Corporate color palettes in Web Intelligence

Web Intelligence charts can be displayed using your organization’s colors.

In our SAP Press book, SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence, the Comprehensive Guide, Third Edition, we describe two ways to create custom color palettes with Web Intelligence. The first method allows you to create custom palettes within a specific Web Intelligence document. The second method, which I’ll cover here, allows a SAP BusinessObjects administrator to create a corporate color palette that can be shared by all Web Intelligence users. In many large organizations, the marketing department publishes a style guide for how to properly use the corporate logo. The style guide typically lists the RGB color codes for the logo as well as a list of secondary colors for use in corporate communications, so it’s an ideal reference guide for creating a corporate color palette.

In his book Show Me The Numbers (see my book review), data visualization expert Stephen Few provides three useful color palettes, which I’ll combine to demonstrate how to create a corporate color palette.

Here is the Dark and Bright Palette.
Web Intelligence Corporate Color Palette Pie Dark and Bright

Here is the Medium Palette.
Web Intelligence Corporate Color Palette Pie Medium

And finally, here is the Light Palette.
Web Intelligence Corporate Color Palette Pie Light

Web Intelligence color palettes contain 32 distinct values; however, most charts will only use a few of them. To create a corporate color palette, use a favorite text editor such as Notepad++ and open a file on the BI platform server named <SAP BusinessObjects install folder>\SAP BusinessObjects\SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 4.0\images\VisualizationConfig.template.xml. Save a copy of the file with the name <SAP BusinessObjects install folder>SAP BusinessObjects\SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 4.0\images\VisualizationConfig.xml. Specify colors using decimal values for red, green, blue, and alpha (transparency).

In the example below, I’ve concatenated Stephen Few’s three palettes together, starting with the Dark and Bright palette. Because the Web Intelligence palette requires 32 colors, I’ve added five shades of grey to the end of the list.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<CONFIG>
<!-- VisualizationConfig.xml -->
<!-- The following section allows to define a corporate palette which will be used by default in all new visualization. -->

<PALETTES>
<PALETTE ID="corporate">

<!-- Each attributes must take an integer value from 0 to 255 -->
<!-- The palette ID should not be changed. -->
<!-- Stephen Few Dark & Bright -->
<COLOR R="0" G="0" B="0" A="255" />
<COLOR R="38" G="93" B="171" A="255" />
<COLOR R="223" G="92" B="36" A="255" />
<COLOR R="5" G="151" B="72" A="255" />
<COLOR R="229" G="18" B="111" A="255" />
<COLOR R="157" G="114" B="42" A="255" />
<COLOR R="123" G="58" B="150" A="255" />
<COLOR R="199" G="180" B="46" A="255" />
<COLOR R="203" G="32" B="39" A="255" />
<!-- Stephen Few Medium -->
<COLOR R="77" G="77" B="77" A="255" />
<COLOR R="93" G="165" B="218" A="255" />
<COLOR R="250" G="164" B="58" A="255" />
<COLOR R="96" G="189" B="104" A="255" />
<COLOR R="241" G="88" B="84" A="255" />
<COLOR R="178" G="145" B="47" A="255" />
<COLOR R="178" G="118" B="178" A="255" />
<COLOR R="222" G="207" B="63" A="255" />
<COLOR R="241" G="88" B="84" A="255" />
<!-- Stephen Few Light -->
<COLOR R="140" G="140" B="140" A="255" />
<COLOR R="136" G="189" B="230" A="255" />
<COLOR R="251" G="178" B="88" A="255" />
<COLOR R="144" G="205" B="151" A="255" />
<COLOR R="246" G="170" B="201" A="255" />
<COLOR R="191" G="165" B="84" A="255" />
<COLOR R="188" G="153" B="199" A="255" />
<COLOR R="237" G="221" B="70" A="255" />
<COLOR R="240" G="126" B="110" A="255" />
<!-- The Rest (shades of grey) -->
<COLOR R="247" G="247" B="247" A="255" />
<COLOR R="204" G="204" B="204" A="255" />
<COLOR R="150" G="150" B="150" A="255" />
<COLOR R="99" G="99" B="99" A="255" />
<COLOR R="37" G="37" B="37" A="255" />
</PALETTE>
</PALETTES>
</CONFIG>

You must restart the web application server (Tomcat) for the color palette to take effect.

Here is a stacked bar chart that uses the corporate color palette. More recent support packs will show the corporate palette in the Mobile BI app, too.

Web Intelligence Corporate Color Palette Stacked Bar Webi

Collaboration Leads to a ‘Comprehensive Guide’ on BusinessObjects Web Intelligence

Craig Powers from ASUG News talks about our new Web Intelligence book from SAP Press.

Craig Powers of ASUG News caught up with Jim Brogden, Heather Sinkwitz, and myself to discuss our new SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence: The Comprehensive Guide, Third Edition from SAP Press.

You can check out the interview here on the ASUG News site.

Printing (or not printing) Crystal Reports with SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1

Some tips for getting your Crystal Reports to the BI 4.1 platform.

I recently wrapped up a BI 4.1 upgrade project that was 80% Crystal Reports and 20% Web Intelligence. The SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 system was older than the tenure of the team that supported it, so some of its tribal knowledge had been lost. One of the things that we overlooked was printing requirements. Very few Crystal Reports were actually scheduled to print; however, many of Crystal Reports had printers defined.

While the challenges were few and easily managed, here are some lessons learned that I’ll be applying to my next BI 4.1 upgrade project.

Printer cartridges for printing

Install Printer Drivers as Part of BI4 Prerequisites

Either immediately before or immediately after BI 4.1 installation but before you begin using the Upgrade Management Tool, take a few moments to install the most common printer drivers in use in your organization. At a minimum, take a walk around your work area and install printer drivers for those models. And choose one of those nearby printers to be the default printer for each node in your SAP BusinessObjects cluster.

Missing printer drivers can significantly increase migration time of Crystal Reports via the Upgrade Management Tool (SAP KB 1701318) requiring the timeout to be increased (SAP KB 1804414). We didn’t realize the reason for needing a much higher timeout was the lack of printer drivers. We had already migrated the content and moved onto testing, only to learn that scheduled Crystal Reports with defined printers would have a job status of running but never complete. Which leads to the next best practice.

Install Crystal Reports 2013 On the Job Server

In our development environment, we installed Crystal Reports 2013 on the node containing the Adaptive Job Server. Depending on which development tools you’re using, you may also want to install the SAP BusinessObjects Client Tools (Web Intelligence Rich Client, et. al.), Crystal Reports for Enterprise, and Dashboards, as they can be helpful when troubleshooting. In most cases, running a Crystal Report in the client yields much more actionable troubleshooting information then the brief error from the Adaptive Job Server.

And with printer drivers in particular, Crystal Reports 2013 offered to install them automatically.

Do You Trust This Printer?

While I wouldn’t criticize somebody for installing the clients on a production node, we never identified an issue that required it. Plus, being stingy with client installs means fewer things to patch later.

Remove Unneeded Printer Specifications from Crystal Reports

If your Crystal Report doesn’t have a schedule to print requirement, you’re better off not specifying a printer.

  • A printer specification can slow the overall performance of a Crystal Report (see SAP KB 1197593 and 1205023).
  • A printer specification can prevent an InfoView (or BI Launch Pad) user from printing a Crystal Report to the default desktop printer (SAP KB 1202786).
  • Unfortunately, there’s no way to make “no printer” the default (see SAP KB 1220244).

To remove the printer specification, simply choose File -> Page Setup from the Crystal Reports 2013 menu and check the “No Printer” box (shown unchecked). This action should be on your checklist prior to publishing a Crystal Report to the BI platform. Or something to verify before promoting the Crystal Report to a higher environment with Promotion Management.

Crystal Reports No Printer

Make Sure Printed Reports Still Deliver Value

We discovered that one of our printed Crystal Reports was no longer in use. In fact, the defined printer was nowhere to be found. SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 would run the job anyway with a result of “success”. But BI 4.1 ran the same job with a result of “failed” because the printer was missing and therefore did not send a response.

Consult with users to see if they’d rather receive a printed report on a shared file system or via email. Or simply run the reports on-demand from the BI Launch Pad when necessary. Keep track of any print jobs that you halt in a spreadsheet with its average number of pages and printing frequency. When your upgrade is complete, you can compute the annual cost savings of making the BI 4.1 system more “green” than the one it replaced.

Don’t know who “owns” a printed report? I won’t tell anyone if you simply stop delivering the report after BI 4.1 cutover and see if anyone calls to complain.

Influence SAP to Bring Feature Parity to Web Intelligence

Desktop Intelligence also had the ability to schedule to a printer but this feature is still lacking in the latest versions of Web Intelligence (see related article, All the Desktop Intelligence That’s Fit to Print). The idea is “under review” by SAP but has languished in the SAP Idea Place for nearly four years. Nobody should be forced into porting an existing Desktop Intelligence or Web Intelligence document to Crystal Reports simply because they have a printing requirement.

If you haven’t yet voted, please lend your support to the idea (see SAP Idea Place, Schedule Web Intelligence documents to a printer).

Are there other Crystal Reports best practices you followed for your SAP BusinessObjects BI 4 upgrade? Please share them in the comments?

SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence: The Comprehensive Guide, Third Edition

Announcing SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence: The Comprehensive Guide, Third Edition

My blogging activity has been extremely light for the past three months, but I can finally reveal the reason.

Just over a year ago, I wrote that there would not be a 4.1 edition of the SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence book from SAP Press (see related article, SAP Press Book for Web Intelligence 4.1?). But earlier this year, the inventory of second edition books dipped to a critical level. It didn’t make sense to reprint a two-year-old book based on Web Intelligence 4.0, so Jim Brogden, Heather Sinkwitz, Gabriel Orthous and I began the process of updating the book using Web Intelligence 4.1 Support Pack 3. The book has been refreshed from cover-to-cover. We have thoroughly updated the book to include the new features in Web Intelligence 4.1, but we’ve written quite a bit of new material as well. The book is currently in pre-production and should be in print for the upcoming ASUG SAP Analytics and BusinessObjects Conference in September 2014 (and be sure to read this related ASUG News article, ASUG Partners with Galileo Press to Offer Member Discounts).

You can pre-order SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence: The Comprehensive Guide, Third Edition from SAP Press in hardcover or e-book editions

You can also pre-order SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence: The Comprehensive Guide, Third Edition in hardcover from Amazon.com

Free-Hand SQL Isn’t Free

Free-Hand SQL is a good short-term solution but a poor long-term solution.

Editor’s note: I’m a bit embarrassed that this article has languished in draft mode for almost two years as I try to clean out my backlog of unfinished blog articles. But it’s still a relevant topic to discuss.

With custom dimension grouping finally added to SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence BI 4.1 SP2, the functionality gap between legacy Desktop Intelligence and its successor Web Intelligence is largely closed. One large gap remains, although it’s a controversial gap in my view.

Three words- Free-Hand SQL.

Desktop Intelligence Free Hand SQL

Free-Hand SQL is a feature of legacy Desktop Intelligence that allows a report to be created from a hand-crafted SQL statement. It’s typically used when there’s not enough time to create a universe. A highly normalized data model is sometimes too complex to model generically in a universe and nobody wants to bother transforming it into a star schema. Web Intelligence presently doesn’t support Free-Hand SQL, but the Report Conversion Tool does an adequate job of converting existing Desktop Intelligence documents that use it to Web Intelligence (see related article, Retiring Desktop Intelligence Free-Hand SQL).

 

The user interface for Free-Hand SQL is spartan, so the query is usually crafted elsewhere in a tool with better SQL editing features such as Microsoft Access, TOAD, or the SQL editor provided by the database vendor then simply pasted into a humble box in Desktop Intelligence.

Desktop Intelligence Free Hand SQL Query Panel

It’s a pretty basic box, without any tools to help the Desktop Intelligence user fashion a well-written query. You can validate the final result, though.

Desktop Intelligence Free Hand SQL statement is correct

My friend and SAP Mentor Greg Myers had this exchange a few years ago when Free-Hand SQL was first mentioned on the Web Intelligence product roadmap.

 

SAP’s Matthew Shaw writes eloquently on the SAP Community Network about the benefits of the semantic layer and drawbacks of Free-Hand SQL (see related article, Use of Semantic Layer over ‘free hand SQL’).

 

Matthew elaborates on several valid technical considerations, but this one stands out.

There is no central control over the SQL with free hand SQL. Should the database change, corrections needs to be made, or improvements made, then each and every document containing that free hand SQL needs to be inspected and manually updated. Compare this to the semantic layer where one change is made and that change is automatically propagated to all related documents.

Matthew Shaw, Use of Semantic Layer over ‘free hand SQL’ on SAP Community Network

In other words, maintenance nightmare! Free-Hand SQL is difficult to manage. If the data model or reporting requirements change, the task of tracking down and updating the offending SQL is tedious and time consuming. Of course, the manager that told you to “just get it done” with Free-Hand SQL won’t be around when the maintenance requests come in- she put “agile BI project management” on her resume and now has a much better paying job than yours.

SAP no longer supports SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI R2. But unfortunately, it still supports the decade-old philosophy that “all features of Desktop Intelligence must be crammed (eventually) into Web Intelligence”. In my view, a better approach would be to ask “where is the best place in the platform to support users that need to write free-hand SQL” and “what features can we add to the platform to support the lifecycle of free-hand SQL”. There’s an opportunity here to share SQL query design-time features across multiple tools in the BI suite, possibly leveraging some of the existing query builder functionality in Crystal Reports.

Although it first appeared on the official roadmap nearly two years ago, Free-Hand SQL in Web Intelligence does not have a public timetable. It is not mentioned in the “What’s New” document for SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 Support Pack 3 expected to ship at the end of this month. Unless SAP changes its mind, Free-Hand SQL is coming to a future version of Web Intelligence (UPDATE: Free-Hand SQL was delivered in BusinessObjects BI 4.1 Support Pack 6 – see related article Web Intelligence and Free-Hand SQL). But if we must have Free-Hand SQL in Web Intelligence, can we at least have something more elegant than a big box?

How do you feel about the SAP product roadmap for Free-Hand SQL?

Nobody Ever Got Promoted for Being Live Office Product Manager

Does the birth of Microsoft PowerQuery mean the death of Live Office?

Last week at its 2014 SharePoint Conference, Microsoft announced Power BI connectivity to SAP BusinessObjects BI, described as “a joint business intelligence interoperability solution delivered with SAP”. The solution allows users to query UNX universes from the Information Design Tool from Microsoft Excel 2013. Andrew Fox has an excellent write-up of his first-time experience on his blog (see related article, Microsoft Power Query Connectivity to SAP BusinessObjects Universes – How to get started). But Andrew doesn’t feel that PowerQuery has sufficient capabilities to retire Live Office. At least not yet.

It’s certainly an interesting development, as Live Office 4.0 did not receive any significant updates. Its inability to query new UNX universes from the Information Design Tool is a curious omission. My co-worker Ahmed Sherrif thinks Live Office is as good as dead (see related article on the EV Technologies blog, Live Office is Dead to Me). Looking for answers, I posted a question to Twitter that’s probably on the minds of a lot of SAP BusinessObjects Live Office users.

There’s been no official word from SAP on the release of Microsoft PowerQuery.

 

So we don’t know if it is the official successor to SAP BusinessObjects Live Office. There had previously been some rumblings from SAP that Live Office functionality would be migrated to SAP BusinessObjects Analysis for Microsoft Office. The lack of official news from SAP confirms my suspicion that nobody ever got promoted for being Live Office product manager.

 

Microsoft Excel is the most popular BI tool. Getting data from Excel into SAP Lumira and Web Intelligence is a key capability. But some users prefer to do the opposite- get data into Excel and other Microsoft Office applications. In any case, there’s a SAP business intelligence product that is trapped between the living and the dead. With the North American SAP SAPPHIRE still two months away, let’s hope that more details about Microsoft PowerQuery and SAP BusinessObjects Live Office emerge before then.

True Desktop Intelligence With SAP Lumira

Modernizing Desktop Intelligence without leaving the desktop.

Last October, I performed a system health check for a customer using SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1. SAP BusinessObjects is an OEM package that comes with the financial system that runs their large yet highly specialized business. Like their industry peers that use the same solution, the company has upgraded from classic BusinessObjects 5 and 6 to XI R2 and currently XI 3.1, meaning that Desktop Intelligence is the overwhelming source of reports that help them run their business. Aside from the sample documents and universes provided by their ERP vendor, nearly all of the Desktop Intelligence documents live out in the wild, on desktops throughout the organization. Of course, the BI 4.1 platform offers limited support for Desktop Intelligence (see related article, Desktop Intelligence, Back for a Limited Time). But everyone, including this XI 3.1 customer, recognizes that the Desktop Intelligence Compatibility Pack is only a short-term solution.

I’ve seen this Desktop Intelligence scenario a lot since XI R2 was first introduced nearly 10 years ago. As part of my health check, I first made sure that the current hardware was sufficient to support the proposed number of simultaneous Web Intelligence users. Then I made sure that enough Web Intelligence Processing Servers and connections would be available. I explained to the customer the need to work with key stakeholders to identify critical Desktop Intelligence documents, export them to the BI platform into a well-designed folder structure, then convert them to Web Intelligence using the Report Conversion Tool.

This strategy made sense in 2004. But does it continue to make sense in 2014?

As business intelligence professionals, we’ve spent the last 10 years mocking desktop software and worshiping at the altar of web-based software. We’ve rolled our eyes at Desktop Intelligence diehards and showed no sympathy to users that have waited 10 years for SAP to deliver grouping functionality (it finally arrived in BI 4.1 SP2). We laughed in the face of WebiJavaGeddon (see related article, Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste). But today a new business intelligence revolution is occurring and its back on the desktop where it all started (see related article, Nobody Ever Got Fired for Buying Tableau). Delicious irony.

What if old Desktop Intelligence documents could be modernized without leaving the desktop? What if SAP Lumira could open a Desktop Intelligence document? And even if it couldn’t replicate the tables and charts accurately enough (or at all), what if it at least imported the document’s data providers properly? Ideally, a desktop BI user could convert the documents themselves rather than bundling them up for the IT department’s Web Intelligence conversion project. Self-service BI upgrades, not just self-service BI.

I posted my idea to the SAP Idea Place in December 2013.

SAP Idea Place Allow Lumira to Open Desktop Intelligence

Sadly, the idea was rejected— “not planned by SAP”— because “Web Intelligence is the natural upgrade path for Deski documents.” As much as I love Web Intelligence, I would argue that it’s the historical upgrade path for Desktop Intelligence documents. It’s no longer the logical upgrade path and should no longer be the only upgrade path.

The SAP Idea Place is largely based on the popular My Starbucks Idea site used by Starbucks to engage with its customers. In his recently published book Leading the Starbucks Way, author Joseph Michelli writes that:

As items gain popularity through the votes of members in the community, moderators engage in dialogue about those ideas. Cecile [Hudon] notes, “We encourage the moderators to comment and look for responses to the most popular ideas each week, and also look for diamond in the rough ideas— innovative ideas that have low point scores because they may be too new of a concept for people to recognize as a good idea.” [emphasis mine]

This business intelligence barista thinks a Desktop Intelligence extension for SAP Lumira qualifies as a diamond in the rough idea. I hope SAP will give the idea a second look.

What do you think of my idea for SAP Lumira and Desktop Intelligence? Would you consider voting or adding a comment to my idea on the SAP Idea Place?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. 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.”

Sorting Hyperlinks in Web Intelligence

A handy trick for sorting hyperlinks.

Today is Valentine’s Day, so lets have some fun with SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 Web Intelligence and Mobile BI 5.1. Candy and flowers are popular Valentine’s Day gifts, so let’s analyze the top 10 worldwide candy manufacturers using data from the trade journal Candy Industry. I’ll use this data to show you a tip for sorting hyperlinks in Web Intelligence.

I’m going to model the data using Microsoft Excel. Using previous versions of SAP BI, I would need the Web Intelligence Rich Client to work with Excel data. But using BI 4.1 SP2 I can do all my work from the BI Launchpad, uploading the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to a public folder and using the Java version of Web Intelligence (sadly, the HTML version of Web Intelligence does not support Excel data sources). All of the data shown below was obtained from Candy Industry except the GPS coordinates, which I manually generated using Google Maps. I’ll show the mapping capabilities of Web Intelligence in a future article.

Top 10 Candy Companies 01 Excel 600

First, I’ll create a simple Web Intelligence table from the spreadsheet data. Although ranking anything “top 10” by a measure like sales is preferable, I’m going to show you a sorting trick so I’ll keep the default sort by the first column, Company.

Top 10 Candy Companies 02 Table 600

Next, I’ll create a variable named Company Link that generates HTML to make the company name a hyperlink using the anchor tag, <a>.

Top 10 Candy Companies 03 Hyperlink Formula 400

I’ve replaced the Company column with my new Company Link variable. By default, the variable is interpreted as text, not a hyperlink. Although it’s useful to see if the formula generates proper HTML.

Top 10 Candy Companies 04 Hyperlink as Text 600

Next, I’ll right click in the Company Link column, choose to edit its properties, and change the display property from Text to Hyperlink.

Top 10 Candy Companies 05 Hyperlink Properties 400

I now have hyperlinks but at the expense of a slightly undesirable result. Instead of sorting on the Company Name, the table is now sorted by the HTML. In certain cases, the URL and the Company name begin with different letters (such as Barcel, Lindt, or Hershey’s), which will make anyone reading this table think that the data is unsorted.

Top 10 Candy Companies 06 Bad Sort 600

So here’s the trick. Modify the Company Link variable and add the name attribute before the href attribute. Use the desired sort field, the Company object, as the value for the name attribute. Make sure each hyperlink has a unique name attribute, potentially concatenating additional data columns to insure uniqueness.

UPDATE (02/17/2014): See comment below by Alastair Gulland regarding the use of id attribute as preferable to name. I did a little more digging and found a reference here.

Top 10 Candy Companies 07 Fix Formula 400

Now the HTML in the variable will sort in the same order as the company name.

Top 10 Candy Companies 08 Good Sort 200

Hyperlinks will also appear in the Mobile BI app. Here’s a screen shot from my iPad 2 running Mobile BI 5.1.8 on iOS 7.

Top 10 Candy Companies 09 Table 600

The built-in Web Intelligence “red” palette is perfect for displaying data about Valentine’s Day candy, as it consists of various shades of red, pink and brown. Notice that the table and charts below sort from highest to lowest 2013 Net Sales, which is a more appropriate sort for a ranked list.

Top 10 Candy Companies 10 Dash 600

For whatever reason, the Mobile BI app does not render all the labels on the bar chart in the middle of the screen. However, mobile users can simply double-tap on any report element to zoom. The zoomed chart shows all the labels. Tapping any of the bars will display its precise value as a tool tip.

Top 10 Candy Companies 11 Zoom 600

I hope this article will inspire you to use the new Microsoft Excel capabilities to create rapid prototypes for both desktops and mobile devices.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Resources

SAP BusinessObjects BI 4 is (Mostly) 64-bit

There’s still some 32-bit code lurking in the BI 4 platform.

One of the marquee features of SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 and BI 4.1 is that is 64-bit. But is important to note that it is mostly 64-bit- not fully 64-bit. Certain portions of server code are still 32-bit, which is why SAP by default installs the software in the 32-bit program files directory C:Program Files (x86) instead of the 64-bit program files directory C:Program Files (and you should, too).

From section 10.14 (page 428) of the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 Administrators Guide.

BI platform servers are a combination of 32-bit and 64-bit processes. Some servers additionally launch 32-bit and 64-bit child processes. To use the correct version of third-party libraries (32-bit vs 64-bit) with BI platform processes, you must set separate environment variables for each version on the machine hosting BI platform. You must then set an additional environment variable that contains a comma-separated list of those environment variables that have 32-bit and 64-bit versions. When a process is launched by BI platform, it will select the appropriate variable depending on whether the process is 32-bit or 64-bit.

I wished that the documentation spelled out all the 32-bit scenarios explicitly instead of just saying “Some servers”. So here’s my attempt at filling in some of the 32-bit details.

Classic Crystal Reports 20xx

Crystal Reports on the BI 4 platform comes in two varieties. First, there is Crystal Reports for Enterprise, which is an Eclipse-based design tool for creating Crystal Reports. Although the designer is 32-bit, the server processes that support it are 64-bit. Second, there is “classic” Crystal Reports 2011 for BI 4.0 (and now Crystal Reports 2013 for BI 4.1 and Crystal Reports 2016 for BI 4.2). These versions are the successor of Crystal Reports 2008 that paired with the SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 platform. Both the client tool and the server process are 32-bit. If you have legacy Crystal Reports, you’ll either want to migrate them to Crystal Reports for Enterprise or be sure to install 32-bit database middleware to support them.

Practically speaking, this means that you will need to install both 32-bit and 64-bit database drivers for data sources that power classic Crystal Reports. For SQL Server/ODBC, create 32-bit DSN’s that are identical to the 64-bit DSN’s. For Oracle, install both the 32-bit and 64-bit drivers, being sure to copy an identical tnsnames.ora to each. Oracle users will want to take a look at my related article, Installing Two Oracle Clients on One Server.

SAP BW via Classic UNV Universes

Another scenario where 32-bit code is used is when Web Intelligence reports use the classic UNV semantic layer to access SAP BW. In previous versions of the SAP BI platform, these requests were handled by the then-32-bit Web Intelligence Processing Server. However, a different workflow in BI 4.0 routes these requests through the 32-bit ConnectionServer32 server process. Because the connection server is 32-bit, it can only handle about 1.8 GB of RAM before things go pear-shaped. The scenario is described in SAP KB 1756239Classic universes that use a BAPI connection to SAP BW use the 32-bit Connection Server on BI 4.0 for Windows. As with legacy Crystal Reports, SAP recommends moving these Web Intelligence reports to a UNX universe on BW or a direct BICS connection. SAP BI 4.1 SP1 adds an additional wrinkle, as it includes a 64-bit SAP BW driver. However, it only gets installed with a BI 4.1 full installation. If you’re upgrading an existing BI 4.0 installation, you’ll want to do a “change” installation from the Windows Control Panel and add the SAPBW64 driver. SAP KB 1930558, How to utilize the 64-bit SAP BAPI driver with UNV universes in BI 4.x (Windows), has mostly correct instructions on how to do this. Take a moment to review the list as you may also want to add the new 64-bit Data Direct ODBC, Hadoop HIVE or OData drivers. Or go crazy and add the dBase driver, too.

Microsoft Access

I’ll mention Microsoft Access for sake of completeness. And because prior to BI 4.0 Feature Pack 3 it was impossible to get eFashion working. See my original eFashion on BI 4.0 rant, Converting eFashion from UNV to UNX, and Raphael Branger’s much more helpful article, BO 4.0 FP3: get eFashion and other Microsoft Access data sources working.

Hopefully this covers the key 32-bit exceptions of the mostly 64-bit SAP BI 4 platform. Let me know if I’ve missed any.

Crystal Reports vs Web Intelligence

A valid discussion in 2003 is a false argument ten years later.

Arm Wrestling

Should you use Crystal Reports?  Or Web Intelligence instead?

These were valid questions in 2004.  But today, Crystal Reports versus Web Intelligence is a false argument.

In 2003, Desktop Intelligence was the only BI tool in the BusinessObjects suite, a try-to-do-everything tool, from highly formatted to ad hoc.

In a similar way, Crystal Reports- prior to the BusinessObjects acquisition of Crystal Decisions- took a similar approach.  Crystal Reports 10 introduced Business Views as the response to the BusinessObjects semantic layer, the universe.  And later in XI R2, Crystal Reports Explorer, an interactive web-based report designer, was introduced as the weak (and post-merger) response to Web Intelligence.

This topic was part of a lively Diversified Semantic Layer podcast in February 2012. Listen to SAP Crystal Reports vs. Web Intelligence part 1 and part 2.

Follow the Diversified Semantic Layer on Twitter

We didn’t have a name for it back in 2003, but both vendors were adopting what we can now call the Microsoft Windows 8 approach- the have-it-all approach-  where a single OS is used for both mobile and desktop experiences (see related article, First Impressions of Microsoft Windows 8).

SAP is using an approach similar to Apple’s.  Apple has a tailored mobile experience and a tailored desktop experience. But each relies on a common, shared foundation. Just as Apple reuses the fundamental components of its desktop OS under the hood of its mobile OS, SAP has a common semantic layer, a common charting engine (the Visualization/CVOM service), a common portal (BI Launchpad) etc. while accommodating different kinds of users and user experiences. Both Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence support bursting (publications) but to different degrees (Crystal has the upper hand here).

And redundant components are slowly being trimmed from the product portfolio. Crystal Reports Explorer was retired on the XI R2 platform. And although Business Views are still supported in Crystal Reports 2013, it’s only to support legacy reports. There’s no Business View support in Crystal Reports for Enterprise. Instead, CR4E favors universes created by the Information Design Tool (UNX). The SAP roadmap also articulates that Design Studio is the eventual successor to Dashboards (formerly Xcelsius). Even though neither Crystal Reports with Business Views nor Dashboards have an automated tool akin to the Report Conversion Tool that is used to convert Desktop Intelligence reports into Web Intelligence reports.

So Crystal doesn’t have to be good at “everything” anymore.  It can excel at highly formatted reports.  And Web Intelligence doesn’t have to be good at “everything” anymore.  It can be easy and interactive. And tools like Analysis, Design Studio, Explorer, and Lumira fit in too. But Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence are still the primary go-to tools, as Raphael Branger describes in his recent article, The Rule of Thumb for SAP BusinessObjects Tool Selection. Raphael describes the unique strengths of both Web Intelligence and Crystal Reports. What was “either/or” when the tools were on two separate vendor teams is now “both/and” under SAP.

In some use cases, both Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence will work equally well. But be open to the idea that in certain scenarios, one will solve the problem better than the other.