The concept behind Query & Analysis is really about empowering the Business User and Analyst to interact with data on the fly in a Self-service BI environment. There a few tools available from SAP BusinessObjects that fulfil this criteria. First of all, here’s a little background, so as to avoid any confusion around what the products are.
Historically, the original Query & Analysis and Reporting tool was simply called ‘BusinessObjects’. Back then if you were to ask someone what reporting tool they were working with they would just say ‘BusinessObjects’. That was the only tool, until sometime later the first version of Web Intelligence was released. After BusinessObjects acquired Crystal Decisions the ‘BusinessObjects’ reporting tool was renamed Desktop Intelligence, sometimes also known as Deski. Running alongside Desktop Intelligence the thin client tool Web Intelligence was being developed.
Over the years Web Intelligence has grown to become SAP BusinessObjects’ flagship tool that allowing non-technical users to create new queries, slice and dice, and then drill down through their data all via a web browser. The advancement in Web Intelligence means that Desktop Intelligence is now coming to its end of life.
A second tool available is Voyager. Voyager is an Online Analytical Processing Tool (OLAP). In the BI 4.0 release Voyager is superseded by SAP BusinessObjects Analysis edition for OLAP and SAP BusinessObjects Analysis edition for Microsoft Office. It should be used when analysis is required against large data sets.
We also find it useful to think of a third tool under the Query & Analysis category. That is the search tool named Explorer. The original name for Explorer was Polestar.
The acquisition of BusinessObjects by SAP paved the way for a very welcome tighter integration between the two softwares. One of the challenges coming out of that tighter integration was the performance of Web Intelligence against an OLAP universe generated on SAP cubes and BEx Queries. The reality of SAP project implementations was that SAP Netweaver experts designed large cubes and large queries. And why not; after all this was the OLAP world?! Large SAP cubes and large BEx Queries make sense for OLAP.
However, Web Intelligence is not an OLAP tool, it builds a cache of data referred to as a ‘microcube’. Note the word ‘microcube’. Attempting to pass large volumes of data from an OLAP query to the microcube could cause the Web Intelligence engine to perform poorly or crash. BISB have observed this on numerous occasions when undergoing performance testing at client site. Problems with the version of Explorer dependent up on the Web Intelligence engine have also been observed for the same reason.
But failing to process large volumes of data was not a weakness of Web Intelligence. On the contrary, Web Intelligence was designed for smaller, fast, ad hoc queries. Users experiencing problems with large volumes of data and Web Intelligence could consider the use of Crystal Reports. Crystal Reports uses a different cache infrastructure to Web Intelligence.
The above mentioned data volume issues have made the SAP BI 4.0 road map very welcome. Using the new Data Federator connectivity through the SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 universe means that the SAP MDX engine (OLAP) is bypassed. This removes one of the big issues of the SAP OLAP data volumes, namely MDX crossjoins. Other development means that the BI 4.0 universe now has connectivity to SAP HANA. If you have the budget available this makes SAP HANA highly desirable for Big Data and Analytics.
Finally, ardent OLAP users that cannot live without a cube have not been left out in the cold. BI 4.0 ushered in the end of the Voyager OLAP tool, replacing it with the new Advanced Analysis for OLAP tool.
The view expressed in this article is from BISB and not necessarily SAP. Russell Beech was Senior Analyst in the BusinessObjects Analytic Applications Division for almost six years. Check out Web Intelligence In Under Three Minutes here.
It is both frustrating and unnecessary to endure an under-performing BI system. If you are on the BI DIY road you will find several articles and whitepapers on this website that may help you by pointing you in the right direction.
Performance optimised code for Web Intelligence is intrinsically tied into a relationship with the SAP BusinessObjects universe. There is a short article on this entitled: Increased Performance Through Optimised Universe Design. There are also various techniques that can be employed such as Improving Web Intelligence Deep Drilling Capabilities with Vertical Hierarchies.
However, for optimised performance the data warehouse design must be given serious thought, consider The Aggregate Advantage. Similar principles hold true if you are using the SAP Business Information Warehouse with Web Intelligence and need Cube and Query Design for Performance Boost.
It is always advisable to give consideration to Sizing, Hardware & Licensing Models before implementing your BI system, especially where the full SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise is to be deployed.
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