Exploring the Road to BI 4.0 and Beyond: BusinessObjects Explorer Features and Roadmap
On February 9th, Olivier Duvelleroy, SAP Director of Solution Management for Explorer and the Casual User and Mani Srinivasan, SAP Solution Manager, Business Intelligence gave the America’s SAP User Group a webcast on SAP BusinessObjects Explorer Webcast 4.0 and beyond.
- Demo of New Features
- What is New in 4.0?
- What is New in 4.01?
- Roadmap/Directions of 4.1
- Exploration Views Prototype
Olivier explained that Explorer solves the problem of solving data deluge – amount of data is doubling every year. Users find BI applications hard to use; have to rely on IT to create reports. It takes on average 20 days to create reports.
Explorer was created to address the challenges of volume of data and ease of use. The goal of Explorer is to be as simple as Google. Since data is indexed, you get fast access.
Get a dataset, go in “exploration mode”. There is no blank canvas or need to build a report/query – you are directly interacting with the data. You can share the data by e-mail, bookmark, or move to WebIntelligence. You can also access this from an IPhone or an IPad.
Mobile versions of Explorer are available on IPad or IPhone – available for XI 3.2. In the coming weeks, the 4.0 version of IPad / IPhone will be available on SAP Corporate App store. They are building Explorer applications for the Blackberry, while will be available in the next few quarters.
The standard version of Explorer is based on Universes. Explorer Accelerated is based on BWA/HANA in memory – the difference is based on volume data that you can handle.
Demo of New Features
Figure 1 – Source: SAP
Log on to the BI Launch Pad as shown in Figure 1 above.
Figure 2 – Source: SAP
Starting with 4.0, Explorer is integrated with BI Launchpad as shown in Figure 2. Explorer can appear in the Recently Viewed documents as shown in the left corner above.
Figure 3 – Source: SAP
As shown above in Figure 3 you can launch Explorer from My Applications.
Figure 4 – Source: SAP
Or you can launch from the Menu as shown in Figure 4 above.
Figure 5 – Source: SAP
In the document list you can see the Information Spaces, as shown in Figure 5 above.
Figure 6 – Source: SAP
When you open it, it will open in a separate tab in BI Launch Pad as shown in Figure 6 above.
Figure 7 – Source: SAP
In Figure 7 above, Olivier “pinned” these Information Spaces which means when you log off and log back in, the Information Spaces will be opened automatically.
Figure 8 – Source: SAP
We can access different sources of data in Manage Spaces such as HANA 1.0. In Figure 8 above on the left you see HANA, Excel, Universes – all different sources of data.
What is New in 4.0?
Figure 9 – Source: SAP
As shown in Figure 9, Explorer 4.0 supports the new Semantic Layer and the new universe format, which has new capabilities. One new capability is the multi-source universes, so you can build an Information Space that has a universe with multiple sources. Some performance improvements: in XI 3.2 there was a limitation in the number of rows to index through a Universe as we were going through a WebIntelligence engine and with 4.0 we are going through a Semantic Layer engine. He said they are also streaming the data rather than loading into a WebI cube. As displayed above, .UNV universes can be converted to .UNX to be used in Explorer. The big news for Explorer is the ability to connect to HANA, to interact with the calc views and interactive views.
Figure 10 – Source: SAP
In Figure 10, this feature is what customers have been requesting; tighter integration of Explorer with the BI Platform and they wanted to audit what was happening in Explorer. Some events are triggered with Explorer and some are triggered by the platform itself. In this example, Explorer generates a view event when the user opens the Information Space A – this event is being sent to Audit Data Store (ADS). The CMS generates a retrieve for Information Space and stores in ADS.
IT Service and Application Management (ITSAM requirements) were met in XI 3.2 but they are exposing monitoring metrics now in Solution Manager Diagnostics console and the Central Management Console in the BI Platform. The monitoring metrics are the CPU load, memory usage, response time for different Explorer servers as well as open information spaces, indices running etc.
The URL name is now Explorer instead of Polestar.
What is New in 4.01?
- Available at the end of March
- BWA 7.2 will be certified
- You will be able to connect to multiple HANA system
- URL API – allows you to open Explorer by passing a context – XC dashboard – pass data and open Explorer – mostly for application developers
- Improved search relevancy – algorithm has been refined – # of query terms matching in Information Space, # of contiguous terms, # of other criteria for better results
Figure 11 – Source: SAP
As displayed above in Figure 11, you will have the ability to Edit Calculations in Manage Space.
Roadmap/Directions for 4.1
Figure 12 – Source: SAP
Figure 12 shows that the release with new functionality will be in 4.1. Key feature will be Exploration Views, allowing you to manage multiple views and allows the user to control in a more custom way.
Time-based analysis: allows product to be more intuitive – 1) sort months properly 2) good formatting on time labels 3) easy experience to select time range 4) display a time axis with labels 5) easy to use comparisons – year over year
Maps: will be available as one of the charts in Explorer – for example, sales by region and specifc
Search improvements: correcting misspells, add semantic context – better answers to questions
Exploration Views Prototype
Figure 13 – Source: SAP
A review of Figure 13: Explorer was created for the casual user. Key feedback they received is how to allow end users to create their own visualizations; allow them view multiple KPI’s, alerting. They listened to customers and developed Exploration Views – visualizations with multiple perspectives and share with other users. In-memory technology allows sub-second response time. Easy to use without training; available on the IPad and other Android tables. Available in 4.1 timeframe; exploration views are an add-on functionality.
Figure 14 – Source: SAP
Figure 14 is a demo of Exploration views on top of Information Space, running on top of a dataset of 80 million records.
1) Can easily create dashboarding visualizations in a matter of minutes
2) Global faceted navigation
3) Interact with Exploration view – for example, once you select a region, all the charts get explicitly changed.
Figure 15 – Source: SAP
You can build these custom controls to allow users to analyze, in addition to global navigation (see Figure 17 above).
Figure 16 Filtering – Source: SAP
In Figure 16, Mani demonstrated that you could apply a filter and have it apply to the entire datasets.
Figure 17 Locking Concept – Source: SAP
Concept of locking is where you want to keep parts of your visualization static.
Figure 18 – Source: SAP
In Figure 18, click Explore to explore a specific chart; this will allow you to “explore” the datasets and change the charting and visualization.
Figure 19 – Source: SAP
Per Figure 19, you can change the look and feel of the charts.
WYSIWYG – What you see is what you get – you have the ability to change the visualizations of the chart. You can use drag-and-drop to change the visualization.
Figure 20 – Source: SAP
You can remove a chart, add a chart, design a chart, as shown above in Figure 20. The demo was on a live data set with 80 million records.
Figure 21 – Source: SAP
Figure 21 shows an Exploration View on the IPad, available soon. You can take your IPad to meetings and do “analysis on the fly”.
Question & Answer:
Q: What about sharing Exploration Views?
A: Click on the Share button and it will generate the URL to share
Q: Will Explorer Mobile both support 3.2 or only 4.0?
A: Expect Blackberry version to support both
Q: Do we need to be on our company VPN to get the data on the IPhone?
A: Yes; you have to be on system.
Q: When using SSAS Cubes as the underlying data source for a universe, has the problem with “Database Delegated” been addressed in 4.0?
A: Problem has not been resolved. On one side universe based indexes; the OLAP sources – BWA and HANA. Soon they will have prototype on Sybase IQ. No other plans as they do not have the proprietary access needed for other OLAP sources.
Q: What about BW cube data?
A: The best way is to use BWA for Explorer
Q: Is search from BI Launchpad integrated with Search from Explorer?
A: It is not really integrated; it does federate the results. There is a bug in 4.0; in 4.0 SP1 the search is working in BI Launchpad
Q: Are the Webi mini-cubes are no longer used? Does this mean for relational datasouces, Explorer hits the database directly with every user interaction?
A: Webi mini-cubes are no longer used . The data is retrieved by the query engine and is then streamed into a disk index. When Explorer issues a query it goes against the index and not against the database.
Q: Is 4.0.1 is the new name for service pack 1?
Q: is 4.01 already out for customers?
A: Planned for March of this year
Q: Does it mean 4.0 suport BWA 7.2, or no BWA at all until 4.01?
A: It does not. If you have BWA 7.2 you have to wait until 4.01.
Q: Where is semantic information comes from in case of connection to HANA? Is it from IMCE ana/calc views or has to be defined in Explorer?
A: The semantic information comes from the calculation views.
Q: Can Exploration Views be based on Universe queries?
Olivier and Mani ask that you try Explorer on the Cloud.
Also check out Ingo Hilgefort’s great book on Inside BusinessObjects Explorer.
ASUG thanks Olivier and Mani for a great webcast. Special thanks again to Ingo Hilgefort for setting up these great webcasts for ASUG.