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If you were in Orlando for SAPPHIRE you couldn’t miss the launch of SAP BusinessObjects Explorer as it certainly generated lots of attention and interest among all attendees who had the opportunity to see it, hear enthusiast early adopters sharing their experience with it, and even touch this great new BI solution. Those who couldn’t make it for SAPPHIRE (even to the great virtual online event!) can of course directly access to very good information about Explorer from this section on the SAP.com portal. Not to mention the SAP World Tour series of event running most likely close to your place in June with live presentations of Explorer. Anyway as a member of the SAP team that has worked hard through 2008 and 2009 to put together Explorer and prepare for its launch I thought I would blog on it to help describing what is it and how it can help SAP customers to bring BI to all business users who have been underserved with traditional BI tools.

 

So, let me first describe shortly but precisely what the news was about exactly: SAP announced SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, accelerated version for SAP NetWeaver BW, as a combination of intuitive search and exploration capabilities from the SAP BusinessObjects BI portfolio with the high-performing, scalable in-memory analytics and acceleration capabilities from SAP NetWeaver BW Accelerator. SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, accelerated version for SAP NetWeaver BW is a self-service, search-driven, and discovery-friendly solution for interacting with your enterprise data. The primary use case is searching and exploring large volumes of data in BW to discover relationships and uncover root cause to make fact-based decisions at the speed of thought without needing assistance from a business analyst or IT.

These intuitive search and exploration capabilities from the SAP BusinessObjects BI portfolio have been available independently from the combination which was launched at SAPPHIRE. The correct name for this focused set of capabilities is SAP BusinessObjects Explorer. It was formerly known as Polestar and was very recently renamed to clearly describe the value it provides. Other parts of the SAP BusinessObjects BI portfolio include Crystal Reports, Xcelsius, and Web Intelligence.

Because the basic user experience of both Explorer from the SAP BusinessObjects BI portfolio and the new Explorer solution unveiled at SAPPHIRE is the same, in most cases I simply use Explorer to talk about the solutions’ capabilities. When I want to specifically refer to the Explorer solution launched at SAPPHIRE I use the accelerated version.

Here is the typical user experience for Explorer:

Explorer

 

Now let’s have a closer look at the accelerated version and its key features.

Here is a simple “markitecture” diagram of the accelerated version along with a BW instance:

markitecture 

It certainly helps to further understand how the accelerated version is coming together.

 

With that understanding as a backdrop, we now need to consider the typical inhibitors to BI in most organizations across all verticals. Market survey show that despite BI being on top of CIO’s agenda for several years in a row, and despite significant investments in this area, a vast majority of business users are still lacking appropriate access to the information they need to make fact-based decision. They just feel underserved with traditional BI tools. The key reasons for this user frustration leading to a limited adoption of BI are to be found with:

  • Traditional BI tools which require significant training and understanding of analytical methods that users simply do not have the time or patience to take on
  • Dependency on experts analysts and/or IT for accessing to the appropriate reports or analyses which leads to significant delay to access to the information needed
  • Slow query performance and/or unpredictable response times which are consistently among the biggest complaints of users working with traditional BI tools

With his innovative architecture SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, accelerated version for BW addresses all these key pains. It provides all business users with:

  • Simple, Google-like, fast search of business terms across multiple data sources, typically BW cubes, but not limited to
  • Intuitive data exploration and visualization with no need for predefined reports or analyses
  • Sub-second consistent response time across mountains of data thanks to the BW accelerator engine which processes queries across indexes preloaded in memory on dedicated hardware

For the IT team supporting its deployment, the accelerated version also comes with very interesting capabilities inherited from the BW accelerator technology and delivery model. Those familiar with BW accelerator already will immediately recognize the ability to deliver high performance and scalability with no need to define, maintain, and tune aggregates, as well as the ability to deploy the solution in a very short time within budget thanks to the appliance model.

 

I’ll come back to all these points in more details in subsequent posts. Those too eager to know more who just can’t wait have already the option to test drive Explorer firsthand using an Explorer OnDemand environment where one can upload its own sample Excel data.

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18 Comments

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  1. Somnath Manna
    Tried my hands last month after seeing the blog on Polestar contest results. Quickly hit few limits (5 MB File size and 20000 rows) on the On Demand apps.
    Things I found interesting:
    1. Presentation is really good (thanks to Adobe Flash) especially likes the transition in graphs
    2. Contextual search of data – have not come across in any BI Query earlier
    3. Ability to export analysed data and visualisation locally – putting png files of visualistion in ppt slides :).
    However been struggling to figure out how to compare data in multiple dimensions – like Pivot Analysis in Excel. Is it possible to have multiple selections during data visualisation.
    The other thing is in the Selection – is it possible to give a Range. The ondemand application allows only individual selection. But if you have dates then range and logical operator like >= or <= is required.
    BR,
    Somnath
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    1. Thierry AUDAS
      Post author
      You’re obviously an expert user very familiar with traditional BI tools, so I’m glad to read confirmation that Explorer is of value to you.
      Explorer is aimed at serving all business users, expert users as well as all the other information consumers less familiar with BI tools and with no appetite for any tool training; therefore it focuses on delivering key data search and exploration capabilities with a very intuitive user experience. More capabilities such as the ones you mentioned are not supported in this first version; they might be added in subsequent releases as long as the user experience remains optimal for ALL business users.
      (0) 
  2. Former Member
    Thanks for a nice explanation of the product. I’ve been always wondering; does the Explorer deal with BW authorization? If I’m not authorized to see some data in BW through queries, would that be the case with the Explorer?
    (0) 
    1. Thierry AUDAS
      Post author
      Yes, valid BW credentials are needed to explore BW data accelerated in BW Accelerator and Explorer inherits authorizations set in BW.
      (0) 
  3. Former Member
    hi ,
    i have some basic doubts
    1. what is differnce btween BO EX and BO Ex Acceleratted version
    2. where i can get trail version of BO Ex Acceleratted
    3. is it compatible with BO XI3.1?
    (0) 
    1. Thierry AUDAS
      Post author
      1. I’ll come back to the key differences between Explorer and the accelerated version in a next separate post
      2. Please contact your local SAP representative to plan for a hands-on workshop of the accelerated version
      3. Yes, Explorer can be deployed with BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1
      (0) 
        1. Thierry AUDAS
          Post author
          Yes, SAP BusinessObjects Explorer is now available with the SAP BusinessObjects Edge BI standard package (version XI 3.1). This does not include the accelerated version.
          (0) 
  4. Former Member
    Hi
    Great blog…i really found it to be very informative. I work on SAP-SSM and i found the features to be very similar. I have a couple of questions :
    1. Is it possible to use calculated measures and display the data accordingly ?
    2. Is it possible to average a measure up a dimension instead of just summing it up?

    Thanks
    Vijay

    (0) 
    1. Thierry AUDAS
      Post author
      With the 1st of Explorer all measures/key figures must aggregate based on a sum. More aggregation methods will be added in subsequent releases.
      (0) 
  5. Former Member
    Hi Thierry,

    Thanks for your blog.

    Just a question: how do you connect Explorer to your BI data? Do you need to create an universe  on top of your multiproviders and Bex queries? Or can you analyze your data straight on top of a Bex query?

    Thanks,

    Gabriel

    (0) 
    1. Thierry AUDAS
      Post author
      I just added a separate post about the key differences between Explorer, formerly called Polestar, and the accelerated version for BW, which covers that specific point. The accelerated version connects directly to BW Accelerator with no need for a universe or even a BEx query.
      (0) 
  6. Former Member
    There are limitations when using this tool on BIA?

    Fro example, it’s possible to explore InfoCubes with non cumulative Key Figures? Or with InfoCubes with exception aggregation?

    Thank you very much

    (0) 
    1. Thierry AUDAS
      Post author
      With this 1st version, Explorer can only work with cumulative Key Figures. Non-cumulative Key Figures and exception aggregation will be supported with the next release of the accelerated version.
      (0) 
    1. Thierry AUDAS
      Post author
      SAP BusinessObjects Explorer is available to search and explore BW data without BW Accelerator. This scenario is enabled with SAP BsuinessObjects semantic layers, a.k.a., universes. SAP recommendation, though, is to deploy with the BW Accelerator to scale exploration to very large BW InfoCubes with high performance.
      The latest release, SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, accelerated version, is now available for all versions of BW.
      (0) 
  7. Former Member
    Hi,

    This blog is very informative.
    One small doubt:
    How can we implement Currency Conversion in Explorer if I use Query based universe as Data Source?

    Appreciate your help.

    Thanks,
    Veera

    (0) 

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