New Xcelsius Servers in SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 SP3

The debut of the Dashboard Cache Server and Dashboard Processing Server

Patrice Le Bihan has recently (October 2010) posted a nice set of articles to the SAP Community Network wiki regarding the Xcelsius Cache Server and Xcelsius Processing Server added to SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 SP3 (UPDATE: These servers have carried over to the BI 4.0 platform as the Dashboard Cache Server and Dashboard Processing Server). He covers why these new servers were added to the SAP BI architecture, how to enable them, how Xcelsius/QaaWS caching works, available tuning options, and sizing these new servers into your architecture.

Patrice, thanks for putting together this information.

Business Objects Lifecycle Manager – first impressions

My first impressions of LifeCycle Manager for SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1

One of the most anticipated features of BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 is the new LifeCycle Manager (LCM). In its first iteration, LCM is a separate web-based application from the CMC. According to David Brockington, who presented a breakout at the recent Global BusinessObjects Network user conference, the next release of BusinessObjects Enterprise (XI 3.2?, XI 4.0?, nobody’s telling) will integrate LCM into the Central Management Console as well as introduce additional features and platform support that just couldn’t fit into the inaugural release.

Getting Started with LCM

The LCM installation process was painless. We’re already using Tomcat as our web application server, so the default deployment was sufficient. Finding the documentation was a bit of a challenge. I’ve so far been unable to find LCM documentation on either the SAP Help Portal or SAP Support Portal. I also didn’t find it in an “obvious” installed location but did manage to locate the PDF files in the temporary directory used by the self-extracting zip download.

On the security front, LCM shows up in the CMC as an application. By default, the Administrators group has Full Control and Everyone can View, which is ironic because Everyone cannot (thankfully) log onto LCM. Our pratice is to simply assign administrative users to the Administrator group, either directly or via a subgroup, so no special security tweaks were required to get going.

The inaugural release of LCM utilizes the open-source Subversion as its version control system. Future releases will provide hooks into other version control systems such as IBM/Rational ClearCase. In addition, an unspecified future release of Business Objects Data Services (Data Integrator + Data Quality) will utilize LCM rather than its current stand-alone scheme of local and corporate repositories.

First Impressions

There are some interesting nuances in the UI that we’ll have to see how they play out in the next release. For example, promotion jobs can be organized into user defined folders. However, the movement of jobs is done using a “Cut and Paste” metaphor which is what InfoView XI 3.0/3.1 does, not the “Move/Copy” metaphor from the XI 3.0/XI 3.1 CMC. For whatever reason, I prefer “Move/Copy”, as it’s a single operation, rather than a two-step cut and paste.

Also, I find the workflow for mappings a bit awkward, but I’m grateful that the LCM already supports re-mapping universe connections, QaaWS service URLs (really pumped about this one), and Crystal Reports connections.

It also seems that the addition of CMC folders for QaaWS in XI 3.1 caught the LCM developers off guard. Everything works, but the QaaWS should have a tree control but doesn’t.

As you can see from the screenshot below, success was achievable without too much sweat.

We did have some minor glitches today. LCM appeared to become inoperative; however, the culprit was not LCM. The Administrator account that I was using was accidentally switched from named user back to concurrent (our environment has both license types). Since multiple team members use and abuse the Administrator account, I later learned that we were exceeding the number of concurrent users. The Administrator was switched from concurrent back to named user, and all was well. Don’t hold me to this, but it seems that LCM uses a LOT of connections, so you’ll probably want to run it as a named, not concurrent, user. I’ll need to spend time researching this topic further.

Overall, the LCM software developers and product managers are to be commended for getting so much thoughtful functionality into the first release of the product. As today was my first time using LCM, the purpose of this post is to provide my initial enthusiastic impressions. We will be utilizing LCM extensively through the remainder of the year and I’m sure I’ll have more to say later… Until then…

What I miss in the Query as a Web Service (QaaWS) and Live Office query panels

I’ve been using Query as a Web Service (QaaWS) as the means to bring live data into executive dashboards. Sometimes, I get frustrated by features that I appreciate in the Web Intelligence query panel that are missing from QaaWS. The Query as a Web Service user guide documents several limitations with the QaaWS query panel.

  • Multi-cubes cannot be used
  • Combined queries and subqueries cannot be used
  • IndexAware prompts are not implemented

And although it isn’t explicitly mentioned, developers will quickly notice that:

  • There is no View SQL button in the QaaWS query panel

Because of the query limitations, it has often been necessary for me to add a derived table to my universe to achieve the SQL that I’m looking for. Today, I discovered yet another limitation:

  • Query filters cannot use universe objects as operands

The QaaWS Query Panel:

 

Query Panel Query as a Web Service (QaaWS)The Live Office query panel, although it is visually different from the QaaWS query panel (different development team?), is functionally identical. There are buttons for sorting and ranking, but combined queries, subqueries, and view SQL are nowhere to be found. And as with the QaaWS query panel, it is NOT currently possible to build a query filter that uses a universe object as an operand. (The screenshot below shows the three supported options: constant, list of values, and prompt).

Query Panel Live Office

Although I’ve focused on design time limitations in this post, it’s worth noting at run time that neither product currently supports object restrictions (restriction sets) defined in Designer.

Clearly, QaaWS and Live Office have similar capabilities and similar deficiencies as compared to the Web Intelligence query panel. Although the QaaWS application has been redesigned in XI 3.1, it does not contain any new query functionality compared to previous versions. It appears that we’ll have to wait longer (XI 3.2? XI 4.0?) for the query functionality gap with Web Intelligence to be closed.

For now, I’m grateful for derived tables in the universe. However, I sometimes feel that I am doing “unnatural” things to the universe that I wouldn’t have to do if these query panels had the functionality I’m accustomed to in Web Intelligence. Fortunately, the only “user” of the universe is our QaaWS-enabled Xcelsius dashboards – there are no “real” users of Web Intelligence.

Do you have similar experiences with Xcelsius + QaaWS? Feel free to post your experiences and clever solutions.

Fixpack 1 released for Xcelsius 2008 SP1 – an update

In a previous post, I had indicated that my initial reaction to Fixpack 1 was mixed. Although some of my existing dashboards using QaaWS needed some minor, but unexpected, tweaking. However, I started a new dashboard from scratch on Monday and am happy to report that I’ve encountered no unusual issues. Plus, I’m sooooo happy that my selector components populated by QaaWS no longer show “undefined” for blank cells, a bug introduced with Xcelsius 2008 SP1 but corrected in Xcelsius 2008 SP1 FP1.

I’ve noticed that the description entered into the Xcelsius document properties (File->Document Properties) still do not show up in the InfoView description field when either XLF or SWF files are exported to the Business Objects platform. Perhaps nobody has reported the issue, so maybe I’ll slog through the SAP Support Site and post a “message”.

In other news, I’m happy to report that BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 on 32-bit Windows is behaving much better than BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.0 on 64-bit Windows. We’ve brought up a development server and soon will be upgrading our existing “production” server (more of a pilot for now). Once we have 2 systems on XI 3.1, we’ll start using the new LifeCycle Manager. I’ll have more to say about XI 3.1 and LCM in a future post.

Fixpack 1 released for Xcelsius 2008 SP1 – but use with caution!

I learned on the Business Objects Board (BOB) this morning that Fixpack 1 has been released for Xcelsius 2008 SP1. The fixpack corrects some outstanding issues, some which were introduced in SP1 not present in the original release of Xcelsius 2008. The fixpack and the list of fixed issues can be downloaded from the SAP Support Portal.

My recommendation is to begin by installing on a test environment. There doesn’t seem to be a way to roll back/uninstall the fixpack without completely uninstalling Xcelsius 2008 SP1 and reinstalling it.

A word of caution: my existing dashboards required some gentle remapping of QaaWS fields that mysteriously became unmapped. Of course, the remapping process is tedious whenever you have to do it, and I wasn’t thrilled that a “fix pack” was contributing to my insanity.

Xcelsius 2008 SP1’s version number is 5.0.0.99 and build number is 12,1,0,247.

Xcelsius 2008 SP1 about box

Once FP1 is applied, the version number is 5.1.1.0 and build number is 12,1,1,344.

Xcelsius 2008 SP1 + FP1 about box

Xcelsius and Session Management in SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.0

Increasing session timeouts for Xcelsius dashboards.

I’m currently on a team building Xcelsius 2008 SP1 dashboards using Query as a Web Service (QaaWS). I’d like to talk about the steps that we went through to increase the default timeout value of our executive dashboards. We’re currently evaluating SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 to see if it corrects some issues we’ve been encountering in XI 3.0, specifically regarding dropped sessions on Xcelsius+QaaWS dashboards that rely on the CELogonToken for the user’s identity.

Out of the box, the default timeout values for the web applications, the Web Intelligence Processing Server, and QaaWS are all 20 minutes. To increase the timeout, several activities are required.

1. Modify the session-config parameter to the desired number of minutes. For example, the default location for the InfoView web.xml is C:Program FilesBusiness ObjectsTomcat55webappsInfoViewAppWEB-INF


<session-config>
<session-timeout>60</session-timeout>
</session-config>

Do this for all web applications. According to the illuminating BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.0 InfoView and Central Management Console Session Management (available from the SAP Help Portal but sent to me by my good friend Bob Dissinger), it is “strongly recommended that when updating the time-out value for 1 web-app that all other web-apps are updated to an equal value.” So in addition to InfoViewApp, be sure to update AnalyticalReporting, InfoViewAppActions, PlatformServices, etc.

2. Next, modify the Idle Connection Timeout (minutes): parameter for the Web Intelligence Processing Server. Be sure to restart the server (off hours if a production system) so the parameter takes effect; the procedure for restart is a bit different in XI 3.x than XI R2.

 

Web Intelligence Session Timeout3. Combined, the above two actions increase the timeout for Web Intelligence documents. However, a third modification is needed specifically for QaaWS. The value for the Enterprise Session timeout is modifiable by adding a property value to the dsws.properties file in the Web Services Provider web application. This file is found in the dswsbobje.war or BusinessProcessBI.war web application in the folder WEB-INF/classes.


# Increase timeout from 20 to 65 minutes. Value set in seconds
session.timeout=3900

This last step was uncovered by my manager, Alan Mayer, and is documented in SAP KB 1244342 (S-ID required). We opted to set the value slightly higher because we would rather a user get bumped off of InfoView rather than potentially see a dashboard become inoperative.

In a future post, I’ll describe the redesigned Query as a Web Service (QaaWS) application in XI 3.1, which sports an enhanced user interface compared to versions XI R2 and XI 3.0. I’ll also talk about the plumbing changes to QaaWS as well as the inclusion of QaaWS as a management area in the CMC (hooray – we have folders!). I’ll also tell you how we migrated Xcelsius dashboards and QaaWS from XI 3.0 to XI 3.1 and why we chose Windows 2003 Server 32-bit after a brief flirtation running XI 3.0 on WIndows 2003 Server 64-bit. Until then…

Lessons Learned on My Recent Xcelsius 2008 Project

I’ve been working on an executive dashboard using SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.0 and Xcelsius 2008 SP1. I wanted to share some of my lessons learned so far…

1. Leaving the QaaWS user name and password blank in the Xcelsius 2008 Data Manager forces Xcelsius to pop up the Business Objects Enterprise authentication dialog at run time. When the SWF is running inside of InfoView, either directly or via Dashboard Builder (fka Dashboard Manager), it receives these credentials automatically through the session.

2. To use the QaaWS application and create web services, you must either be the administrator, or a user who belongs to the QaaWS Group Designer security group in the CMC. Users who do not belong to this group will receive a message stating “You are not authorized to design or edit a query. Please contact your administrator (QWS 02718)”.

3. To consume (execute) QaaWS web services, users must belong to the QaaWS Group Designer group. This fact was a bit non-intuitive in the documentation and didn’t seem to work the first time I tried it. If your InfoView user does not belong to the QaaWS Group Designer group, the message output parameter of your QaaWS (if you’re displaying it in your dashboard) will return “A document with this name does not exist”. I’m grateful to Charles Liao, who posted this information on the “new and improved” SAP Support Forums and just got off the phone with Business Objects Customer Assurance, who confirmed this approach. Taking advantage of the multiple inheritance in the Business Objects security model, I put all of my Xcelsius executive dashboard users into a group and then made that group a subgroup of the QaaWS Group Designer group.

4. To avoid the dreaded “Error 2032”, you will need a crossdomain.xml file (not to be confused with the crossdresser.xml file) in the web application server (Tomcat) root directory to address some security features in the Adobe Flash 9 player. However, the procedure is well documented and nearly painless.

5. The default QaaWS user in XI 3.0 is no longer the Administrator (as in XI R2), but a new user named QaaWSServletPrincipal. This user can be modified or changed by editing the dsws.properties file, although since the user is no longer Administrator, you’ll probably have no reason to bother. The dsws.properties file is located at C:Business ObjectsTomcat55webappsdswsbobjeWEB-INFclasses. Look for the following:


qaaws.principal.username=QaaWSServletPrincipal
qaaws.principal.password=
qaaws.principal.authentication=

6. If you refresh the WSDL in Xcelsius 2008 (even if the WSDL is unchanged), all of the fields on the Definition tab of the Data Manager are cleared and need to be remapped to the Excel spreadsheet. This is just a bit frustrating. Curiously, the fields on the Usage tab appear to remain mapped.

7. Queries cannot be renamed in Query as a Web Service, although they can easily be copied to a different name. Therefore, it’s best to think about naming conventions before starting. There are no folders to organize QaaWS in XI 3.0, which will eventually lead to suburban sprawl if you’re building many different dashboards and queries.

8. Hitting the Import button in the Data Manager doesn’t always refresh the WSDL. If you’ve republished a QaaWS recently, you may need to close Xcelsius 2008 and reopen so the WSDL can be refreshed properly.

9. There are no 5-minute changes in Xcelsius 2008. Especially when QaaWS is involved. This is not directly a fault of the tools. Yes, I know you’re boss (and mine) probably saw the slick demos. I’ve just been burned often when something appears to be a quick change, but then there’s a wrinkle that involves a lot of testing…

10. Xcelsius 2008 and Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.0 are new software products. There will be bugs. There will be support calls. There will be tasks that take longer than expected as you learn to master the new capabilities and interfaces. All of these things must be built into project timelines as well as expectations. Otherwise, you’re better off using the previous releases of the product line.

I’ll continue to update this post as the project continues… I’m also compiling my desired features for Xcelsius 2009, or whatever the next major release will be. Thanks for reading!

Customizing SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1

Learn how to customize the InfoView login screen, replace the default logo, and adjust the default paper size.

I’ve had the privilege of working with a client that is currently using Crystal Reports and Crystal Enterprise 10 but wants executive dashboards. Because of the desired feature set, the client has adopted SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.0, Xcelsius 2008, and Query as a Web Service (QaaWS). This will also be my first experience with Business Objects on 64-bit Windows (see related article on 64-bit Windows and ODBC), so I’m excited.

IMPORTANT: This article covers customizations for SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI R2 and SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1.  If you’re working with later releases, please read Customizing SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 or Customizing SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1. Be aware that not every customization you can dream of is supported (see SAP KB 1218598 – Support policy on customizing SAP BusinessObjects InfoView, BI Launch Pad, and other applications).

I’m doing a bit of minor customization. I’m pleased to report that although the file locations have changed, many of the tricks used with BusinessObjects Enterprise XI Release 2 still apply.

I prefer to make a backup copy of all affected files prior to making modifications. I also encourage you to copy the modified files to a safe location unaffected by patching, as service packs and fix packs will redeploy WAR files and wipe out your customizations. If SAP BusinessObjects Explorer is part of your deployment, make sure it is installed and patched before making modifications, since the Explorer installer will also redeploy WAR files and wipe out your changes.

Changing the Default Logo
I discovered the secret location by clearing the “Display Business Objects logo” box in the CMC’s InfoView Properties, then checking the radio button for “Display custom logo”. By leaving the default value of logo.jpg, I was able to log into InfoView and display the properties of the broken image link. The default image still goes in the schema.blue folder like XI R2, but the path is now C:\Program Files\Business Objects\Tomcat55\webapps\InfoViewAppres\schema.blue.

Customizing the InfoView Login Page
The procedure for customizing the InfoView Login page is also very similar to XI Release 2, other than the web.xml file now lives at C:Program FilesBusiness ObjectsTomcat55webappsInfoViewAppWEB-INFweb.xml. As before, you’ll want to restart Apache Tomcat to see your changes in effect. Curiously, Business Objects XI 3.0 hides the CMS/cluster name and authentication type out-of-the box (frequent customization requests).

For XI Release 2, the app.name parameter controls some text on the login screen as well as the HTML <TITLE> tag throughout the user’s session. The <TITLE> tag trick is pretty cool, as the text that you choose will always be what users see when their browser window is minimized. So you may want to change the value from InfoView to CompanyName BI Portal. And the app.name.greeting, which by default is BusinessObjects, can be modified so users are greeted by Welcome to Our BI Portal instead of Welcome to BusinessObjects.

SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 handles InfoView Login page customization in a slightly different way.  The app.name.short attribute is used for the “greeting” and the <TITLE> tag of the InfoView home page while app.name is used for the <TITLE> tag of all other InfoView pages.  The app.name.greeting does not appear to be used.

Changing the Default Web Intelligence Paper Size
Although the rest of the world has standardized on A4 paper, the United States uses a slightly different Letter size. When Business Objects Enterprise is initially installed, the default page size is A4. In XI R2, this situation is easily corrected by modifying the defaultconfig.xml file. The Java and .NET versions of Web Intelligence each have their own defaultconfig.xml file.

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

If you are using the included Tomcat web application server, the defaultconfig.xml file for XI R2 is located at C:Program FilesBusiness ObjectsTomcatwebappsbusinessobjectsenterprise115desktoplaunchwebiAppletAppletConfig. The defaultconfig.xml file for SAP Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.0/XI 3.1 is located in a slightly different location at C:Program FilesBusiness ObjectsTomcat55webappsAnalyticalReportingwebiAppletAppletConfig.

Changing the InfoView and CMC Favicons

The InfoView favicon, InfoView.ico, is located in the Tomcat55\webapps\InfoViewApp\res\general folder and the CMC favicon, CMC.ico, is located in the Tomcat55\webapps\CmcApp\images folder.  Make backup copies of the originals, just in case, then replace with your organization’s favicon.ico.  Explorer uses the default Tomcat favicon, located in the Tomcat55\webapps\ROOT folder, so you’ll want to replace it as well. You’ll need to restart Tomcat and possibly even delete your browser’s cache before you’ll notice the new icons in your browser.

Conclusion
That’s all I have for now. There’s no customer requirement to customize the style sheet, and the client hasn’t used their new environment long enough to want any features disabled (discussions, information on demand) by tweaking additional XML files. But stay tuned…

It’s nice to know that it’s still possible to tailor the InfoView user experience. However, the drawback to the current approach is that you’re always in danger of a service pack or fix pack overwriting these files. Perhaps a future release will add common customizations as parameters that can be controlled via the application configuration in the CMC.

UPDATE (03/15/2013): Minor updates based on an experience applying SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 SP6 (Service Pack 6).

UPDATE (08/23/2012): I renamed this article as “Customizing SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1” instead of “XI 3.0” and added details for changing favicons.

Do you have a favorite customization for XI 3.1? Please share with the world as a comment to this post.