There are numerous improvements in release 7.3 ¬– new ways of delivering data, new reports and new BW applications. The changes exist in mainly in the back-end, used by the BW Architect and Development teams. SAP have invested the majority of their front-end development effort in Business Objects; so with the exception of small minor enhancements, the BEx front-end is unchanged. A number of the new features rely on a BW Accelerator (BWA), an increasingly important tool for businesses.
1) Automatic semantic partitioning
Semantic Partitioning is where you spread similar data across several Info-cubes or DSOs, split according to region or year. This allows increased performance and stability, though comes with at a cost of increased development and maintenance.
With BW 7.3, the BW system can automatically “Semantically Partition” your Info-providers. Using a wizard interface, you can create multiple partitions that store your data, handles the mappings between partitions and schedules the loading processes. The need for the manual creation of multiple transformations, DTPs has been removed.
A typical scenario would be to Semantically Partition an InfoCube that is used for Global Sales reporting. By keeping to data for each region or year separate, performance is improved, and maintenance and daily loading is easier.
Semantic Partitioning development will provide the business with both quicker and more reliable reporting, at a lower cost. Rather than manually building Semantic Partitioning where critical, you can use it in smaller applications at little extra cost.
Maintaining a semantically partitioned DSO
2) Graphical DataFlow modeler
A graphical way of building a data model has been introduced in BW 7.3. The Graphical Data-flow Modeler is a new function within the Administrator Workbench (transaction RSA1).
- Top-down modeling of a new dataflow
- Organization for existing dataflow
- Creation of template data flows using best practice
- SAP delivered pre-defined dataflows
Using a drag-and-drop interface, a developer can build a dataflow by selecting either existing objects, or by directly creating new objects from within the modeler. The entire dataflow can be modeled in this way, from the Data Source to the MultiProvider, and even as an OpenHub destination.
Any BW system with multiple complex projects would benefit from the retrospective implementation of dataflows. This tool reduces the effort and complexity associated with the administration and maintenance of a system. For example, a single dataflow could be delivered for all the data used within an application, meaning the system will become easier (and therefore cheaper) to support.
Integrated planning front end
In my opinion, the current Integrated Planning (IP) front end in BI7 has always been unsatisfactory. Whilst it does the job, it can be slow to use, requires MS Internet Explorer, and personally, I don’t think it is as nice to use as, say, the ABAP editor. (I am sure there are those who love it, I am just not one of them!).
But SAP has now migrated the IP frontend to a traditional transaction screen within the SAP GUI. The screens are quicker and easier to use, and have no dependency on either a Portal or Java stack.
I love it and am very happy that SAP has made the change. Some business benefits exist through lower development and maintenance costs but I find it so much nicer to use, this is reason enough for it to be a favorite change!
4) Technical coding improvements
In many places in BW 7.3, the technical coding has been optimized to improve the loading performance. Load times into DSO objects has been reduced by up to 40% when compared to BI7, plus the loading of Master Data has been accelerated.
Improvements in load performance translate into benefits for the business. Data can be made available earlier in the day, reloads are quicker (so cost less) and larger volumes of data can be loaded each and every day.
5) Analytical indexes
An Analytical Index (AI) is a transient dataset that is stored within the BWA. BEx or Business Objects can be used to report on them directly. They are defined and loaded from within the Analysis Process Designer (APD), and can contain the results of a JOIN between a CSV file and query.
The fact that they do not exist in the database and the ease at which they can be defined makes them a very interesting concept for inclusion in BW. Up until now, creation of datasets to address specific requirements has always been a significant exercise and has required transports and loading. So AIs reduce the development effort needed to produce a fast-performing tool that addresses a specific current requirement, such as data to support a Marketing Campaign.
I suspect that we will find AIs one of the most substantial improvements available within BW 7.3. They allow you to deliver new functionality quicker than ever before and I look forward to seeing the innovative ways we can deploy them in the future.
6) Hybrid providers
To make data held within a DSO available for reporting, in BI7 there are a number of steps you need to do: Create the DSO, InfoCube, Transformation/DTP, MultiProvider, store in a BWA and connect them all up, and then schedule and monitor load jobs.
A HybridProvider takes a DSO and does it all for you, removing substantial development and maintenance effort. Just load your data into a DSO, create a Hybrid Provider and start reporting. You can even build your HybridProvider on a Real time Data Acquisition DataSource (RDA), which could potentially provide near real-time reporting from a BWA.
A typical usage scenario could be that you want to extract your PurchaseOrders from R/3 and make available for reporting. Using a HybridProvider, as soon as the data is loaded into a DSO they then become available for reporting with all the benefits of an InfoCube and BWA.