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.
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:
- Dashboard Builder
- BI Mobile
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)
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?)
- 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 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
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.