The debut of Crystal Server 2011 marks an important shift in the entry-level BI landscape. I recently spoke with Geoff Bazira (Senior Product Manager, SAP BusinessObjects BI Portfolio, focusing on SME and SDK products) and Daniel Haver (Director, Solution Management, SAP Crystal Solutions) about the road leading up to this release.
About Crystal Server 2011
But first, let’s look at the end result. Crystal Server 2011 is a unique product in that it’s a subset of the BI 4.0 platform so mid-market customers are getting enterprise-quality software, with the same management and administrative capabilities. The name change from “Crystal Reports Server” to “Crystal Server” was made to indicate that it has evolved from being a report management platform in Crystal Reports Server 2008 to a true entry-level BI platform in Crystal Server 2011. A summary of the key features are as follows:
- Entry-level BI solution – Access reports, dashboards, and explore corporate data to get the critical information you need, all from a single solution
- Guided data exploration – Find critical information across all your applications and data sources with simple keyword searches and intuitive exploration capabilities
- Common semantic layer – Make your corporate data easier for business users to access
- SAP Crystal Reports for enterprise – Create presentation-quality reports quickly with a new version of SAP Crystal Reports, optimized for accessing data through Universes
- Data-driven publishing – Deliver personalized reports to a dynamic list of recipients
- Integration with Microsoft Office and Microsoft SharePoint – Provide users with information inside the applications they work with the most
- Security and integration – Integrate reports and dashboards into an existing security infrastructure
In comparison to SAP BusinessObjects BI Platform (Enterprise/Edge), Crystal Server 2011 is limited to deployment to a single server and does not support connectivity to SAP Business Suite applications. It does however provide up to 250 Concurrent Access Licenses (CALs) and 100 Named User Licenses (NULs).
Here is a helpful diagram that shows the positioning of the SAP BI Platform suite of products:
For more details about Crystal Server 2011, see Blair Wheadon’s blogs:
The Road to Crystal Server 2011: My Conversation with Geoff and Daniel
For Geoff and Daniel, the journey to deliver Crystal Server 2011 was challenging but in the end rewarding. New with this release (unlike past releases) were some new ambitious goals for delivery. Firstly, the solution management organization wanted Crystal Server to be delivered within the same release window as the large enterprise release to harness the same marketing momentum. Secondly, the development organization decided that development should be handled by the same team responsible for the large enterprise release, in order to better integrate and engineer Crystal Server requirements into the product earlier in the development lifecycle, thus reducing the need for special customizations, duplication of effort, and out-of-cycle signoffs for the mid-market release. However, this new way of working presented new challenges. It required a much higher level of effort to prioritize backlog items between the large enterprise and Crystal Server. The fact that the planning for Crystal Server 2011 did not start in tandem with the enterprise version meant that everyone involved had to work quickly and under significant deadlines and milestones if they were to deliver in the targeted three to four month time frame.
Centralizing development efforts had additional challenges – Geoff and Daniel had to adhere and apply new processes to the mid market product whose details, relevance, and risks to the mid market release timelines had to be constantly assessed and discussed in order to deliver the product on time without compromising on quality and scope. Each step of the way felt rather intense for all stakeholders, but in the end it really helped foster an improved understanding or appreciation of the nature of work and pressure that each contributing team within the product delivery cycle goes through. The solution management team had to learn a whole lot more about the development process and people and likewise the development teams gained an appreciation of what it takes to market and ship products. They also learned a lot about the SAP ramp up program. This new synergy is something that they hope to leverage even more for future releases. Speaking of future versions, the team is evaluating opportunities with to integrate with in-memory, mobile, and on demand technologies.
When I asked Geoff and Daniel what they are most proud of in this release, they said that the fact that the team was able to dramatically shorten the release cycle given all the changes to processes, people, and location. You can see the end result for yourself by visiting the online store where you can purchase a copy and/or download a free trial version.