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Two Weeks ago I was working on a dashboard to be developed out of FLEX for SAP BI. I had tons of help from SDN as well as Durairaj Athavan raja who helped me all through it.

 Ultimately  I achieved the goal I started out with – I managed to integrate SAP BI data with Google Maps ( a sortof first cut to get the client interested ) , instead of a jawdropping response I expected .. the first question was …

what will this cost ?

Answer : not much apart from the IDE , the rest is free

Are you sure ?

and later on no response … this made me think as to whether we are actually ready for open source in the realm of SAP BI…?

We keep hearing the word… Open Source Business Intelligence…. but are we there yet?

Lets weigh the points against and for such tools.

For – Points in favor of Open Source BI Tools

1: Of course the biggest point is cost of licenses ( I have said cost of licenses specifically for a purpose ). You have to pay for the hardware alone…. not exactly the case for some but then you can have a support fee included for enterprise installations.

2: Open development interfaces / APIs – almost all the BI tools come with a JAVA development interface that supports reporting and other features. This makes it relatively easier for you to build applications on top of the same

3: Easy integration with other tools
Most of them if not all of them support web services and enable connectivity both ways using web services.

Against :
1. Lack of a skillbase for the same – more of a chicken and egg story – more implementations would swell the resource base and vice versa. But then it is an issue – similar to SAP Installations on LINUX – you can find more people who have implemented SAP on an AIX / Solaris platform than Linux and hence for you to choose between the same would include a caveat of finding appropriate resources for the same!! ( Maybe with Novell coming up with SUSE 10 this might change !!)

2. No 911 available – like for SAP , I have OSS – with a GPL License – who do I call ? because the original product might have been modified for my usage or I might not be running the latest version…

But then ultimately are we supposed to embrace open source or not …?
 

Now coming to a more generic usage possibility….

You can however look at Open source for smaller implementations – that way you can look at the cost benefit since the implementation is anyway not going to be mission critical as compared to your Data Warehouse implementation – but then to keep costs down implementations of Adobe FLEX ( I never seem to remember any other!! ) or small MIS based on Pentaho etc might mean that you create miniature data islands within the enterprise but then the costs are down and you can also foster better development and set the stage for innovation using such tools which rank high on flexibility but lack the visibility as an enterprise offering.

Why am I saying this ? is it heresy ?

Not exactly – in many cases Business Intelligence implementations are stuck in a state of no growth or degrowth because of predominantly maintenance costs and also lack of flexibility in the case of reporting. This is where open source can come in and use the backend of SAP BI and built RIAs on SAP BI or have a data feed from SAP BI going into a pentaho instance and host some reports out of there instead and the reports can be sent for free ( or at a very competitive price )

This way BI Adoption will increase in the organization – this should ideally lead to better operational information and thereby better ROI and hence more people using BI in one way or the other….

Basically it does not mean that there should be a monopoly on tools being used in an enterprise but more driven towards using what’s available in the market and drive innovation within , where different teams try to outdo each other in terms of features possible leading to better bang for buck!!!

There are a lot of open source tools / Databases available which you can examine.

 Pentaho , MySQL etc etc… as a BI option … as for front end there are too many options than that would fit the blog !!

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4 Comments

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  1. Anonymous
    Open source BI already played a important role.
    I guess you are talking roll of the integration with SAP BW, isn’t it
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    1. Arun Varadarajan Post author
      Definitely … I obviously cannot talk about SAP BI being replaced with an Open Source BI tool – but then open source BI tools can be thought of as Add-Ons to the existing BI landscape where SAp BI can perform the bulk of the enterprise reporting – niche reporting which requires a lot of flexibility etc and new data models etc can be handled outside the system – mainly keeping the EDW as a core data model and reporting off it and the open source BI as your playground to experiment and deploy data marts which require further changes . For example it is easier to build afresh in an Open source BI tool for a specified user base rather than trying to change the model of a cube with about 1 TB of data. and also flashy and flexible data models containing specific data.
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  2. Derek Papesch
    Hello Arun, I can imagine how disappointing it would have been to get such poor feedback. 

    I’m very interested in what you developed, just recently we have been faced with a report that would benefit greatly by a Flex interface connected to BI.  Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be much on the topic.  Did you find any particular resources useful about the easiest way to connect to SAP BI?  If you have any tips it would be good to hear, or even a blog on the topic would be great.  -Derek

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    1. Arun Varadarajan Post author
      Derek,
      Connecting to an SAP BI query is pretty easy ( I can say that after I got tons of help from Durairaj Athavan Raja !!! ) but then what you need to know is this :

      1. There is a wiki by Raja on how to expose BI queries as a restful service.
      https://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/sdn/wiki?path=/display/bi/expose%2bbi%2bquery%2bas%2brestful%2bservice
      this is a nifty service you can use anywhere – or if you are familiar with the query view data web service provided by SAP – you can use that too or develop your own web service using the same.
      2. Once you are comfortable using the RESTFUL service – then use that as the URL for your HTTPService and pass on the results to an XML Object or an XMLList Object.
      I managed to pass on the values to Google’s Geocode API also, but then am figuring out passing dynamic parameters like variables using popups in FLEX. Passing the variables is easy but then figuring out a nice user input screen using popups is what is taking some time….

      If you want the code – send an e-mail to me. The e-mail is available in my business card.
      Thanks,

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