Will Security Concerns Override Your BI Strategy?

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

Dashboards Not Working in Firefox

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

Dashboards Not Working in Firefox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

5 thoughts on “Will Security Concerns Override Your BI Strategy?”

  1. So far, there has been no impact. We have enterprise requirements to support IE and Chrome, so losing Firefox compatibility doesn’t affect us. Or at least, not until some of our customers start complaining. Given our general cycle, I expect that to come sometime around Christmas.

    Our general strategic move has actually been to start moving to Tableau to deliver our dashboards. I’ve been tapped to be the local SME, and have been doing a lot of mock-ups and demos of what the expected differences might be. Some people are excited, some are not. It’s a little early to make any definitive call.

    We’re also doing some poking at Lumira, but the enterprise doesn’t want to invest in Hana.

    1. Lugh,

      Thanks for writing. I’ve noticed that a lot of SAP shops also have Qlik or Tableau in their enterprise. My concern is that IT departments will ban Flash, forcing the BI department to retire their Dashboards and Explorer investments sooner than they’d prefer.

      Regarding Lumira, you should definitely give it a second look. SAP has listened to its customers and revised its Lumira strategy to no longer mandate HANA. The recently released Lumira integration with the BI4 platform adds its own in-memory database engine (NOT HANA) to your BI landscape.

      Regards,
      Dallas

  2. Dallas,

    Sounds like we wrote almost the same article at the same time last week (with mine at http://scn.sap.com/community/businessobjects-dashboards/blog/2015/07/24/a-bleak-future-for-flash-and-xcelsiussap-dashboards).

    It does feel increasingly that future support for Flash is being taken out of Adobe’s hands and therefore future support for Xcelsius / SAP Dashboards content is being taken out of SAP’s hands.

    Not sure what SAP could do about it even if they reversed their end of development decision for Xcelsius/SAP Dashboards as Flash is so tied into the design experience of the product.

    It is interesting that you mention the move to Qlik and Tableau. These are good products but I am not sure they are such a good replacement for Xcelsius (data discovery vs BI app design). However, more importantly these require you to pretty much abandon the existing investment in the BOBJ BI platform and start afresh.

    This last consideration is one of the key reasons we took our BOBJ connectivity with us when we created DecisionPoint. This gives BOBJ customers an Xcelsius-like product (no coding etc) which allows them to build on their BOBJ investment rather than abandoning it.

    This is not the place for product pitches, but if anyone is interested then they should pop over to http://www.antivia.com/decisionpoint.

  3. Thanks for the update Dallas.
    This could impact businesses slowly but strongly like slow poison ,so better to switch to a data analytic tool with premium options and affordable with highly secured and no flash and purely made of HTML 5 .Let me introduce to a tool which can fulfill all the above properties .
    BizViz Dashboard Designer a pure play HTML5 framework, with impressive chart library – not difficult for a Xcelsius user to switch.
    BizViz Online is a leading-edge browser based dashboard designer that brings data to life with Stunning Visualization.Please follow below link to know more about it.

    http://www.bdbizviz.com/banner1content.html?id=0

  4. Dallas,

    I have been encouraging my clients to take a hard look at Antivia’s DecisionPoint as it does not require Flash – totally HTML5 compliant – and it provides a way for IT and non-IT ‘designers’ to quickly create very inter-active BI dashboards for end users consumption. I believe DecisionPoint is the ‘ready now’ replacement for Xcelsius Dashboard.

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