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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»

What You’ll Notice When Installing XI 3.0

March 7th, 2008 4 comments

Here are a few things I noticed when installing XI 3.0 that I thought I would pass along.Installing XI 3.0 Notes

#1 – Time Remaining
The system no longer tells you the time remember. It was always fun to explain the end of the install when it was deploying the web applications and it would jump around from 2 seconds remaining to 2 hours remaining. Now you just get a simple and effective progress bar.

#2 – Wir sprechen Deutsch!
You should notice a heck of a lot more languages. BusinessObjects has embraced the concept of language packs and now allow you to create your own language packs.

#3 – New Utilities!
Diagnostic Tool, Software Inventory Tool , Translation Manager. I also don’t see the Security Viewer so hopefully that will be available as a separate install.

#4 – Silent Installation
Now you can create a “response” file by creating a blank text file and running setup.exe from a command window using: setup.exe -w C:my_install_response.ini. You can then use that response file to do a new install by going to the command line again and running: setup.exe /qb -r C:my_install_response.ini

#5 – In-Place Upgrade – Schweeet!
Hate finding new hardware to do an upgrade? XI 3.0 let’s you do an in-place upgrade. If you install XI 3.0 on a server that is already running XIR2, then it will detect it, copy the CMS content over, point the FRS of XI 3.0 to your existing FRS and let you uninstall XIr2. If you don’t like that, then you can do a side by side installation. It’s also supported (but be aware of potential port conflicts between the BOE or Tomcat services)

Other Things You Should Know

  • The initial release is Java-only. A .NET version is scheduled to ship later this year.
  • There is no native 64-bit version of BusinessObjects XI 3.0. It does however support 32-bit mode for 64-bit operating systems.

The Next Major Release of BusinessObjects Goes RTM!

February 29th, 2008 No comments

BusinessObjects XI 3.0 box shotPush, Push, Push

We are close… oh, so close. The baby is coming. It should be any day now. No, my wife’s not pregnant. It’s the arrival of BusinessObjects XI 3.0. That’s “three dot-o”. Let me guess. You want to know why it’s not called, “BusinessObjects XIR3”. Search me. I guess marketing did some extensive research which showed the customers were more likely to find software labeled at 3.0 to be superior in quality, performance and usability of a “third revision”. I suppose the “R” in revision probably doesn’t do a release like this justice either. It deserves a new introduction.

Being involved in the beta testing process was a real treat. It’s so hard not to be able to talk about all the cool stuff in the next release. Now that it’s finally going RTM, I’ll tell you what I think about it – and I promise it won’t just be the marketing fluff.

I have to say. Now that BusinessObjects is an SAP company, I decided it was time to reorganized my 1542 powerpoints. Since I’ve been with BusinessObjects so long, I’m managed to accumulate a few and it was time for some housecleaning. I promise that I will begin to write a lot more information more frequently. A colleague of mine reminded me of the blogs associated with the BusinessObjects Diamond Developer Site, so I might begin crossposting.

Get Your SAP Roadmaps

Although everything is business as usual with regards to BusinessObjects, an SAP Company… (they make us say that now) … we are all curious to see what the roadmaps will look like. My biggest surprise was that some of the roadmaps were published out on the SAP Developer site before I had even seen them internally. Wow. Now that’s what I call hot off the presses. Although not all the roadmaps are complete (e.g. what about where BusinessObjects Performance Manager and SAP’s Strategy Management overlap? How exactly are all the Performance Manager engines going to evolve in the next version? There’s SPC, Predictive and Sets.

SAP RoadmapIt’s interesting to learn more about the SAP product offering and find that not everything from SAP requires the “Netweaver Stack”. SAP’s MDM and Strategy Management(Pilot) and Financial Performance Management (Outlooksoft) are three examples. All recently acquired and not necessarily SAP-only.

If you have some SAP BI technology and want to see the SAP BI Roadmap, I recommend you download it here. It’s a great read and pretty clearly explains how the products will move forward. The only downside is there is no mention of WebIntelligence and Visual Composer on the Integration Roadmap slide. The upside is that it is pretty clear that BusinessObjects is the face of BI for SAP moving forward. Netweaver will continue to have some core BI components, but all premium capabilities will be handled by BusinessObjects (or should I say BusinessObjects, an SAP company).

Let me know your thoughts.

Crystal Reports 2008 gets flashy

November 8th, 2007 No comments

If you’ve not seen the latest version of Crystal Reports, then you might want to see what you are missing. The latest version of Crystal Reports (v13) is called Crystal Reports 2008 and started shipping earlier this month. Although there are a lot of great features in the product including:

  • New Parameter Panel with optional Parameters
  • Long awaited Cross-tab Enhancements
  • Better Page Control for Web-based Reporting
  • Salesforce.com and CrystalReports.com Integration

    Xcelsius in Crystal Reports

Favorite Feature in Crystal Reports 2008

Probably my favorite feature is the new Xcelsius and Flex Integration. It’s so cool. You can now take controls that are built using Xcelsius and the Adobe Flex environment and embed them directly into Crystal Reports. In fact as Xcelsius expands it’s support for Flex, we will be able to embed better looking, more dynamic and more powerful visualizations into Crystal Reports.

I have included a couple of sample Xcelsius pie charts that you can embed into a Crystal Report and then link to data using Crystal Reports 2008. You can download them here. This sample includes two Xcelsius swf objects and three Crystal Reports.

My Other Favorite Feature

Starting with version 9 of Crystal Reports, the software took on an annoying new habit. When you wanted to change the font or the font size, the cursor would insert itself into the field instead of highlighting the entire field, so when you started typing, it would INSERT a new value instead of allowing you to type over the value.

This viewlet will show you what I mean.

Well, this has been fixed in Crystal Reports 2008! I shared my feelings with the guys in development and they took care of it for me. Now when you change the font or font size it works just like MS Word or MS Excel. This is fantastic! Sometimes it’s the little things in life that give you the biggest joy.

Keep up the hard work guys!!