Overdesigning BI Architecture for SAP Design Studio

Rethinking when to install the SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio server components.

SAP Design Studio 1.3 Splash

Over two years ago, SAP unveiled their roadmap and strategy for dashboards (see related article, The Future of SAP Dashboards)Today, in 2014, many SAP BusinessObjects customers have committed to a two-prong strategy of continuing to support legacy Xcelsius/Dashboards while looking for opportunities to begin using SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio, the successor to both SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards and SAP BEx Web Application Designer (WAD). In some cases, it still makes sense to prefer Dashboards over Design Studio for new projects due to the maturity gap between the products.

Practically speaking, the two-prong strategy means that many BI administrators are installing the Design Studio components as part of their new SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.x deployments. SAP releases new versions of Design Studio approximately every six months. The current version is 1.3 and version 1.4 is expected in November 2014.

The Design Studio client app opens with an attractive welcome screen featuring a breathtaking mountaintop vista.

SAP Design Studio 1.3 Welcome

Although there’s a “Getting Started” section on the welcome screen for developers, there isn’t one for BI administrators, so here is some guidance. Design Studio, like SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, is not integrated out-of-the-box with the BI platform and has both web-tier components and server components, as shown in the installation screen below.

SAP Design Studio 1.3 Features

Ideally, these Design Studio server components would be integrated into the BI 4.x platform (see related article, Please Integrate the Integrated Enterprise BI Platform). But they aren’t, so plan ahead and put specific line items in your BI 4.x project plans for Design Studio installation and configuration tasks. The additional time required to install the server components can really add up, particularly if you have a lot of nodes in your BI 4.x deployment.

Installing Design Studio Before You’re Ready

In theory, proactively getting your BI 4.x platform ready for Design Studio seems like a best practice. I’ve done it for several customers. Unfortunately, in many cases you’ll spend extra hours installing a version of Design Studio that’s obsolete before your developers are able to use it for meaningful projects. This means that you’ll spend even more time later uninstalling the old version of Design Studio server components before installing newer ones.

Uninstalling obsolete Design Studio 1.1

 

Installing Design Studio When You’re Ready

Instead of budgeting hours for Design Studio in your BI 4.x upgrade project, place them instead in your first funded Design Studio development project. In this way, you’re guaranteed not to waste effort deploying a version of Design Studio that’s obsolete before you begin using it. The planning phase of a Design Studio project is also a good time to either apply the latest patch for your BI 4.x platform’s current Support Pack level or move up to a higher Support Pack level entirely.

In the meantime, install Design Studio on a sandbox server that isn’t part of your normal Development->Test->Production software development life cycle (SDLC). A sandbox environment is also a recommended place to test BI 4.x patches before committing them to the environments you use daily. You’ll be able to satisfy the needs of curious developers who want to begin learning Design Studio and conducting functionality bake-offs between Dashboards and Design Studio. New version of the BI 4.x platform or Design Studio server components? No problem. There’s only one server to upgrade.

Conclusion

If they aren’t already, your developers should definitely be putting Design Studio to the test (see Chris Greer’s related article, Is Xcelsius the new Deski? Die, Deski, Die!, on the EV Technologies blog). Give them some quality playtime in the sandbox. But until you’re truly ready with a funded project, don’t over-design your BI 4.x environment.

Other Perspectives on SAP Design Studio

What is your experience with Design Studio? Creating new dashboards or porting existing ones from Xcelsius/Dashboards?

Land and Expand

Expanding user adoption by learning from the experts.

Land and Expand binoculars and mapMuch has been made of the “land and expand” sales strategies of data discovery vendors Tableau and Qlik. First, “land” a single license of desktop software in the middle of a data-starved organization like accounting. Then “expand” by selling additional desktop licenses to curious co-workers, eventually spreading to multiple departments then roping in IT to adopt a server or cloud-based solution. Beautiful.

But did you know that it’s possible to use a land and expand strategy with your existing enterprise BI solution?

This article won’t help you decide if your organization should invest in data discovery tools. But I hope it will provide inspiration and ideas for extracting additional value from existing investments. Here are some practical ways that your Business Intelligence Competency Center (BICC) can increase user adoption of existing enterprise business intelligence.

Make it Easy to Get Started

Take a look at the homepages of SAP Lumira, Qlik, and Tableau. Go ahead— take a look. I’ll wait.

Did you see how easy it is to download the software? All three vendors provide a “free download” link in the top right corner of their web sites. You can achieve the same goal by creating or enhancing a BICC portal on your corporate intranet such as Microsoft SharePoint. There are typically two tasks users must accomplish:

  • granting BI platform access to an existing user’s ID
  • installing any client software such as the Web Intelligence Rich Client, Live Office, or Analysis for Microsoft Office

Many organizations have been reluctant to distribute desktop software such as the Web Intelligence Rich Client. But as its name indicates, it is a richer experience (without the annoying Java warnings, too). Whether a software installation is requested by a service ticket or downloaded from a server, be sure to provide easy-to-follow instructions for getting software on your BICC portal.

Give Away Free Samples

The second thing that data discovery vendors do really well is provide sample content. Make sure that all users (for SAP BI, the Everyone group) can access a folder of curated sample content. Ideally, this sample content should use corporate universes but could also use eFashion. Make sure that the samples are generic (don’t reveal sensitive information) and perform quickly by using only small data sets.

Give Away Free Tutorials

Data discovery tools typically feature free tutorials that can be accessed from inside the software itself or from the company web site. But using inexpensive tools such as tools such as Camtasia or ScreenFlow, you can go one step further by creating tutorials that use your organization’s data instead of sample data. SAP has done a fantastic job of describing how to create free tutorials— just look at their Learn BI web site for inspiration.

Your BICC portal should also include one or more pages that list the universes or BEx queries available in the BI platform. In addition to the semantic layer name, include a brief description (cut and paste from the universe parameters), the business user point of contact, the technical point of contact, and directions for requesting access to the information.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was the SAP Learn BI site. Don’t be afraid to start small and build out a larger set of tutorials.

Give Away Free Webinars

In addition to static tutorials, hold repeating monthly or quarterly webinars. Check out this tweet from Qlik.

 

You should certainly record webinars and post the “best” one to your BICC portal. But I would encourage you to routinely (perhaps quarterly?) give live webinars because it’s a way to make the human connection with your user community. Their questions will provide valuable insight into how you can continuously improve your training materials, universes, and standard reports. Share presentation responsibilities throughout the BICC giving everyone on the team an opportunity to refine their presentation skills, even if they only handle 5 or 10 minutes of a larger presentation.

Be sure to collect data from your attendees such as name, department, job title and email address. Follow up with a quick email thanking them for their participation.

Reach Out to First-Time Casual Users

If you’ve ever downloaded a free version of a data discovery tool, you’ve seen the vendor’s CRM back-end in action. Via automation and an inside sales force, users who have downloaded the software are periodically contacted, asked if they need help, and reminded of free resources. Tools such as EV Technologies’ Sherlock can help you identify new users. Being able to cross-reference a user ID to an email address or phone number is key here. New users can also be identified by studying access requests submitted to the help desk.

Know Your Influencers

Desktop data discovery tools succeed not only because they create valuable content, but the person using it becomes a passionate evangelist for the product. In most organizations, these folks are known as “power users” and are sometimes noted as such in the BI security structure. However, just being labeled a power user doesn’t necessarily mean that you are one. Once again, tools such as EV Technologies’ Sherlock can help you identify power users by their actual activity, not just their designation in a security group (although Sherlock can do both). Look for users that create and share a large amount of content. Because power users tend to push boundaries, it can also be helpful to look at the number and type of service requests users submit to the help desk.

Monitor Key Metrics and Refine Strategy

In all cases, user activity generates data. Data can be refined into key metrics. And key metrics can be monitored to refine BICC strategy. Look for insight from the SAP BusinessObjects auditor database, usage metrics from your BICC portal, usage metrics from a self-service download site or document management system, and help desk tickets. All of these sources are capable of providing data, but most will need additional additional refinement to reveal insights. Try to budget projects around these untapped data sources as part of your BICC’s annual planning.

Does it take too long to gain access to the enterprise BI platform? Does Brenda take too long to approve access requests? Is installing software a help desk fiasco? Address pain points and continually refine your BICC strategy.

Conclusion

Does your organization need a data discovery tool? Maybe.

Does your organization already own a data discovery tool due to the land-and-expand vigilance of their vendors? Highly likely.

Is there still untapped potential in your existing enterprise business intelligence platform? A distinct possibility.

I hope this article has given you some ideas to tap that latent potential.  Some of these topics are explored in my 2010 ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference presentations, KPIs for Business Intelligence.

Please integrate the integrated enterprise BI platform

New BI functionality adds complexity to patch cycles.

Earlier this week, SAP hosted one of their ongoing SAP Analytics Innovation Community calls for Self-Service BI and SAP Lumira, hosted by my fellow Diversified Semantic Layer contributors Jamie Oswald and Josh Fletcher with presentations by SAP’s Jayne Landry, Olivier Duvelleroy, and Aaron Graber (see Nic Smith’s official wrap-up article). The SAP Lumira roadmap is a combination of here now, coming soon, and coming sometime (I think the rumored SAP Lumira Desktop for Mac OS X falls in the latter category). But the big news (from my perspective) was the announcement that Lumira Server, currently in ramp-up and soon to be generally available, will be included in the BI Suite license. Lumira Server is built on SAP’s HANA platform and will offer us a glimpse into what I believe is SAP’s future-state BI platform (see related article, Thoughts on BI 5.0).

Lumira In-Memory Add-on to BOE in Service Marketplace

Allowing early adopters to get a preview of the future is smart marketing on SAP’s part. But I, like many SAP BI practitioners, must live in the present with the current platform. Let’s consider the upgrade from BI 4.0 to BI 4.1, which consists of- at a minimum- two components. A base installation or upgrade of the BI 4.1 platform, for example BI 4.1 SP2 and possibly a patch, such as the now-available BI 4.1 Patch 2.2. A similar patching strategy is required on the desktop, where you might have the BI 4.1 platform client tools (Web Intelligence, Information Design Tool, etc.), Dashboards, Crystal Reports 2013, and Crystal Reports for Enterprise.

SAP_BusinessObjects_Patch_Strategy_01

But what if you are using Explorer? Now there are four moving parts: the BI 4.1 platform, the separate Explorer 4.1 installation, and a patch for each.

SAP_BusinessObjects_Patch_Strategy_02

SAP BusinessObjects Explorer has been a separate installation since its debut as Polestar on the XI R2 platform. But I had hoped that BI 4.0 would integrate its installation with the rest of the platform. Because Explorer retains its Adobe Flash foundation, no doubt SAP has decided to defer tight integration with the BI platform until an HTML5-based successor is available, which unfortunately wasn’t the case when BI 4.1 shipped last year.

Using Design Studio? SAP Design Studio is the current successor to BEx Web Application Designer and eventual successor for Xcelsius/Dashboards. You’ll need to install the Design Studio server components, which are also an add-on to the BI platform. To make things more interesting, Design Studio has its own product life cycle with unique versioning, product availability matrix, and documentation because it is capable of generating stand-alone applications that aren’t strictly tied to the SAP BusinessObjects BI platform. So today you’ll have the Design Studio 1.2 server components and possibly a service pack, as Design Studio tends to be patched to maintain compatibility with SAP HANA’s latest patch levels. So far, my experience is that the Design Studio server components installer is particularly lethargic. And don’t forget to patch the Design Studio client application.

SAP_BusinessObjects_Patch_Strategy_03

Based on what I heard this week, the diagram below is my approximation of what is involved to run SAP Lumira Server as part of your environment (sidenote – Microsoft Visio does a terrible job with color selection when exporting JPG and PNG files).

SAP_BusinessObjects_Patch_Strategy_04

There will be a separate plug-in for the BI 4.1 environment (and eventually a patch, I presume) and the platform software and a patch for the SAP Lumira server. As with Design Studio, I would expect software availability on both sides to not be based on the BI 4.1 patching schedule. With new releases of SAP Lumira Desktop approximately every 6 weeks, the odds of needing to patch your environment to take advantage of new features (similar for what we already do with SAP Mobile BI and SAP HANA) are high. UPDATE: SAP is revising their BI4 + Lumira Integration Strategy (see related SAP Community Network article, Planned Native Integration of Lumira into BI Platform Details).

SAP’s recent work to support parallel node patching is helpful. You’ll want to download Foroohar Rafiei’s Patching Strategies and Best Practices + Parallel Patching guide from the SAP Community Network (SCN).

But can I gently suggest that there are simply too many moving parts here?

SAP Lumira is part of SAP’s response to desktop data discovery competitors like Tableau and Qlik. But another part of SAP’s response is the message that “those vendors do not have a true Enterprise BI solution”. I’m speculating that we’ll eventually get an HTML 5 version of Explorer + Lumira in a blender that will eliminate some of the current pieces. But it is extremely inconvenient that SAP has placed platform integration on customer shoulders instead of integrating the pieces in-house. Until they do, line-of-business users are going to continue to perceive IT’s lack of agility in platform support as further reasons to head to the cloud, with or without SAP as the vendor of choice. Even if SAP can quickly port existing BI apps like Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence to the HANA-based Lumira Server platform (heck- if they’re even planning to- we simply don’t know right now), I believe many customers will remain with the current BI 4.x platform, as they did with Desktop Intelligence, for many years to come.

For now, BI administrators should carefully estimate their BI 4.1 upgrade estimates based on the number of nodes and number of software components.

This article barely scratches the surface of this week’s Self Service BI and SAP Lumira webcast. What are your impressions?

SAP BusinessObjects Support for Microsoft Internet Explorer 11

Microsoft IE11 may be “fast and fluid” but first be sure your BI platform patch level provides support.

Microsoft Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 7

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.

Microsoft IE 11 for Windows 7 01 600

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 8.1and 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 8.1and 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.

Conclusion

SAP has come a long way from 2011 when getting support for the then-current Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 was a challenge (see Courtney Bjorlin‘s ASUG News article, Waiting on SAP, User Communities Fix SAP BusinessObjects Browser Woes). My hunch is that most customers are still using IE 9 as their standard, but it’s great to see that SAP is prepared for their customers who want to use the latest browser technology.

Download the Product Availability Matrix (PAM)

Additional Resources

  • SAP Note 2043598 – “View in PDF Format, please wait” dialog box appears in IE 11 and never closes (fixed in XI 3.1 SP6, XI 3.1 SP7, BI 4.0 and BI 4.1, but check the note for required patch level)

Sizing the Adaptive Processing Server in BI 4.1

The Server Configuration Wizard just might be the best new feature of SAP BI 4.1.

This week, I installed SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 SP1 as an upgrade to an existing SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 SP6 environment. BI 4.1 brings a lot of small refinements to the BI 4.0 platform but still whets our appetites for the release of BI 4.2 next year.

The Adaptive Processing Server

The Adaptive Processing Server in SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 contained twenty-one discrete services. BI 4.0 Feature Pack 3 added the Insight to Action Service. And if the optional Design Studio server components are installed, there will be a total of twenty-four discrete services in a single Adaptive Processing Server.

  1. Adaptive Connectivity Service
  2. Analysis Application Service (optional Design Studio server component)
  3. BEx Web Applications Service
  4. Client Auditing Proxy Service
  5. Custom Data Access Service
  6. Data Federation Service
  7. Document Recovery Service
  8. DSL Bridge Service
  9. Excel Data Access Service
  10. Insight to Action Service (BI 4.0 FP3 and higher)
  11. Lifecycle Management ClearCase Service
  12. Lifecycle Management Service
  13. Monitoring Service
  14. Multi Dimensional Analysis Service (MDAS)
  15. Platform Search Service
  16. Publishing Post Processing Service
  17. Publishing Service
  18. Rebean Service
  19. Security Token Service
  20. Translation Service
  21. Visual Difference Service
  22. Visualization Service
  23. Web Intelligence Monitoring Service

Introducing the System Configuration Wizard

Deciding what to do with the Adaptive Processing Server was probably the single most difficult thing in planning and sizing a SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 environment. Over time, SAP provided much better documentation and a fairly cookbook approach to how to split the Adaptive Processing Server and modify Java heap sizes.

Most of these best practices have been incorporated into a new System Configuration Wizard that can be found in the BI 4.1 Central Management Console.

BI41 System Configuration Wizard Icon

The adventure awaits…
BI41 System Configuration Wizard Medium 600 01

It’s not a wizard unless it has a chipper greeting.
BI41 System Configuration Wizard Medium 600 02

Select the products you are using. This step goes beyond just the Adaptive Processing Server configuration and will shut down services that you’re not using. I’ll keep all of them selected.
BI41 System Configuration Wizard Medium 600 03

The next step is to choose server node capacity. Although my server has 32 GB RAM, I’m going to choose the 15-25 GB, or Medium, setting. Notice that the wizard will create 7 Adaptive Processing Servers with this selection.
BI41 System Configuration Wizard Medium 600 04

Next, choose the folders for the file repositories, logs, and temp space. In this case I’m upgrading from BI 4.0 and I’d like to keep my existing configuration.
BI41 System Configuration Wizard Medium 600 05

Almost there. Time to review how the wizard has been configured.
BI41 System Configuration Wizard Medium 600 06

Are you sure?
BI41 System Configuration Wizard Medium 600 07

The mystic portal awaits!
BI41 System Configuration Wizard Medium 600 08

Changes are completed. You can download a log file as well as a response file.
BI41 System Configuration Wizard Medium 600 09

Java Heap Space

A subtle but much appreciated improvement in BI 4.1 is the UI for the command line parameters. Here’s the text box in BI 4.0.

BI 4.0 APS Command Line Parameters

And here’s the improved text box in BI 4.1.

BI 4.1 APS Command Line Parameters

It is now possible to set the -Xms and -Xmx parameters without waiting what seems like hours for the command line to scroll by as it did in BI 4.0. Notice that -Xms now defaults to 512m instead of 32m and -Xmx defaults to 2g instead of 1g. BI 4.1 also adds the +UseParallelOldGC garbage collection parameter, mentioned in the latest SAP BusinessObjects Sizing Companion Guide, that is supposed to improve performance.

Issues with the System Configuration Wizard

I’m really pleased with how the System Configuration Wizard turned out in its first incarnation. But there are a few minor bugs that are worthy of correction.

SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 and Design Studio

You’ll want to take time to review what the Server Configuration Wizard did and possibly make some adjustments. My only gripe here is that the service for Design Studio is not recognized by the wizard. The two servers that contained my Analysis service, BEx Web Applications service and MDAS service are still intact but they only contain Design Studio’s Analysis service. I will manually move it to the [node].APS.Analysis service, which is where the BEx Web Applications service and MDAS service now reside.
BI41 System Configuration Wizard Medium 600 10 Blur

After calling SAP Support and being told that this behavior was “by design”, I created an “enhancement” on the SAP Idea Place. Would you consider voting for my idea to include Design Studio functionality in the Server Configuration Wizard?

Duplicate CAPS Servers

For BI 4.1 SP1, both the Small (S) and Extra Large (XL) configurations create a duplicate Client Auditing Proxy Service. In each case, it’s easy enough to remedy. For the Small configuration, stop the [node name].APS.Core server and remove the redundant service. For the Extra Large configuration, the redundant CAPS is in the [node name].APS.Monitoring server.

Default File Names for Log and Response Files

The default file names for the log and response files are unique, but I wished they included the server node name, as I’d like to copy them off to a common location and remember which environment to associate them with.

Conclusion

After two years of trial and error and a lot of reading, the Adaptive Processing Server is a lot less intimidating than it was when BI 4.0 went GA back in September 2011. The new System Configuration Wizard in BI 4.1 is well done and may be the most important feature worth upgrading to BI 4.1. Well, that and the Desktop Intelligence Compatibility Pack, of course.

Resources

Are you upgrading to SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1? I’d love to hear some other upgrade experiences.

Customizing SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 and BI 4.2

SAP BI 4.1 introduces a new look and a new wrinkle to the customization process.

NOTE: The techniques described here also work with SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.2.

SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 went into general availability on August 29, 2013 (see related EV Technologies article, SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 Now in General Availability). In addition to combining fixes from previous releases and introducing new features and platform support, there were some minor changes in how the BI Launchpad can be customized. I’ll walk through the changes in the properties file in this article and address the CSS customization features introduced in SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 Support Pack 4 in a future article.

Apache Tomcat 7

The first thing to notice about SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 is that it installs Apache Tomcat 7 as the default web application server in place of Apache Tomcat 6 (SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 uses Tomcat 8). For upgrades to earlier versions, the installer will leave the Apache 6 files at C:Program Files (x86)SAP BusinessObjectsTomcat6 and install Apache Tomcat 7 in the adjacent C:Program Files (x86)SAP BusinessObjectstomcat.

Customization Basics

Starting with BI 4.0, SAP uses properties files that can be easily changed using a text editor instead of the XML files used by XI 3.1. These files can be preserved during patch updates by following some simple steps.

The default location for properties files is the C:Program Files (x86)SAP BusinessObjectstomcatwebappsBOEWEB-INFconfigdefault directory. To modify properties from their defaults, copy the desired properties file from the default directory to the adjacent custom directory, which is C:Program Files (x86)SAP BusinessObjectstomcatwebappsBOEWEB-INFconfigcustom.  To make sure your changes are preserved and not lost the next time the WAR files are deployed (typically during patch upgrades), be sure to follow SAP Note 1615492 and copy the custom files to SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 4.0warfileswebappsBOEWEB-INFconfig.

Customizing the BI Launchpad Login Page

The new BI 4.1 BI Launch Pad login has been streamlined in appearance from earlier versions. Long-time fans of the BusinessObjects brand will notice that the SAP BusinessObjects logo has disappeared in favor of the SAP logo (see related article, First Impressions of SAP BusinessObjects 4.1). In fact, the only mention of “BusinessObjects” is in a text string that we’re about to customize.

SAPBI41 Customize Launchpad 02

The appearance of the login screen is controlled by the default BIlaunchpad.properties file, located at C:Program Files (x86)SAP Business ObjectstomcatwebappsBOEWEB-INFconfigdefault.

SAPBI41 Customize Launchpad 01

In addition to the existing app.name, app.name.short, and app.name.greeting properties from previous releases, BI 4.1 introduces a new property, app.custom.product.name. It’s left unspecified but currently defaults to SAP BusinessObjects, which appears on the first line of the logon screen. The app.name.short parameter is also unspecified but defaults to BI Launch pad. The app.name property is not used on the login screen but instead is used for the <TITLE> of all interior pages of the BI Launch pad.

To customize the properties file, do not modify the original but instead copy it to adjacent directory C:Program Files (x86)SAP Business ObjectstomcatwebappsBOEWEB-INFconfigcustom. I’ve shown the modifications below.

SAPBI41 Customize Launchpad 03

After restarting Apache Tomcat, I can see the result of my customizations.

SAPBI41 Customize Launchpad 04

Once I log in, I can see the effect of the app.name parameter.

SAPBI41 Customize Launchpad 05 600 Annotated

 

The rest of the customizations such as system name and authentication type are identical to previous versions.

Adding or changing Favicons
If you want to dress up your users’ browser with a favicon, overwrite the standard Tomcat favicon.ico file with your own at <INSTALLDIR>/tomcat/webapps/ROOT then restart Tomcat.

There are unique icons for the BI Launchpad, Central Management Console (CMC), and Explorer.  I like to replace the BI Launchpad and Explorer favicons. I prefer to leave the CMC favicon as-is, as only a few people see it and it’s easier to find when multiple browser tabs are in use.

Place new InfoView.ico in C:Program Files (x86)SAP BusinessObjectstomcatwebappsBOEWEB-INFeclipsepluginswebpath.InfoViewwebimages. Place new explorer.ico in C:Program Files (x86)SAP BusinessObjectstomcatwebappsexplorer.

Be sure to clear Tomcat cache C:Program Files (x86)SAP BusinessObjectstomcatworkCatalinalocalhost before restarting.

NOTE: The favicon can now be set as part of the BI Launch Pad branding kit. See Christina Obry’s article Branding and Theming of BI launch pad for details.

Changing the Default Web Intelligence Paper Size
When SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 is initially installed, the default page size is A4.  This international standard (see Wikipedia) is used nearly around the world but is not the same as the standard Letter size used in the United States and Canada.

Prior to BI 4.0, the default paper size was set in a file named defaultconfig.xml. But BI 4.x no longer uses this file to define default paper size. Instead, Web Intelligence now derives attributes like page size, header size, footer size, and margins from a Cascading Style Sheet (CSS), not the old XML configuration file. The procedure for changing the default paper size from A4 to Letter can be found on this article I wrote for the EV Technologies blog.

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

SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 Launch Pad Default Preferences

My colleague Chris Greer has a great write-up on setting default user preferences, either by user or group, which was introduced as a new feature of the BI 4.0 platform.

Conclusion

So that explains the mechanics of customization. But how to use it practically? Use the upgrade as an opportunity to educate your customers about your brand (see related article, Business Intelligence Branding). Don’t lose sleep over retraining users that the InfoView portal has been renamed as the BI Launch pad. Or wondering if and when SAP will finally pull the plug on the BusinessObjects brand.

I’m sure I’ll have more to share about BI 4.1 as I begin working daily with the new release. And I hope to write soon about using the CSS customization features recently introduced in BI 4.0 SP4. In the meantime, Christine Obry has provided some great information on the SAP Community Network and you can find the links below.

Resources

Identifying SAP BusinessObjects queries using END_SQL

A useful trick to help SAP BusinessObjects universe designers and database administrators identify the source of queries.

NOTE: I originally wrote this article about XI R2 in 2008 but I have since updated it to include information about XI 3.x, BI 4.0, BI 4.1, and BI 4.2.

Here’s a useful trick that can help both SAP BusinessObjects universe designers and database administrators find the true origin of queries. Using this technique, we can identify which report, universe and user is generating a potentially problematic SQL statement and take corrective action. The END_SQL universe parameter is typically used to allow universe designers to append additional SQL such as database hints to SQL statements. But it can also be used to add a seemingly benign SQL comment. Because this comment can use @Variable functions from the universe, its contents become dynamic.

For classic universes built with the Universe Design Tool (formerly known as Universe Designer or just Designer), set universe parameters by choosing File -> Parameters from the menu or click the Parameters button on the toolbar. Next, navigate to the Parameter tab.

END_SQL parameter in Universe Design Tool

If you are using SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI R2, the semantic layer can dynamically identify the user name and document name using the @Variable function.

/* Hard coded Universe Name - @Variable('BOUSER') - @Variable('DOCNAME')*/

SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.0 introduced several new @Variables, so you can get a bit fancier (see related article, Using @Variable Functions in the Universe) and use an @Variable for the universe name. Now the entire END_SQL expression is dynamic.

/* @Variable('UNVNAME') - @Variable('BOUSER') - @Variable('DOCNAME') */

The Information Design Tool introduced with SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 (BI4) also supports universe parameters like END_SQL. To set, click on the “Properties” tab of the Data Foundation Layer (*.dfx file) and click the “Parameters” button.

Information Design Tool END_SQL

Keep in mind that certain database platforms such as Teradata strip out comments, negating the value of this trick and preventing a DBA from seeing the information we wish to share. If your organization uses Teradata, check out this helpful article from Dave Rathbun about ConnectInit and BEGIN_SQL.

For more information about END_SQL, check out this thread on the BusinessObjects Board (BOB).