It’s about a year late (SAP first told Forrester that it planned to roll it out in the spring of 2010, so I wanted, but couldn't include it in our latest BI Wave review), and the big question is: was it worth the wait. IMHO (where H stands for Humble), yes, it was. Here are the six major reasons to upgrade, or consider SAP BI, if you haven’t done so before:
- BO Universe (semantic layer) can now be sourced from multiple data bases, overcoming a major obstacle of the previous versions.
- Universe can now access MOLAP (cubes from Microsoft Analysis Services, Essbase, Mondrian, etc) data sources directly via MDX without having to “flatten” them out first. In prior versions Universe could only access SQL sources.
- There’s now a more common look and feel to individual BI products including Crystal, WebI, Explorer, and Analysis (former BEx). This is another step in the right direction to unify SAP BI products, but it’s still not a complete solution. It will be a while before all SAP BI products will be fully and seamlessly integrated as well as other BI tools/platforms that grew more organically.
- There’s now a tighter integration with BW via direct exposure of BEx queries to BI tools.
- Improved BI/BW performance. Here’s the one that I can’t validate until I talk to some customers. But SAP claims that starting with 4.0 BW will have a unique set of SAP proprietary APIs that are 4+ times faster than APIs that are available to the other BI tools. I am assuming that what this means is that from now on, BW access by BusinessObjects would be faster than by any other BI tool.
- And, last, but not least, 4.0 is the first version highly optimized for HANA in-memory appliance. Previous versions and other BI tools will work with HANA too, but that alone should not be the decisive factor in your decision whether to upgrade to 4.0 or not. But it’s indeed another variable in the mix. What does "optimized" mean in this case? Remember, all your BI applications (with the exception of in-memory specific BI apps) were written and optimized for accessing disk based RDBMS. Chunks of code that were written specifically for that purpose can now be removed, and that code can be optimized for direct memory data access. That's indeed what SAP claims they did in 4.0.
SAP says that an upgrade to 4.0 from XI R2 and R3 are as simple as “just opening the old Universe/reports in the new environment”. I can't confirm or deny it. What I do know is that according to my estimates there are ~100 customers in the ramp up program, and I haven't heard any complaints so far. But if you are on an earlier version, unfortunately, it has to be a two step process: convert to R3 first and then to 4.0.
If you have a positive or a negative experience with 4.0 upgrade please let me know.