Dilbert on Big Data (SAP HANA)

Posted by on Jul 29, 2012

Todays Dilbert is a very funny comic about the Big Data (wiki) hype that has been going on for a while now. I’m watching all of this big data/HANA stuff a bit from the sidelines, though I did get all the SAP marketing promo and saw some impressive live demos of SAP HANA in combination with several of the BI4 front-end tools.

Unfortunately most of these demos only showed me how fast it was (“And now we loaded 100 million records in just a second…”) instead of solving an actual problem. At the Experience HANA site you can find a large number of ‘real’ use cases and ideas for big data. Check it!

Posted in: New technology, SAP

A first look at ZEN (SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio)

Posted by on Jun 13, 2012

This week we got access to the beta program for one of the new upcoming SAP BI tools: SAP BusinessObjects Analysis Edition for Application Design, codename ZEN. I played around with it for about an hour to get a quick first impression and to see how fast I would be able to create my first ZEN app with some interactivity.

If you haven’t heard about ZEN before you should check the following blogposts:

The user guide gives the following definition of ZEN:

SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for application design enables application designers to create analysis applications and dashboards for browsers and mobile devices on top of BW and SAP HANA data sources. It is the product of choice when full support for BW and HANA data models and engine capabilities is required. The product offers a design tool that allows you to create applications in an easy and intuitive way without the need for native HTML and iPad UI programming skills.

Looking at the SAP BI tools, the features of the current BEx Web Application Designer (WAD) and SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards (Xcelsius) will be merged into this one tool (to rule them all!). Note that ZEN is now in beta, ramp-up is planned for end 2012 and it will be general availability not before the middle of 2013!! So we have enough time to learn about this new tool.

The ZEN software installer required me to install Internet Explorer 9 on my Windows 7 VM. This could lead to some problems in production environments that are using WAD, since WAD only works well with Internet Explorer 8. At one of my current projects we now also have this problem after upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 with IE9. Check SAP note 1635870 for more info on this issue.

Setting up the connection to the SAP BW system was easy; just copy-pasting the settings from the SAP logon settings. There is no ‘check connection’ option, so you have to execute the app to check if your settings are correct. Interesting is the option to create multiple SAP BW and SAP HANA connections. Also it seems like you don’t need a live connection to work on an app. In WAD this was required.

The program looks a bit like WAD and Xcelsius, with several components to choose from on the left, a canvas in the middle and on the right the properties of the selected component.

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Posted in: Knowledge sharing, New technology, Preview, SAP, SAP BusinessObjects, SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio, ZEN

Book review: Discover ABAP

Book review: Discover ABAP
Posted by on Jul 30, 2011

I have been working with SAP BW for some years now and ABAP coding has always been a pain in the ass for me. Fact is, also within BW you can’t really get around without any ABAP knowledge. It is used to enhance data extractors, to transform the data within the BW data model (with the start, field, end and expert routines in transformations) and to create variables to make dynamic selections in queries, DTP’s and InfoPackages.

So most of the time I just looked at some pieces of existing code, copied it, searched Google or SAP Help, tweaked it a bit so it eventually did what I wanted it to do, and went on. Just like I managed to do this with html, php and other coding languages for the last 15 years. If things got too complex I turned to a ABAP-consultant who normally managed to solve these problems in a few minutes doing some magic tricks that always seem simple when you read the code afterwards.

Now I found this book Discover ABAP by Karl-Heinz Kühnhauser ($39,95) which promises to give you a 101 course on the ABAP basics for us n00bs, so I decided to try it. Although this book is on the market for a few years already I still want to acknowledge it here.

This book is easy to read, gives many many examples, explains every concept in details and keeps things simple to understand. Kühnhauser demonstrates how to get the data from tables, use variables, transform or modify values, make calculations with them, use internal tables and how to set up logical expressions. Furthermore the Function Modules are discussed and the book shows how you can use them in your code.

I think that over 70% of the book’s text consist of examples or explaining them (line by line!!) which is very important for newcomers. All features of the ABAP editor are explained and it shows you how to really use the Debugger.

Since I only want to use ABAP in the BW domain (no, I don’t have any ambition to be a ABAP programmer someday!) I could fast-read/skip most of the sections on the data dictionary, creating database tables and building selection screens. But I think still 80%+ of the book was useful for me.

The only thing I miss in this book is the follow up advice on where to go next if you want to learn more. But if you are curious about the basics of ABAP you should check out this book for sure!

Posted in: Books, SAP

BI 2011 Amsterdam recap

BI 2011 Amsterdam recap
Posted by on Jun 12, 2011

Last week I attended the 3 day conference part of the SAPinsider BI2011 event in Amsterdam. Earlier I posted my expectations here so it’s now time for some evaluations.

Keynote

The conference started with a classic keynote with cameras, enormous screens, demos and some high-level managerial talks from Sanjay Poonen and Jason Rose. The only things I can remember from this were the various very cool iPad apps that were nicely demonstrated and that there were 1400 people attending the event (BI2011, HR2011, GRC2011 and Financials2011 combined).

Sessions

So I expected to hear some informative things in three areas at BI2011: HANA, SAP BW 7.3 and SAP HR reporting with SAP BW. The sessions for first two completely succeeded in this, the SAP HR reporting area on the other hand was a big disappointment. Based on the session’s descriptions I expected to learn more on SAP HR data in combination with SAP BW reporting, since this would be very helpful for my current project. Unfortunately only SAP queries where discussed in the first session and the second session just went through the standard BW tooling, without any actual reference to SAP HR data. Maybe my expectation level was completely off, but this was just a waste of time.

The sessions on BI4 that I attended (WebI & Analysis) could have been more detailed but were okay overall. The session on Crystal Report was cancelled last minute because the speaker couldn’t make it to Amsterdam in time. Too bad.

I loved those tips & tricks sessions! This is where you really learn things. Top two here were the session of Jesper Christensen on data load improvements and my final session on the last day by Shell on their experiences regarding the SAP BusinessObjects integration with SAP BW. Very good job guys!

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Posted in: SAP

BI 2011 Amsterdam 7-9 June event

BI 2011 Amsterdam 7-9 June event
Posted by on Jun 2, 2011

Next week SAP is coming to Holland with its BI 2011 event in Amsterdam and I will be attending together with a colleague for Interdobs. SAPInsider introduces this event as The most important event of the year for professionals that use and support SAP® solutions for reporting, business intelligence, and data management so I am pretty excited about what we are about to hear and learn.

This BI 2011 event is hosted with Financials 2011, GRC 2011 and HR 2011 and the conference will take place from June 7 until 9. After looking at the Tracks & Sessions and building my personal agenda at the BI 2011 website I guess the three most interesting topics for me will be:

  1. SAP HANA. I’ve read and heard a bit about this new technology which will be a big part of the future of SAP BI. Unfortunately only one complete session on HANA, but it is also discussed in a session on SAP BW 7.3.
  2. SAP BW 7.3, the latest upgrade for SAP BW 7. Two sessions: 1, 2.
  3. SAP HR reporting with SAP BW, since the client I work for at the moment has a SAP HR focussed SAP landscape and is positioning SAP BW as its main reporting environment. There will be two sessions discussing this: 12.

These three topics, together with numerous export sessions and case studies on SAP BusinessObjects front-end tooling and the SAP BW back-end promise to make this a very cool event. I might decide to take the train from Eindhoven to Amsterdam instead of my car so I have some more time to write a few blogposts during these three days, but we’ll see about that next week.

BI2011 Amsterdam

Posted in: SAP