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Virtualizing SAP BusinessObjects BI 4

June 18th, 2013 1 comment

Last year I wrote a quick article about Virtualization support for BusinessObjects.

Since that time, SAP has been doing a lot of testing and refinement to guidelines regarding virtualizing your BI 4 environment.

Originally only advertised to a handful of attendees at Sapphire the www.sap.com/bivirtualization link has had over 1,000 views per month.

This is the official guidance you should be pointing all customers, partners and employees to when it comes to BI 4 virtualization.  This document can be used by your BI team to make sure and negotiate the right sized infrastructure from your IT team for a large scale move to BI 4.  Don’t get caught short.

Ashish Morzaria has done a great job and putting everything together in one place.   He’s collected feedback from actual customers together with performance tests that have been run internally at SAP.  All this information is put together in a 42 page everything-you-need-to-know whitepaper on VMWare ESXi 5:
http://www.sap.com/bivirtualization

Check it out!

«Good BI»

BusinessObjects XI 3.1 SP6 full build available…

March 27th, 2013 12 comments

I was reviewing my SAP Support Portal Newsletter after returning from vacation and discovered that SAP has released SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 Service Pack 06 – Full Build.  I really wasn’t expecting that — but I was happy to see it.  It sure beats worrying about the correct ‘upgrade path’ to such as the complications associated to moving to SP5.

XI 3.1 SP6 has released on all the standard platforms:  Linux on IA32 32bit,  HPIA_64,  HP-UX on PA-RISC 32bit,  AIX 32 Bit,  Solaris on SPARC 32bit.

Although I’ve been actively using v4.0 for a while, I know that many SAP Analytics customers haven’t yet made the transition to v4.0.

I would definitely like to hear from customers who are still waiting to make the move to find out where the hesitation is.  From what I understand most of the core stability issues have been resolved.

Highlights on XI 3.1 SP6

The big standout I saw was support for Windows Server 2012, which I had been asked about several times and I’m glad to see it’s there.

This release also fixes an outstanding issue with the length of the opendocument URL character limit of 2083 characters, which can be an issue if you are doing a lot of document to document hyperlinking.

If you are interested in additional details around what’s new, you can find that here:
http://help.sap.com/businessobject/product_guides/boexir31SP6/en/xi31_sp6_whats_new_en.pdf

You can also find the PAM document here:
https://websmp107.sap-ag.de/~form/sapnet?_SHORTKEY=00200797470000096350&_SCENARIO=01100035870000000202&

Other Notables for XI 3.1

Know your dates and deadlines.  You need to plan to be off XI 3.1 by the end of 2015 and that’s not very far away.

Release to Customer:09/30/2008
General Availability:09/30/2008
End of Mainstream Maintenance:12/31/2015
End of Priority One Support Phase:12/31/2017

It’s hard to believe it’s been 7 years already!  I’m feeling old.

Are You Getting Notifications?

If you have access to SAP Support, then you should also be taking advantage of regular alert notification emails that you can proactively receive from support.   You can sign up for them here:
http://service.sap.com/notifications

You can define exactly what products you want to receive notifications about.

Here is a video tutorial that walks you through it.

Don’t delay.  Sign up today.

«Good BI»

Visual Intelligence – Resolving Start Up Issues

January 10th, 2013 No comments

Enjoying Visual Intelligence?  I am.  Unfortunately however every once in a while something will go wrong.  Most of the time stopping and restarting Visual Intelligence will fix the problem but sometimes not.

One error I received recently was:  Open document failed / The engine failed to start before timeout.  Restart the application.  (HDB 10005)

Open document failed / The engine failed to start before timeout. Restart the application. (HDB 10005)

Here is a quick article about this topic from SCN about this error:  http://scn.sap.com/thread/3256250

Here is an SAP note which also has additional details:  http://service.sap.com/sap/support/notes/1783894

These articles provide good information but didn’t solve my problem.

Sybase IQ Hiccups

As you probably already know that Visual Intelligence leverages an embedded Sybase IQ engine for data manipulation.

Here you can see both SAPVisualIntelligence.exe and the embedded Sybase engine, iqsrv15.exe, listed in the task manager.

… and sometimes there are problems.  I’ve found that assuming it ‘normally’ works okay (install was correct) and nothing else on your PC has changed (software/firewall conflicts), then it’s a memory issue.  Remember 8 Gig is recommended for this application.  (4 Gig minimum)

The problem is that sometimes when the Sybase Engine hiccups, it may continue to run in the background and make it impossible for Visual Intelligence to start-up again.

Resolving Issues with iqsrv15.exe

Here is what you need to do:

  1. After you shutdown Visual Intelligence, make sure that iqsrv15.exe is not still running.  You can kill the process via task manager if necessary.
  2. Delete the DataBase directory where Hilo.db is stored
  3. Restart application and it will recreate.
You will find the DataBase directory in your working directory.  By default this is located here:
C:UsersAdministratorAppDataLocalSAPSAP Visual Intelligence

Location of local Visual Intelligence Database

Hope that helps!

«Good BI»

 

Virtualization Support for SAP BusinessObjects

August 21st, 2012 8 comments

Do you need to virtualize your BI deployment?  Join the crowd.  Some say that by 2015, 80% of Business Intelligence deployments will be on virtualized in one way or another… and there are a lot of reasons to virtualize.  In fact, I’ve been doing BusinessObjects demos using VMWare for over 10 years.

So what about my production SAP BusinessObjects environment?

There are two things you need to consider:

  1. Does my existing license agreement provide me virtualization rights?
  2. Will SAP support BusinessObjects running on a virtualized environment?

The License Agreement

Virtualization language need to be included in the terms and conditions of your license agreement.  BusinessObjects license agreements from before February 2008 did not include virtualization rights… and even if you have purchased additional licenses in the last few years, you may have simply signed an addendum to the original contract which would not necessarily have included virtualization rights.
If you need virtualization rights, please contact your SAP sales representative and let them know.  They will be able to help you get virtualization language into your license agreement.
If you virtualize your BusinessObjects deployment without the associated
license terms in your contract, you will be out of license compliance.

SAP Support for Virtualization

SAP BusinessObjects has been supported on the VMWare platform for a number of years but as virtualization options have expanded it’s been harder and harder to find detailed information about exactly what SAP supports and doesn’t support and where to go to get the best information on this topic.

Earlier this year SAP support published a virtualization support statement which covers all the  SAP products, including SAP BusinessObjects. (Note: the key exceptions are HANA and BWA which are hardware solutions and virtualization doesn’t make sense.)

Here can find the statement here:
https://websmp230.sap-ag.de/sap(bD1lbiZjPTAwMQ==)/bc/bsp/spn/sapnotes/index2.htm?numm=1492000

What does this mean for me?

This means that if you are using Hypervisor vendors such as Citrix XenServer, Microsoft Hyper-V, VMWare vSphere, you will be able to get support for your SAP environment leveraging these technologies.  The same is true for AIX partitioning and Solaris containers.

The core statement is:  SAP supports virtualization solutions that behave in a fully transparent manner to the application.  Therefore, functionally SAP will support a virtual environment in the same way that it supports physical environments.

Performance on Virtualized Environments

This is a great topic.

I’ve heard anecdotal evidence that running SAP BusinessObjects in a virtualized environment tacks on about a 30% performance hit, but I’ve not seen any whitepapers to support that claim.  What I have heard from SAP support is that the majority of performance related issues are associated with how the Hypervisor or host environments have been configured.

Key To Remember

Before you provision a virtual server for your BI environment think about the workload before you start.  It’s very different from traditional application environments.

Keep in mind that:

  • Transactional applications have fairly consistent load patterns, but BI applications tend to spike.
  • Aggregating millions records is much different than streaming transactions.
  • BI environments are very I/O intensive and behave more like an Exchange Server than an ERP application
  • Your BI environment should not underresourced.

Working With Your Infrastructure Team

Sometimes the infrastructure team, in an attempt to manage limited server resources will throttle down your BI environment.    The problem is that if BusinessObjects doesn’t get enough CPU or RAM, then it will begin swapping in ways that aren’t expected.  You want to avoid this problem.

Before you call support about performance, make sure that you also understand how the virtual environment is being controlled.  It may appear that SAP BusinessObjects is using 100% of the cpu, but after hours of troubleshooting, we often discover that in reality you are using 100% of the 25% you were allocated.  You’ve topped out your ‘share’ of the cpus.

SAP BusinessObjects  is architected to use all system resources available to it.  It will be greedy when it comes to leveraging available resources, so don’t be stingy.  On a shared environment a single server is going to share the same network card, the same host bus adapter so keep that in mind as well.

Best Practices

“Don’t believe everything you hear.” – Aesop

Virtualization vendors have traditionally provided guidance to their customers on how to configure virtual environments for specific applications; however sometimes those recommendations have unintended consequences to performance.

One notable article was recently published on SCN.  VMWare had provided a number of tuning best practices for customer running Java applications and yet these best practices did not have the intended effect.  Read more here:
http://scn.sap.com/docs/DOC-29008

The good news is that BusinessObjects doesn’t necessarily require special tuning when running in a virtual environment. The bad news is that there is a lot of misinformation out there which might lead you astray.

Although SAP doesn’t yet have a full configuration best practices guide for running SAP BusinessObjects within a virtualized environment, I know that there are folks who are eager to hear about your experiences.  Last week I heard from Ashish Morzaria and he asked me if I knew any customers who might be willing to get involved and provide some feedback.

Well, now is your chance.

Help Us Help You

Get in touch.

If you:

  • Have already virtualized and can share your lessons learned
  • Want to virtualize and are looking for a whitepaper
  • Want to tell us your story – either a case study, reference, etc.

Please let me know and help get you in touch with the right folks.

«Good BI»

 

Categories: Administrators Tags: ,

Fixing Permissions: Am I Allowed To Do That?

May 18th, 2012 11 comments

One of my least favorite topics is licensing.

It seems like every year as corporate strategies change and as customers push for simplified licensing, SAP comes out with a new way to sell it’s products.  If you’ve been around a while you’ll recognize some of these:

  • BusinessObjects Enterprise
  • BusinessObjects Enterprise with Interactive Viewing
  • BusinessObjects Enteprise Premium
  • BusinessObjects Edge
  • BusinessObjects Edge Premium
  • Premium Package, Visualization & Reporting
  • Premium Package, Query Reporting & Analysis
  • BI Package
  • BI Suite

What I’m not going to do is explain how SAP licenses it’s products.  That’s what the sales guy is for.

What I do want to explain is how the functionality within the licensing model breaks down and how it impacts you as the BusinessObjects administrator.

Licensed User Type

With BusinessObjects, licensing was pretty straight-forward.  You could either buy:

  • CPUs – unlimited active users running on a limited number of cpus (cores typically counted as 1/2).
  • Named users - one license per named system user on unlimited hardware.
  • Concurrent users – a delightful combination of unlimited users set up on unlimited hardware, but only a given number of those users could log in simultaneously.  (This license went away for a while and now it’s back for specific situations.  Typically customers can figure on 10:1 rate of potential users to concurrent users).

When SAP acquired BusinessObjects all that changed.  SAP introduced the idea of licensing both the ‘platform’ as well as the user count.

SAP customers who use BusinessObjects must purchase licenses for the platform (cpu or named users) as well as a named user license for every person who accesses the BusinessObjects environment.  The only problem is that there is typically a big difference between the capabilities a power user/administrator needs and a casual user who only accesses the system occasionally.

In order to provide try and keep licensing simple, while at the same time providing a differentiation between power users and casual users, SAP created the concept of a licensed user type.

There are two:

  1. Expert users – also know as Business Expert or Business Analyst Users
  2. Standard users – also known as Business Information, BI Viewer or Viewer Users.

What Is My User Allowed To Do

I’ve created a table which breaks down the each product and explains what the user is able to do within that product.  Note that an expert user can do everything a standard user can, plus the additional items listed in the Expert User Rights column (which is the equivalent of ‘full access”).

SAP BusinessObjects Platform

Product Standard User Rights Expert User Rights
BI Platform Access platform services and view environment Modify BI Platform environment, security definition and make modifications. Access and administer (profiles, configuration) platform services.
Live Office View integration with Microsoft Office for viewing reports, dashboards Design and edit queries
BI Workspaces Customize, view personalized reports, dashboards
BI Widgets Customize, view personalized BI widgets Design, author, and create BI widgets
BI Launchpad Personalize your user profile
SAP BusinessObjects Integration  (Oracle, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards) View data from business applications in a report, analysis or dashboard (indirect access)

SAP BusinessObjects Tools

Product Standard User Rights Expert User Rights
Crystal Reports View (refresh and schedule) reports Schedule, author, edit, and update reports
WebIntelligence View (refresh, schedule, export, zoom, sort, search, filter, drill, apply basic formatting) a predefined report Schedule, author, edit, and update analyses and queries
Dashboard View (refresh and interact) dashboard models Schedule, author, edit, and update models
Analysis for OLAP Customize, view personalized BI widgets Design, author, and create BI widgets
Explorer View (search, view and navigate) data sets  Schedule, author, edit, and update Infospaces
BI Mobile View (refresh and interact) documents Author, edit and update analyses and queries
Note that this information can change at any time,
so always check with your SAP sales team to make
sure you understand the capabilities of each license type.

Controlling Access

As administrators, it’s very important to make sure standard users are not using functionality of the expert users.  The good news, bad news is that in most cases this type of user differentiation is a paper license and not controlled by the license key.  This is good because it means that as SAP’s licensing model changes, you don’t have to run out and get new license key or download a new service pack.  The bad news is, you need to setup BusinessObjects security so that standard users don’t accidently extend the reach of what they are licensed to do.

Setting restrictions based on the tables above is pretty straight-forward for most of the application permissions.  In most cases access should be set to “View” and that takes care of it.  The one except is WebIntelligence.

Controlling WebIntelligence

In order to be a standard user, you should explicitly deny specific permissions within the WebIntelligence application.  To access these permissions from the CMC home page, choose Applications.  From the list of available Applications, scroll down the list to Web Intelligence.

Select Web Intelligence and select Manage > Properties from the menu (or user the right-click menu).  Next choose User Security from the navigation pane.

Add a new Principal (if one is not already there) or highlight an existing principal user or group.  We want to Assign Security and restrict WebI access.  The default access right should be View.  We will then want to modify this by clicking the Advanced tab and selecting Add/Remove Rights.  From the left navigation pane, select Application > Web Intelligence.

Manage WebIntelligence Application Security - Scroll down to see ALL the permissions

We are now going to explicitly deny the following rights:

  • Desktop Interface – * all permissions *
  • Documents – enable creation
  • Documents – enable publish and manage content as web service
  • Interfaces – enable Rich Internet Application
  • Interfaces – enable web query panel
  • Query script – enable editing (SQL , MDX…)
  • Query script – enable viewing (SQL , MDX…)
  • Reporting – create and edit breaks
  • Reporting – create and edit conditional formatting rules
  • Reporting – create and edit input controls
  • Reporting – create and edit predefined calculations
  • Reporting – create formulas and variables
  • Reporting – insert and remove reports, tables, charts and cells

If you look under the permissions for WebIntelligence, you will now see the only permission you can modify on a per report basis is Edit Query, which no longer matters because here we’ve explicitly denied Query script – enable editing (SQL, MDX…) within the WebI application.

Once the changes are complete, you should be able to access existing WebIntelligence documents and see that a number of features are now disabled (grayed out).

Standard User Access WebIntelligence With Restricted Permissions

If you have additional questions about permissions and how they might have changed from older versions of BusinessObjects, you can access the information here:
http://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/scn/index?rid=/library/uuid/f0543a8d-9155-2f10-c5a7-8d15688a5faa&overridelayout=true

I hope this blog has been useful.  Please do NOT leave any comments below about licensing.  I won’t be able answer these.

What I did want to answer is any questions about the difference between the different user types and show you how to modify the security within BusinessObjects to make sure you are in compliance with your license agreement.  Hopefully it’s mission accomplished.

«Good BI»