SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 shipped with two universe tools. The classic “Designer” tool, which generates universes with a UNV extension, was re-branded as the Universe Design Tool. Alongside it, a new tool called the Information Design Tool, which generates universes with a UNX extension, was introduced to create universes. The Universe Design Tool and its UNV format will one day be retired; however, SAP has not announced a date for retirement. In any case, that date is not expected to be soon. Although both tools created a semantic layer, the Information Design Tool and its Eclipse-based interface was a radical and unfamiliar interface even for experienced universe designers (see related article, Getting Started with the Information Design Tool). And on the tools side, some 4.0 edition tools only supported UNV format, some only supported UNX, and not many supported both in a even handed fashion.
Fast forward five years to the recent release of SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise 4.2 Support Pack 3. There have been great strides in Information Design Tool usability and stability. There have also been great strides in closing the feature gap, particularly with linked universes. A complete list of new features can be found in the What’s New in SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise 4.2 SP3 document on the SAP Help Portal. And lastly, the tools that consume universes do a much better job of handling both types. Let’s take a deeper look at the state of the SAP BusinessObjects universe by tool.
The State of the SAP BusinessObjects Universe by Tool
Let’s take a look at the simplified “go-forward” BI tool portfolio: Web Intelligence, Crystal Reports, Live Office, and SAP Lumira/Design Studio.
Web Intelligence has supported UNX since the release of the BI 4.0 platform five years ago and supports both universe types equally. The Web Intelligence universe query panel is the gold standard by which all other universe query panels in the SAP BI suite are judged.
Since the introduction of the BI 4.0 platform, Crystal Reports has existed in two versions. Crystal Reports 2016 is the latest version of “classic” Crystal Reports and does not support UNX. The “modern” version of Crystal Reports, Crystal Reports for Enterprise is the only one that supports UNX universes.
Live Office introduced UNX support in version 4.1 Support Pack 6. It continues to support UNV and UNX equally well in version 4.2.
Lumira has supported universes since the release of SAP Visual Intelligence 1.03, but the original query panel was a pale shadow of the Web Intelligence gold standard (see related article, Squeezing the Entire Universe Into SAP Lumira). SAP Lumira 1.24 introduced an updated UNX query panel borrowed from the Information Design Tool. Because of the usability and performance of this panel, the UNX universe is the preferred type to use with SAP Lumira.
Design Studio exclusively supports the UNX format.
SAP hasn’t made any official announcements, but I wouldn’t be surprised if next year’s Lumira 2.0 drops support for UNV universes, making UNX the preferred semantic layer of the updated 2.0 toolset. (see Blair Wheadon’s related SCN article, SAP Lumira and Design Studio Convergence).
While Explorer is not a “go forward” tool, it’s planned use case integration into Lumira remains incomplete, so it was worth including in this discussion. SAP originally tried to help force adoption of the UNX universe by removing UNV support from Explorer 4.0. But Explorer 4.1 restored UNV support and both it and Explorer 4.2 support both types of universes equally well.
SAP BusinessObjects Cloud
SAP BusinessObjects Cloud can consume on-premise data from several sources, including a UNX universe hosted by SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1 SP5 and higher. See related article, Using BI Platform Universes in Cloud for Analytics.
Now is the time to start using the Information Design Tool for any new universe. And it’s time to start thinking about what to do with all of those older UNV universes. I’ll discuss some best practices for getting started with UNX in part two of this series.