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The Road to BI 4.0

Ready or not, here comes SAP BusinessObjects 4.0, or BI 4. It comes to us with the usual buzz and excitement of a new major version release. At both the recent ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference and SAP TechEd 2010, I sat in on the official upgrade presentations.  I felt it was important enough a topic to listen to twice. Here are some the highlights and important takeaways

Noteworthy New Features

This is what everyone gets buzzed up about. What can this version do that I’ve been dying for? What is in there that I just can’t live without. 
  • Better integration with SAP BW
  • New dimensional semantic layer
  • Multi-source universes
For admin geeks like myself, here are the heavy hitters for BI 4.0
  • Integrated platform monitoring
  • Advanced auditing
  • Supportability and root-cause analysis
  • True 64-bit server architecture

The “My Favorite Ice Cream” Upgrade Path (Rocky Road)

Before you start your upgrade, there are some tasks you’ll want to consider first. First of all, you’ll need to consider your security model. Are you going to carry over your existing users, groups, and rights? Or should you take the opportunity to do some redesign? Next you’ll want to think about your content inventory. It’s probably a good idea to do some analysis on your content, and get rid of anything that is old, unused, or old instances. You want to start the upgrade as lean as possible with your content. 
You also have to consider if you are going to do a full upgrade (i.e. rip the band-aid off and cut everything over at once) or do a Staged Upgrade (place the new system up in parallel and cut over one department or group at a time. And probably most importantly, you need to define acceptance criteria from your end users so you will know how to measure if the upgrade has been successful or not. 
For those of you still on the old (I mean really old) versions of BusinessObjects like version 5.x or 6.x, your road is going to be very rocky indeed. There is no direct upgrade path from these old versions to BI 4. Instead, you will have to first upgrade to XIr2 or XI 3.x. Having been down that road before, I do not envy you the task. It is attainable, but certainly not something you can do quickly, and definitely not something to be taken lightly. 
If you are already on XIr2 or XI3.x you get to make use of the new Upgrade Manager tool and should have a much smoother ride.

Important Potential Stumbling Blocks

There are some big changes with BI 4, and that is a good thing. But there are some things that might trip you up on your road to success. Knowing what some of these bumps are ahead of time essential. 
  • This is not an upgrade-in-place. You cannot load BI 4 on top of XIr2 or XI 3.x and have it “upgrade” your instance. You will have to do a completely new install
  • The Auditor schema is totally new, and there is no way to import your old data into the new structure. Auditing will have to start again on day 1 of your BI 4 system
  • InfoView is gone. It has been replaced with the BI Launch Pad. You can expect different URLs, and definitely a different look to the interface
  • Dashboard Builder is now the BI Workspace
  • Encyclopedia and Discussion are gone with no replacement
  • Performance Manager is gone with no replacement
  • Search is totally new, and your index will have to be re-build in BI 4 
  • Desktop Intelligence (a.k.a. Deski, or Full Client) is End of Life. You must use the Report Conversion Tool to convert your Deski reports into Webi report format either before or after your upgrade
  • Explorer will no longer support a UNV. Information Spaces based on Excel are upgraded, but the ones based on UNV and bookmarks are not
  • The WebIntelligence SDK is not supported in BI 4. Now before you panic, it will be supported and included in a later release, probably BI 4.1. It’s simply not done enough for the BI 4 release
  • Universe Designer is still present for now, but will be replaced by the Information Designer tool. The UNV files will still be supported for now, but new universes will be created as a UNX
  • There are some significant changes to the security model if you are coming from XI r2. It is the same model as what is in XI 3.x

Some BIG improvements

There are some things that will be heralded with cheers and applause from the masses. 
My list of big wins for BI 4 are the following:
  • Import Wizard is End of Life and its functionality is replaced by the Upgrade Manager and LifeCycle Manager, depending on the task
  • LifeCycle Manager is fully integrated and no longer a separate install
  • wDeploy is fully integrated and even includes a GUI now
  • Integration Kits are now fully integrated (SAP, PeopleSoft, Siebel, Oracle, etc.)
  • Data Federator is partially integrated into the new Information Designer tool
  • Mobile BI is fully integrated

The Buzz is Heating Up

No matter what you call it, the energy and excitement around this release is continuing to build. I am certainly looking forward to getting my hands on it so I can pull it apart, try it out, and even break it a few times. That should be sometime soon. Until then, I’m going to continue working on preparing for the imminent release. 
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  • Hi Greg,

    - Universe Designer is not "End of Life". Universe Designer will be part of the 4.0 release in the same way as the Information Design Tool

    - Explorer will support the new semantic layer and existing Universe can be migrated over to the new semantic layer.


    • Hi Sunil,
      Yes you can. Data Federator is built in to the new Information Designer tool, so you can have one Universe on top of many different data sources without the need for ETL.
  • Hmm now who thought of this wonderful thought.  Someone in SAP that doesn't use Business Objects nor understands that the whole system revolves around the Universe.

    So what is now the alternative?  Execl spreadsheets as info spaces?

    • Hi Alex,
      Actually, they didn't elaborate on what the security changes were in the presentation, so I asked a few questions.
      The straight and skinny on it is that XI4 uses the same security model as XI 3.1, so there isn't really any change to the model.
      I also asked about SSO, and have been told by reliable sources that SSO is totally supported in BI4. There were some changes to SSO to SAP systems, but in general everything that was supported in XI 3.1 is still supported in BI4, and SAML support has been added to the BI Portal (the portal formerly known as InfoView)
      • Hi Greg,

        Thanks for the response, I think this is a case of typical mixed messages from SAP/BO, we had SAP confirm last week that there would be no functional support for SSO within the new semantic layer when connecting to SAP BW through a netweaver/java platform. Apparently SAP BW customers should treat 4.0 as a preview, with full security appearing in 4.1 (late 2011/2012)

        I have seen the new integration with SAP BW and it looks good, but it is a bit pointless if my clients cant secure their data using their existing SAP BW Authorisations.

        • Hi Alex,

          Totally my personal opinion here. But I always view any x.0 release as for developers and early adopters. Everyone else is best served by x.1 releases, which tend to be more complete.

  • Hi Greg,
    Thanks for the post. The growing number of comments seems to indicate that people are really interested in knowing more and more about BI 4.0. That's great.

    I would like to comment on some of the stumbling blocks you've eluded to in your post and perhaps do my part in educating all related stakeholders (employees, partners, mentors, and of course hte most important ones - customers)

    1- This is not an upgrade-in-place
    We do support “same box upgrade” -- meaning that you may install BI4 on the same machine that already has 3.x and have they running side by side during the upgrade transition period.

    2- InfoView is gone
    Lots of change here. Totally revamped portal; new name (launch pad); new features; new home page. The new launch pad should be a very big improvment for all users. Easier to navigate, easier to look for your content with new search, new tabs, it should provide a lot of productivity gains at a minimal costs. Usability studies have shown that the learning curve is small. The default URL has changed but it is customizable by the administrator.

    3- Encyclopedia and Discussion are gone with no replacement
    Discussion is still in the product. It is turned off by default, but can be turned on easily (via the CMC).

    4- Search is totally new, and your index will have to be re-built
    True, your index will have to be rebuilt, BUT the new search has a smaller index and consumes less resources.

    Hope to continue the conversation
    Pierre Leroux
    SAP BusinessObjects

    • Thanks for your expert insight, Pierre!
      It's great that you could provide some more information for us.

      By the way, I totally enjoyed your Multi-Dimensional Semantic Layer hands-on session at TechEd LV!

  • Hi Pierre and Greg

    I enjoyed the insight you guys gave us, but I would like to know a little bit more about some integration between the BWA+BO (tools). Which is the future and trends about it.


  • As Business Objects XI 4.0 will only be a 64-bit release, but will the client tools like Designer, Information Design Tool, Web Intelligence Rich Client can run on 32 bit machines.

  • Now that we're getting a 64bit app, we are moving from windows to AIX to better match our company's strategy.
    However we keep running into errors in AIX for BI 4.0 that we don't see in Windows BI 4.0 release...
    It would be great if BOBJ Developers would test across all platforms.
    • Hi Greg,
      IS there some kind of comparison matrix between different versions of BO tools.It would be very handy to do a 1:1 comparison as so much has been changed in version 4.


    • Hi Alexander,
      I use BOBJ on UNIX (Solaris) and have been for several years now. I can definitely tell you that the versions for Non-Windows are different than the Windows ones. There certainly are differences. But, the bright spot is that all platforms are fully supported.
      I think the Windows issues get flushed out better just because there are so many more users on Windows, so more bugs get reported.
  • I think SAP did a bad move the way they are cutting deski. Prior to 4.0, it was not possible to convert many deski reports due to lack of webi functionality (and still, we're on 3.1 SP2!).

    The proper way would have been to put all deski functionalities (incl. in the report conversion tool) for at least 1 release (while keeping deski support) to allow administrator to do a smooth upgrade and *then* convert reports.

    Now we faced a bigger problem do convert over 2000 reports (and we're not sure if 4.0 covers all deski's functionalities yet) and do the upgrade at the same time. what a challenge!

    What do you think?

    • I agree with you Philippe. That would seem the best way by offering a 'bridge' version.
      I wonder if there is a technical reason why certain features of Deski were never put into Webi; if their incompatible at some base level that isn't readily visible.
      But it would be great if, at the very least, there was a Report Conversion Tool for Deski to Webi conversions.
    • SAP is probably to a point it needs to put a stake in the sand when it comes to deski.  There have been improvements in each Service Pack through SP3 and being the Chair of the Webi Influence Council that worked with SAP on 4.0, I would say they have managed to move most and improve on some features that are in today's deski.  If they don't take a stand and remove the program people will not make the move to the new software and continue with the same program.

      We as a BOBJ community have known for a very long time the Deski was near its end.  My it now rest in peace!!

    • Deski indeed.

      Our upgrade path has been bumpy already.
      Almost everyone who "hit their toes" when going from 5to 6 has left our institute, but the 6 -> XI conversion is still not finished.
      That is partly due to an external party, providing an application that uses deski reports with considerable "runtime modifications" and who cannot guarantee the application will ru correctly when those reports are in WebI
      Some functionality has been moved into webi (xi 3.3), but not everything is there. And now Deski would be DROPPED in 4.0 ? Before we can "test drive" these in 3.3 ?
      And this 3rd party responded that "OpenDocument doesn't add the needed flexibility either". Nor do "publications and profiles".

      apparently there WAS still some horse power inside DeskI that didn't make it into Webi -yet-
      Oh, we didn't try to move the reports to Crystal ... that would be a totally new type of tool for everybody here, including the folk at the 3rd party side.

      Dropping it is too early indeed.
      ( Does SAP think that moving to Cognos would be more troublesome ? )

      • To Deski Indeed

        If that was my 3rd party vendor and they were that far behind then I would be leaning on them hard.  I have one of those right now, but all the reports are in Crystal and we can handle the conversion internally.

        To have reports that old and leaving them and you in a system that is not support by SAP/BOBJ is not a partner that I would be paying maintenance fees to.

        Many more functions from Deski have been added to BI4, and the focus of my influence council for BI4.0/WebIntelligence was on the key features that were needed to help the DESKI environment finally make that move away, and most if not all our recommendations made it to the product (new data manager, better than DESKI). 

        The other alternative to Deski is Crystal as you mentioned and that is (I have to admit) a lot harder conversion then DESKI to WebI.

        What I always recommend in my presentations is try the conversion tool and see how many convert cleanly or close to cleanly and apply the 80/20 rule.  If 80 percent covert move.

        I think SAP Business Objects had to make the cut off with DESKI happen.  We on the Customer Advisory groups did our best to keep it there for as long as we could.

  • Any ideas about the "openDocument" functionality with BI4? I have the early version installed and trying to play around with it, but haven't found anything resembling openDocument hyperlinking!
  • Hi,

    Does this mean that there will not be any Client tool, which is normally installed using Integration kit. If they are integrated then what component? BASIS, ABAP etc..

    I am little confused.
    Please clarify.

  • Hi Expert,

    Thanks for this informative blog; I have one question regarding security when it comes to OLAP universes, when you create universe on top of BW infoprovider? How data security is handled?

    Many thanks for your response.
    Ashutosh D