The New Universe Tool

If you first implemented SAP Business Objects before 2013 you probably have universe(s) built with Designer, one of the all-time classic software tools.

The SAP Business Objects universe, with its accompanying imaginatively-named design tool, was the first software designed to turn data into information; by turning ‘data objects’ into ‘business objects’

That was, ahem, some time ago now. The Designer user interface stood the test of time for a duration few other programmes do. Nonetheless when Business Objects acquired Crystal Decisions they recognised an opportunity to integrate the genius of the SAP Business Objects meta-layer with the modernity of the Crystal one. This new meta-layer architecture would finally necessitate a new user interface, and the Information Design Tool (IDT) was born.

The IDT universe retains the ability to protect users from themselves, by generating optimal SQL for queries that run quickly and generate correct results. Added to this is:

  • A modular architecture, making key objects re-useable
  • Query federation, meaning multiple sources can be simultaneously queried with optimal SQL
  • Additional tools to improve the design process, such as data querying and profiling within the tool

The IDT produces a file of a different type to Designer, a .unx as opposed to .unv. Designer is still available in the latest version of SAP Business Objects for compatibility purposes and is now called Universe Design Tool (UDT).

Whilst Designer did have the concept of re-useable connections to the data, the IDT now adds a split of the core universe logic into two main sections – the Data Foundation and the Business Layer.

A common question is who should design the universe, and often the knowledge required lies within two people’s head, a technical person who understands the data and a more business-focused person who understands the business requirement. The split between Data Foundation and Business Layer helps in this scenario. The former is where the table join logic, valid paths through the data (contexts) and other data-level calculations are defined. The latter is the presentation layer of how this data-level logic is delivered as meaningful business objects, aligned to the organisation’s business processes and performance management.

The acquisition of another company by Business Objects brought with it a powerful federation engine, designed to be able to retrieve data from multiple sources in the most optimal way, so if for example a query requires 100 rows from one database and 1 million from another to be read and joined together, the smaller dataset is read first to filter the larger data set against before retrieving it. This federation engine is available within a standalone product, Data Federator, but is also built into the IDT universe.

Anyone who has designed a universe will know that you need to test your results along the way. Whilst Designer contains a query tool, it only tells you whether the SQL is valid. The IDT has the full query panel available in the Business Objects analysis tools such as Web Intelligence / Crystal / Lumira. This enables to you analyse both the SQL that is generated by your embryonic universe and the results it returns. Previously it was the slightly laborious task of publishing the universe to a development folder on the Business Objects system and using one of the aforementioned analysis tools to query it.

Whilst the query tool helps understand the results, the profiling capability helps with the understanding the source in order to understand the data structures and spread of values.

There is a conversion tool to take your existing .unv files and convert them into the new .unx format, which is where we start with some customers. With others it’s our one day introduction to the new tool followed by taking a new requirement to deliver a quick win with the new tool. Either way, for any existing Business Objects user the IDT is worthy of consideration.

Posted by , BI Practice Manager, 26th May 2016

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