Killing Explorer

How to remove all evidence of SAP BusinessObjects Explorer.

Last week was a sad week. I helped a customer retire SAP BusinessObjects Explorer as part of their BI 4.2 upgrade. SAP will continue to “support” Explorer until Adobe retires Flash in December 2020 (see related Adobe announcement, Flash and the Future of Interactive Content). But for this particular customer, the application never saw widespread use and was therefore easy to retire. Uninstalling the application is easy enough, but it leaves behind some evidence.

First, there’s a placeholder on the BI Launch Pad’s application menu.

Explorer on Application Menu

Also, there’s a placeholder icon under My Applications.Explorer icon on home screen

Fortunately, SAP has provided a solution in SAP KB 1756172, an SDK script that will remove offending entries from your CMS database. With the obligatory warning to “make sure to have backed up your CMS repository database before proceeding,” the KB article provides clear instructions on how to install and run the script, which generated the following output.


Delete ClientAction Launch Explorer
Number of objects found: 2

Deleted object 3431952 at:Fri Apr 13 11:39:34 PDT 2018
Object Name: BusinessObjects_ClientAction_Launch_ExplorerApplication_dfo.xml
Object Type: DeploymentFile

Deleted object 3431953 at:Fri Apr 13 11:39:34 PDT 2018
Object Name: Launch_ExplorerApplication
Object Type: ClientAction

With the offending InfoObjects removed from the CMS, the applications menu no longer shows a placeholder for Explorer.

Explorer on Application Menu, removed
Nor is there a placeholder icon under My Applications.

Explorer icon on home screen, removed

Nor is there a satisfactory replacement for Explorer, four years after it was announced that Lumira would provide a solution (see related SAP Blog, Run Simple: Convergence of the SAP BusinessObjects BI Product Portfolio). Now we look forward to some kind of Explorer solution with SAP Analytics Cloud, possibly at the upcoming SAPPHIRE 2018 event. However, at present, the lack of an SAP alternative remains a significant issue for SAP customers with large investments in Explorer.

But we’ve discussed that already (see related article, The Road Unexplored: A Future for SAP BusinessObjects Explorer).

References

  • SAP KB 1756172BI 4: ???dummy.action.Launch_ExplorerApplication.display.name??? displayed after Explorer Uninstall
  • SAP KB 2288760After uninstalling SAP BusinessObjects Explorer from the BO server, Explorer Application, Servers and Service Categories are still displayed in the CMC.

SAP Lumira 2.0 compatibility with SAP BI platform

Which versions of the BI platform are compatible with SAP Lumira 2.0?

I imagine that most organizations will combine SAP Lumira 2.0 SP2/GA with an upgrade to SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP4 Patch 1. However, according to the PAM, the SAP Lumira add-on to the BI platform is compatible with recent support packs of BI 4.1. Note that due to an issue with promotion management (see SAP Note 2437742), those support packs will also need to be patched.

The following versions of the SAP BusinessObjects BI platform are compatible with SAP Lumira 2.0/GA and promotion management:

  • SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 SP8 Patch 10 or higher
  • SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 SP9 Patch 5 or higher
  • SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 SP10
  • SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP2 Patch 12 or higher
  • SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP3 Patch 8 or higher
  • SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP4 Patch 1 or higher (see also SAP Note 2467541)

Multilingual organizations that rely on Translation Manager will want to consult SAP Note 2515265, which requires even higher patch levels. NOTE: not all have been released as of this writing):

  • SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 SP8 Patch 11 or higher
  • SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 SP9 Patch 6 or higher
  • SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 SP10 Patch 1 or higher
  • SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP2 Patch 13 or higher
  • SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP3 Patch 10 or higher
  • SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP4 Patch 3 or higher (see also SAP Note 2467541)

You’ll also want to read Matthew Shaw’s SAP Community blog, A ‘simple’ guide to Updating (Upgrading) your SAP BusinessObjects BI Platform – the rules.

What are your organization’s plans for SAP Lumira 2.0? Leave a comment below.

When I’m Sixty-Four (Bit)

SAP Lumira wonders “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four (bit)”?

Lumira Splash Screen

Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four (bit)?

Lennon–McCartney from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

New 64-bit engine leads SAP to sunset 32-bit Lumira Desktop

In a SAP Community Network article entitled 32-bit Lumira Desktop: Direction and Support Going Forward, SAP reveals that Lumira 1.25 (not yet released) will be the last edition of Lumira with 32-bit support.

SAP Visual Intelligence 1.0 (the original product name for what we now know as Lumira) was originally released as 64-bit. SAP Visual Intelligence 1.07 added 32-bit support based on customer feedback. I’m not surprised that SAP acted to meet customers wishes, but I was surprised that giving users, especially power users, a 64-bit operating system was such a large obstacle for SAP customers. Most of these same customers were deploying 32-bit Windows 7 on 64-bit hardware. Starting with the iPhone 5S and iOS 7, even pocket-sized smartphones sport 64-bit processors and operating systems.

SAP introduced its new “in-memory database engine”, formerly known as the much hipper “velocity engine”, in the latest 64-bit edition of Lumira Desktop, version 1.23 (see related SAP Community Network article, What’s New in SAP Lumira 1.23). The 32-bit edition of Lumira Desktop will move into its impending retirement with the older IQ-based database engine. However, Lumira has reached a point in its development where new features (on the Lumira 1.26 desktop and soon to be on the BI 4.1 server) will require this new engine.

The new in-memory database engine will soon come to the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 platform as an add-on, allowing visualizations created with SAP Lumira Desktop to be viewed and refreshed in the BI Launch Pad (see related SAP Community Network article, Planned Native Integration of Lumira into BI Platform Details).

Will SAP BI 4.2 Client Tools Go 64-bit?

With SAP Lumira, SAP Design Studio, and even SAP Data Services Designer already available in 64-bit editions, will SAP BI 4.2 introduce 64-bit editions of “go-forward” client tools like Crystal Reports for Enterprise, Information Design Tool, and Web Intelligence Rich Client? Or does “interoperability” in the SAP BI tool simplification diagram mean that future versions of Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence will receive an adrenaline boost and also take advantage of the in-memory database engine?

SAP BI Simplified Portfolio

At this point, nobody outside of SAP knows but I’m sure we’ll hear more details in the latter half of 2015.

Is Your Organization Ready for 64-bits?

One thing is clear. Now is the time to install 64-bit Windows on the workstations of your Business Intelligence Competency Center (BICC) team and the power users you support. Let your SAP Lumira Desktop pilot act as a catalyst in discussions with your enterprise desktop support organization. And while Microsoft is planning a 32-bit edition of its upcoming Windows 10, offer to be guinea pigs for your organization’s Windows 10 pilot, insuring that 64-bit Windows 10 will be the operating system deployed to your core constituencies.

Resources

Are you ready to go 64-bit?

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Lumira (Governance)?

Governing seven children might be easier than governing Lumira users that wanted to buy Tableau instead.

How do you solve a problem like Lumira?

In the classic 1965 film The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews plays Maria, who according to Wikipedia is “a young woman who leaves an Austrian convent to become a governess to the seven children of a naval officer widower.” Governing seven children is no easy task, but it’s made easier when you have a guitar and basic sewing skills.

How do you solve a problem like Maria?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find the word that means Maria?
A flibbertijibbet! A will-o’-the wisp! A clown!

Many a thing you know you’d like to tell her
Many a thing she ought to understand
But how do you make her stay and listen to all you say
How do you keep a wave upon the sand?

Oh, how do you solve a problem like Maria?
How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?

But enough about the governess. Let’s talk about governance, looking closer at the new governance features introduced in SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence BI 4.1 Support Pack 5. These features allow a SAP BI administrator to pin users to a specific CMS cluster and control which features of the product are enabled. The administrator can also direct the auto-update feature to an internal site, keeping the organization on a consistent version of SAP Lumira desktop.

To enable governance, a file named LumiraGovernance.properties must be deployed in each user’s C:Users\.sapvi directory. How is this accomplished? According to Greg Wcislo’s SCN post,

To make the feature effective, you do need a centralized software distribution system, and one that will set this file to read only.

A New Approach to Client Tool Governance

Lumira’s approach to governance is unique among the current SAP analytics tools. Whether it’s an end-user tool like Web Intelligence or a developer tool like the Universe Design Tool or Information Design Tool, traditional client tools become governed automatically as soon as a user connects to a CMS. In contrast, Lumira requires the BI administrator to distribute a governance file to each users desktop, without any assistance from the BI platform. So while the governance feature exists on a product comparison chart, actually using the feature will require time and effort from BI administrators that is often in short supply.

But Who Wants to Be Governed Anyway?

I predict that application governance is going to be a slippery slope for SAP. On one hand, IT wants to hear that they can control rogue users. On the other hand, a large part of Tableau’s current appeal is that it can be purchased and deployed without IT. SAP hasn’t introduced anything new here to help improve often frayed relationships between business users and their IT departments.

What About Software Distribution?

Something else missing from the first release of Lumira governance is automated software distribution. Long time BusinessObjects users will fondly remember ZABO, or Zero-Administration Business Objects. Not only did ZABO automate software distribution, it eliminated the need to configure database middleware on client PCs, typically a cumbersome process. Despite the (not very well-known) fact that Web Intelligence Rich Client can be installed from the BI Launch Pad, BI administrators are reluctant to deploy and manage client software. Or IT policies make it difficult to leverage those features. Live Office, although it cannot be installed from the BI Launch Pad, is another example of a client BI tool whose adoption has suffered due to the installation hurdle.

The Bottom Line

The marketplace has spoken. Users want powerful visualization software on their desktops, unconstrained by grumpy administrators who turn off desired features or by flaky, underperforming web applications. SAP- with its historic ability to automatically deploy client software combined with an awareness of IT’s reluctance to do so- has an opportunity here.

Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
‘Till you find your dream.

Let’s see how these governance features mature over the next few months.

References

What are your thoughts on SAP Lumira’s new governance features? Would Captain Von Trapp approve?

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links on this web site 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. Also, some of the books I review were received as review copies and I’ve given my best effort to accurately disclose that information as part of the review. I am disclosing this information in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

BI to go at SAP Insider’s BI2015

Join me at SAP Insider’s BI2015 conference in Las Vegas.

In March 2015, I’ll be speaking at SAP Insider BI2015 in Las Vegas, a WIS Publishing conference. It’s actually four conferences in one, as HANA 2015, HR 2015 and SAP Admin 2015 will all be going on at the same time. EV Technologies is an event sponsor and I’ll be joined by several of my co-workers (see related EV Technologies article, Viva, Las Vegas!).

SAP Mobile BI to Go at SAP Insider

BI to go! A guide to mobilizing SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence reports

Tuesday, March 10, 2015 at 5:00 PM – 6:15 PM
Web and formatted reports track

This comprehensive session teaches you how to create SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence reports, as well as tailor existing reports, for tablet and smartphone devices. After a brief overview of how to make your BI environment mobile-ready, you will explore:

  • Techniques to master new mobile-exclusive capabilities, like bullet graphs and scorecards
  • Important differences between card view and page view
  • Methods to distribute bursted and personalized content to users via their mobile devices

You can learn more about these events on the SAP Insider web site or follow the BI2015 conversation on Twitter.

See you in Vegas!

Sampling the Mobile BI Samples with BI 4.1

SAP has really done mobile-curious customers a big favor with such a useful starting point.

Two years ago, I took a look at the Mobile BI samples in BI 4.0 (see related article, Sampling the Mobile BI Samples with BI 4.0). Those samples were focused on older mobile devices like the Blackberry and not newer devices like Apple iOS and Google Android phones and tablets. Today, SAP includes tablet-ready samples as part of SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 (also in later support packs of BI 4.0), but you’ll need to complete a few simple tasks to see these reports on your mobile device.

Take a look in the Web Intelligence Samples folder and look in the Mobile Samples subfolder.

SAP BI 4.1 Mobile Samples

Inside are six reports: Chart Demo, Drill Demo, Geo Analysis Demo, Input Controls & Filter Demo, Mobile – Table Demo, and Sections Demo.

SAP BI 4.1 Mobile Samples

Many of these reports look pretty plain in the BI Launch Pad, but they come to life on a mobile device. Out of the box, the documents won’t show up on a mobile device because the categories required by the Mobile BI app do not exist. So take a couple of minutes to create the categories (see related article, Creating Categories for SAP Mobile BI Documents). Next, tag each of the six mobile samples with the Mobile category (at first glance, none of the samples fared better with MobileDesigned, but feel free to compare these two categories yourself).

With the category applied, you should now be able to see these Web Intelligence documents on your mobile device. I’m using my trusty Apple iPad 2 and SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI 6.1.9 (the most recent release) and SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 SP5. Keep in mind that both the version of the mobile app and the version of the BI platform can affect how Web Intelligence documents are displayed.

Chart Demo

The Chart Demo demonstrates how various charts using the new BI 4 visualization engine (aka CVOM) appear on a mobile device. There’s several reports within the Chart Demo document- I’ve chosen one of the more colorful ones here. Notice the bubble and waterfall charts, which we never had in XI 3.1 or earlier.

SAP BI 4.1 Mobile Samples Chart Demo

Drill Demo

The drill demo demonstrates how to drill down with tables.

SAP_BI41_Mobile_Samples_Drill_Demo_01_600

 

It also shows how to drill down with charts. Clicking on a column of the top chart…

 

SAP_BI41_Mobile_Samples_Drill_Demo_02_600

 

…causes it and the pie chart beneath to drill to the next level of the hierarchy.

 

SAP_BI41_Mobile_Samples_Drill_Demo_03_600

Geo Analysis Demo

The Geo Analysis Demo demonstrates how to visualize multiple metrics by latitude and longitude. Mapping is only available on a mobile device- this report looks like a bunch of boring tables in the BI Launch Pad.

SAP BI 4.1 Mobile Samples Geo Analysis

Input Controls & Filter Demo

As the name suggests, the Input Controls & Filter Demo demonstrates how input controls and filtering are very nicely supported via the mobile interface.

SAP_BI41_Mobile_Samples_Input_Controls_600

Mobile – Table Demo

The Table Demo demonstrates how horizontal, vertical and crosstab tables appear on a mobile device. There’s multiple report tabs showing various capabilities- I chose the most colorful one here.

SAP_BI41_Mobile_Samples_Table_Demo_600

Sections Demo

Just a simple report showing how the mobile user experience allows users to navigate sections.

SAP_BI41_Mobile_Samples_Sections_Demo_600

These screen shots only show a fraction of the features SAP has demonstrated with these six samples. I was a bit surprised that there’s no bullet graph in these samples and I hope that SAP will continue to enhance this mobile-ready collection in future releases.

SAP has really done mobile-curious customers a big favor with such a useful starting point. Don’t forget that the mobile app itself has its own samples. But these samples effectively demonstrate what a Web Intelligence developer needs to do. I hope you’ll be encouraged to use the same techniques in your own mobile-ready Web Intelligence reports.

Are you currently using mobile Web Intelligence? I’d love to hear any success stories.

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?

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

Don’t Fluster the Cluster, part 2

Don’t let your BI platform become a cluster chuck!

I spied this fantastic new collection of Woodchuck Cider on an end cap at my local grocery store and just had to snap a photo. It’s a variety pack cleverly named the Cluster ‘Chuck Variety Pack.

Woodchuck Cider Cluster Chuck at Kroger

The Woodchuck Cluster ‘Chuck Variety Pack is our new cider sampler. Following suit with the rest of our ciders, the pack has a brand new look to go with our brand new Cidery. Our top notch in-house creative team set out to create a design that fit the spirit of our ciders, our local orchard partners, and our home state of Vermont.

From the Woodchuck Cider blog

I had so much fun talking about SAP BusinessObjects CMS clustering and Ben and Jerry’s Clusterfluff ice cream (see related article, Don’t Fluster the Cluster). A bit of humor can really help bring a dry technical topic to life. The 2014 conference season is now over for me, but I thought somebody out there would see this and be inspired to use it in their own slide decks about CMS clustering. We wouldn’t want any SAP BusinessObjects installations to turn into a cluster chuck, would we?

Raising my glass to SAP BusinessObjects administrators everywhere. Skol!

Squeezing the Entire Universe Into SAP Lumira

Possible to squeeze the entire universe into SAP’s desktop data discovery tool?

When SAP Visual Intelligence was introduced in 2012, it could visualize data from any data source as long as it was SAP HANA. Thankfully, universe support came just a few short months later in version 1.03, opening up a wealth of data sources and allowing customers to leverage their existing investments in SAP’s “agnostic” semantic layer. Universe support in Lumira is interesting because the front-end doesn’t give the full BusinessObjects query panel experience that experienced universe consumers expect. But it’s also interesting because of how data gets from the data source, through the universe, and into Lumira. It uses a Web Intelligence mechanism originally designed to allow Web Intelligence documents to be exported from the browser in Microsoft Excel and text formats.

The SAP Lumira universe query panel

First, let’s take a look at the query panel experience. First, here’s the Web Intelligence Java-based universe query panel (from BI 4.1 SP3).

Universe Query Panel Web Intelligence 4.1

And here’s the Lumira universe query panel (from version 1.19).

Universe Query Panel Lumira SP19

At first glance I assumed that Lumira was offering some kind of reimagined query panel of the future. But upon closer inspection it’s a query panel that’s missing quite a few features from Web Intelligence panel, similar to Explorer (see related article, Family Planning), Live Office, and Query as a Web Service (see related article, What I miss in the Query as a Web Service (QaaWS) and Live Office query panels). Even Design Studio has more query panel functionality (although still a subset of the gold standard Web Intelligence panel). It’s possible that the Lumira product team assumed that its users would want something easier to use. But consider that SAP Lumira already has a free-hand SQL capability that’s still lacking from Web Intelligence. Free-hand SQL provides many things, but “easy business user interface” doesn’t immediately spring to mind (see related article, Free-Hand SQL Isn’t Free).

There definitely is an opportunity here to extend the functionality of the Lumira universe query panel.

UPDATE: Lumira v1.24 will integrate the Information Design Tool’s Query Panel, but only for UNX universes.

Consuming Existing Universe Queries

I’ve already made the unsuccessful pitch that Lumira should be able to extract queries from Desktop Intelligence documents (see related article, True Desktop Intelligence with SAP Lumira). And the longer I work with Lumira, it seems obvious that it should be able to consume a query from a Web Intelligence document, too. There are obvious differences in functionality between Web Intelligence and Lumira. Reporting is not data discovery and I’m not proposing to change that. But whether seconds, minutes, hours, or days were required to create a critical Web Intelligence report, it seems logical that a Lumira user might want to consume the same query logic without reinventing the wheel.

UPDATE (June 9, 2015): This idea was intriguing enough to APOS, who has developed the APOS Data Gateway plug-in for SAP Lumira.

SAP Lumira and the Web Intelligence processing server character stream size

The other issue Lumira users will encounter while squeezing the entire universe into their visualizations is the Web Intelligence Processing Server maximum character stream size. Experienced SAP BI administrators refer to this as the “10 kilograms of universe, uh, DATA in a 5 kilogram bag” problem. Users will see the following message and probably have their own nickname for it.

Lumira SP19 ERR_WIS_30270
An internal error occurred while calling ‘processDPCommandsEx’ API. (Error: ERR_WIS_30270)

The following verbiage first appeared in the SAP Lumira 1.17 Release Notes. It was removed from the SAP Lumira 1.18 Release Notes but has been fortunately documented by SAP Note 2020352.

The data acquisition of medium-large, large, and very large datasets from UNV or UNX universes is not supported on default installations of both SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence platforms 4.0 and 4.1.

It is recommended for customers that want to acquire such datasets to install a SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence platform (SAP BIP) server dedicated to SAP Lumira and significantly increase the value of the Maximum Character Stream Size of the Web Intelligence Processing Server on that particular server. Note that increasing this value on a running SAP BIP server can impact the memory consumption and performance of any BI clients tool running on that installation, particularly Web Intelligence. While this practice is not formally discouraged, we advise customers implementing this solution that they might face memory consumption increases and longer document data refreshes so they will need to monitor the SAP BIP server’s behavior adequately to control the impacts.

In an era of “big data” hype, I have no idea what SAP means by the terms medium-large, large, and very large datasets, other than “don’t blame us if you didn’t buy a HANA server”. But as with Mobile BI (see related article, Viewing Large Web Intelligence Documents with Mobile BI), Explorer (see related article, Hacking SAP BusinessObjects Explorer 4.0) and Live Office, the solution is to increase the Maximum Character Stream Size and to a lesser extent the Binary Stream Maximum Size on the Web Intelligence Processing Server. SAP’s documentation is slightly unclear on this point, but it seems that XML and Microsoft Excel XLSX formats (which are zipped XML files- see related Wikipedia article about Office Open XML) are “character” files affected by the Maximum Character Stream Size setting. Adobe PDF and Microsoft Excel XLS formats are “binary” files affected by the adjacent Binary Stream Maximum Size setting. There isn’t an easy way to determine the optimal stream size, other than “keep increasing the value until the error goes away”. Keep in mind that poorly designed universes will return bloated data sets to any client tool, whether it’s SAP Lumira, Mobile BI, or any edition of Web Intelligence. So a code review of existing universes can be a healthy activity in addition to increasing server settings.

Oddly enough, Web Intelligence and its predecessor Desktop Intelligence contain SAP’s first in-memory database- the microcube. Long before HANA was a gleam in Hasso Plattner’s eye, the microcube facilitated multi-dimensional analysis of large datasets (called slicing-and-dicing back in the day) that may have taken a bit of time to be retrieved from the now-obsolete spinning disks in the database server. The Web Intelligence web application requests data from the microcube one viewable page at a time, but modern apps like Mobile BI and Lumira need the entire microcube before they can visualize data. So these apps are riding the coattails of the mechanism SAP originally created for exporting Web Intelligence data to Adobe PDF and Microsoft Excel files.

In a recent blog, Steve Lucas said

Build on what you already have: With 45,000 customers using SAP BI technology, there’s a pretty good chance you can take advantage of your existing BI investments by connecting directly to Universes and SAP Business Warehouse with SAP Lumira.
Steve Lucas, The Countdown on Data Visualization Has Begun – Top Ten Reasons Why SAP Will Deliver

If building on what we already have is a key selling point, there’s got to be a better, faster and more scalable way to get data from the universe into SAP Lumira.

I eagerly look forward to what is coming next from the SAP Lumira product team.

Is your organization using SAP Lumira with universes?

How these settings affect SAP Lumira

  • SAP KB 1826015– SAP Visual Intelligence 1.0.7 connecting to universe data source
  • SAP Note 2020352– Release restriction note for SAP Lumira 1.17

How these settings affect other SAP BusinessObjects products

Other Resources