Archive for the ‘Business Intelligence’ category

The New SAP BusinessObjects RESTful SDK: What It Means to You

October 21st, 2013

 

Meet the LWLabs Team!

We here at LaunchWorksLabs are busy getting into all kinds of mischief. Most notably, the ins and outs of the new SAP BusinessObjects RESTful SDK.

If you are familiar with SAP BusinessObjects, then you know it is the leading global technology in the area of business analytics and business intelligence. This includes Crystal Reports, Web Intelligence, SAP Dashboards (formerly Xcelsius) and many others.

And if you are a Java or .Net developer, then you also know that SAP BusinessObjects has allowed developers to create custom applications solutions using their classic Java and .Net SDKs for years. We at LaunchWorks have been right there alongside you.

But there is a new kid in town: The BusinessObjects RESTful SDK.

Designed for Crystal, Web Intelligence and the BI Platform, the RESTful SDK (RSDK) is the next-generation application programming interface (API) for manipulating and interacting with Web Intelligence reporting residing on your BusinessObjects server.

So what does it mean to me?

For starters, it means no more jar files. Or, if you are a .Net developer, merge modules and or .dll files. The RSDK is based on a lightweight, refreshing platform that literally requires no installation. All it requires is knowledge of a handful of URLs and configuring your BOE server for web services (which is already configured by default). And you are in business.

And since interacting with the SDK amounts to http calls, it is als platform agnostic, meaning, it no longer matters whether you are using Java, .Net, PHP, Python, or even Javascript: The SDK is supported. And universal. That is: Gone are the days when there were differences between what the .Net version and the Java version of the SDKs could do (good news for .Net developers who suffered a dire lack of SDK support in the past few years). For these reasons, the RSDK is destined to replace classic Java and .Net SDKs in the coming months and years.

But this unleashed version has a bit of a catch. In classic Java/.Net SDK programming, as a programmer you would interactive with an object model. But with the RSDK consisting of no more than a vast array of URL calls, guess what? Your are the object model! Now this is good news on one hand, since your deployments will be as lightweight as you want them to be. On the other hand, building a scalable, maintainable, and robust enterprise application will require careful planning.

And that is where we come in :) Our flagship offering, the RESTful SDK Bootcamp, is designed not only to equip you with what you need to know in order to take full advantage of the SAP BusinessObjects RESTful SDK, but also to kickstart your custom RSDK project with coverage of best practices and proven enterprise development design patterns around the new RSDK. Basically, we have already done the hard part for you.

And we will continue to do so daily as we get into even greater mischief testing and exploring the capabilities of the new RESTful SDK.

 

Author: Don Collins

don.collins@launchworks.com

877-857-7407

Lessons Learned from the 2011 BusinessObjects User Conference

October 16th, 2011

Just a few of the things that I learned at the User Conference

  • ASUG is actively creating great content in all areas of BI
  • The free access to ASUG fro BOBJ/GBN members is extended through 2012
  • The content delivered by experienced speakers is getting richer as 4.0 gets rolled out.
  • Make appointments with everyone you know is going to be there (I hit 5 out of 6 by scheduling times in advance)
  • There is an increasing desire in the user community to be heard, participate, and influence (See ASUG Strategic SIG for how)
  • Most companies still do not have a clear strategy for mobile BI
  • There are some very different ways to create enterprise BI systems that can scale globally
  • Tweeting consistently is hard work
  • I need an ASUG shirt
  • Lastly…
    The interest in the SDK is alive and well. For Non ASUG users that dont have access to our presentations our link is below.

    http://t.co/HCYvErOy

    Kevin McManus
    www.launchworks.com

  • BusinessObjects SDK Best Practices

    May 23rd, 2011

    A series of the Best Practices that should be addressed when designing a BusinessObjects SDK Application.

    1) Where do I run the SDK in my application stack?

    There are 3 main architectures for SDK enhancement:

    a) InfoView Modification (i.e. hacking) – This involves changing and/or adding to the code that runs the InfoView application. While this seems like the shortest path it provides several challenges:

    i. The InfoView has several hooks for customization but not for things like changing menus, adding buttons, custom messages, etc.

    ii. Modifications will be eliminated as each BusinessObjects service pack, patch or upgrade is applied. This requires significant re-work, re-testing, and re-deployment procedures to be developed that could be used better elsewhere

    iii. This nullifies your support contract with SAP for the use of the InfoView at least.

    b) SDK Integration into a custom application – This involves adding the SDK libraries into the .NET or Java application that requires the enhanced functionality. The pro to this method is this provides a fully integrated application with connectivity Enterprise BI platform where you have full User Interface control and vendor support. The con to this choice include:

    i. The main application has been burdened with many additional libraries that must be integrated and deployed as part of its build process.

    ii. The main application has to be rebuilt and redeployed as each BusinessObjects service pack, patch or upgrade is applied even if there were no changes in functionality.

    c) Web Application Sharing (separate SDK application called from main application) – This architecture includes the same benefits of the first two options addresses the negatives of the prior two options while also allows a Service Oriented or Web Oriented Architecture where the functionality is available for reuse across multiple applications. The other benefits to this architecture include:

    i. The web server running the SDK application can be optimized for its use as a BI platform.

    ii. New BI functionality can be added as new BusinessObjects features and SDK’s become available with needing a build process and the related regression testing of the main application.

    2) Where do I run the SDK in my network stack?

    There are actually two answers in this area : For functions like authenticating the user, gathering a report and presenting a viewer there are both the Service Level SDK’s, as well as, a Web Services SDK. While the latter does not have all the same deep functionality as the service level SDK’s, it works extremely where in network architectures where direct access to the BusinessObjects server is not available. The Enterprise and related Crystal / Webi SDK’s use libraries that require direct IP access to the services running on the BusinessObjects Server(thin port 6400). The Web Services SDK can access the services through the web service application that can made available over the normal http access layer (think port 80)

    In terms of where should the application reside part of this best practice depends on your decision on the application stack above. If you are running an integrated SDK installation, then you need to install the SDK code on the same web application server as the main application. If you are going to create an shared application or just use the InfoView then it can run on the BusinessObjects server itself in the default web application server (think tomcat) or on a separate web application server (or cluster) specifically setup for web applications that can be called without logging into a single particular application.

    Another input to answering this question is the understanding of where the users that will use the application are located on the network and what access security is required to access the application.

    a) A publicly available URL (think reports.mycompany.com) will normally have at least one server in the DMZ(search demilitarized zone) where traffic can be monitored and direct access to the data is not required nor allowed.

    b) An internal application, or one requiring VPN access (search virtual private network) can have the web servers, Business Objects application servers, and database servers all on the internal network.

    3) Which SDK to Use for modifying Crystal Reports?

    There are two levels of “customization” when it comes to working Crystal Reports within the SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise system.

    a) When you need to add filters to your reports – This can be done using the Enterprise and Reporting SDK’s using the same features that allow you to add filters through the CMC in the report properties. This uses the normal Crystal Processing Server (i.e. previously known as the page server)

    b) When you need to modify your reports on the fly – This type of modification is deeper and touches the actual report object, although usually in the memory of the BusinessObjects Server. Examples of this type of modification uses the Report Application Server or RAS SDK to perform modifications such as add / remove fields, change database connections and handle the output of the report as a record set/stream/XML (in other words anything other than a viewer or export).

    Handling things like exporting the report content as a pipe (|) delimited file can now be done using the reporting SDK’s where earlier you would have to handle this through the slightly less scalable RAS SDK.

    4) Which SDK to use for modifying Web Intelligence reports?

    Until recently the only viable SDK was the ReBean SDK for working with Web Intelligence report modification. However….Recent updates to the Webi Extension Points has added a significant ability to customize the interfaces in both the web versions of Webi as well as the Rich client.

    a) When you need to add functionality to the Interactive viewer as the primary interface: – This can primarily be done using the Webi Extension Points along with some ReBEAN methods for managing output and storage

    b) When you need to add functionality using an alternative interface (i.e. simplified viewer) : the REBean SDK will give you all the power you need in 3.X. note that in 4.0 the ReBean SDK is more limited as there is a new Webi architecture underneath that will require subsequent versions before the full support through SDK’s is provided by SAP.

    5) Which SDK to use for managing the Security and Reports

    There are three main options for maintaining the security of the report objects

    a) Self Maintained – Where the main application stores the Users and reports along with the rights associated with those reports. This of ends in developing a reporting menu that has to be maintained so that it matches or is linked with the content in the BusinessObjects server.

    i. Pro: Integrated control of reports along with other application features

    ii. Con: Application security and reporting security are usually different and hard to match together. This usually ends up bloating the application security module needed to support reporting

    b) No-Security – The main application calls the reporting interface and users have access to all reports. Not a good long terms plan as business needs change often and things like providing use for users outside the company are not well supported

    c) Integrated : by using the strength of the BusinessObjects security as an authorization handler in coordination with the application authentication the best practice can be achieved.

    Is this valuable?

    SAP Crystal Reports Roadmap History

    February 24th, 2011

    When Crystal Decisions was purchased by BusinessObjects the Crystal Report designer tool was a Windows executable and had just integrated a full semantic layer that would allow multiple reports to access multiple connections and include multi-level business logic definitions in the form of a Business View.  BusinessObjects already had a mature Universe semantic layer as part of its platform and was already moving to a Java based report editor accessible over the web as well as on the desktop.

    While the BusinessObjects reporting tools becaome integrated into the existing Crystal Enterprise based server engines, the semantic layers remained independent.  Each tool’s implementation of semantic layer management was quite different and each had its strengths.  In the XI version Crystal could access both the Business View as well as limited support to connect to the same Universe but the integration stopped there.

    In the upcoming SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise release there is a new semantic  layer that begins to bring the best of the Universe and the Business View into a single Information Management tool.  SAP Crystal Reports for Enterprise will be able to take advantage of the new semantic layer in a consistent interface as it’s Web Intelligence and Dashboard Design (previously Xcelsius ) cousins.

    For connecting to other data connection types the SAP Crystal  Reports 2011 product will be released to replace its 2008 predecessor.  Later on these two versions will be combined into a single release.   Te get access to either you buy a single license…meaning by one and you get the other.

    Both  Crystal Reports for Enterprise and Crystal Reports 2011 are now also available as a Java application  that allows installation on Windows and Linux based desktop machines.

    Webinar: Leaping forward to offer your own SaaS

    November 18th, 2010

    We are very exited to present to the community what we have been doing since we first were certified as an SAP solution.  Beyond what can be presented on Ecohub or even our own mcmanussoft.com web site, our customers have challenged us to leap forward in what BI concepts that Dashboard Launch can tackle for them.

    This webinar will challenge you to consider your own BOE system as a Software as a Service offering and what that means to how to offer advanced BI to your entire information supply chain.

    Feel free to contact me with any questions or ideas.  Registration links are below

    Kevin McManus
    McManus Software + Consulting.
    www.mcmanussoft.com
    answers@mcmanussoft.com

    Internal (for SAP partners / employees with S User id):

    https://service.sap.com/~sapidb/011000358700001210882010E

    External (for customers / employees without S user id): https://sap.emea.pgiconnect.com/e72566891/event/registration.html

    Are people more important than technology?

    November 13th, 2010

    During a recent project review of an upcoming Enterprise BI / DW platform, one of the project tasks’s was to do an end to end tool selection. However, beyond technology the other aspects of a successful BI program necessary including people, process and data (ownership) were not properly being assessed.  The needs to properly assess and manage these areas would outlast any particular phase/sprint of development and would have an even greater impact than the technology.  With a brand new large BI program there will need to be new processes and new teams created in IT to make the current software in order to be effective in this program (note: projects end, programs evolve and change with the business, so BI/DW programs should be built and staffed that way from day 1)

    What was missing in the evaluation is the desired impact in the IT culture.  All of the solutions involved in the evaluation would demand a high level of experience, technical knowledge and creativity during the design and development in order to make it a success.  While the technical evaluations were sound, I wanted to see that there had been consideration of other non-technical aspects of a Data warehouse necessary to make the program and systems a success.

    Questions arose that needed to be answered

    - Is the expectation that business users will be connecting with Vendor support directly?

    - who is responsible for “quality” resource acquisition

    - Who is responsible for help desk models to support Business Rules, Data Miniing , etc

    - Who is responsible for ensuring that the quality of the data is kept intact over time from a technical architecture as the business change over time?

    - Who is responsible for ensuring that the knowledge of business rules are kept as assets?  An enterprise data warehouse/ BI system is a huge investment and that investment should be protected as an asset of the company.

    No matter what tool is chosen there are huge drains to a project, in time and quality, when users need to make business rule and solution design decisions on the fly.  This includes the creation of new business metrics, new reporting processes and mini-tool selections as new requests come up. (i.e. the users uses the excel export so they can recalculate a metric because the data warehouse team takes 3 weeks to get a change in place).

    One of the best practices to balance the projects technical needs with the people and processes is to establish a Business Intelligence competency group at the outset of the project that sits outside of any software or services vendor and has staffed BI/DW architects to can “rapidly” respond to the changing needs of the business with the “correct” solution and the ability to pull in the correct IT resources to meet that need at the speed the business needs before they feel the need to go out on their own.

    Podcast: SAP BI Consulting – Strategies, Tools, and Skills Trends

    September 6th, 2010

    ERP Lounge Jon Reed invited me to participate in “A Three Person Discussion of SAP BI Consulting Trends withSpecial Guests Vijay Vijayasankar and Kevin McManus” (ERP Lounge #12)

    http://www.jonerp.com/content/blogcategory/68/89/

    Events

    August 29th, 2010

    We are going to host a Fall BI Mixer in Austin in September so we make sure we take care of everyone who has not been able to attend the San Antonio events. Location is going to be USTEL one of the predominent STBOUG members. Date is going to be confirmed. Let me know who can attend

    http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/V62YSW

    0812: Working with Auditing Data in the Activity Universe

    August 9th, 2010

    October 7th – Will be at ASUG speaking on how there is a wealth of information about your BusinessObjects system that is only available in the Auditing database.    Getting access to these questions (and answers) takes a good understanding of the auditing database and the confidence to extend the activity universe to meet your needs. With some real world examples we will show you how to get the answers to some tough questions.

    http://asugew.asug.com/displaymod/detailevent.cfm?conference_id=95&event_id=18468

    Multi-node BOE

    July 31st, 2010

    Had the great opportunity to present a webinar on some of the more complex options when configuring SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1.  The link is here http://jive.asug.com/docs/DOC-25624 if you are an ASUG member.