Saturday, April 4, 2009

Future development tool for SAP BI

Developing of SAP BI applications (like reports, queries, applications (web/dashboards/cockpits/planning/analytics apps), web templates, web items, etc.) are quite spread across several tools. The fact that BI has a multiple flavours and this is basic reason of that. With acquisition of Business Objects started 2 years ago a set of tools is even larger. So let’s have a closer look what we got here. From the beginning of SAP BW there is a tool called Business Explorer (BEx). Basically in era up to BW 3.x there were 3 positions of BEx: 

  • BEx Query Designer – for reports developing
  • BEx Analyzer - for running reports
  • Web Application Designer (WAD) – for developing of objects suitable for web reporting

Some other minor BEx tools were there as well: 

  • Browser – for accessing BW objects
  • Formatted Reporting
  • Download Scheduler

Below see how BW 3.x tools look like in installation of SAP GUI 7.1.

Since new generation of SAP BW introduced in version of 7.0 tool set was little bit integrated and within SAP NetWeaver 2004 a new tool came: Visual Composer BI Kit (VC). VC was already on market for some time before – as part of SAP Enterprise Portals. Here it was a design tool that facilitates the creation of portal content using a visual user interface w/o writing code. VC is mostly used in area of UI modeling based on model-driven architecture. VC is pursuing SAP’s SOA initiatives in terms of services-oriented composition of analytical applications and the embedding of information into tasks, processes, and applications. VC provides a web-based visual development environment based on Eclipse framework.

Below see how BW 7.x tools look like in installation of SAP GUI 7.1.


Notice that in under mentioned text I’m mentioning VC from BI point of view only.
Further development of VC focused on BI issued into tools called Visual Composer BI Kit (so called BI Extension Kit, VC BIk). Purpose of VC in that flavour is BI integration functionality that can access SAP/non-SAP data using an SAP BI connector (for SAP NetWeaver BI) and BI Java connectors (for OLAP and relational data). Apps built via VC BIk are different from applications build with WAD since those integrate any type of information (transactional, structured/unstructured). SAP BI provides platform for tools: WAD and VC BIk. WAD will remain for some time in landscape but it seems that SAP’s intention is to support more VC BIk plus other tools inherited from BOBJ – see BI Platform Roadmap. Other possibility is to reused objects developed in WAD into models built in VC BIk. Other functionalities like Information broadcasting, BI analytical and planning, is going to be available to build up in VC BIk as well. Moreover VC servers as a pattern designer tool too. VC is going to replace BEx. VC BIk supports a wizard based + freeform modeling of query templates. Following are the newest version of VC:

Visual Composer 6.0 – around year 2005
Visual Composer 7.0 – beginning of 2006
Visual Composer 7.1– around year 2007

To share some information how possible future “big tool of BI” might look like I would add following: VC may possible support not only offline creation of reports but also staging objects like BW transformations, or data providers objects (cubes, DSOs). You would really be able to create any object within BW data flow offline w/o connection to SAP BW backend and deploy it there afterwards when connection to BW is available.
For complete information on VC see: online docu and SDN. 

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