Archive

Archive for the ‘Crystal Reports’ Category

SAP BusinessObjects Demos on YouTube…

September 15th, 2009 No comments

I’m amazed at how easy it is to find information these days.  Today I decided to do a follow-up post based on my most recent WebIntelligence demo post.  After a little searching around and I found a number of demos that had been posted by David Collins Dixon onto Youtube.  David has written a number of books about the SAP Business Information Warehouse (or BW for short).

SAP Integration Demos

Here are the list of demos:
http://www.youtube.com/user/davidcollinsdixon

Crystal Reports Demo leveraging SAP Hierarchies (No AUDIO)

David does an especially nice job with the Crystal Reports demo and shows you how to use the Hierarchy Node so Crystal Reports can properly leverage your SAP Hierarchy definition.

Xcelsius Demos

There are also a couple of demos from the guys at Everything Xcelsius:
http://www.youtube.com/user/XcelsiusGurus

If you find any SAP BusinessObjects videos that you think others would benefit from, just add links to them in a posted comment.

«Good BI»

Crystal Reports and Web Services

May 19th, 2009 21 comments

Quick Tutorial

Service Oriented Architectures are amazing.  Now more than ever companies are leveraging freely available web services to add value to their internal data.  One of the most common ways on combining data today is via Google Maps. A great example of this is housingmaps.comHousingmaps combines the power of Google Maps and CraigsList to allow you to view available housing in your area together with the power of Google Map navigation.

Today, all tools from SAP BusinessObjects can consume web services.  The most popular reporting tool in the BusinessObjects platform is Crystal Reports.  With the report creation wizard, we can be consuming a web service is seconds.  Let’s walk through it step by step.  We will connect to a web service that will provide us driving directions from Point A to Point B.

Step by Step

  1. Launch Crystal Reports 2008
  2. From the Start Page, choose Report wizard, this will launch the Standard Report Creation
  3. Next expand Create New Connection, and scroll down to XML and Web Services and expand the folder.
  4. The XML and Web Services data source  dialog box will appear.  Choose Use Web Service Data Source and choose Next>.
  5. In our case, we are going to use an HTTP Web Service, so choose Use HTTP(S) WSDL and type in:  http://www.ecubicle.net/driving.asmx?WSDL and choose Next>.
  6. This Web Service does not require a UserID/Password, so choose Next>.
  7. After a moment or two, the Web Service, Port and Method screen should appear.  You should see: driving, drivingSoap and GetDirections in the Service, Port and Method drop downs respectively.  (If this does not work, there may be a firewall issue at your location.  Check with your local IT.)  Choose Finish.
  8. After choosing Finish, you will see a ResultSet box under the http://www.ecubicle.net/ data source.  (You may need to expand it).  Move the box over to the Selected Tables side by choosing the [>] button.   When you do, you will be prompted to enter some parameters.  So far so good.
  9. There are four input parameters to this:
      fromAddress – the starting address, e.g. 3734 Elvis Presley Boulevard Memphis, TN 38186
      toAddress – the destination address, e.g. 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500
      distanceUnit – miles or km, default: miles
      expresswayEnabled – true or false, default:true
  10. After entering the values choose OK.
  11. Complete the Wizard by either choosing Finished or by walking through the remaining screens.
  12. Once the fields are added to the report, you should the directs Elvis would need to take to drive to the White House.

Here is your finished report:

Leveraging Web Services from within SAP BusinessObjects couldn’t be easier.  If you are interested in seeing the same types of capabilities from within other BusinessObjects tools drop me a line and I’ll add it to the list.  Enjoy.

«Good BI»

Embedding Web Controls into your Crystal Reports

March 28th, 2009 6 comments

Bringing Together HTML Controls and Crystal Reports

Every once in a while I get a chance to present in a forum or user group and show some new amazing capabilities in the product suite. Last year I had the chance to demonstrate WebElements. WebElements is a collection of Crystal functions which generate HTML.

An easy to use library of functions for Crystal Reports designers who are also using the BusinessObjects platform:

  • Designed by a report designer for report designers
  • Embed different kinds of controls for report consumers
  • Easily distributed as an .rpt file to other report designers
  • Small in size, less than 60k unzipped
  • Automated installation
  • Expandable and customizable and code can be shared

Since Microsoft Reporting Services provides easy to use drop-down parameters, more and more customers are asking for the ability to embed web controls into their Crystal Reports. Now with Webelements we can add radio buttons, list boxes, drop-down selectors, action buttons, etc. In fact, Jamie Wiseman, the original creator of WebElements has a lot of great samples you can download from the Business Objects Diamond Developer website.  You can also search and find information about WebElements off the SDN website here.

Watch a 60 minute webinar on webelements now!

WebElements Webinar

Get started now by downloading the WebElements Custom Function Library here.

Next time I’ll discuss mashups and the new viewer JavaScript SDK in BusinessObjects XI 3.0.

BusinessObjects XI 3.1 Features

October 22nd, 2008 38 comments

I haven’t seen a lot of information available that talks about what’s new in the release of the latest version, BusinessObjects XI 3.1, so I thought I would point out some of the highlights I’ve come across.  You may also want read the complete What’s New in BusinessObjects XI 3.1 guide from the website.

Release Highlights

BusinessObjects XI 3.1 is a release that is focused on bringing parity to our platform support for both Java and .NET.  In BusinessObjects XI 3.0 we did not provide a .NET version of our standard BI portal, InfoView.  In BusinessObjects XI 3.1 we have released a native .NET portal which has near parity with the Java version.  I say near parity, because there are a few things missing, namely:

  • Encyclopedia
  • Dashboard Builder
  • Voyager
  • BI Mobile
  • Polestar

For companies who find comfort in an all Microsoft World, this release will be welcomed.  BusinessObjects XI 3.1 has added support for Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Sharepoint Portal Server 2007.  (There is also Microsoft Active Directory Forest Support as well!)  If you are using the SAP Integration Kit, this is also now available on the .NET platform.

Web Application Container Service

One of the way in which BusinessObjects has been able to balance both rich feature sets and cross platform compatibility is through the introduction of a new server to the BusinessObjects Platform.  This service is called the WACS, Web Application Container Service, and is a java container.  What this allows BusinessObjects to do is to run existing java applications through the BusinessObjects framework.

Let me explain how this will work in practice.  The BusinessObjects Administration Console, the CMC, is written in Java.  Instead of rewritting this application in .NET, BusinessObjects simply added the WACS to the BusinessObjects service bus and will execute application via this service.  The beauty of this solution is that the .NET administrator never has to worry about it.  BusinessObjects manages everything.

What other Applications can use the WACS?

Besides the CMC, there are a number of other applications that could within the WACS.  This includes:

  • Interactive DHTML Viewer for WebIntelligence
  • Query as a Web Service (for supporting Xcelsius)
  • LiveOffice

There is an important document that covers what is supported and what is not supported within the WACS framework.  In theory all native java-based aspects of the BusinessObjects application suite could be run through the WACS but the question is whether or not it is officially supported.  This document is called:  Web Application Container Server (WACS): Supported and Unsupported Features for BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1and it explains the details.  You can download it here.

Additional Platform Enhancements

BusinessObjects XI 3.1 supports IPv6 100% across the product suite (except for Desktop Intelligence).  They have also added their first native 64-bit architecture.  Since BusinessObjects XIr2 SP3, the platform has been able to run on 64-bit operating systems however the platform still runs as a 32-bit application.  The first native 64-bit release is an the HP-UX IA-64 Itanium hardware.

Life Cycle Manager

Life Cycle Manager, LCM for short, s a web-based utility that allows the administrator to:

  • Promote BI content from one system to another (without affecting the dependencies of the content)
  • Manage dependencies of BI content
  • Manage different versions of BI content
  • Roll back (yahoo!) promoted BI content

This tool does not install with the platform, but is a separate install.

“So isn’t that what the Import Wizard is for?”, you may be asking?  Well, certainly the import wizard has been used to provide this type of functionality in the past – especially with the introduction of BIAR files in BusinessObjects XI; however I think you’ll see from the list of features in LCM, it is better to have a specialized tool for the LCM process.

Life Cycle Manager provides a number of features over the Import Wizard (besides rollback) including:

  • Granular control over the objects selected (yes, we trust you)
  • Scheduling Promotions Jobs (a job is a collection of BI content or InfoObjects to be precise)
  • Integrated Version Control (via Subversion)
  • Database connection overrides and mapping (Tired of changing database connection strings?)
  • Auditing
  • The ability to “preview” to changes before committing them
  • Rollback, Did I mention rollback?

There is a new LCM Job server which has been added to the platform to manage the promotion process.

Have you ever created a BIAR file and realized you missed a file?  Now with LCM you can save your Promotion job and use it to generate a BIAR file.  If you find that something is missing, you can simply open up the promotion job , select the missing objects and regenerate the BIAR file.

BIAR ≠ BIAR

When is a BIAR file not a BIAR file?  Well, with the LCM tool, the BIAR files which are generated by the LCM tool are LCMBIAR files.  As the name indicates, the LCMBIAR files are NOT compatible with the BIAR files used with the Import Wizard.  Bummer.

Voyager

Voyager was the other biggie.  A lot of work was put into providing interface enhancements and increased performance.  This is probably the last release before the eagerly anticipated release of “Pioneer” in 2009, which will combine Voyager’s intuitive user interface with the powerful OLAP capabilities of the BEx OLAP tools.

Voyager now has a number of new visualizations including Box-Plot, Scatter, Bubble and Radar charts.    There are also a number of features that were in OLAP Intelligence, which were missing in earlier versions of Voyager, namely, Exception highlighting, URL Linking to other BI Content and Favorite Groups.

Have you ever made a mistake when building a Voyager workspace?  Well, now you have full undo/redo capabilities.  After being so used to the undo/redo capabilities in WebIntelligence, I always found the missing feature extremely annoying and I’m sure other did to.

Fly Over Of Additional Features

Rather than talk about additional features in detail, I thought I would briefly mention some of them here and perhaps in the future I can blog about them in detail if there is interest.

Semantic Layer -Support for BEGIN_SQL, Prompt support for codes AND descriptions.

Crystal Reports – Dual Monitor support, flash printing to PDF.

WebIntelligence -Support for Extension Points, Auto-Save, RelativeValue(), Multi-Pass Bursting

SAP Integration – SNC for BusinessObjects Universes (Prior to XI 3.1, this was only available for Crystal Reports), Improve Prompt Support for Hierarchy and Hierarchy Node dependencies.

Dashboard Builder – Printing, Interportlet Communication

Summary

There are some good things that have come out in this latest release.  This release is also the latest ‘reset point’ for BusinessObjects XI 3.X maintenance, so you can expect fix packs for XI 3.0 to no longer be released.

Hope you found this information useful.  I’ve tried to keep it short and sweet.

«Good BI»

Crystal Reports Embedded And Its Limitations

September 26th, 2008 19 comments

So you may be asking…

What is Crystal Reports Embedded? Crystal Reports embedded is an architecture which allows the Crystal Reports Rendering engine to run within the confides of the application environment.  BusinessObjects provides a .NET runtime and a Java Report Component (JRC) which allows developers to embed Crystal Reports in their applications.  Crystal Reports Embedded is included free with every version of Crystal Reports we sell.

So why do I need Crystal Reports Server or BusinessObjects Enterprise?  Well, that leads me into a discussion of the limitations that existing within the “free” embedded report architecture.

Limitations of Embedded Reporting

The current Crystal Reports Embedded Runtime is limited to three concurrent user requests (e.g. three simultaneous processing threads).  These threads are queued such that if the .NET application requests a 4th thread, it must wait until one of the existing three completes before it will be processed by the embedded engine.

Here is a quick view of the Embedded Architecture:

In case you were not aware of this limitation, let me point you do an excerpt I found on the Crystal Reports Developer website:

How is the Report Engine configured differently across different Business Objects reporting solutions?
  • Report engine is embedded.

    In Crystal Reports for Visual Studio, the report engine is embedded in the application.
    This embedded report engine is limited to a maximum of three simultaneous user requests. This is not an arbitrary licensing limit; it is a limitation of the embedded report engine architecture.
  • Report engine is extracted into a separate report server process

    In the solution that uses the unmanaged Report Application Server (RAS), the report engine is extracted into a separate server process. That server process can run on the same machine or be placed on separate physical hardware, to increase performance by offloading processing from your application server. An unmanaged RAS server is no longer available as an upgrade option. It is recommended that you upgrade to Crystal Reports Server instead. For more information, see Upgrade Options.
    The Crystal Reports Advanced Developer edition provided a performance-governed version of the unmanaged Report Application Server (RAS), which is suitable for smaller deployments with less complex reports and fewer user interaction requirements. This product is no longer available.
    Or, it was possible to license the unmana ged Report Application Server (RAS) on a processor basis, where it takes full advantage of your hardware. This product is no longer available.
  • The separate report server process is encapsulated into a complete Enterprise architecture

    In the Crystal Reports Server or BusinessObjects Enterprise solution, an entire Enterprise architecture is added, which encapsulates the separate report server process (RAS). The managed Report Application Server (RAS) becomes only one server, among many other servers in the Enterprise architecture. This architecture provides a rich set of additional features, such as scheduling, load balancing, fail-over, and both vertical and horizontal scalability.

NOTE:  The red was added by me for emphasis.  For more information click here.

So there it is.  There is a limit of three simultaneous processing threads when you use Crystal Reports Embedded within a .NET or Java based application.

What if I need more scalability?

If you look over the product offerings available from SAP BusinessObjects, you will see that all the current offerings include the BusinessObjects platform. This means that you will need to purchase one of our server based product offerings in order to provide additional scalability.

There are a number of advantages to this platform.  The first is unlimited scalability.  One common problem we had in moving customers from an unmanaged environment to a managed environment was that certain parts of their application had to be rewritten.  With the platform, you need to “login”, retrieve your report from a “repository” (instead of a filesystem).  You also wanted to make sure you are using the Page Server instead of the RAS Server (which had more overhead).

Now by requiring customers to move to a repository/platform based platform earlier, they are able to reap the benefits of a dedicated reporting environment

Here is what a basic architecture might look like if you upgrade to CR Server:

And here is one with BusinessObjects Enterprise:

How does this affect Runtime Distribution?

This does NOT affect your ability to create Crystal Reports and embedded them into your Visual Studio or Java based applications and distribute them out.  It is important however that you only distribute out the DLLs and JAR files listed in the RUNTIME.TXT file under the …/Crystal Reports/Help/en directory.

For more information you can also check out my previous post about this topic here.

Enjoy!