The Future of the SAP BI Platform, Again

Are SAP BI customers ready to trade in the Porsche 911 for a Tesla?

Red Porsche 911

Red Porsche 911

Yesterday I installed the latest updates from Microsoft on my Windows 8.1 laptop. Originally promised as Windows 8.1 Update 2 with a revised start menu, Microsoft stripped the release down to just a few new features, holding back the best stuff for next year’s release of what everyone expects to be Windows 9 Windows 10 (see related Computer World article, Pointless Windows 8.1 Update 2 shows Microsoft has given up on Windows 8). New features are always welcome, no matter how small. But Microsoft seems to be struggling to achieve the annual OS updates that Apple has been delivering for the past several years, including this year’s forthcoming iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite (see related article from The Verge, The 22 most important things Apple announced at WWDC 2014).

SAP has also had difficulty finding a definitive cadence with its updates to the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence platform. After the much-delayed BI 4.0 and nice but feature-lite BI 4.1, 2014 was supposed to be the year of the rumored BI 4.2. But instead, it’s been the year of integration of SAP Lumira and SAP Lumira Server (and therefore SAP HANA) into the existing BI 4.1 release. The integration kit between the two BI platforms was shown earlier this year at SAP SAPPHIRE in Orlando, with the SAP BI4 platform described as a classic Porsche 911 and the Lumira Server platform described as a cutting-edge Tesla. But the integration kit is still in ramp-up awaiting general availability.

Tesla Motors Black

There’s no BI 4.2 on the 2014 release calendar (see related SAP BusinessObjects Maintenance Schedule Calendar). In fact, even the year-end release of BI 4.1 SP5 has recently disappeared from the calendar, no doubt a casualty of SAP transitioning BI 4 platform development to Bangalore as all-things-Lumira takes center stage in SAP offices around the globe. So it looks like SAP BusinessObjects users will end 2014 with two versions of Crystal Reports, two semantic layer designers (the Universe Design Tool and the Information Design Tool), three versions of Web Intelligence (Java, HTML, and Rich Client), two dashboarding tools (Xcelsius/Dashboards and Design Studio), Explorer effectively marooned on an Adobe Flash desert island, and now two BI platforms- the classic SAP BI4 platform and the new HANA-based Lumira Server platform. And no point release to the BI4 platform to continue progress on shrinking functionality gaps.

Yesterday, SAP announced a new BI Strategy and Direction webcast for September 9, 2014. SAP executive Jayne Landry along with Ty Miller, Blair Wheadon, and even my friend, co-worker, and SAP Mentor Greg Myers will discuss the future of SAP’s BI initiatives. You can post questions to Twitter using the #askSAP hashtag (see Jayne Landry’s blog, Unleash Your Collective Insight, and register for the webcast). September 9 is also the rumored date for Apple to announce it’s latest iPhone and iPad models, although it’s latest iOS 8 and OS X Mavericks will continue to support a large number of Apple customers with older devices.

At least we’ll see how much gas is left in the Porsche 911 tank.

Further Reading

Is your organization going to trade in its Porsche 911 for a HANA-powered Tesla? What are your thoughts on the future of the SAP BI platform?

Author: Dallas Marks

I am a business intelligence architect, author, and trainer. I help organizations harness the power of analytics, primarily with SAP BusinessObjects products. An active blogger, SAP Mentor and co-author of the SAP Press book SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence: The Comprehensive Guide, I prefer piano keyboards over computer keyboards when not blogging or tweeting about business intelligence.

18 thoughts on “The Future of the SAP BI Platform, Again”

  1. A question that SAP needs to ask itself is “How much do you TRUST the guy in a Porsche (or a Tesla) who arrives on your doorstep to pick-up your teenage daughter…?”

    Most “Real World” ERP & BI users (*outside of the rotating cast of temp-execs in the C-suite) want a Trusty, Dependable, Easy-to-Maintain MINI-VAN to safely store and transport their Data in a wide variety of “Weather-Conditions”.

    It’s NOT sexy, it’s NOT cool – it’s easily-adaptable (*stow N go) solution — that simply gets the JOB done with as little “fuss” as possible.

    1. Mark,

      I drive a Volkswagen Routan minivan. Both dependable and sexy with a European-tuned suspension not found on its Chrysler-badged siblings. Sadly, VW discontinued the Routan. But seriously, I hear you loud and clear on “fuss” (cough, cough, we have to patch again already?).

      Thanks for writing!
      Dallas

  2. CUSTOMER : **(cough, cough, we have to patch again already?)**

    SAP [Off-Shore] Support : No, sorry……says here that you actually have to Multi-Patch your Organization’s 1,000’s of deployed desktop clients, a bunch of servers (*and some new stand-alone add-on server/services)…also these patches may-not work with the versions of Internet Explorer or Java that your Company has on it’s Managed-Desktop Standard configuration —– even though the last patch worked fine with those components…..aaaaand that “one-click PDF” print option that you have had set & working fine for thousands of users is going to be pooched by this patch — but we should have a fix for that in about 6 months.

    SAP Sales AE : Have you showed your CFO how to open the doors and sunroof to his “Tesla” from our iPad app yet…?

    1. Love the sales AE reference. I just went live with BI 4.1 at a customer who called his SAP sales AE to try to get some high-priority incidents escalated. The sales rep proceeded to tell my customer about an upcoming HANA webcast. As they say in comedy, timing is everything.

  3. Hey Dallas!

    So I will be attending the BO conference in Ft. Worth next month hoping to see some much improved features on the horizon. Sounds like that is not going to be the case. Until Lumira becomes an agnostic tool as we primarily are an Oracle shop (not just geared for Hana as my work place is looking at it…but NOWHERE close to purchasing it), we are “stuck” with the multiple variations as you have mentioned (i.e. 3 verisons of Webi…still missing geospatial functionality among other things lol). It’s really sad in a way. I am such a champion to the BO toolset after using it for over 14 years. I teach Webi to the employees I work with across various departments. There are features missing that the new players (Tableau, Spotfire…even Qlikview) have, that if were integrated into Webi would make BO top of the game (just my opinion). I have built and shown people really cool dashboard type functionality you can do with Webi to the point they dont want to use Dashboard Designer. I really hope SAP realizes a jem they have and could potentially risk destroying. On another note, I do find it interesting that Tibco is looking to be bought! Maybe SAP will snatch them up and bring them into the Borg collective too 😉 Sorry…Star Trek TNG humor. As always Dallas, love reading your blog posts, speaking with you in person in past ASUG’s…hope to see you next month.

    1. Thanks for writing, Dave. I believe the value proposition for a non-SAP ERP “agnostic” customer is completely different than for an SAP ERP + BW customer. I hope to wrestle my thoughts on the subject into a forthcoming article. A Tibco acquisition would be interesting, as I think the process integration software would be of more interest to SAP than the Spotfire analytics platform (or for that matter, Tibco’s recent acquisition of Jaspersoft).

      Looking forward to seeing you again in Fort Worth! Calf fries for everyone!

  4. Let’s be honest and admit that SAP has lost its way as far as its BI strategy is concerned. The Porsche 911/Tesla analogy makes no sense and they should stop using it – fast! The BusinessObjects suite is in it’s prime and Web Intelligence and Xcelsius (aka SAP Dashboards) are in use for critical production BI applications at tens of thousands of organizations around the world. The Lumira server solution will not be a viable alternative to BusinessObjects for years. Hopefully SAP will wake up and define an intelligent BI strategy before its too late.

  5. My Crystal Ball:
    We are making good on 2012 SOD
    We are going to be “Simpler” leaner, more interoperable BI suite (webi, design studio, lumira, crystal)
    We are innovating: Lumira + Cloud, Visualizations, ESRI Maps, Predictive, HANA
    Perhaps something mobile?
    Perhaps something predictive?

    Not bad on paper….

    I don’t see the SAP – Tesla comparison… I highly disruptive, innovative, beautiful, popular, product with near perfect customer ratings across the board?

  6. I just heard that BI 4.2 is coming in 1st quarter of 2015 and it is having feature of HA for BI, ie… we can patch system without downtime . is that true ?

  7. So, we are now in March 2015 – No news about 4.2, perhaps the silence is a build-up for Sapphire or it’s being silently shelved or maybe I should go buy more HANA and Lumira because HANA! Lumira!

    1. I was hoping to hear about the Velocity Engine, er, In-Memory Database Engine for the BI4.1 platform at BI2015 conference this week, but the paint is still too wet on the code for SAP to say more. BI 4.1 SP6 is still targeted for July, so we might see it in a SAPPHIRE booth. SAP is starting to say publicly that they’re targeting November or December for a BI 4.2 ramp-up, which points to a GA sometime in 2016.

  8. Thanks, Dallas.

    We have two old 3.1 installed internationally, and with 3.1 reaching EOL at the end of this year, they are planning to move to something else, so it looks like 4.1 it is, then!

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