XIR2 – What’s your patch level?

Ever wondered what XIR2 patch level a particular system is at? I certainly have.

And thanks to this handy blog post from the ‘Business Objects in Short’ blog, you can now found out.

It is not a complete list, but as there is no other source for this information, it is very useful to know.

There are a number of interesting blog posts on the website actually. It is well worth visiting and bookmarking I have added it to my list of bookmarks.

Ultimate Business Intelligence Guide

Here’s a useful website if you are interested in the more general area of BI.

This is a comprehensive site. Of particular interest to me are the following articles:

BI software: A comprehensive look at various BI software offerings

Certification : Various pages discussing BI certification paths available from Microsoft, Oracle, Business Objects and SAS

Books: The book list is quite extensive covering Data Warehousing, BOBJ, Microsoft, Oracle and Data Visualisation.

Solutions: A detailled look at the whole gamut of BI technologies.

I’ve added this to my list of bookmarks.

Business Objects Poll

Always keen to know what people are using in the Business Objects world, I’ve created my first web poll.

If you are on a pre-XI release, it would be interesting to know the reasons why you or your organisation haven’t migrated to XI.

Business Objects EDGE

Now here we have a product which I am particularly excited about – Business Objects EDGE.

For those that don’t know, Business Objects EDGE is targeted at SME’s who have identified a need for BI, but perhaps have been put off by the cost of the individual BI components. Business Objects EDGE addresses that with EDGE.

Available in three flavours; Standard, Professional and Premium, EDGE provides SME’s with an affordable all in one BI solution with flexibility to upgrade to Enterprise products as and when the need is there.

EDGE Standard provides the following out of the box:

  • Ad hoc reporting
  • Analysis
  • Dashboarding
  • Office Integration
  • Security
  • Scheduling
  • Auditing

Business Objects Professional adds Data Integration to the Standard bundle.

And finally, Business Objects Premium adds Planning, Budgeting, Forecasting and Predictive Analysis to the Professional bundle.

The software is restricted to one Server only and is available is 5, 10 and 20 user CAL bundles. These are concurrent licences, so effectively, a 20 use CAL can service an organisation with 100 users as long as no more than 20 users were logged on at any one time.

BI has typically been focused on the large Enterprise market. This new offering from Business Objects provides smaller organisations with exactly the same BI functionality as that used by large organisations, at a very attractive price point.

While familiar with the reporting and data integration aspects of the toolset, I hope to write a few words about the planning, budgeting and forecasting tools shortly.

Credit crunch – Does it affect BI?

The credit crunch appears to be affecting everyone. Many people are losing their jobs, firms are collapsing, and people are under the threat of foreclosure.

However, I’m finding that BI has a place in helping firms through these bad times.

All too often, IT budgets are the first to be slashed during economic downturns. However, BI is one of those niches which can help organisations make sense of what is going on both internally and externally.

Through the use of analytical reporting, KPIs and dashboards, organisations can immediately see where something is or is not working and take the relevant action. Ad hoc reporting provides staff with the ability to dive into the numbers, to drill down on a number which is causing concern. Powerful GUI based ETL tools provide developers with the ability to rapidly integrate disparate databases into one common warehouse. And above all, it provides companies with an edge over the competition. In these tough times, it is important to be on top of things and to make sure you are one step ahead of the rest of the pack.

Use IT to your advantage!

Crystal Reports 2008

I’ve been playing around for a few months now with Crystal Reports 2008, and I’m thinking about taking the BOCP-CR2008 certification exams.

Two exams required:

  • RDCR08201: Business Objects Certified Professional – Crystal Reports 2008 – Level One
  • RDCR08301: Business Objects Certified Professional – Crystal Reports 2008 – Level Two

I’m quite comfortable with the product. It reminds me of a time when I use to develop in non-GUI Oracle Forms and Reports. That isn’t a bad thing. I remember those Oracle reports doing exactly what they were meant to do. And that is the whole concept about Crystal Reports. It is meant to be used to develop pixel perfect operational reports.

Crystal Reports has a very large installed user base, so it may be worth covering off the various items from the exam syllabus and having a go at these exams.

I’ve also got back into doing a bit of ETL for a client using the excellent Data Integrator tool. It is very rewarding to be involved in the full BI scope – from ETL to the end reporting. And I find that there is always something new to learn with DI – whether its a previously undiscovered feature or perhaps just a new way of implementing something.

XI 3.0 – New features

I recently installed XI 3.0 onto a development server in order to take a look at it’s new features.

The real impact of these new features will be more obvious to those upgrading from v5 and v6 Business Objects software, although there are some subtle changes from XIR2.

For those familiar with XIR2 and the management of the XI servers using the CCM console, this has now changed. Server management has now been moved to the CMC. The CCM is still there however. Two entries are listed in the CCM – Tomcat and Server Intelligence Agent. The latter allows a stop and restart of all the XI servers in one swoop.

Talking about the CMC, this has changed slightly in layout rather functionality from XIR2 to XI3. If you are familiar with the XIR2 CMC, you’ll find there is no major learning curve required there.

For me, one of the most exciting new features of XI3 is the Web Intelligence Rich Client. This appears to be Business Objects’ gentle way of getting you to develop web based reports. Unfortunately the application doesn’t read full client reports (.rep), so this isn’t a report conversion tool…yet(?).

When opening the Webi Rich Client, you are presented with a familiar Deski report interface straight from your desktop. There are subtle differences between Deski and Richi functionality. This isn’t quite a Deski replacement.

You don’t need to connect to the CMS in order to use Richi. If you have previously connected and downloaded a cube of data, you can use this data in offline mode, similar to what was available in Deski. However, select something that wasn’t in your original data cube, and you’ll find that it won’t update your report.

Knowing first hand what a real pain it is to develop webi reports over deski reports, I think I’m going to be using the Webi Rich Client quite a bit. Its a shame it doesn’t open and attempt to convert full client reports. This could have been the tool to migrate users from full client to webi once and for all. (Mental note: Write a blog entry regarding the migration of full client reports into Web Intelligence using the Migration wizard.)

Other XI3 features have been introduced – Cloning and Federation. The first allows you to copy a server to a different location. The agent copies all details of that server to the new server, so make sure you check the details once it has finished. Pay particular attention to the port numbers as these will need to change on the new server.

Federation is a useful ‘synchonisation’ feature which allows you to transfer traffic between various sites. This might be useful in a multinational type deployment where you may have servers in say London, Mumbai and New York. Due to network latency issues, you may want to locate servers in each of these locations. Federation allows you to manage most types of content between these sites on a regular scheduled basis. Objects that can be selected include Reports, Universes, Users, Business Views, Calendars, etc. This can be quite handy as it allows you to manage objects and content from a central location and distribute it worldwide in a controlled manner, while allowing the network sites to benefit from increased performance by having that information locally.

Publishing has been approved. Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence documents are now supported. The resulting output can be saved to multiple formats including PDF. Dynamic recipients and delivery rules are also implemented.

Auditing features have been expanded, and a particular bonus for those using auditing on v5 and v6 Web Intelligence, client applications are now audited as well. This is incredibly useful, as a Web Intelligence auditing solution was not much use where your v5/v6 deployment was mainly full client based. Expanding auditing to include full client can now provide you with a far more accurate picture of what is going on.

Content search is a new feature which aims to bring a ‘Google’ like content search facility to your objects. Basically it is a search facility on the objects and data held in your reports. Previously a search was based on the title, description or keywords that you applied to a document or report. Bear in mind however, that the content manager needs to be run on a frequent basis in order to create an index on your underlying content. On large deployments, this may take a LONG TIME. Also bear in mind that this feature is only as good as the last time it was updated, so if you are planning on using this feature, it may be worth scheduling this to run overnight or weekends.

Changes to profiles, access levels and the inclusion of an Instance Manager have also been included in this updated release.

I’ve read about Lifecycle Manager, and have blogged about the beta program in a previous post. As I’ve previously mentioned, this is only available in XI 3.1. So I’ll have to wait a bit longer to get my eyes on it. I haven’t seen many posts from people using this tool. The few I have read offer mixed reviews, so they jury is out on that one for now.

One final thing, keep an eye out on the server processes. It may have just been my development system, but I did find a number of servers shutting down. This may be a timeout issue, but it is annoying to have to go back into the CMS to check and restart individual servers.

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