Using the new commentary feature in SAP BI 4.2

Commentary is a useful new feature in SAP BI 4.2 but needs configuration beyond the default setup to work optimally.

One of the new features in SAP BI 4.2 is commentary. Although it currently only works with Web Intelligence, it is a feature of the BI platform so we can expect to see other tools such as Crystal Reports adopt it over time. Unlike the depreciated discussions feature, which permitted threaded discussions on a document, the commentary feature allows threaded discussions to occur on a report element such as a Web Intelligence cell.

The commentary feature consists of a Commentary Service (part of the Adaptive Processing Server) and a table named COMMENTARY_MASTER that is created in the Audit schema by default.

Regarding the new APS service, it is not necessary to isolate it in its own process, but it can be added to a “Core” APS as shown in SAP KB 1694041.

Regarding the new COMMENTARY_MASTER table, SAP recommends relocating it to its own database, as the commentary feature can create performance issues for auditing if left configured to the Audit database.

By default, BI Commentary creates and maintains its tables in the Audit database… However, SAP recommends that you configure a new database to store the comments from BI Commentary application. Databases supported for BI Commentary are the same as those supported for Auditing.

SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP5 Administration Guide
Section 18.1.3.11 Managing BI Commentary Application Settings

And SAP KB 2346055 describes some of the bad things that can happen if the commentary service uses the audit database on a production system.

You’ll have to configure JDBC drivers for your database vendor on each node hosting the commentary service. Then configure the new data source in CMC -> Applications -> BI Commentary Application, shown below.

Configuring the commentary database

And since you may choose to report on the COMMENTARY_MASTER table, you’ll probably want to configure the data source on all the reporting nodes, too.

In my experience, the COMMENTARY_MASTER table wasn’t created in its new location until a user actually entered the first comment, so I would recommend that the BI administrator use one of the sample Web Intelligence documents or a personal document to create the first comment and confirm that the table is created and populated correctly.

To learn how to use the commentary feature, check out SAP KB 2269131, which includes a video. Using the side panel, comments can be added to sections, table cells, free-standing report cells, or an entire table block. As of SAP BI 4.2 SP5, comments cannot be added to charts but perhaps support will be added in a future support pack.

In the example below, I have added a comment in a Party Pants Trends report on the Printed Lycra Trousers table cell for New York. Other report viewers can see that a comment has been added because of the yellow triangle in the cell’s upper right corner. Comments can be created in either reading mode or design mode, but you must have the Reporting – Enable Formatting security right. This requirement may lead to changes to existing custom access levels.

Web Intelligence report with commentary

I’m personally a fan of enabling new bells and whistles such as commentary. But if your organization is not ready for the commentary service, you can disable it simply by disabling or removing any commentary services in the landscape. Take a look at SAP KB 2313335 for details.

Perhaps we’ll see the SAP BI 4.3 installer prompt administrators to set up the commentary database (and the monitoring database, which defaults to Apache Derby) correctly from the beginning. But for now, setting up commentary is a post-installation configuration step for the SAP BI administrator.

References

  • SAP KB 1694041 – How do you configure the Adaptive Processing Server (APS) for improved performance and scalability?
  • SAP KB 1707921How to display the discussions in BI4
  • SAP KB 2269131How to use the BI Commentary feature and add comments in Webi Reports in BI 4.2?
  • SAP KB 2313335How to disable Commentary from Web Intelligence document in BI4.2
  • SAP KB 2346055Performance degradation while opening a Web Intelligence document with SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence Platform 4.2
  • SAP KB 2525675How to configure the BI Commentary Tool in SAP Business Intelligence 4.2 SP02 and onwards – Guided Answers

Things Can Only Get Better

The roadmap of the SAP BusinessObjects platform makes me scared. But I won’t stop and falter. Here’s what Howard Jones taught me about SAP analytics strategy. And growing older.

Earlier this year, my wife and I got to see Howard Jones in concert from the second row. The last time I saw him in concert was way back in 1989, so I was grateful for the opportunity.

I discovered Howard Jones in my teen years. His groundbreaking use of synthesizers as a “one-man band” was a big inspiration for me. After all, there are so many guitar heroes but so few piano heroes. He was definitely mine. Known for the positive messages in his lyrics, Howard expressed my thoughts when SAP announced revisions to its analytics roadmap just a few days after the concert (see related article, Everything Must Change).

And do you feel scared? I do!
But I won’t stop and falter.

Change can definitely be scary. And sadly, you can’t stop it. Just like you can’t stop having birthdays.

I’m grateful to artists like Howard Jones because at age 63, he’s not only riding his past success like No One Is To Blame. He continues to tour and create new music like the autographed Engage CD that I picked up at the concert. His success doesn’t magically wipe away the rampant ageism that is in modern IT. But it does give me hope as I grow older.

Howard Jones Engage CD with autographed cover

Treating today as though it was the last, the final show
Get to sixty and feel no regret
It may take a little time a lonely path, an uphill climb
Success or failure will not alter it

Don’t be fooled by what you see. And don’t be fooled by what you hear- especially from Microstrategy. They posted this FUD gem during SAPPHIRE last month.

Things have actually gotten better during the past few months. SAP has moderated its tone when messaging its analytics customers, committing to delivering SAP BusinessObjects 4.3 in 2019 (see related SAP blog by Mike Flannagan, SAP Customers Champion the Intelligent Enterprise with SAP Analytics Innovations). And SAP is making smaller batches of improvements in the forthcoming SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP6, expected later this month. In his aptly-named song Those Who Move Clouds, Howard Jones sings:

I wish that I could offer you a chance to change direction.
But you know that pathways must be followed to near destruction.

Sadly, “You can look at the SAP analytics roadmap, but you can’t change it” doesn’t rhyme. But I’ll continue to work on that. In the meantime, this old dog is committing himself to learn new tricks with SAP Analytics Cloud, SAP Cloud Platform, SAP HANA, and even non-SAP technologies. Because things can only get better.

In the meantime, don’t crack up. Bend your brain. See both sides. Throw off your mental chains. And don’t always look at the rain.

Related Reading

If You Love Somebody Set Them Free

SAP, if you love your BI platform users, it’s time to set them free.

BusinessObjects Rainbow Logo

In 1985, Sting stunned the world with Dream of the Blue Turtles, his first solo album after breaking up with The Police. The “hybrid” recording wasn’t jazzy enough for jazz purists nor rocky enough for fans of The Police. But his ambitious effort to combine rock-and-roll with jazz musicians Omar Hakim, Darryl Jones, Kenny Kirkland, Branford Marsalis, Dolette McDonald, and Janice Pendarvis yielded several hit singles and insured that Sting would be a relevant artist for the next several decades.

“If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” was the first single released from Dream of the Blue Turtles.

It’s clear from current product roadmaps that SAP’s hybrid approach to analytics is to place all future analytics innovation into SAP Analytics Cloud while keeping the on-premise BI platform, its universe semantic layer, and its Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence document formats at arms length with reduced levels of future investment. SAP’s analytics strategy makes sense if you run most or all of your business with SAP applications, whether it’s the on-premise business suite or cloud applications like Ariba, Concur, Fieldglass, and SuccessFactors. The strategy makes less sense the more non-SAP applications power your organization. And as anticipated, the strategy makes the least sense to customers whose only SAP product is the on-premise SAP BusinessObjects BI platform.

But instead of winners and losers, what if SAP’s analytics strategy was changed so everyone became a winner? Let’s explore some ideas.

Universes Everywhere

In the age of Qlik and Tableau, a third-party market has sprung up to provide universe-based data to non-SAP tools. In a curious arrangement, these vendors have LLC’ed themselves to be annoying to SAP product managers without being financially lucrative enough to attract the interest of SAP’s legal department.

No offense to their creators who are fulfilling a market need. But these products should not need to exist. SAP itself should provide the best universe support to both its own analytics tools and beyond – let’s call it “Universes Everywhere”.

Back in 2014, a BusinessObjects Universe connector mysteriously showed up in Microsoft Power BI (see Microsoft’s related article, Power BI Connectivity to SAP BusinessObjects BI Now Generally Available). As mysteriously as it arrived, it then disappeared.

Update May 2016: SAP BO connectivity is no longer available.

With SAP Analytics Cloud restricting the universe to be on-premise, what does SAP have to lose by licensing universe support to Microsoft, Tableau, Qlik, or whoever wants it? Customers would be delighted, probably save for the extra cost of some kind of new BI platform license that legalizes such third-party tool support. Microstrategy adopted a similar approach this year, insuring that its customers are delighted enough to keep licensing Microstrategy’s core technology platform while using their data visualization tool of choice. (see related ZDNet article, Enterprise, self-service BI hook up: MicroStrategy releases connectors for Power BI, Tableau, Qlik).

Web Intelligence Explorer

As part of a renewed commitment to the universe semantic layer and innovation specifically targeted to the on-premise BI platform, SAP should commit developers to an updated version of the BI platform (4.3? 5.0?) with a new version of SAP BusinessObjects Explorer – one that does not rely on Adobe Flash- as its centerpiece. Keep in mind that Explorer without a Flash UI already exists – as SAP BusinessObjects Mobile for iOS. The Explorer web client should be written as tightly coupled to Fiori-fied Web Intelligence as architecturally possible and its Flash-based back-end should be ported to the Fiori-fied BI Admin Console that made its debut with SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP5 (see related article, The Road Unexplored: A Future for SAP BusinessObjects Explorer). SAP customers shouldn’t have to look to other vendors to find the next generation of search-based data discovery (see related article, The Road Unexplored: Alternatives to SAP BusinessObjects Explorer).

If SAP Won’t Invest It Should Divest

It’s perfectly understandable that SAP Analytics Cloud is tightly coupled to SAP’s business applications. What’s less clear is why perfectly good software used by thousands of customers has to die on the vine rather than succeed on its own terms. Even webOS– originally developed by Palm to compete with Apple’s iOS- was given a second life powering LG televisions and appliances. It’s even been open sourced (see related Verge article, webOS ready to move beyond TVs, says LG). If universe technology is no longer a strategic fit to SAP, it should be liberated as open source or put up for sale on the open market. SAP acquired BusinessObjects for approximately €5 billion in 2008 (see SAP’s press release, SAP to Acquire Business Objects in Friendly Takeover). I’m confident SAP could get a good return on its decade-old investment and create favorable terms to OEM the software from its new owner until its current hybrid BI strategy is fully realized in the cloud.

SAP, if you love your classic BusinessObjects customers, set them free!

Should SAP continue to invest in the universe semantic layer? Should it put the technology up for sale? Or open source it? I would love to hear your thoughts on how ALL of SAP’s current analytics customers can have a happy ending.

New BI Launch Pad Customization in SAP BI 4.2 SP5

A new and much welcome enhancement for the BI Launch Pad logon screen.

Although SAP is spending most of its analytics budget developing SAP Analytics Cloud, innovation is still happening on the BI Platform. In SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP5 (released in December 2017), SAP has introduced a new property for controlling the behavior of the Authentication drop-down box on the logon screen.

The behavior of the logon screen can be customized by copying the default BILaunchpad.properties file from C:\Program Files (x86)\SAP BusinessObjects\tomcat\webapps\BOE\WEB-INF\config\default to the adjacent directory C:\Program Files (x86)\SAP BusinessObjects\tomcat\webapps\BOE\WEB-INF\config\custom (see my original article about BI customization, Customizing SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 and BI 4.2).

A new property- logon.authentication.visibleList– now joins authentication.default and authentication.visible that controls which authentication types appear in the authentication drop-down list. By default authentication.visible is set to false, but most organizations have to set it to true so the Administrator can choose Enterprise authentication and everyone else can choose something like Windows AD, LDAP or SAP authentication.

logon.authentication.visibleList property for BI Launch Pad customization

Here is how the default list logon.authentication.visibleList=secLDAP,secWinAD,secSAPR3,secOraApps,secPSE1,secpsenterprise,secSiebel7,secEnterprise appears.

SAP BusinessObjects 4.2 SP5 BI Launch Pad customization

The new logon.authentication.visibleList parameter not only controls which authentication types are displayed, but also the order(!) that they are displayed in. As an example, I’ll move secEnterprise from the beginning to the end of the list.

SAP BusinessObjects 4.2 SP5 BI Launch Pad customization

And here’s what it looks like when I shorten the list to only the desired authentication types.

SAP BusinessObjects 4.2 SP5 BI Launch Pad customization

IMPORTANT: Remember that you must copy the contents of C:\Program Files (x86)\SAP BusinessObjects\tomcat\webapps\BOE\WEB-INF\config\custom to C:\SAP BusinessObjects\SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 4.0\warfiles\webapps\BOE\WEB-INF\config\custom before applying any patches, as the latter is the location the patch installer will redeploy web applications from. I also recommend keeping copies of any customized files on a project intranet or some other location that isn’t a SAP BusinessObjects server.

This small enhancement to the BI platform is a big deal that enables BI teams to simplify the interface, reducing both human error and help desk calls. I’m eagerly looking forward to additional BI platform enhancements that we’ll see later this year in BI 4.2 SP6 (July 2018 timeframe) and BI 4.2 SP7 (December 2018 timeframe).

State of the SAP BusinessObjects BI4 Upgrade – February 2018

SAP BusinessObjects 4.1, SAP Lumira 1.x and SAP Design Studio 1.x maintenance all come to an end in 2018. Here’s how to plan for the future.

It’s been a while since I’ve written one of these “State of the SAP BusinessObjects BI4 Upgrade” articles. In fact, I didn’t write one at all during 2017. But there are some key events happening in 2018 that are going to affect BI strategy for many SAP customers.

Read the State of the SAP BusinessObjects BI4 Upgrade – February 2018 on the SAP Community site.

I wrote the article one week before Michael Flannagan posted his Deeper Look into SAP’s BI and Analytics Strategy, but the points are still valid for SAP customers using the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence suite.

Ten Features That Absolutely Must Be in BI 4.2 SP3

It’s been four years since I published my wish list for BI 4.0 Feature Pack 3. I revisit the list and see what, if anything, has made it into the SAP BI suite.

Four years ago, I wrote an article entitled Ten Features That Absolutely Must Be in BI 4.0 Feature Pack 3. With SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP3 soon going into general availability, I thought it might be interesting to review the current status of my original wish list.

1. Tree control for Web Intelligence universe selection

No improvements here and none expected for the forthcoming SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 Support Pack 3. But perhaps SAP will surprise us with a redesigned universe selector panel in the fully-functional Java-free Web Intelligence coming next year in Support Pack 4?

2. Improved visual distinction between UNV and UNX universes in Web Intelligence

I don’t think there’s been much change here. Still an opportunity for some subtle UI improvements.

3. OLAP universe support for Explorer

Lack of OLAP support for this aging product is by design according to SAP KB 1559221My friend who requested it got tired of waiting and is now a Tableau developer. True story.

4. UNX universe support for Live Office

Fixed. UNX support was finally added to starting with SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 SP6. Live Office isn’t for everyone, but Excel geeks seem to really like it. And Live Office is going to live on in the simplified BI portfolio as its functionality is converged into a future version of Analysis for Microsoft Office.

5. Improved qualification selection in Information Design Tool

Fixed. There have been many usability improvements in the Information Design Tool and this is one of them. If you last took a look at Information Design Tool way back when version 4.0 was released, it’s time to take a second look at the new 4.2 release.

6. Corporate customization of Central Management Console

This request is still unfulfilled but perhaps we’ll see something when the CMC gets the Fiori treatment next year? I’m not looking for robust customization like the BI Launch Pad has. I just want a simple way to change some text strings and colors (using preset themes) to easily distinguish multiple landscapes in the BI lifecycle (Development, Test, Production).

7. No more monolithic Adaptive Processing Server

Fixed. SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 introduced the System Configuration Wizard for APS configuration and some other post-installation tasks, which you can read about here.

My big gripe here continues to be that Design Studio and Lumira both add services to the Adaptive Processing Server. Because these two products are “add-ons”, the System Configuration Wizard doesn’t accommodate them very well. I hope the situation will improve next year when Lumira and Design Studio 2.0 standardize on a single server-size engine.

8. Improved control of Web Intelligence default paper size

Still an open item. Since non-A4 paper size mostly an accommodation for American users, no doubt this improvement is far down on the enhancement backlog, if it’s there at all. Perhaps paper size is less relevant in a greener 21st century?

9. Improved browser support

Fixed. SAP has made major strides in browser support. The biggest obstacle to browser support is how various browsers handle (or refuse to handle) plugins like Adobe Flash and Oracle Java. Fortunately, SAP is working really hard to deliver a plugin-free version of the platform, starting with enhancements to the Web Intelligence HTML panel in the forthcoming BI 4.2 SP3.

10. Improved and better organized sample content

Still as bad as before, except that SAP has added some really nice sample content for mobile devices (see related article, Sampling the Mobile BI Samples with BI 4.1).

Conclusion

SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence BI 4.2 Support Pack 3 is almost ready for general availability and contains some really exciting improvements, including four of the items on this wish list. But I hope there’s still time to include the remaining six improvements in BI 4.2 SP4.

What’s on your SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP3 wish list?

Installing Two Oracle 12c Clients on One Server

The Oracle 12c 32-bit client requires a little bit of extra attention.

I’ve previously written about best practices for installing the 64-bit and 32-bit Oracle clients on a single Microsoft Windows server that needs to support SAP BusinessObjects BI 4 (see related article, Installing Two Oracle Clients on One Server). Those best practices still apply, but I encountered a small wrinkle with Oracle 12c and apparently I’m not the only one.

The installation of the 64-bit client goes smoothly. It’s only when you attempt to install the 32-bit client that you may encounter the following error, “[INS-10102] Installer initialization failed.”

Oracle 12 32 bit trick 01 500The issue seems to occur when a previous installation of the Oracle 32-bit client (for example, the older 11g client) was previously installed. The registry key named HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREORACLE has a value named inst_loc behind, which interferes with the Oracle 12c 32-bit installation.

Oracle 12 32 bit trick 02 500

Simply remove the offending inst_loc value from the registry.

Oracle 12 32 bit trick 03 500

Then you’ll be able to install the 32-bit client successfully.

Oracle 12 32 bit trick 04 500

Additional fun with Oracle 12c SQL Loader

The 64-bit Oracle 12c client tools also have a small issue with the SQL Loader utility (sqlldr.exe). SQL Loader is not required by SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4, but I thought I’d document the issue here anyway – “The program can’t start because oranfsodm12.dll is missing from your computer. Try reinstalling the program to fix this problem.”

Oracle 12c SQL Loader Issue

Reinstalling the client tools won’t help because the issue is an Oracle defect, which is described on the Oracle Technology Network. To resolve, make a copy of the oraodm12.dll in the bin directory and rename it to oranfsodm12.dll.

What is your experience with SAP BusinessObjects BI4 and Oracle 12c? Share you thoughts in the comments below.

Waiting on SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2

Are you waiting, too?

SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.2, the eagerly awaited update to the BI4 platform, quietly went into beta last week. Gregory Botticchio and Pascal Gaulin from the Web Intelligence product group in Paris, France (see related article, SAP Paris) were on hand to present “What’s New in SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence” (Session 2806). But otherwise, there was barely a word of BI 4.2 news breathed during the recent ASUG SAP BusinessObjects and Analytics User Conference in Austin, Texas.

Web Intelligence 4.2 Innovation Roadmap

Four years ago, I wrote a blog entitled Waiting on SAP BusinessObjects BI4 expressing both excitement and frustration at waiting for the general availability of SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0. Now I find myself eagerly Waiting on SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.2 and have shared this sentiment on the SAP Community Network. Check it out!

Read Waiting on SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.2 on the SAP Community Network.

 

SAP BusinessObjects Support for Windows 10

Microsoft Windows 10 arrives this week, with SAP BI support not too far behind.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015 is going to be a big day for Microsoft as it formally releases its latest update to its flagship Windows operating system, Windows 10. Since Windows 7 was released nearly 7 years ago on October 22, 2009, most Enterprises have viewed Windows 8 (released October 26, 2012) or Windows 8.1 (released October 17, 2013) more like Vista 2.0 rather than a worthy successor to Windows 7.

Time will tell if Windows 10 features will prompt enterprises to give up on Windows 7 or hang on until its extended support ends on January 14, 2020. Of great interest to SAP customers will be the new Microsoft Edge browser and how it supports plug-ins like Adobe Flash and Oracle Java.

Jayne Landry, SAP General Vice President and General Manager for Business Intelligence, indicates via Twitter that Windows 10 support will be added first to SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 SP7 then folded into BI 4.2 later.

Microsoft Windows 10 Support

last updated March 1, 2017

SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 is unsupported on Microsoft Windows 10. Although Priority One Support for SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 has been extended to 12/31/2018, it has been out of Mainstream Maintenance support (no more patches) since 12/15/2015.

SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 is unsupported on Microsoft Windows 10.

SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 SP7 and higher support Microsoft Windows 10.

SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 has Windows 10 support from its initial GA to the current release.

What are your organization’s plans for Microsoft Windows 10?

Will Security Concerns Override Your BI Strategy?

The future of Flash may no longer be in the hands of Adobe but instead in the hands of IT security.

It hasn’t been a great month for Adobe Flash. Both Google and Mozilla took extraordinary steps to temporarily disable Adobe Flash from their respective browsers, bringing disruption to SAP Dashboards (see related BusinessObjects Board article).

Dashboards Not Working in Firefox

Adobe released a patch and all was well again, but isn’t it really just a matter of time before we’ll be going through the same exercise? There’s a growing chorus in the mainstream press, not just the technical press, to walk away from Adobe Flash.

While the Occupy Flash movement (yes, there is a movement) advocates letting “your IT department know you can do without Flash”, there are some obvious places (like Explorer and Dashboards/Xcelsius) where the Adobe Flash Player is required by SAP BusinessObjects.

Unfortunately, there are also several less-than-obvious places (see related article, Adobe Flash- Dying but not Dead Just Yet). However, much of everyday web browsing no longer requires the Adobe Flash Player. I was motivated by the recent controversy to remove Adobe Flash from my two Macs, just to see what would happen. I’ll limit Adobe Flash to my Microsoft Windows VM that I use at work.

SAP customers have endured similar scenarios with the Java Runtime Engine and Web Intelligence. But unlike Java, which still manages to have multiple dependencies in today’s enterprise, there are fewer reasons to rely on Adobe Flash and IT security may act more quickly to eliminate it completely from corporate desktops. Mainstream web sites like YouTube no longer require Adobe Flash (and let’s be honest, many organizations prevent you from watching grumpy cat videos at the office anyway).

SAP’s strategy for Dashboards and Explorer has been to leave them as-is as new plug-in free tools like Design Studio and Lumira increase in both maturity and adoption. That strategy assumes that Adobe will continue to support Flash indefinitely, allowing SAP customers to continue to use Dashboards and Explorer content even though the tools no longer receive investment. However, the future of Flash may no longer be in the hands of Adobe but instead in the hands of IT security, keen to remove Flash from the enterprise. This change of direction will to put more pressure on business intelligence competency centers to retire SAP Dashboards and Explorer more quickly than anticipated, and earlier than the current SAP BI roadmap will comfortably allow.

How are Adobe Flash vulnerabilities affecting your BI strategy? Is your organization under pressure to retire Adobe Flash? Please share a comment below.