreams”, “What Have I Done To Deserve This”, to the most popular selection, “I Don’t Care Any More”. 32% of the respondents had a hopeful reaction, represented by songs “Things Can Only Get Better” and “Don’t You Forget About Me”. And 30% had a positive reaction, responding that “Jayne’s Getting Serious” about analytics. Those SAP customers are “Walking on Sunshine” in “Paradise” with their SAP HANA-powered analytics.

Today, Jane Landry published a follow-up piece from the webcast, #askSAP Analytics Community Call: SAP BusinessObjects BI Strategy & Roadmap Wrap-Up and Replay. There’s also a link to an extensive Q&A document that’s worth reading.

#askSAP 80's Hit Survey Results

 

I’ll leave it to others to analyze the data using SAP Lumira. Thanks to everyone that voted – it was fun!

The Videos

“I Don’t Care Any More” by Phil Collins – 22%

“Things Can Only Get Better” by Howard Jones – 18%

“Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves – 16%

“Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds – 14%

“What Have I Done to Deserve This?” by Pet Shop Boys – 12%

“Jayne’s Getting Serious” by Jon Astley – 10%

“Paradise” by Sade – 4%

“Shattered Dreams” by Johnny Hates Jazz – 4%

#askSAP and You Shall Receive

Three takeaways from this week’s #askSAP webcast for its analytics roadmap.

This Tuesday, Apple unveiled its new iPhone and Watch. While I wouldn’t consider it an unveiling- as most of the details were previously disclosed- SAP provided an #askSAP webcast to elaborate on its analytics roadmap (see related article, The Future of the SAP BI Platform, Again) and respond directly to questions posed by its customers. I caught three key messages from the #askSAP webcast.

We’re Listening

When I hear Jayne Landry speak, either directly or through her blogs, she always conveys the message that “we’re listening”. While we may quibble about the speed and direction of SAP analytics, I do believe that SAP is sincerely listening to its analytics customers more than they have in the past. Further evidence of this listening is Ty Miller’s news that SAP including Lumira Server as part of the BI platform license and creating a limited-use lower-cost HANA license to facilitate that. Even more shocking was Ty’s admission that SAP is looking at providing web access to Lumira visualizations without the need for HANA. If true, this is a welcome break from the HANA Everywhere messaging (see Steve Lucas’ SAP Insider article, SAP HANA Everywhere). I’m still confused on details and timeframes, but am looking forward to hearing more first-hand at this month’s ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference in Fort Worth, Texas.

We’re Simplifying

Bill McDermott’s message of Run Simple is taking root throughout SAP, including analytics. Folding together tools for the analyst persona like Analysis, Live Office, Explorer and Lumira makes a lot of sense. So does keeping Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence largely intact. As a big Explorer fan, the news of its functionality moving to Lumira (and therefore HANA) makes me nervous, but I’m curious to see how Explorer’s road map might change in light of Lumira w/o HANA (see previous paragraph). Sure, we all wish things would move along faster (see related article, The Future of the SAP BI Platform, Again), but I have no doubt that SAP executives agree with customers on this point.

We’d Really Rather You Didn’t Buy Those Other Smartwatches Analytics Tools

I’ve spent a lot of time this week thinking about why Apple announced a product (the Apple Watch) that won’t be available until 2015. I came up with two reasons. First, Apple wants to give developers plenty of lead time to support the watch with their apps. Second, and I believe more important than the first, Apple wants to suck the oxygen out of the smartwatch room. “Don’t even think of buying an Android watch for Christmas because we’ll have you covered in 2015.” (Fast Company came up with three theories).

SAP employed a similar strategy to Apple’s this week. At first, I wondered why SAP would schedule the webcast on a day where any news was likely to get buried under the deluge of Apple coverage. But September 9 was also the day of Tableau CEO Christian Chabot’s keynote from the Tableau Customer Conference as well as their financial analyst day (I still haven’t watched either presentation but hope to get caught up over the weekend). It’s no coincidence that SAP planned their webcast on the same day as Tableau’s keynote (and that Tableau was the only competitor mentioned by name in Steve Lucas’ latest blog post). It’s year-end budgeting time. And SAP would be eternally grateful if customers based their desktop data visualization strategy around Lumira. And keep those pesky land-and-expand Tableau desktop licenses out of the capital budgets because it isn’t the enterprise standard application dictated by corporate IT (remember those guys?).

The roadmap made clear which direction the SAP Big Data bus is headed in. But what remains unclear is when it will arrive with shipping software. No doubt we’ll be hearing more at the ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference and throughout the rest of 2014.

What did you take away from the #askSAP webcast? Be sure to place your vote for which 80’s hit captures your reaction to the #askSAP webcast for BI Strategy and Direction?

For Further Reading

POLL: What do you think about SAP’s BI Strategy and Direction?

Which 80’s hit captures your reaction to today’s #askSAP webcast for BI Strategy and Direction?

Which 80’s hit captures your reaction to today’s #askSAP webcast for BI Strategy and Direction? Polling is now closed but you can see the results here.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

The Videos

“Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves

“Paradise” by Sade

“Jayne’s Getting Serious” by Jon Astley

“Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds

“Things Can Only Get Better” by Howard Jones

“Shattered Dreams” by Johnny Hates Jazz

“What Have I Done to Deserve This?” by Pet Shop Boys

“I Don’t Care Any More” by Phil Collins

Honorable Mention

There were too many good songs for an effective poll. Here are the ones that didn’t make the final poll.

“Promises, Promises” by Naked Eyes

“I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) by George Michael and Aretha Franklin

“Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House

“Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” by Eurythmics, suggested by Matt Hawkins

“Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley, suggested by Timo Elliott

“The Never Ending Story” by Limahl, suggested by Andy Steer

For Further Reading

9.9.2014

Today is a big day for tech news.

On September 9, 1956, Elvis Presley appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time. Today, SAP Mentor and my friend and co-worker Greg Myers will appear on a #askSAP webcast for the first time alongside SAP’s Jayne Landry, Ty Miller, and Blair Wheadon. Big news is also expected from Apple and Tableau.

Sounds like a good day to take a long lunch. At a place with great wi-fi bandwidth.

Blackberry (remember them?) isn’t jumping on the September 9th bandwagon, but will have its own See The Bigger Picture event (giant phones?) on September 24.

The Future of the SAP BI Platform, Again

Are SAP BI customers ready to trade in the Porsche 911 for a Tesla?

Red Porsche 911

Yesterday I installed the latest updates from Microsoft on my Windows 8.1 laptop. Originally promised as Windows 8.1 Update 2 with a revised start menu, Microsoft stripped the release down to just a few new features, holding back the best stuff for next year’s release of what everyone expects to be Windows 9 Windows 10 (see related Computer World article, Pointless Windows 8.1 Update 2 shows Microsoft has given up on Windows 8). New features are always welcome, no matter how small. But Microsoft seems to be struggling to achieve the annual OS updates that Apple has been delivering for the past several years, including this year’s forthcoming iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite (see related article from The Verge, The 22 most important things Apple announced at WWDC 2014).

SAP has also had difficulty finding a definitive cadence with its updates to the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence platform. After the much-delayed BI 4.0 and nice but feature-lite BI 4.1, 2014 was supposed to be the year of the rumored BI 4.2. But instead, it’s been the year of integration of SAP Lumira and SAP Lumira Server (and therefore SAP HANA) into the existing BI 4.1 release. The integration kit between the two BI platforms was shown earlier this year at SAP SAPPHIRE in Orlando, with the SAP BI4 platform described as a classic Porsche 911 and the Lumira Server platform described as a cutting-edge Tesla. But the integration kit is still in ramp-up awaiting general availability.

Tesla Motors Black

There’s no BI 4.2 on the 2014 release calendar (see related SAP BusinessObjects Maintenance Schedule Calendar). In fact, even the year-end release of BI 4.1 SP5 has recently disappeared from the calendar, no doubt a casualty of SAP transitioning BI 4 platform development to Bangalore as all-things-Lumira takes center stage in SAP offices around the globe. So it looks like SAP BusinessObjects users will end 2014 with two versions of Crystal Reports, two semantic layer designers (the Universe Design Tool and the Information Design Tool), three versions of Web Intelligence (Java, HTML, and Rich Client), two dashboarding tools (Xcelsius/Dashboards and Design Studio), Explorer effectively marooned on an Adobe Flash desert island, and now two BI platforms- the classic SAP BI4 platform and the new HANA-based Lumira Server platform. And no point release to the BI4 platform to continue progress on shrinking functionality gaps.

Yesterday, SAP announced a new BI Strategy and Direction webcast for September 9, 2014. SAP executive Jayne Landry along with Ty Miller, Blair Wheadon, and even my friend, co-worker, and SAP Mentor Greg Myers will discuss the future of SAP’s BI initiatives. You can post questions to Twitter using the #askSAP hashtag (see Jayne Landry’s blog, Unleash Your Collective Insight, and register for the webcast). September 9 is also the rumored date for Apple to announce it’s latest iPhone and iPad models, although it’s latest iOS 8 and OS X Mavericks will continue to support a large number of Apple customers with older devices.

At least we’ll see how much gas is left in the Porsche 911 tank.

Further Reading

Is your organization going to trade in its Porsche 911 for a HANA-powered Tesla? What are your thoughts on the future of the SAP BI platform?