What’s New in Business Objects XI Release 4 / SAP BI 4.0?
Having been at the London SAP BI 4.0 Launch event I have divided my write-up between general themes (see here) and detailing the new features of the classic Business Objects product suite that were revealed on the day.
The first words on the first slide of Varik Torsteinsen’s talk were: “4.0 is here”, followed swiftly by a contradictory “well, almost”! The product is currently in “ramp-up” phase with selected customers being given access to the 4.0 software downloads but will most likely reach General Availability at the end of May. The current supported migration path will be from XI R2 SP2 or XI R3.0 or above, there was no specific mention of migration tools or process.
Possibly the largest single change might be the introduction of an entirely new Semantic Layer and the replacement of the Universe Designer tool with the Information Design Tool (IDT). The new semantic layer includes elements from the old Data Federator product (which presumably no longer exists) and allows a single universe to combine data from multiple sources, a great leap forward for BO but something OBIEE (nee Siebel Analytics) has been able to do for a while.
Some of the small (but very welcome changes) include support for 64-bit operating systems, enhanced virtualisation support, additional monitoring and a re-written auditing back-end. Along with the functional changes there was the usual biennial nomenclature shuffle that Business Objects tend to put us all through, the main changes being…
- Xcelsius will now be called SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards.
- InfoView will now be called BI Launchpad.
- Dashboard Builder will now be called BI Workspaces.
- Voyager and Pioneer will now be called SAP BusinessObjects Analysis.
Crystal reports still exists and appears to have a new and slicker UI, the dashboard builder (BI Workspaces) has also been improved and should result in much faster design-times.
Web Intelligence doesn’t seem to have changed fundamentally (don’t get me wrong, this is a good thing) though there have been a number of enhancements that will prove popular including the addition of new chart types including variable slice height pies, scatter bubbles, polar bubbles, tag clouds, box plots, heat maps and tree maps. There are more tabs and tab-like options available in the UI to allow access to additional functionality, documents can be pinned in the BI Launchpad and will retained the pinned status across sessions – a great way to make sure you always look at your data assurance report!
The Query Panel also now has a Data Preview pane at the bottom-right and direct visibility of the data in the Data Provider is now possible, though I didn’t see whether the raw data could be saved independently I’d assume it can be. Reports can now be based on Excel documents, Analysis Views, BeX, text-files, Web Services and you can even create a report with no data provider at all. Copying report elements from one report to another is now possible, the chart/table will move and also bring the Data Provider along with it – it appeared that this was instant as well so it potentially may not even require another request to the database.
I’ve still got a lot of questions that I didn’t get a chance to answer today (Grouping? Free-hand SQL? Hiding?) but what I did see was worthwhile although I would say that perhaps WebI still looks a bit slower than it ought to although that could be down to using laptops for demos. I hope my round-up helped, I did leave some things out so please feel free to ask if you’ve any other questions.