As the maintenance for 3.1 and earlier versions of BusinessObjects expires at the end of 2015, many organizations are looking to upgrade to the latest SAP BusinessObjects 4.1 version. There are many considerations when planning for this type of upgrade beyond installing an environment on a new server.
New Tool, New Feel
The first change universe designers will notice when creating a new .UNX universe is the new design tool that comes packaged with the client tool installer. The new tool, Information Design Tool (IDT), is an eclipse© based tool that offers streamlined creation, editing, and publishing of .UNX content to the BI Platform. BI Platform users familiar with Universe Design Tool (UDT), Business View Manager, and Data Federator, will notice features of all three of these products wrapped up into the new IDT.
Universe designers will see many design concepts reused from the legacy universe designer, however many of these features, such as Aliases, contexts, and joins, have been improved upon. Some concepts have actually been renamed for the new tool. Such as “classes,” the logical grouping of metadata objects, which are now known simply as “folders”.
The separation of the Data Foundation and the Business Layer is also a new concept for IDT. This allows for quick and easy reuse of the Data Foundation to feed one or many Business Layers, greatly reducing the development time needed to build a collection of objects from the same set of tables. This enhancement was an idea taken from Business View Manager, furthering the modular idea. List of values are also now stored as their own separate objects, so they too are easily reusable in designing a Business Layer, another nod to Business View Manager.
One of the biggest enhancements to .UNX universes and IDT over previous versions is the addition of support for multi-source universes. Now multiple types of data sources, such as a SQL Server and an Oracle server, can provide data into the same universe. Additionally, there is a multiple designer focus with the new tool that improves collaboration and sharing of universe resources across multiple designers. This new feature greatly increases the power of the .UNX universe.
Making the Move from .UNV to .UNX
When considering a new BI 4.1 installation, careful planning for moving not only reports and users, but also universes, is a must. While support for legacy .UNV universes remains for the foreseeable future, organizations should consider their options for choice of semantic layer. The new IDT tool has a built in feature for manually converting the .UNV to the new .UNX format, but reports are still tied to the old .UNV as their data provider. Obviously an organization must decide when to make the inevitable jump to the latest and greatest technologies. A difficult choice to make when not knowing the facts.
For instance, imagine a company has just installed the latest version of BI 4.1 in house to replace their XI3.1 system. They are planning to move all of their reports from the old to the new, but they are not sure what to do with their existing .UNV universes going forward. Should they stick with their .UNVs as the data provider for their reports, or should they begin to implement new .UNX universes. Let’s consider the pros and cons of each:
*Although the conversion feature is built-in to IDT, there is some manual intervention required, as well as technical constraints to consider.
The conversion process
As an organization begins the conversion and update process, there are a few technical aspects to bear in mind. First, legacy format universes must be converted in the new BI4.1 environments. Migration specialists will use the Upgrade Management Tool (UMT) to move the .UNV file from the earlier system to the new target environment. Once in the new environment, the built-in conversion feature in IDT can be used to convert the universe.
Secondly, it is very important to check the integrity of a universe post-conversion. Although IDT is a very powerful tool, there have been changes to the way the semantic layer processes the data. The automated conversion process can lead to data-type errors for certain columns, as well as errors with certain types of joins. Running the built-in integrity check feature can identify these issues and help to resolve them.
Lastly, is the architecture of the new universe. Although the end-user will see an .UNX file when selecting a data source for reporting purposes, the new universe is actually the published package of three different components that are designed in IDT.
The makeup of an .UNX universe is as follows: CNX + DFX + BLX = UNX
- CNX files for Connections – The connection to the data source.
- DFX files for Data Foundations – Schema of several relevant tables and joins from a database used as the basis for a business layer
- BLX files for Business Layers – A business layer is a collection of metadata objects that map to SQL or MDX definitions in a database