Tag Archives: SAP Business Objects

When is a large document too large? Some rules of thumb for sizing Web Intelligence.

In a typical scenario, Web Intelligence is used by report authors who want to deliver interactive content to consumers. Sometimes authors have pressure to create extremely large WebI documents that ideally will provide answers to any possible question a consumer might have. One WebI customer is delivering documents spanning nearly 200,000 pages. It works, but the delivery is pretty delicately controlled. In general, however, this tendency to build documents with huge data volumes is the same affliction that causes someone to buy a house with 2 extra bedrooms on the chance that someday somehow both sets of grandparents will come calling the same weekend. It might just happen. Whew! What peace of mind to have shelved out an extra $150k for two rooms you might simultaneously fill once a decade!

In the WebI world, the desire to build reports with large data volumes pushes inevitably the limits that the Webi server (for dHTML or Java clients) or Webi Rich Client can handle. WebI memory use, which of course increases as the document size increases, is limited by the processor. As of XI 3.1, at 32 bits, the processor limit for Webi doc size is around 2 gigabytes. This memory is consumed by the storage of the DP results, calculations and the report engine.

In practice, from the perspective of data in the data provider(s) results, WebI can support until a maximum of around 500 megabytes, being roughly 25 million values (e.g. 5 cols * 5 million rows, 25 columns by 1 million rows, etc.). In this case, the document will consume all memory available to the process. For the Rich Client, the content can be consumed offline on each user’s machine, so this memory is not shared. For online clients, the process must be shared by each concurrent client on a given server, so divide the document size limit by number of concurrent users (e.g. 10 concurrent users on a doc of 2.5 million values could max out the server).

Again, it’s important to note that these are rules of thumbs, not absolutes. You might find the server performing adequately even with such gigantic documents. However, the size of a WebI document in terms of rows/cells is not the only variable in play. Synchronization of dimensions between multiple data sources and the number of variables also has an impact, as does the complexity of the layout. So, a 10 million value document with multiple sources and lots of complex variables and calculations and a lot of charts and tables and conditional formatting might put pressure on the server as much as a table-dump with 25 million values.

But before you start categorizing WebI as a client that is best for small documents, let’s step back and think about what a document with 25 million values means to report authoring and interactive consumption. First, it’s absurdly large. Just for reference, a 5 million word MS Word document could easily be more than 10,000 pages. Second, it’s absurdly large. Take the example of a query that retrieves 500,000 rows and 50 columns – 25 million cell values. Among those columns, you might have Region, Country, City, Year, Quarter, Month, Product Level 1… Product Level n, Industry Code, Customer Name, Address…. And then of course there are measures like Sales, Units sold, various Counts, etc. Maybe these columns/rows are fed by another source or two – a customer support site plus maybe even an Excel file with forecast data. This report is great! It contains the sandbox for answering any question at any levels. Just which of the dozen tabs should I click on and how long should I scroll to get my answer? Third, it’s absurdly large. Maintaining a document this large – with all of its different analytical views and web of interdependent variables and calculations – is always going to be painful. You better hope the author never leaves the organization, because untangling the intentions and interdependencies within such a large document will be next to impossible.

How will users, concretely, consume this volume of data? A handful of aggregation in a table with options to drill to 4 or 5 levels of details at any class of dimensions – Geography, Time, Product Levels, Customers, etc.? In this case, since the author is not adding value to the content – either through formatting, calculations and variables, juxtaposition of content to tell a story or synchronization of data between different sources, etc. – this is a clear case where Explorer would bring value to this scenario. If the expectation is for consumers to explore the data “as is”, then give them Explorer to let them find their factoid answers at any detail of data.

Often in these scenarios, the author does try to add value by defining a multi-tab WebI document with dozens of different detailed views of the data organized in different themes. These documents take weeks to create and validate and could take days to go through, but in theory they enable users to have any of their possible questions answered, no matter how detailed and unlikely they may be. For the vast majority of users, putting content detailed as this into one document is like buying flood insurance if you live in the Sahara. Yes, it is possible that someone, one day, might want access to those details in one session. And over years, a user might access quite a few details related to numerous dimensions. However, is it worth the price of performance to buy such insurance with a document that size? Instead of building such a monstrosity as one document, consider alternatives for delivering the same content in a couple, linked documents, using features such as query drill or prompts (optional prompts might help), using queries to pull specific levels of aggregation instead of in one giant chunk, allowing more ad-hoc query and document creation with compulsory prompts turned on, etc.

Rest assured, however, that help is on the way for customers insisting on such humongous documents. In an upcoming release, we plan on making WebI 64 bit, effectively removing the process limit and enabling the addition of more physical memory on the server to improve the handling of larger reports/throughput. The Rich Client on an end-user’s machine, which uses a “local server” implementation, will also become 64 bit in a future release. (Note that the Rich Client has essentially repatriated some Webi server components to be part of the Rich Client installation. This is what enables WebI content to be taken offline from BOE.)

But in the meantime, authors should constantly check the trade-offs involved with building extremely large documents. And ultimately, it comes down to understanding what end users (consumers) really want to and need to do with the content. Next time you get pressure to create a 12-tab, 50 dimension, one-size-fits-all report, push back a little. The consumers are not always right. Ask how many 10,000 page word documents they use.

Michael Thompson is Director of Product Management at SAP Business Objects.

VIA [SDN]

Announcing the SAP Crystal solutions portfolio

SAP Crystal Solutions

Today the team is happy to announce the creation of the new SAP Crystal solutions portfolio brand.  This new portfolio brand includes four familiar product lines:

SAP Crystal solutions is a portfolio brand.  It’s a peer of the SAP BusinessObjects brand, and is focused on delivering products that are easy to try, easy to buy and easy to use.  SAP Crystal solutions are available on our eStore and through our reseller partners.

Why Are We Doing This?

This is an important evolution of both the SAP and Crystal brands, and is a very tangible and visible commitment to the Crystal product line by SAP.   SAP is recognizing and embracing the role of volume products like Crystal Reports, and of volume oriented sales channels like eStore and 2-tier distribution.

The Crystal brand is now elevated from a reporting-focused product line to a portfolio.  Its meaning now goes beyond reporting, to cover dashboarding, presentation, analysis, and other new products we add to the portfolio over time.

With this transition, we will be phasing out the Xcelsius brand name.  The strong technology foundation that underpins our dashboarding and presentation products will stay the same.  This is a name change, not a technology change.  For more information on the Xcelsius brand migration please consult this blog.

Are the Product Names Changing?

As SAP Crystal solutions is tied to SAP branding standards, we will be adopting the SAP standard of using descriptive product names.  That means you should be able to tell what the product does (at a high level) from the product name.

Old Name

New Name

Crystal Reports SAP Crystal Reports
Crystal Reports for Visual Studio 2010 SAP Crystal Reports for Visual Studio 2010
Crystal Reports for Eclipse SAP Crystal Reports for Eclipse
Crystal Reports Viewer SAP Crystal Reports viewer
Crystal Reports Server SAP Crystal Reports Server
Crystal Reports Visual Advantage SAP Crystal Reports Dashboard Design package
Crystal Reports Developer Advantage SAP Crystal Reports runtime server license
Xcelsius Present SAP Crystal Presentation Design
Xcelsius Engage SAP Crystal Dashboard Design, personal edition

What New Products Are Being Announced?

In addition to the SAP Crystal portfolio brand, we are also announcing a number of new products and add-ons.  Most of these products will be available for sale starting June 7 2010.  The exception is SAP Crystal Interactive Analysis which will be available in July 2010.

New Product

Description

SAP Crystal Reports Server, add-on for Microsoft Outlook Work with SAP Crystal Reports Server right from within Outlook.
SAP Crystal Reports Server, add-on for ESRI GIS software Bidirectional integration with your ESRI ArcGIS, ESRI ArcIMS or ESRI ArcMap products.
SAP Crystal Reports Server, advanced administration package Lower the cost of ownership of large SAP Crystal Reports Server implementations.  Consists of 5 tools: Object Manager, InfoScheduler, Instance Manager, Instance Monitor, and KPI.
SAP Crystal Dashboard Design, departmental edition Full featured dashboard design software.  Deploy dashboards standalone or to SAP Crystal Reports Server.  Limited to a maximum of 100 named users per dashboard deployment.  Viewers of connected dashboards require a named user license.
SAP Crystal Dashboard Viewing option The named user viewing license that complements SAP Crystal Dashboard Design, departmental edition.  Sold in packs of 10 named users. Required for standalone dashboarding deployments.  Dashboards can be viewed by named users of SAP Crystal Reports Server without additional licensing.
SAP Crystal Dashboard Design starter package A bundle of 1 named user of SAP Crystal Dasbhoard Design, departmental edition and 10 named users of SAP Crystal Dashboard Viewing option.  Ideal for projects that require dashboard viewing but don’t require the additional features in SAP Crystal Reports Server.
SAP Crystal Interactive Analysis Formerly known as Web Intelligence Personal, this desktop query and analysis tool brings powerful BI functionality to business analysts and knowledge workers.

Available for sale in July 2010.

SAP StreamWork While not strictly part of the SAP Crystal family of offerings, SAP StreamWork will be available in distribution starting in June 2010.

If you’re not familiar with this product, visit SAPStreamWork.com to learn more about this exciting collaboration and decision making product.

What Does This Mean To You?

  • SAP Crystal solutions is a family of BI solutions that are easy to try, easy to buy, and grow with your organization.
  • SAP Crystal solutions represents the best of both the SAP and Crystal Reports brands.
  • SAP Crystal solutions demonstrates a tangible commitment to these product lines and channels by the broader corporation.

VIA [SDN]

XCELSIUS® BRAND MIGRATION

For over 15 years, Crystal Reports software has helped business users and IT departments around the world achieve richer insight and greater productivity. With millions of active users and deployments in organizations of all sizes, across all industries, Crystal Reports software is widely recognized as the de facto standard for reporting today. Building on the industry leadership of Crystal Reports, SAP is expanding the Crystal product line and delivering innovative business intelligence solutions that will change the way people work. As of part this initiative, Xcelsius software is joining the SAP Crystal family of offerings as the flagship software for dashboarding and data presentation.

Starting May 17th, 2010, Xcelsius product names will be replaced with SAP Crystal descriptive nomenclature as follow:

Current Product Name New Product Name
Xcelsius Present SAP Crystal Presentation Design
Xcelsius Engage SAP Crystal Dashboard Design, personal edition

VIA [SDN]

SAP BusinessObjects Certification Update

From April 30, 2010, there will be new SAP Business Objects exams available. These exams have been updated to be better aligned with the SAP certification program. The existing Business Objects exams will be retired and replaced by the following three exams, all of which lead to a full SAP Business Objects Associate certification.

  • C_BOCR_08: SAP Certified Application Associate – Crystal Reports 2008
  • C_BOE_30: SAP Certified Application Associate – SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.x
  • C_BOWI_30: SAP Certified Application Associate – BusinessObjects Web Intelligence XI 3.x

From April 30, 2010, these exams can only be registered via the Pearson VUE SAP registration page. For any questions relating to this please contact your local SAP Education office.

BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE IN THE CLOUD

SEND YOUR WEB INTELLIGENCE REPORTPARTS IN THE CLOUD AND EXPLORE THEM ON YOUR IPHONE

SAP BusinessObjects BI OnDemand is a newly released turnkey solution with next-generation capabilities that enables easy data exploration, and combines reporting, analysis, and sharing from any data source. With the power and simplicity of search-and-browse technology, the ability to combine data in a few clicks and a “Guided Path” workflow that guides users all the way from data to analysis, users can get up and running with SAP BusinessObjects BI OnDemand quickly, with little to no prior experience or training.

Now that BI OnDemand has been released, we are providing 2 prototypes for extending it:

  • SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence ReportPart Export to BI OnDemand – Share your BI ReportPart with the external world,
  • SAP BusinessObjects Explorer on iPhone to explore your BI OnDemand data.

WHAT’S THE GOAL OF WEB INTELLIGENCE REPORTPART EXPORT TO BI ONDEMAND?

The Web Intelligence ReportPart export functions have been designed by end-user to push their ReportParts data like a table to BI OnDemand, so they can build a dashboard on top of it. See it in action here.

KEY FEATURES

  • Extends the reach of Web Intelligence ReportPart to your business network
  • Combine Web Intelligence ReportPart with your dashboard in the cloud
  • Integrate dashboard in the cloud data and Web Intelligence ReportPart

WHAT’S THE GOAL OF SAP BUSINESSOBJECTS EXPLORER ON IPHONE TO BI ONDEMAND PROTOTYPE?

This is an extension of the now famous SAP BusinessObjects Explorer on iPhone prototype. With the SAP BusinessObjects Explorer for iPhone prototype, insight into your business is never more than a few flicks away, it allows you to answer business questions “on-the-fly” and regardless of where you are. Look at the video.

KEY FEATURES

  • Fast and intuitive exploration of data you share in the cloud
  • Automated relevancy and chart generation – Automatically generates the chart that best represents the information
  • Share your results instantly with others right from your iPhone

VIA  SDN

SAP Makes Capital-Expenditure Planning Easier

In an effort to further help organizations streamline the entire capital-expenditure planning process, SAP AG (NYSE: SAP) today announced a starter kit for capital planning available for the SAP® BusinessObjects™ Planning and Consolidation application. Often capital planning is done manually by aggregating content from individual spreadsheets or building custom applications. The new starter kit provides an automated way to request, plan, model and evaluate large, complex projects as well as smaller, simpler ones. The announcement was made at Financials 2010, being held in Orlando, Fla., March 16-19.

Developed in collaboration with SAP partner Aster Group, the starter kit is especially helpful for organizations in capital-intensive industries like automotive, chemicals and oil and gas. Pre-built templates and content guide business users through the planning process, and can be tailored to meet their specific needs. The starter kit features embedded analyses of investment returns using industry-standard methodologies such as internal rate of return and payback period. It can be used as a stand-alone solution, or with customers’ existing deployments of SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation, version for the Microsoft platform.

“The new starter kit from SAP will greatly simplify our capital-expenditure planning projects,” said Michael Curley, budget and financial analyst, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC). “Since REC operates in a capital-intensive environment, by enhancing our budgeting and forecasting we will be able to execute these processes in a fraction of the time, allowing us to more efficiently pursue our growth strategy.”

REC is a member-owned cooperative providing service to more than 103,000 homes and businesses in portions of 16 Virginia counties. Visit www.myrec.coop for more information about the cooperative and its community involvement.

VIA SAP PRESS