Skip to Content

A universe gives a meaning to a set of tables or other data repositories. It defines how those tables link together or what subset of tables hold customer information. It is the principal way for many of the Business Objects client tools to access data – the most prominent one being WebIntelligence (or WebI for short). There is two types of universes, namely relational universes (based on relational tables and access via SQL) and OLAP universes (based on cubes and access via MDX). Thereby, the SQL is generated by a module called query technique (QT) while MDX is generated via an OLAP data access (ODA) component. In the context of NW Business Warehouse (NW BW aka NW BI), OLAP universes (based on a BW query or a BW InfoProvider) have been the way of choice for releases BW 7.0 and below. By using the MDX-based access, all the rich semantics can be leveraged that have been set up and defined in BW meta data repository, like currency and unit conversions, fiscal year or other time semantics etc. Figure 1 shows this situation. For completeness let me add that the existing BICS-based (for the BEx tools or Pioneer in the future) or other MDX protocols (e.g. see Native Excel 2007 On Top Of Netweaver BI 7.0) will continue to exist and are simply outside the scope of this discussion in this blog.

With BW 7.01 (enhancement pack 1 for BW 7.0), things have changed in two ways – see figure 2:

  • The ODA – BW interoperability has been significantly improved; it has been streamlined and that translates nicely into a better performance and less memory consumption.See Faster Universe-Based Access To BW via MDX for details.
  • Business Objects Data Federator – in general a tool to create unified view of data sources with virtual data integration – can now read data from a BW 7.01 system via a new BW connector. Basically, Data Federator exposes an SQL interface to access BW InfoProviders, i.e. only the data as it is materialized on BW’s underlying RDBMS; there will be no advanced semantics like usage of external hierarchies, restricted, calculated or non-cumulative key figures etc. See SQL Access to BW via Data Federator for more details on the DF-based approach.
Options for Universe-Based Access to BW 7.0
Figure 1: Universe-Based Access to BW 7.0
Options for Universe-Based Access to BW 7.01
Figure 2: Universe-Based Access to BW 7.01

The technical requirements for leveraging the options are as follows:

Minimal Technical Prerequisites
MDX-Based Access SQL-Based Access
  • SAP NetWeaver BW 7.01 SPS3
  • Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.1 Fix Pack 1.2 or later
  • SAP Integration Kit XI 3.1
  • SAP NetWeaver BW 7.01 SPS3
  • Business Objects Enterprise XI 3.1 Fix Pack 1.1 or later
  • Data Federator XI 3.1
  • SAP Integration Kit XI 3.1

Now, one can argue now that there is suddenly a choice of interfaces and that the customer is left with yet another decision to take. While this is true there is also a number of benefits to that choice. In the end, it is not a “black & white decision” with one interface being always superior over the other but a balanced trade-off that considers a number of design aspects:

  • Centrally defined semantics in BW: this allows for a consistent definition of semantics with all users on a central BW server. Simply consider KPI definitions, such as a profitability which, in some cases, can be broken down into a complex series of calculations that an average BI user or consumer does not and does not want to comprehend. Allowing or requiring such a KPI to be defined in an ad-hoc fashion can be too challenging and/or too dangerous regarding the false conclusions driven from an erroneous definition.
  • Ad-hoc enrichment of materialized data: what has been described as a challenge and risk in the previous paragraph, namely ad-hoc  definition of semantics, can be something very valuable for users who want to create new analytical queries on the existing data. Here, an access to materialized data via SQL and exploration facilities of WebI can be benefitial.
  • End-user mindset: some users are very familiar with tabular data; they might even know exactly what data to find in which table on an RDBMS. Such users might prefer table-based data models to explore. In this case, a relational universe is the likely choice. On the other hand, there is users who prefer multi-dimensional views (i.e. cubes) to analyze. They look at BW data in terms of dimensions (characteristics), hierarchies, measures (key figures), calculated measures etc. They want to leverage centrally defined services such as approved and compliant currency and unit conversion calculations or KPI definitions. In this case, an OLAP universe is probably the preferred option.
  • Technical features: BW’s analytic engine provides a set of features that are only available via an OLAP universe (see figures 1 and 2). Find below a list of the most prominent BW features and how well they are supported. It is important to note that for most blank squares there is a workaround, e.g. by using prompts in a universe rather than BW variables. See the blog on the SQL-based access to find out more suggestions.
    A notable new feature – that almost comes in as a side effect of the Data Federator based approach – is the option to federate a BW system with either another BW system or an arbitrary RDBMS using Data Federator’s capabilities.

    BW Server Feature MDX SQL
    BW Hierarchies +  
    Restricted and Calculated Key Figures +  
    Security + +
    BW Variables +  
    Currency and Unit Conversion +  
    Exceptions, Conditions +  
    SUM, MIN, MAX Aggregations + +
    AVG, COUNT, COUNT DISTINCT, … Aggregations + o
    OLAP Cache +  
    Navigational Attributes + +
    Mass Data Enabled o +
    Federation (e.g. BW – RDBMS, BW – BW)   +
    + = fully supported, o = partially supported
    For blank fields there might be acceptable workarounds.

PS (Nov 2009): I’d like to point the readers to a Performance Study: Web Intelligence on top of SAP BW.

To report this post you need to login first.

9 Comments

You must be Logged on to comment or reply to a post.

  1. John Skrabak
    Thomas – I reviewed this blog and the related DF blog and have a couple of questions.  We are at the beginning the stages of implementing Business Objects (Crystal, Webi, Xcelsius) and are finding the integration with SAP BW to be a bigger challenge than we had expected, so seeing that SAP is really making an effort to improve this is great. We’re at 7.0 SPS17. 

    Couple of questions –

    It sounds like these new features in the EP will not be available as a SP to 7.0, can you confirm that?

    Will Data Federator leverage InfoCube aggregates that have been setup, or will teh base cubes have to always be read?

    While I’m sure you’ll direct me to our account rep, can I safely assume that this Data Federaor option would require licensing DF, even though  our only use would be to expose BW data?

    I tried, but I really didn’t understand the Performance chart in the DF blog.  Couldn’t figure out what teh WebI axis across the bottom indicated – any help?

    Any idea on the status of BI Consumer Services – the exposure of Bex queries as a web service without having to go thru a universe?  We are finding the current QaaWS functionality to be extremely constrained and making the building Xcelsius dashboards that access BW data harder than it should be. One major problem appears to be the inability of QaaWS to change the sequence of the data it receives thru the universe built on a BEx query. Are we missing something there?  I’m going to review LiveOffice as an alternative, but don’t think there’s much more there.  Any thoughts or sugestions on that?

    Also –
    One issue unrelated to content of the two blogs, I can’t seem to view it all without having to use the horizontal scroll bar.  I changed screen resolution thinking that might help, but it remained a problem.

    Any idea on the status of BI Consumer Services – the exposure of Bex queries as a web service without having to go thru a universe?  We are finding the current QaaWS functionality to be extremely constrained and making the building Xcelsius dashboards that access BW data harder than it should be. One major problem appears to be the inability of QaaWS to change the sequence of the data it receives thru the universe built on a BEx query. Are we missing something there?  I’m going to review LiveOffice as an alternative, but don’t think there’s much more there.  Any thoughts or sugestions on that?

    John   

    (0) 
    1. Thomas Zurek Post author
      Hi John,

      you have quite a number of questions! But naturally all are valid! So let me try to answer them:

      1. Shipment with a BW 7.0 SP?
      No, this will be only in 7.01 and following. SAP has promissed to keep SPs free from new features. However, applying EhP1 to your 7.0 system should be similar to applying an SP.

      2. Are Infocube aggregates to be used by DF?
      Yes. Both, aggregates and BIA are leveraged by DF.

      3. DF license?
      Yes, you need a DF license for that.

      4. More explanation on the performance chart?
      Ok, so on the horizontal axis you see a discrete list of test cases (test queries). These originate from a real-world customer scenario to which we have applied the new DF approach. For each test query we compared runtime before (i.e. via ODA) and after (i.e. via DF). So a value of 10% means that the runtime afterwards (with DF) was only 10% of the runtime before. For convenience the test queries were sorted in a way that the queries with the best improvement are on the left and those with less improvement on the right.

      5. QaaWS substituted by BICS (for Xcelsius)?
      I’m not the expert here but that’s in progress as far as I know. In general, BICS access still exists and will stay. The blogs focus on universe access w/o implying that the existing access go away!

      6. Trouble reading through the blogs due to image scaling.
      Sorry about this. I’ve edited them in an HTML editor outside SDN and there is apparently some glidges with doing that. I’ve corrected that and hope it works fine now.

      I hope this helps.

      (0) 
      1. John Skrabak
        Appreciate the quick response, especially now that I don’t have to scroll back and forth to read it.

        So from the performance chart, my take away is that most queries using DF access would benefit significantly, and perhaps 50% of queries might run in 10% of the time.

        Guess we’ll have to review EP1 a little more and perhaps move it up on the calendar.  Also need to talk to our acount rp to see what we might be able to work out with DF.  It would be great if a limited license at low cost (or better yet, no cost) might be offered to BW customers for just universe access to BW.

        Keep posting.  Thanks.

        John  

        (0) 
  2. BC BC
    Hi,

    I need help, I have a problem (BO XI R3 + BW 7).
    Cannot get the list of Infocubes in Universe Designer ($INFOCUBE) while creating connection to BW.
    Only queries are visible.

    Are there any specific settings required in order to get access to the Infocubes?

    Thanks

    (0) 
  3. Sujatha Raghunathan
    If we build an exception aggreation within SAP BW does it get passed on to the universe?I wasnt able to see it and had to go to the universe and change the property of the measure individually. Is this correct?
    (0) 
  4. Young Seol Sohn
    Dear developer,
    As you described in figure 4,mass data handling in MDX based access can be supported partially in ehp1. what does partially support mean?
    Can you explain in detail or let me know where related document is?
    (0) 
  5. Pierre Leroux
    Dear Thomas,
    Could you clarify what these graphics are measuring?
    Is 100% the baseline for old performnance (vs 70% now for query 1, etc).

    If I interpreted these results properly, it shows that we have improved the performance. If possible can you comment on the improvement in general (if we run a multitude of scenarios, on average, what the performance improvement?
    Thanks,
    Pierre Leroux

    (0) 

Leave a Reply