Is Design Studio Prime time ready? :


Design Studio has been GA for more than a year now and has gone thru significant functionality enhancements since the first beta release in late 2012. DS 1.3 was released at the end of May 2014 and has major feature enhancements which make it a serious contender for any Dashboard project you have coming up.  Design Studio, with the current release, provides the ability to create great looking dashboards which can be consumed from both desktops and mobile devices.


Design Studio definitely has shortcomings, and whether you can use Design Studio for your project will depend on the specific features you are looking for and also the data sources you are planning to use.


In this blog we will look at the current state of Design Studio (strength, limitations and also some frequently asked questions from customer who are considering Design Studio).


What are the strengths and limitations with the current release of DS 1.3?


Strengths:


  • Tight Integration with SAP BW and SAP HANA datasources and the ability to leverage the native datasource functionality for variable handling, filtering, drilldown etc.
  • SDK: Availability of SDK for custom component development for partners and customers. SDK definitely helps with filling some of the gaps in Design Studio by creating custom components and increasing customer adoption.  The SAP Partner ecosystem has been very active in developing Design Studio add-ons, which fills some of the gaps in the current Design Studio release. The ability to use of D3JS and other JavaScript based visualizations library makes Design Studio easily extendable for creating any custom visualization.
  • Mobility: You can easily create Design Studio dashboards which can be accessed from your mobile devices. SAP also provides templates which can be used as a starting point for the dashboards, then can be deployed on mobile devices.
  • HTML5 Support: HTML5 allows developers to create state of the art UI, leveraging some of the latest functionality available for standard web development.
  • Ability to create Planning applications: With the release of Unified BPC, this becomes more relevant for customers who are using BPC and SAP BW-IP.
  • Flexible deployment options: Design Studio provides various options for deploying the application (BOBJ BI Platform, SAP HANA and SAP BW/BI JAVA)
  • SAP has been providing FIORI based templates which can be used as a great starting point for application design.
  • Integration with Lumira (future roadmap)
  • Alignment with SAP’s roadmap for Dashboard Design.


Limitations:


  • Lack of advanced visualization and customization capabilities:

1. Fewer Chart Types

2. Less control over chart properties at design time and runtime

3. Lack of lasso charts

4. Inability to use themes

  • Lack of Out of the box Geo visualization:* (this is planned to be addressed in the next couple of releases). More clarity on the solution details will be helpful, whether this will be based on a 3rd party provider (ESRI, Navteq etc.) where the customer needs to buy additional licenses etc.
  • Performance with multiple datasources: Design Studio processes each datasource defined in an application sequentially, and this seems like a major drawback from an application performance standpoint. There are different options to do background processing of datasources to optimize the performance.
  • Lack of local calculation: Ability to do calculations at the data source level.
  • Lack of seamless integration with other BOBJ BI tools. It will be great to see BW RRI type functionality to integrate various BOBJ tools without having to use custom OpenDoc URLs to pass parameters.
  • Limited support for Universe based data sources:

1.     Multisource Universe support

  • Lack of more data source support.

1.     Local Data: This was a great feature in Dashboard Designer where the developer could use local data from a local Excel file to create a rapid prototype. This helps in an agile development environment.

2.     Web Service data source

  • Lack of ability to schedule in the background and broadcast. *
  • Lack of ability to use standard HTML and JavaScript functionality. BIAL is great, but if SAP can also provide support for standard HTML and JavaScript functionality for advanced developers, Design Studio can be more powerful.
  • Lack of Advanced analysis capabilities*: This is feature lot of BW/BEx Web customers have been waiting for migrating some of the existing BEx Web scenarios.
  • SDK Limitations:

1.     10,000 cell limitation

2.     Lack of true hierarchy support

3.     Ability to manipulate datasources in SDK. Example: It could be used for what-if analysis.

*In the list features available in Design Studio roadmap


See below a comparison of some of the core features between Design Studio and Dashboard Designer


Archius Design Studio vs Dashboard Designer.png


How is Design Studio Performance?:  The answer here is “it depends” on various factors:


a.    Design Studio Application Design

b.    Datasource query design/performance

c.    BI Platform performance (or the Platform which you are using for Design Studio deployment)

d.    The Version of Design Studio – There have been several performance enhancements available with the latest Design Studio releases.


Please note that Design Studio executes each Data Source defined in the application sequentially, and the performance of the Dashboards depends on the number of data sources defined in the application.


There are also several blogs and OSS notes on this topic available on SCN.

How easy is it to learn Design Studio?


For people who are used to WAD, getting up to speed with Design Studio is relatively easy.  Design Studio provides an easy to use UI and scripting using BIAL, and is easier than JavaScript based script generator in WAD (even though WAD was more flexible since we had full JavaScript features). If you are coming from a Dashboard Designer/Xcelcius background, it will take some time getting adjusted to the new UI and scripting, but the learning curve is not steep.  I want to stress the fact that scripting in Design Studio is not hard and the editor provides input help for various properties which we can use, it just takes some getting used to. For more complex application design CSS knowledge will be helpful.  SDK based add-on development requires HTML and JavaScript knowledge.


Overall, Design Studio is a great tool with a lot of potential for creating Powerful BI Applications. It is still not at a point where you can cover all the use cases supported in Dashboard Designer/Xcelcius and Web App Designer (WAD). With the enhancements in the current release, we can see SAP’s commitment towards closing these gaps in Design Studio.  I am really looking forward to the future releases where we can see the gap becoming narrower and also a tighter integration with Lumira.

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15 Comments

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  1. Tammy Powlas

    Hello Deepu,

    I am not following your point about “Limited Support” for Universes – Oracle DB, DB2 – the SAP Help at http://help.sap.com/businessobject/product_guides/AAD13/en/ds13_user_en.pdf

    on page 59 states:

    “Supported Universe Types

    With SAP Business Objects Design Studio 1.3, you can use universes that meet the following prerequisites:

    ● relational universes

    ● single-source universes

    ● universes with the following as underlying databases:

    ○ Microsoft SQL

    ○ Sybase IQ

    ○ Microsoft Excel

    ○ CSV

    ○ ERP system

    Oracle DB

    IBM DB2

    ○ Teradata”

    Am I missing something?

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    1. Deepu Sasidharan Post author

      Hi Tammy,

      Thanks for pointing this out.  I was following the Design Studio “Help” which is part of the installation and only the following Databases are supported according to this:

      • Microsoft SQL
      • Sybase IQ
      • Microsoft Excel
      • CSV
      • ERP system

      Design Studio Universe Access.png

      Not sure whether you have the same under Design Studio Help.

      I checked the designer guide and release notes and looks like there is support for Oracle and DB2. I have corrected the blog content to reflect these changes.  Also the reason for limited support is Design Studio does not support other Universes like multi-source, OLAP, Web service etc. with the current release.

      Thanks!

      Deepu

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  2. Mustafa Bensan

    Hi Deepu,

    Can you clarify what you mean by lack of true hierarchy support in the SDK?  Do you mean features such as drilldown etc?

    Thanks,

    Mustafa.

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    1. Mike Howles

      Mustafa,

      SDK pretty much only gives you access to the datasource’s current hierarchy state, and indent level.

      Thus, I take it to mean that there’s no true support in terms of the inability to expand a hierarchy node beyond what has been expanded already with the standard components or BIAL.

      You could actually say that there’s a lot to be desired in terms of how to interact with the datasource just in general, hierarchy or not.  Seems the SDK is sandboxed to a read-only capacity currently 🙁

      (0) 
      1. Mustafa Bensan

        Thanks Mike.  I agree that we could defintely use more direct access to manipulate datasources from within the SDK.  Let’s hope we see improvements in future releases of DS.

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    2. Deepu Sasidharan Post author

      Mustafa, 

      I was refering to drilldown for hierarchy levels  without BIAL.

      More features to manipulate datasource will definitely make SDK more powerful

      Deepu

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  3. Lee Lewis

    I appreciate the overview and I think you make some good points.

    Having used Excelcius and Web Application Designer and now Design Studio, I will not miss WAD at all and it is time to move on from Excelcius.  I think SAP is making good progress with Design Studio 1.3 and we are doing all new projects with it.

    My 2 cents…

    • Sequential processing.  I am not sure about this.  Just like in Excelcius you can control when queries are triggered in your code?
    • Fewer chart types.  I actually think there are too many components in Excelcius that most never use.  But clearly, there should be gauges and more options.  Not sure why the CVOM library is so limited.  Expect it to increase.I am disappointed that Design studio visualizations are not as appealing as Webis on Ipad.
    • As of 1.3 release Design Studio supports BW Integrated Planning, this is huge and allows write back and real what if scenarios.
    • One big user complaint of Dashboards is the time to load the SWF file.  Design Studio is much more responsive in rendering.
    • Broadcast support in Design Studio.  According to people at SAP, this is likely never going to happen, though it is on the roadmap-future column. The position is that, there is already a BOBJ tool for publications, Crystal or Webi and that the days of broadcasting excel reports is fading. I disagree and will continue to press for output and scheduling in design studio
    • Missing RRI.  I agree that opendoc is not a suitable replacement for linking docs and should use RSBBS in BW.  I think it is planned for 1.4
    • Local calculations (Excel worksheet).  You can use global variables, but it is certainly uncomfortable to work with when used to Excelcius, but SAP people say worksheet is not going to happen.  I think the focus is that the formulas should be in the query and not in the visualization.  I agree with this, but it is more difficult in practice.

    If you are reading this, you would be a good member for the ASUG Dashboard Special Interest Group!  Goto http://www.asug.com

    Lee Lewis

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    1. Deepu Sasidharan Post author

      Great comments Lee!

      • Sequential processing.  I am not sure about this.  Just like in Excelcius you can control when queries are triggered in your code?

      Design Studio provides options to trigger based on script logic mentioned in Tammy’s post, there could be instances where we will have multiple datasources which has to be initiated at the same time and will be good to have this feature.  We had struggled with this in WAD, definitely a great improvement as we could load datasource based on script.

      I have worked with WAD since BW 3.0B (late 2002) and Xcelcius since 2007, I agree we are in 2014 and need to move on with the next generation tools and I think Design Studio is in the right track!

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  4. Badri Sridharan

    Although Design Studio 1.3 has some  great features like native BW/HANA and HTML5 support there are some serious shortcomings we have encountered, most of it Deepu has covered already. some limitations we see are :

    1. 50,000 cell limit in crosstab

    2. Unable to Email / Subscribe / Export PDF / Schedule

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    1. Justin Molenaur

      <my opinion> If you need to show 50,000 cells at once then it’s likely that Design Studio is the wrong tool for consuming the data in a given use case since this is a dashboarding tool.

      Regards,

      Justin

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  5. Justin Molenaur

    Great blog, I found these two points to be of interest. For anyone wanting to dig more here are some further links.

    • Flexible deployment options: Design Studio provides various options for deploying the application (BOBJ BI Platform, SAP HANA and SAP BW/BI JAVA)

    SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio 1.3 – Deployment on SAP HANA

    • SAP has been providing FIORI based templates which can be used as a great starting point for application design.

    http://scn.sap.com/docs/DOC-50112

    Deepu, on the Fiori Starter apps, is this what you referring to or do you have any further links? Furthermore, can these Fiori apps be deployed directly on HANA without and Netweaver Gateway component?

    Happy HANA,

    Justin

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  6. Martin Chambers

    Hi Deepu,

    excellent summary!

    I would like to add that DS table formatting options are severely limited. I hadn’t expected all the table formatting options on offer in MS Excel. But even the WAD had these – admittedly rather awkward – modules which allowed formating column and row headers, i.e. bold, italics, font size, wrapping, allign left, right, top, bottom, center, cell merge.

    DS only allows setting the column size (no hiding columns) and putting scaling factors into the column header.

    Cheers,

    Martin

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