An easier way to get data from a database into Crystal Dashboard/Xcelsius
I was first asked to look at Flynet 6 years ago – I was working for a Business Objects Partner and Flynet was being proposed as a simpler way to get data into Xcelsius (now Crystal Dashboard). I liked the product; it created the code to generate a web service, Xcelsius then connected to the web service. Much easier than working in Excel with connections to databases. More importantly, it made it easier to reuse your query across multiple dashboards. The relationship between Flynet and BO/SAP wilted once it was made possible to connect Xcelsius to a Business Objects Universe. However, that missed the rather important point that not everyone wants or needs to go through the whole process of creating a Universe – the vast majority of Crystal Reports users never use a Universe. So, I was very interested when my SAP account manager called me about a new relationship available between Crystal Resellers like myself and Flynet. However, I sell very little software, so I only sell stuff I can enthuse about. First I’ll explain the new offer, then I’ll give a review of the latest Flynet.
What’s the offer?
When you buy Crystal Dashboard without any of the server products, you normally buy some viewing licenses too. Otherwise you’d be limited to just viewing your own dashboards. A copy of Crystal Dashboard with 10 viewing licenses costs about £1700. Flynet are offering a ‘DataConnect Express Bundle’ that includes licenses for 5 viewers, plus a designer, plus the necessary license for Flynet Server. All for about £1800. Roughly speaking, you swap 5 viewing licenses for a Flynet Server. Bargain!
How does it work?
First of all, forget everything you have ever done in previous versions of Flynet. The designer user interface has been completely rewritten – it’s big, bold and cut right back with no clutter at all. That doesn’t mean it’s always obvious how to do something, but you don’t have to look far! At the moment, the designer has to be installed on the same machine as the server, but separate installations are being tested, so will be along shortly. When you first start the Designer, you’re shown the DataConnect Wiki – lots of really useful help videos. They’re not all available yet, but there’s certainly enough to get you started. I initially had problems working out how to create a database join, once I’d viewed the video, all was made clear. There are three stages to creating your web service. Most times you’ll only need to do the 2nd and 3rd.
1) Create your database connection
Click Connections, click the big + , give a connection name, type and description, passwords if relevant, and click ‘Save’. Native connections are available to MS SQL Server, DB2, Oracle & Teradata. Anything else should be catered for by either OLE DB or ODBC.
2) Create your query
Click Queries, click the big + , give a query name, description and select a connection. Then you can either use the wizard to select tables, joins etc, or you can just paste your SQL in. SQL functionality is far ahead of that available in Crystal Reports, allowing you to use summary functions more easily for more efficient queries. You can preview the results of the query, finally saving. Here’s a quick peek at a simple query that retrieves Sales by Country (click to enlarge):
3) Create your Web Service
Click Web Services, click the big + , give a name and description. Then select which of your queries will be visible – you can have multiple queries available for each web service. Finally, just click publish. If you change your query, you just need to click update for the web service to be kept in line with the queries.
Fire up Crystal Dashboard, select Web Service as a data source, and off you go! OK, I admit there’s a bit more to do for anything more than the simplest dashboard, but it’s a lot simpler than the alternatives. By carefully creating your queries with parameters, you can avoid having to use VLOOKUP and HLOOKUP as much. This improves both the performance and ease of maintenance of your dashboards.
Flynet’s come a long way in a short time. Not only does it allow you to easily create web services for Crystal Dashboard, it allows those web services to be easily updated as required. If you’re using Crystal Server, or Business Objects Enterprise, you need to consider whether you should use a Universe or Flynet. I prefer Flynet, but if you’ve already invested time in a Universe, then that’s probably the better options. For those creating Dashboards without the server products, it’s a huge leap in functionality and ease of use. The cost of Flynet will soon be recouped in time savings.
How do I get an evaluation?
email address removed by SAP moderator, but you could take a look at the cross-posting at my blog