SAP BusinessObjects Dashboard Design 4.0 (formerly known as XCelsius): Focus on Scalability and the Improvements for the Dashboard Designer
Francois Imberton, SAP Senior Product Manager, NetWeaver Product group provided an America’s SAP User Group webcast on January 19th on SAP BusinessObjects Dashboard Design 4.0. The overall general disclaimer applies – meaning things are subject to change. He provided a roadmap of 4.0 and beyond, discussed and demonstrated the 4.0 investments in large scale deployments and the semantic layer.
Investments for this Release: Supporting Large Deployments and Semantic Layer
Two key investments for this release are large scale deployments and the semantic layer. As shown in the Roadmap below, in 4.0 the focus is on using Universes within the Dashboard Desinger and supporting large scale deployments. They focused on large scale deployments and made a suite-wide investment in the new semantic layer, simplifying the authoring and maintenance of dashboards.
Roadmap Overview for Dashboards – 4.0 and beyond:
The below figure reflects a cycle of releases. Now they are in 4.1 definition and building. It also reflects a vision over multiple releases, and shows trends of where they are investing.
For Dashboards, there are two audiences – 1) authors and 2) consumers. The author is the dashboard designer and they focused on this release to enhancing their productivity. The 4.0 release is focused on producer/authors solution.
What is driving in 4.0/4.1?
Strong need to extend reach of BI is driving Dashboard improvements in 4.0/4.1. According to the Aberdeen Group , there is “top pressure in ease of use – and deliver to more users”. The Data Warehouse Institute (TDWI) also said dashboards are a great efficient way to improve BI adoptions. An Aberdeen Study indicated that companies/organization using dashboards for operational situations for day to day support are more efficient and improves operational performance, as displayed in the figure below.
Massive investments were made in IT scalability and IT oriented features as shown below:
XCelsius never had its own backend within BusinessObjects Enterprise; it relied WebI/Crystal engine to serve data to dashboard. In 4.0 they are introducing new engine dedicated to BusinessObjects Dashboards within BI Platform. Why? From a technical perspective, SAP saw the stress that a dashboard put on a BI backend – very specific – lots of queries, highly aggregated – hence the need for investment – and thus a major change for development team to invest in backend.
What benefit does that provide? It provides linear scalability to thousands of users, and key element in to monitor and control via auditing, system profiling – allowing you to “scale up” the system to serve the users.
Supporting large-scale deployments includes multi-lingual globalizations deployed in multiple countries, languages are now supported with an investment in the globalization of dashboards based on user locale, leveraging the BusinessObjects translation manager tool.
Supporting Large Scale Deployments in 4.0: New Servers as an Example
New servers introduced in 4.0 Dashboards (see below figure in the green boxes) – a processing server and a dashboards cache server – to split the load. A key element is the cache server which enables high performance since it caches queries being executed and thus there is way less usage of CPU than in the past.
You can define metrics over the dashboard servers and audit events to monitor dashboard user activity, as shown in the below figure.
Supporting Large-Scale Deployments in 4.0: Translation Manager as an Example
Francois then provided a demo on how to make Dashboard localizable, such as the one shown below.
In the below screen, you select a format for numbers:
Format the date to be localized as shown below:
Numbers need to be in default format to become “localizable”. Once done, you need to check “Enable translation of component text properties” (see below) to specify that these dashboards can be localized and have a localized version. You can also have static strings, which may be text/titles being localized Once finished, publish dashboard to BusinessObjects Enterprise server, then it is ready for translation in Translation Manager.
Francois then logged into the Translation Manager (see below). The Translation Manager gives provides you with all the components and texts to be translated. From the Available Languages menu, you select which languages to have translated.
Once you have selected the languages to translate, it will provide two additional columns for you to enter text as shown below. You can export the translation to the BI Platform (formerly known as BusinessObjects Enterprise).
4.0 Investment: Universes in the Dashboard Designer – the Semantic Layer
The next big investment was in the Semantic Layer. SAP wants to simplify the authoring/maintenance of dashboards and simplify the connectivity. There is no need for Query as a Web Service or Live Office; here you benefit by directly connecting to Universes and can reuse the Universes. See summary slide below on Semantic Layer:
He highlighted that the support of BW and OLAP universes (.UNX) is postponed to 4.1 release for Dashboards.
There is a new panel in Dashboard Designer called “Query Browser” where you will have the ability to view the queries. Francois then demonstrated adding a Universe Query to connect Dashboard, similar to those working with WebI. The first step is to connect with the BI Platform/BusinessObjects Enterprise, select a Universe (new format .UNX) – already done in the below screen.
Once you select a Universe, the Query Panel appears as shown below:
The query panel above is similar to what you see in Information Design Tool, WebI, and Crystal. It is important to point out they do not support BW/OLAP sources and therefore do not support the concept of hierarchies.
The below screen is a Preview of data, to help with design and visualization.
Once query is built you have the ability to directly bind Query to the Visualization and bypass the Excel spreadsheet (see below exampley – binding to the Query Data and not the spreadsheet). What benefit does that provide? It simplifies authoring of dashboard and will continue to enhance in 4.1. Now you know the dependencies of visualization in regards to Connectivity. You will also have enhanced client-side performance – flash runtime.
A Prompt Component is available and is dedicated to manage query performance – see below lower right screen:
This prompt component will allow the end user to enter a prompt and this prompt can feed another query. You do not need to worry any more about how to fill the prompt the selector.
In 4.1 release the goal is to remove need for Excel.
Question & Answer:
Q: Are waterfall charts available in Dashboard in 4.0?
A: No not in 4.0 – maybe part of a service pack
Q: For Universes in BW created in 4.0 – will they be in the .UNX format to be used in Dashboards?
A: For dashboards, universes built on BW are not supported/provided in 4.0. It is part of plan in 4.1. Recommended connectivity to BW is BEx Query and BI Consumer Service Layer; Select BEx Query, then see Query Panel and build query
Q: Do drilldowns from a table in XCelsius to BEx Web report – to do detail analysis – is this available in 4.0?
A: Nothing new in 4.0 for that. If you use existing connection, BI Java, can navigate to BEx Web reports using RRI layout.
Q: The caller found if they pre-schedule WebI reports that lessens the load on the server – are there plans to do something similar with Xcelsius?
A: The scheduling piece is the most requested features in Dashboards. The first use case for scheduling is performance to reduce loads on backend – solution in 4.0 due to cache server, removing hits to data server. Another use case is for sharing – offline scenario – will work on later possibly 4.2. The core technology is in place. Future release – bypass Excel and perform on larger amount of data
ASUG thanks Francois Imberton for providing such an in-depth demo on Dashboard Design and an outstanding webcast. You can meet Francois in person at ASUG Annual Conference May 15-18 – register today!
ASUG also thanks Ingo Hilgefort, SAP, for arranging these great webcasts.