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 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.

 

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)

SAP BusinessObjects Explorer 4.1.11 for iOS

Explorer for iOS gets a minor update.

SAP BusinessObjects Explorer 4.1.11 for iOS appeared in the iTunes store last week.  The app received iOS 7 compatability back in September and October with the releases of 4.1.9 and 4.1.10. The release notes in the iTunes App Store indicate only a single change for 4.1.11:

  • Technical improvements for iOS 5.1 only

The Explorer app (along with the recently updated Mobile BI 5.0.13 app) now has a new “flat design” icon for iOS 7 according to the latest What’s New in SAP BusinessObjects Explorer for iPhone/iPad User Guide from the SAP Help Portal . I find it curious that SAP bothered to make fixes for iOS 5.1 rather than raising the minimum OS requirement to iOS 6 as the Mobile BI app does.

Organizations on the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 platform no longer require this stand-alone app, as Explorer functionality is included in Mobile BI. However, it’s nice to see that SAP is maintaining this app for organizations still on XI 3.1 or BI 4.0.

The Business Objects Query Builder Guide

A helpful book if you use the Query Builder a lot.

I don’t analyze blog stats very often, so it came as a bit of a surprise that the article about the SAP BusinessObjects Query Builder 4.0 is the sixth most popular on my blog. The Query Builder is crude and— generally speaking— so is my language when I’m required to use it. But the Query Builder can sometimes provide deeper insight into what’s going on than the Central Management Console (CMC) administration tool is willing to tell you.

The reason Query Builder exists is due to the cryptic nature of the SAP BusinessObjects system database, sometimes called the CMS database or repository. If you look at the database schema (BI 4.0/4.1 shown), you’ll see tables with the following names:

  • CMS_ALIASES7
  • CMS_CCFRONTIER7
  • CMS_FRONTIER7
  • CMS_IDNUMBERS7
  • CMS_INFOOBJECTS7
  • CMS_LOCKS7
  • CMS_RELATIONS7
  • CMS_ROOTFRONTIER7
  • CMS_SESSIONS7
  • CMS_VERSIONINFO

Sadly, by design these tables are very difficult- if not impossible- to query without resorting to SDK programming. The first thing to learn about Query Builder is that you don’t use it to query the actual tables in the database. Query Builder is a thin veneer atop the SDK, so you’ll instead build queries on these fictional tables:

  • CI_AppObjects
  • CI_InfoObjects
  • CI_SystemObjects

A quick Google search will turn up some simpler queries on these tables. But for more serious inquiries, you’ll want to get a copy of Julian Romeo’s The Business Objects Query Builder Guide. The latest version 1.3 that includes BI 4.0 updates was published February 1, 2012 and my electronic receipt says I purchased mine just 5 days later. The book explains how to use the step-by-step query “wizard”, write SQL in the Query Builder, and use Relationship and Path Queries. The book is easy to read and contains a lot of examples.

The book is a good value at $29 and an even better value if you convince your BI Manager to put it on the corporate credit card.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book with my own funds. It was not a free review copy. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

SAP BusinessObjects and Antivirus Software

Best practices for SAP BusinessObjects and antivirus software.

JohnMcAfeeGunPointedAtHead600
Founder of antivirus software company? Or overworked SAP BusinessObjects administrator? You decide.

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with SAP BusinessObjects installations and antivirus software. My first experiences with installing XI R2 went badly when antivirus software was still running, frequently resulting in botched WAR file deployments. And who can forget the joy of SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 SP2 and its crawling installation process? Although the root cause was the Microsoft installer, SAP also advised in KB 1374386 to“disable the antivirus before starting the install so that this does not interfere with the install process”.

While most organizations rely on the big vendors like Symantec or McAfee (the latter company has a more colorful history than the former- hence the photo above), I recently had a situation with Trend Micro antivirus preventing the installation program from running properly. The installer would fail with a “failed to update cache for execution” error. The error can either be triggered by antivirus software (see SAP KB 1781641) although it can also be triggered by the Microsoft User Account Control (UAC) setting (see SAP KB 1671421).

Let’s review some best practices for working with SAP BusinessObjects and antivirus software.

Pre-installation Best Practices

During the kickoff meeting for an installation or upgrade project, determine the vendor and version of the antivirus software in use. Next, identify the person who administers the antivirus software who will assist, if necessary, during the installation process. It’s really important to identify this person, even if everyone in the kickoff meeting begins to stare uncomfortably at their shoes when you pose the question. Determine if the software can either be disabled for the duration of the installation process or if the folder location of the installation can be permanently exempted from scans. Lastly, find out if you can make the necessary changes yourself or if you’ll need to ask a system administrator. With my recent Trend Micro experience, I could see the antivirus software running in the Windows system tray but not any active exemptions. In addition, I had to ask an administrator to make the necessary exemptions from a centralized console that I did not have access to.

Installation Best Practices

Disable the services associated with the antivirus program so they are not running during the installation process. Work with your organization’s system administration team if you’re unable to figure out how to do this. It’s critical that the antivirus program doesn’t interfere with a successful installation of SAP BusinessObjects. The installation will be faster if the antivirus program isn’t analyzing it.

Post-installation Best Practices

Determine what the permanent solution for antivirus software will be after the installation of SAP BusinessObjects. Will the SAP installation folder be exempted from scans? Will specific SAP programs be exempted? Look for a permanent solution for dealing with antivirus software during the project kickoff meeting. If the exemptions are only temporary during the installation process, it is likely that they’ll become a thorn in somebody’s side when it comes time to apply a support pack or patch.

Thus Saith SAP

In many cases, it takes documentation from the vendor to successfully lobby for an exemption to corporate security policies. Here are some relevant knowledge base articles from SAP that you can reference to help your organization work toward a solution.

  • SAP KB 106267 – generic note about SAP and antivirus software, not specific to SAP BusinessObjects
  • SAP KB 1497394 – Configuring antivirus software to support SAP BusinessObjects XI 3.1 and BI 4.0
  • SAP KB 1781641 – “Failed to update cache for execution” error occurred while installing SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0.

Do you have horror stories of SAP BusinessObjects installations gone bad due to antivirus software? Any best practices that I haven’t mentioned? Please share your thoughts below.

Helpful Hints for SAP BusinessObjects Explorer XI 3.2

Helpful SAP KB articles for Explorer XI 3.2.

Customers using the SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 platform may be slightly annoyed that SAP chose to label the Explorer software that goes with it as Explorer XI 3.2. Yeah, that’s not confusing at all. Thankfully, the folks in SAP Support have cleaned up the version mess with the following notes in the SAP Service Marketplace (SMP).

Further complicating matters is that the Explorer installation program does not check the version of the underlying BI platform, making it possible to install a version of Explorer that is not compatible with the version of the BI platform (this situation persists with SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 and Explorer 4.0). The following SAP Knowledge Base articles were helpful to me in resolving version issues with customers.  I hope you’ll find them helpful as well.

SAP KB 1287906 – How to determine the version number of a BusinessObjects XI 3.x in Windows

Helpful if you’re not sure which version number of SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 corresponds to the service pack and fix pack you are using.

SAP KB 1443681 – Version Listing of SAP Business Objects Explorer XI 3.2

This KB article explains that, for example, version 12.2.0.518 corresponds to Explorer XI 3.2 Release-to-Customer (RTC), but 12.2.4.1409 corresponds to SAP BusinessObjects Explorer XI 3.2 SP4.

SAP Note 1726438 – SAP BusinessObjects Explorer XI 3.2 SP4 Release Information

This is the central note for SAP BusinessObjects Explorer 3.2 SP4, the final release of Explorer for the XI 3.1 platform.

SAP KB  1526927 – Which versions of SAP BusinessObjects Explorer are compatible with which version of SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise?

This KB article explains that, for example, SAP BusinessObjects Explorer 3.2 SP4 is intended for SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 SP5 and higher (XI 3.1 SP7 was released in March 2014).

SAP BusinessObjects Explorer 3.2 SP4 is the final release of Explorer for the XI 3.1 platform, as SAP has shifted development resources to Explorer 4.0 and SAP Visual Intelligence, recently rebranded as SAP Lumira (see related article, Goodbye SAP Visual Intelligence, Hello SAP Lumira).

SAP KB 1738007 – Which versions of SAP BusinessObjects Explorer Mobile are compatible with which version of SAP Business Intelligence?

I’ve written about this KB article before (see related article, SAP BusinessObjects Explorer Mobile Compatibility Chart). I haven’t received official confirmation from SAP, but I believe the days of the SAP BusinessObjects Explorer for iOS app are numbered (see related article, Exploring your SAP Mobile BI License). SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI 5.0 will be released in the near future (see related article, SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI 5.0), providing a single mobile app for all SAP business intelligence tools.

SAP KB 1533226 – How to upgrade Explorer 3.2 Information Spaces to Explorer 4.0?

“Unfortunately, the Information Space needs to be re-created as there is no automatic upgrade.” Yup. Fortunately, SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1, currently in ramp-up and expected in late 2013, adds classic UNV support to Explorer 4.1. Classic UNV support was also quietly reintroduced in BI4 SP6 (see SAP KB 1858836, How to enable .UNV support for Explorer in BI4.0 SP06). But I do not know if the Upgrade Management Tool in either 4.0 SP6 or 4.1 has been modified from its current behavior of ignoring XI 3.1 Information Spaces, which would be required to make upgrading existing information spaces possible.

April 12, 2014 – Added SAP Note 1726438 and updated description of SAP KB 1526927.

Desktop Intelligence, Back For a Limited Time

Will Desktop Intelligence ever go away?

Desktop Intelligence is back. Sort of.

Since the release of SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0, the SAP support center has been flooded with angry callers demanding the return of “f-ing Desktop Intelligence”. SAP has responded directly to this customer feedback and started a new development initiative. It’s known internally as the FUll Client Compatibility Kit, or simply its acronym. The official name of the add-on is the Desktop Intelligence Compatibility Pack (DCP)- although the name sometimes appears incorrectly as the Desktop Intelligence Compatibility Patch. It will be released in 2013 as part of SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 Service Pack 6.1. Thomas Kuruvilla announced the DCP earlier this year at the ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference and gave an updated presentation and demo yesterday in an ASUG webcast.

What is the Desktop Intelligence Compatibility Pack?

The Desktop Intelligence Compatibility Pack will permit Desktop Intelligence XI 3.1 Service Pack 6.1 to connect to the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 platform (BI 4.1). Both products are tentatively slated for release in May 2013. The Report Conversion Tool 4.1 and Upgrade Management Tool 4.1 will also have enhancements to support the Desktop Intelligence XI 3.1 SP 6.1 client.

What is missing from SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 and will still be missing in 4.1 are the server-side components of Desktop Intelligence. In other words, the Desktop Intelligence Cache Server, Processing Server and Job Server will not be ported to the BI 4.1 platform. The absence of these servers defines the capabilities of the Desktop Intelligence Compatibility Pack and how it works.

  • The Desktop Intelligence client must be upgraded to XI 3.1 Service Pack 6, Fix Pack 1
  • The BI 4 platform must be upgraded to SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1
  • Desktop Intelligence documents can be imported and stored on the BI 4.1 platform via the Upgrade Management Tool
  • Desktop Intelligence documents cannot be viewed via the BI Launchpad (formerly InfoView), but only via the Desktop Intelligence XI 3.1 application
  • Desktop Intelligence documents cannot be scheduled on the BI 4.1 platform. They can only be scheduled from the Windows desktop using “lightweight scheduling”
  • Although Desktop Intelligence documents cannot be viewed on the BI 4.1 platform, scheduled instances in agnostic formats like Adobe PDF or Microsoft Excel can be viewed via the BI Launchpad
  • It is unclear at this time what features will be added to Web Intelligence 4.1 to help continue to close the feature gap between Desktop Intelligence and Web Intelligence

Is Desktop Intelligence Really Dead?

Yes.

While it’s fun to imagine that Desktop Intelligence is coming back from the dead, it is not (see related article Hell Freezes Over – and please take note of its publication date).

If your organization has already retired Desktop Intelligence, pat yourselves on the back.

If your organization is still working on Desktop Intelligence retirement, the availability of the DCP should not slow or alter your retirement plans. The dates for retiring Desktop Intelligence are unchanged. Maintenance will end in 2015 and Priority One support will end in 2017. Keep moving ahead.

If your organization has not yet begun Desktop Intelligence retirement, the availability of the DCP is encouraging. But the Desktop Intelligence Compatibility Pack is not going to solve your problems. You ultimately have to retire all of your Desktop Intelligence documents (see related article by Eric Vallo and Thierry Audas on the SAP Analytics Blog, Better Content Migration to SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0).

What are some drawbacks of the Desktop Intelligence Compatibility Pack?

There are several.

First, your Desktop Intelligence users will have to upgrade their systems to Desktop Intelligence XI 3.1 Service Pack 6 Fix Pack 1. Depending on the size of your Desktop Intelligence user base, just getting the new software in place will be a challenge.

Second, because it is a fix pack, there will be two components to the installation. First, your users will have to install a full build of Desktop Intelligence XI 3.1 Service Pack 6. Then, they will need to separately apply Fix Pack 6.1. (NOTE: SAP has since shipped XI 3.1 SP7 and an SP8 is planned, theoretically eliminating the need for a separate patch).

Third, because there is no server-side scheduling, at least some of your desktop systems will have to remain powered on around the clock to support off-hours schedules.

Fourth, until we see the final product, there’s no guarantee that your existing Desktop Intelligence solution will map into the DCP solution as-is. For example, existing Desktop Intelligence-based publications or Desktop Intelligence documents that create HTML output may require workarounds to keep working on the BI 4.1 platform.

An Interesting Alternative

In January of this year, I referred to Xcelsius as “the new Desktop Intelligence” (see related article Thoughts on Xcelsius). I made the comparison because Xcelsius is based on dying Adobe Flash technology and Desktop Intelligence is based on dying 32-bit Windows technology. What I did not foresee at the time was renewed interest in desktop analytic applications like Tableau, Tibco Spotfire, and QlikView. Nor could I foresee that SAP would respond by announcing their own desktop data discovery tool, SAP Lumira (originally introduced SAP Visual Intelligence), in May 2012 at its annual SAPPPHIRE event in Orlando, Florida. While very different and very modern, SAP Lumira is the spiritual successor to Desktop Intelligence.

In just a few short months, there have been eight iterations of SAP Lumira. The product shipped with only SAP HANA support but today provides support for free-hand SQL, classic UNV universes, and new 4.0 UNX universes.

So here is my suggestion.

Allow SAP Lumira to open a Desktop Intelligence document. And not just a version XI 3.1 document, but XI 3.0 and XI R2 as well.

Still with me? SAP Lumira does not need to fully recreate the document format as the Report Conversion Tool does. It only needs to import the Desktop Intelligence queries. From there, users can create visualizations that could never be realized with Desktop Intelligence.

Sound interesting?  Vote for my idea to allow SAP Lumira to import Desktop Intelligence queries in the SAP Idea Place.

Adding Desktop Intelligence support to SAP Lumira isn’t a silver bullet. But neither is the Desktop Intelligence Compatibility Pack. Or for that matter the Report Conversion Tool. But it gives users that prefer the desktop experience of Desktop Intelligence another robust desktop experience. It provides options.

The SAP Lumira development team has demonstrated that they can move quickly. With agility. There’s plenty of time to add this capability in time for the May 2013 release of the other products.

Conclusion

Above all, remember that your users don’t just have Desktop Intelligence documents on their desktops. Those documents address business challenges. And in 2012 the SAP BusinessObjects BI platform has a lot more crayons in its analytics box than when those Desktop Intelligence documents were originally authored.

So don’t just help users get rid of an unsupported document format. Help them run their business. Help them run better. For many of these users, getting the documents converted to Web Intelligence will be sufficient. But for others, use your imagination.

Desktop Intelligence is fading away. But there’s never a dull moment in business intelligence.

Resources

What are your thoughts on the Desktop Intelligence Compatibility Pack?