- By Dr. Berg
When SAP launched SAP BW 2004s in the summer of 2005, and made it generally available under the name BI 7.0 in March 2006, there were many questions about the need to upgrade.
First, SAP promised to support the old BW 3.5 until March 2010 and second, many felt that with the incremental improvements in version 3.0B such as process chains and the Web Application designer; the new data store objects in BW 3.1C; and the improved query designer, broadcaster and security features in BW 3.5, there were no real reasons to upgrade to BW 7.0.
Therefore BI 7.0 was only gradually adopted in by organizations between 2006-2009. (The old BW 3.5 was released in March 2004)
However, this does not paint a true picture or what SAP accomplished with BI 7.0. Let us take a deeper look...
h2>Why FINALLY Upgrade to BW 7.0 Functionality?
While there are many benefits to upgrading to the new functionality of BW 7.0, the major ones can be categorized into five categories: Front-end, Load performance, Administration, Security, Support and Improved existing functionalities.
h3> Front-End improvements
First, SAP completely rewrote the BEx Query Designer from scratch in Visual Basic. This was a major feature to allow the query developers to accomplish complex tasks such as exception aggregations, embedded coding and simplified menu selections. This made the life of the query designer a lot less complex and also gave them new design options.
Second, SAP launched the new Report Designer (RD) for fixed formatted reports, PDF as a print option for web reports, and postscripts as output format for direct printing.
Third, SAP created a brand new Web Application Designer (WAD) with wizards to add APIs, tabstrips, heat maps and substantially improved vector graphics for colors schemes and graphs. This took SAP from boring "html" graphs to advanced imaging. This also transitioned SAP from ABAP based (BSP) web templates to JAVA (JSP) web templates.
SAP also made several changes to the way data gets loaded into BW. In BW 3.5, the data loads occurred via transfer and update rules. In BI 7.0 this was changed to a new faster load concept called Data Transfer Process (DTP). It also involved migrating the old Persistent Staging Area (PSA) to a new structure that could handle the DTP.
In addition, SAP introduced the Data Store Object (DSO) based on the old Operational Data Store (ODS) concept in BI 3.5. This included the new write-optimized DSOs that are non-reportable, have less log files, no key generation, and therefore can load data much faster than traditional ODSs.
The benefits of the DSO and DTP process improved load performance for many organizations that were struggling with slow data loads.
To simplify the administration of BI, SAP created a new workbench for developers. This allowed a group of developers to access objects in a more structured format, and also access more of traditional transaction codes from an improved menu driven interface.
In addition, SAP created a new admin cockpit for system administrators to track performance and processes running in the BW environment.
Finally, SAP added new query tracking and debugging features, new caching options for faster query response, and a remodeling toolbox for developers to change InfoCubes without having to reload data.
The security inside BW 3.5 was rather elementary. There were few options to lock developers inside the admin workbench (BI 7.0 added 11 new objects for this). There was limited support for BEx security (BI 7.0 added 3 new objects for this).
Security administration was simplified and new options were added for assignment and administration of analysis authorizations and new options for locking down the installation of standard content was also added. Overall, the security changes in BI 7.0 was not only enhanced, but also to a large extent totally changed.
h3>Improved existing functionalities
In BI 7.0 there were also many significant changes to the existing functionality. For example, the BEx browser was retired and all workbooks are accessed in the web portal. The old web application server 6.4 was retired and web rendering takes place in the portal.
The old reporting agent is retired and BEx Broadcaster is used exclusively for email and print report distribution. More detailed user and system statistics is captured for system monitoring in EarlyWatch reports; Enhanced Dataflow control to split delta loads was introduced.
The Administrator Cockpit became web-based; the integration with BW Accelerator was improved; and InfoSets on top of InfoCubes was enhanced.
In this short blog, it is impossible to cover all new features of SAP BI 7.0, but it is safe to say that of the 11 versions of BW since 1998, this was by far the most comprehensive upgrade ever.
It changed the way BW worked, introduced Java, and addressed many of the complaints against BW that was made prior to 2005. After six years the old BW 3.5 goes off standard maintenance in December 2010 and the success of BI 7 adaptations is hard to overstate.
Today, almost 90% of all SAP BI shops are on version 7. and many more are sure to follow this fall when BW 3.5 goes off mainstream support..
-- Dr. Berg