There are probably some pretty obvious and really witty plays on words with SAP BI’s Semantic Layer being called a “Universe”, but none are coming to me right now because the actual topic of this blog entry deserves much more brain power. There’s an extremely good chance that you fit into one of two groups. You either didn’t know that Lumira connects natively to BOE 3.1 UNVs and BI 4.x UNXs, or you know it did and might not think it is as a Big Deal as it really is. If you are in a third category that “gets it” already, hopefully the information below will help you ensure your colleagues think this is as powerful as we do.
At this year’s SAP BusinessObjects User Conference (SBOUC) in Dallas, I started my keynote demo with connection to a BusinessObjects Universe and selected some dimensions and measures to bring them into Lumira. Based on some of the questions I got later that day, I think this surprised more than a few customers who thought this was a recently added feature. In reality though, Lumira has had Universe connectivity since around 1.04 (we’re on 1.19 now), but maybe we didn’t make as much of a fuss about it as we should have.
You might be in a second category that knows Lumira supports BOE Universes but see it as another (excellent) data source for business users to bring in data for analysis. That fact is definitely true and it’s importance should not be underestimated. Using a Universe as a data source, Lumira automatically understands defined measures and dimensions and the data itself already reflects the other semantics, calculations, and security rights embedded in the Universe definition.
At SBOUC I met with many customers, and as they told me about their own internal situations, it became clear to me that we need to do a better job of explaining the “full story” around SAP Lumira’s integration into the SAP BI 4 suite. On the surface, SAP Lumira doesn’t really seem that integrated with the BI suite. It’s a desktop tool that connects to “agnostic” (SAP and non-SAP) data sources and has very strong ties to non-BOE technologies like SAP HANA. This is in fact the reason many business users justify their choice of a non-SAP tool and even SAP BI administrators don’t see how Lumira’s BOE integration is a real boon to their deployment.
All Enterprise Data – Just Add Lumira
We all know that “Self Service BI” is all about business users being empowered to get their jobs done without being restricted by IT policies or even asking for IT’s help when they need something. Using a BOE Universe as a data source means the business user doesn’t need any additional authorizations or permissions to access the data they need. They use their existing BOE credentials and they get the same security rights and access privileges they would using any other BI client they already use. In companies where BI has been implemented properly, many corporate data sources a business user needs already have Universes built upon them. What business user wouldn’t want access to that gold mine of data without asking a single person?
Now look at it from a BI administrator’s perspective: users can leverage their existing BI infrastructure using their own credentials and data sources, while still being governed, audited, and secured by the BI Platform – without having to configure or administer anything new. The additional costs for enabling a new BI client to use existing Universes and BOE credentials? Zip. Zero. Nadda.
Create Explorer Information Spaces Without IT
It’s also a little known (but definitely not new) fact that SAP Lumira has always been able to publish native BusinessObjects Explorer Information Spaces to the BI Platform. That means any Lumira user that has permissions on the BI platform can acquire, manipulate, and mashup data from any source (not just a Universe, but any source supported by Lumira) and publish to the BI Platform to enable all Explorer users to navigate, drill, and visualize that data from their browser or even mobile device – without any help or intervention from IT.
Those of you who are familiar with BusinessObjects Explorer know that once an Information Space is created, business users can go off on their own and even create user-created dashboards called “E-Views” without needing IT’s help. However, that Information Space must be based on a BOE Universe and needs to be created by, guess who? That’s right, not the business user. So from a BI administrator’s perspective, bringing SAP Lumira into the landscape means less work, fewer requests, and happier users – again while keeping the BI system’s governance, auditing, and security.
This means customers who are interested in Lumira on the desktop but are not quite ready to deploy Lumira Server can still use their existing universes as data sources and can enable users to publish Information Spaces back to their BOE 3.x and BI 4.x systems today – without additional hardware or license investment.
Publishing, Sharing, and Refreshing Stories in BI Launchpad
With the upcoming BI 4 integration with Lumira Server, users can not only publish stories so they can be viewed by others in BI Launchpad, but they can also have the BI Platform perform automatic data refreshes if the published story is based on Universes. This means users have a consistent workflow, can use their existing credentials for authentication, can publish to BI folders they already have access to, and can view Lumira content integrated into BI Launchpad alongside their existing Crystal, WEBI, or other BI content
I will cover this topic in more detail in a future blog post so I kept it short here.
Trusted Data Discovery With the Support of IT, Without Needing IT
Governance and trusted data are both obviously very important to any company, but it is something that we typically all take for granted when using theBI suite. SAP BI 4 includes very deep capabilities in auditing, lifecycle management, and security that are just part of the system. The IT department is responsible for ensuring the systems, data, and users are governed properly, but it is also responsible for tracking what users did and the forensics when users do something they shouldn’t. The problem with deploying a product on the desktop is that we typically need specialized management software track or restrict the user. This requires considerable cost and effort for IT and the users don’t usually appreciate what can sometimes be seen as draconian control of their personal workspace.
Giving access to corporate data sources through BOE Universes means that not only is access to data sources already governed by Universe security without any additional effort, but that access is tracked and captured in the BOE audit logs for later inspection. If an administrator wishes to cut off a user to a specific dataset, they can do this within the CMC without worrying about whether the policy is immediately sent to the desktop and enforced locally. If they want to know when the last time a user accessed a specific dataset, they can simply run a report from the BI system. Did I mention that enabling Lumira users to use BOE Universes as a trusted source requires no setup or configuration?
Think of the alternative – Users adopting a different tool that does not leverage Universes need to ask IT for explicit credentials (such as for JDBC /ODBC access) for each database they want to use. If there are five data sources, that’s 5x the requests per user (think 100 users!). Now let’s say you have a data breach or need to track the accesses of a specific user – I hope you enjoy sifting through database logs looking for users provisioned manually and matching them up with your corporate directory because you needed to give them direct JDBC access to your databases.
We even have some customers that create “shared user” accounts for each team to reduce the administration burden multiplying as above. However now if some user creates a pretty storyboard with the company’s internal financials and proudly displays their work of art in the front lobby of their building, you won’t know who did it, when it was done, and how to stop that user from continuing to refresh and expose tomorrow’s data as well. Think that is far-fetched? It actually did happen to a real company – who banned that tool and became an SAP Lumira customer right after the incident.
Wouldn’t it just be better to have all of that handled automatically by the BI system you already use? 🙂
For SAP BI Customers, the Universe is the Key
If you are running the SAP BI suite, this should be a pretty easy discussion:
- Lumira uses BOE 3.x (UNV) and BI 4.x (UNX) Universes natively against 3.x and 4.x systems.
- Lumira on the desktop creates Explorer Information Spaces in BOE without requiring Lumira Server.
- Universes enable Trusted Data Discovery with little to no administration effort.
- Lumira *is* integrated into the BI Suite today and will become even closer to the BI Platform as we create tighter integrations.
Hopefully this article illustrates why BOE Universes are not just another data source but the key to empowering your business users to do more while requiring IT to do less. If you have an investment in the SAP BI suite, using SAP Lumira with it should be an absolute no brainer.
In a future article, I’ll cover some more details on how Universes can work in a BOE-Lumira Server environment to analyze data originating from your existing data sources. If you have suggestions for future topics, please contact me. 😎