BI 4 BW and ECC: Where are we really? (1st: Explorer)
Disclaimer: These are the results of some of our tests, the fact that they’ve worked for us does not guarantee they are officially supported by SAP. Also, I have purposefully excluded solutions involving HANA or BWA as I mostly wanted to address SME needs, and most of my SME customers are not planning on implementing a HANA or BWA scenario within the next year. Also, there are enough HANA-related posts already, I have no added value adressing these issues.
This is the first of a series of posts in which I will try to go over where we are today in a context of SAP BI used in conjunction with a SAP BW and ECC platform WITHOUT SAP HANA. We see a lot of posts about what is coming, we see a lot of promises and we see new SP announcements every month or so, but what is going right (and wrong) with SAP’s BI platform today? Particular emphasis on BW integration.
To give you a feel for the breadth I will try to give to my posts, my team and I have been involved with a dozen different BI4 implementations on BW starting from the original ramp-up in 2011 (GA in September 2011) up to a few SP6 installs . We are also involved on the 4.1 ramp-up, but I think I’m not supposed to discuss that here (I’ll have to read-up to make sure). All these were centered on a BW platform although we did use IDT (new universes) for some requirements and we have been through extensive developments using Webi, Crystal Enterprise, Analysis for OLAP and Office (1.2 to 1.4), Explorer, iOS mobile apps, Design Studio and Dashboards.
As for yours truly, I have been in the BI field for the past 15 years, starting with Crystal and Seagate Info (for people not tracking names changes, Seagate Info became Crystal Enterprise which then became BO XI and finally SAP BI4) and also intensively working with BW for the past 9 years (BW 3.5 –> 7.31).
So what do I plan to show? I plan to go through screenshots of the different tools showing what really improved user and developer experience when compared to BEX, but also what doesn’t work as well and some lessons learned. I will only cover GA versions (mostly SP6).
OK, enough talking, let’s start. The first tool I plan to cover is Explorer 4.0 SP6. As you probably know, Explorer is not officially supported on BW.
We only have two available sources of data, namely Excel files and .UNX universes defined in IDT (“classic” universes, .UNV, are not supported but are part of the latest roadmap I saw update: see note 1858836 – How to enable .unv support for Explorer in BI4.0 SP06).
Create your Universe:
I won’t go through the detailed steps, but quickly:
1. I used the SAP BW JCo connector for a connection on standard cube 0FIGL_C10
2. Created a data foundation on the preceding connection, star schema is automatically generated as seen below:
3. Created a Business layer to define what I want to see in Explorer, the business layer pretty much recreates our cube dimensions automatically. The main thing we’re missing are hierarchies:
4. Finally you publish your universe to the BI platform repository.
Total, these first few steps only take about 5 minutes as everything is pretty much automated.
Create Information Space
Now comes the fun part, publishing the result in Explorer.
First you open Explorer an go and select the Universe we just created:
The next step is to give it a name and some basic properties, but the interesting part comes in the second tab where you select the characteristics you want:
You notice the third tab? Scheduling. Very basic, but you can refresh your information space automatically every morning through here.
Finally you save and go have a look. This is what I got:
You’ll notice that some characteristics have texts, others not… For this I cheated a bit since there is no “show key/text” option in Explorer, what I did is slightly modify the SQL in the Business Layer of the Universe for the specific keys. This SQL modification is quite simple and can be done through a basic drag and drop of the text field and adding a “+’ ‘+” in between the two values to generate a space.
So here we are, Explorer on BW.
1. hierarchies are not supported
2. No exception agregation
3. Based on Infoproviders only, not Bex queries (although I haven’t tested if a BEX query as an Infoprovider in 7.3 could work, will get back to you)
4. No BW-based authorizations on data as the Explorer index is generated once, no back and forth with the BW server at runtime.
Update: More extensive information on what is supported or not can be found through this blog from Ingo: http://scn.sap.com/community/bi-platform/businessobjects-bi-for-sap/blog/2013/06/09/sap-businessobjects-bi-4x-with-sap-bw-and-sap-bw-on-hana–latest-documents
Are these show stoppers? I think not, but if one of these is very important, clearly Explorer is not for you.
Something else to keep in mind, this solution actually works out in the context of Lumira (ex-Visual Intelligence) and Predictive Analytics as well. These two solutions do not support BW either, but they support .UNX universes. Update: as indicated in comments by Ingo below, this is not supported. But last time I tried it worked… No guarantee here.
Now the one thing that would really make me happy? Integrate these solutions directly on BICS. BICS can deal with hierarchies as separate levels (will discuss this in my Webi piece), so aside from Exception aggregations that probably won’t work in this model, I don’t see what the show stopper is. Everything else on the BI platform can now deal through BICS.
So what did you think? Do not hesitate to provide comments below. If you have a specific BI tool you’d want me to go through first do say so. Right now I’m planning on going through Webi next, but I’m open to suggestions.
Hope to share experiences with you all soon.