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Have you heard about Sensoria Smart Socks yet? Probably not. Let me explain what they are and why I am so excited about them.


Before I start, let me be 100% clear, I do not own any positions in this company and will not profit from them in any way. I, myself, have pledged $99 to their startup fund. This is not a commercial, okay?


What are Sensoria Smart Socks?

Sensoria is a new start-up technology company based in Italy working on making a smart sock. Yes, you read that correctly; smart sock. You're probably thinking to yourself, what could be more dumb than a sock? Not anymore. Sensoria socks are made from a 100% machine washable e-material that also acts like a biometric sensor. When you attach the anklet, it collects that biometric data from your socks, and transmits the data to your smart phone. Take a second and think about that. This is a bit of that "wearable technology" that was being discussed in the Bill McDermott keynote at SAPPHIRE NOW last month. The socks will collect data about where the pressure points on your feet are as you walk, run, cycle, or whatever you do with your feet. I'm a runner so of course the running features really have me interested. For running, Sensoria will let you know if your stride is too long or too short. It will alert you (in real-time) if you are close to setting a personal record, and help you push a little harder to reach it. Sensoria will help you keep your pace. It will also alert you to any motions or behaviors that could lead to injury and help you avoid them. Watch the video on their site. It describes the features really well.


Is this really real?

At the moment, no. It is in very early phases, which is why the company is reaching out to the public for some crowd funding. While not on the popular Kickstarter, Sensoria is up on Indiegogo. It is open for pledges as of the writing of this post. If the company meets its funding goals, it can start production. If not, they promise refunds for the Indiegogo investors and a release at a later date once other funding can be secured. This is their fast-track.


Why is he writing about this on SCN?

Here's why; this has major potential in the realm of Business Analytics. Sensoria smart socks are really just wearable data collectors about your feet. Imagine with me for a moment. Imagine a shoe store. I'm going in to buy a new pair of running shoes. Instead of the traditional questions asked by the sales associate "Do you like a minimal shoe, or some support? Do you pronate or supineate?" I transfer them an aggregated view of my stride, gait, pressure points, etc., and based on actual data, the sales associate knows exactly what types of shoes are best for me. Imagine what this can do for shoe retailers.


Imagine my high-school-aged daughter's field hockey team. If the whole team were wearing Sensoria socks, the coach would know who's running the hardest, who's sand-bagging, and who might be headed towards an injury.


Imagine a visit to the doctor. I share my Sensoria data with my doctor, and instantly they have a wealth of information about not only the structural health of my feet, but also a good picture of how active I am and how that relates to preventative health.


And that's just the beginning. We're going to see a lot more wearable technology in the near future, but I am super-excited that some of it is right around the corner.

We sat down with our pal Jon Reed to talk about all the stuff we're looking forward to at conference next week.

Head on over to DSLayer.net to snag a direct download, or you can get it from iTunes.


Show notes:

00:01 - Introductions

00:33 - Jon Reed gets excited about coffee

01:00 - Community News

02:01 - Excitement for SAPPHIRE

02:44 - SAP Enterprise HANA Cloud announcement reactions

04:20 - Is HANA powered by Bill McDermott's hair?

05:43 - Greg spreads a little F.U.D. about Adobe. Whoops.

06:58 - Jon has some insight into some pearls from Hasso

08:58 - Ruminations on the reprecussions on Entrprise HANA cloud

11:30 - Changes in Analytics team leadership at SAP

14:45 - Eric steers the conversation back to SAPPHIRE

15:15 - Jon gets caught eating a pickle

16:00 - Jon remarks on how the BI4 Pre-conference session is the only one sold out

17:22 - Eric gets a little too excited about the Seth Goden keynote

18:07 - Jon is a reluctant cynical fan

20:00 - Get out on the show floor during SAPPHIRE

21:10 - "If you don't know who to talk to, find a Mentor."

21:43 - Get the new mobile app. It's live now.

23:04 - To ASUG News, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

24:18 - Jon gets informational

26:00 - Jon needs another pickle

27:25 - Jon does a killer Bonnie Raitt impression

29:00 - Will there be innovation for me at SAPPHIRE?

32:15 - Eric is surprised

33:30 - Jamie clearly needs to listen to our past episodes

36:00 - Jon drops a new analogy on us

39:00 - SAPPHIRE for newbies

40:00 - SAP Analytics Challenge

43:00 - Have you ever watched online?

46:00 - Wrap-up and thanks

There's no question. Information Technology (IT) is changing humanity. In many ways, for the better. But in many more ways, for the not-so-much-better. I find myself increasingly focused on the human aspects of technology these days, and have been having some thoughts on the matter I felt were time to put down and share with the world.


Technology is Making us Better


I think this part is obvious. As people get more access to the Internet, and all that it contains, the better life becomes. We can pay our bills without putting pen to paper. We can buy movie tickets from our mobile devices. We can get restaurant suggestions based on our geographical location. We can get real-time traffic data in our cars no matter what road we are on. Speaking of cars, reflect a moment on how drastically different the process of purchasing a car in the United States is today than it was in the 1980's.


The list goes on and on. I was just discussing a topic like this with my 15-year-old daughter last night over dinner. We were talking about what life was like in North Korea, where the citizens get no access to the Internet, and what they are taught from birth is not quite the whole truth, and if somehow their citizens could get access to the Internet, their culture would have to change. This is the promise of the Internet, and our Information Age, whether intentional or unintentional. As we connect more with one another, the better we all become. We are better informed and better equipped than in any other point in human history.



But...Technology is also Making us Worse


I think, somehow, in the midst of all of this amazing technological advancement, we are in many ways starting to lose our humanity. We are becoming like the technology we have created; cool and mechanical. Let me explain.


In the corporate world today, the drum beat of any organization is metrics. We create analytics, metrics, KPI's, etc. to track how we are doing as a company at any given day, month, second. Meeting KPI's has become the de facto standard for how employee reviews are given, pay raises are granted, and layoffs are survived. In many ways, the metrics are now the most important thing in our work day. We cannot allow anything to reflect poorly on our metrics, because the metrics are what drive the business. But in adopting that attitude, take a step back for a moment and look at what we've become.


We have become a society where it is okay to close a help desk ticket without helping the person who opened it, because we think they opened it incorrectly and it would reflect poorly in our metrics.


We have become a society where it is okay to not respond to an email, because ignoring it is easier than spending the time to reply.


We have become a society where we will treat our System Administrators poorly because a system went down and ruined our goal of 99.9% system uptime goal KPI, and thus spoiled our incentive bonuses for the year.


We have become a society where technical support will call the person asking for help after business hours, just to add a note to the ticket showing they attempted customer contact within the first 24-hours, knowing there was no possible way that person was still at their desk.


This is also starting to bleed out into everyday life, and not just in the office. Take a walk around outside someday around town. How many people have their noses and eyes down looking a a mobile screen instead of enjoying the moments that are passing them by? Sure it's great that we can contact anyone, anywhere, anytime… but should we?


What Role does Empathy Play?


To me, it is becoming increasingly important that we do not forget the human factor of our professional lives. There are humans on the other side of all of those devices, and no matter what you may think, humans make up those metrics and KPI's, and human activity is what generates the data. The systems just measure. People have feelings, and those feelings are on the receiving end of all of those communications and systems. People have needs, and often need help in the increasingly complex world of IT. And when we can reach out to another human, and treat them with respect, dignity, and empathy, really good things can happen.


Take Zappos! as an example if you think I'm nuts. Look at what they do with their customer service. Their customer service agents do not have any time restriction for how long they can speak to a customer. No metrics around how fast they can close a call, or how many customers per day they must interact with. Zappos! customer service agents are empowered. They can make almost any decision to make the customer happy without having to ask a supervisor for permission. Is Zappos! losing money because they don't close enough customer calls in a day? Is Zappos! losing money because their customer service agents are processing too many refunds or returns? Nope. Zappos! is ridiculously successful and is cultivating an intensely loyal customer following (I'm one of them).


What is the Answer?


I know this may seem really unbalanced coming from an Analytics professional. But maybe it's because I am so deeply steeped in the Analytics culture that this is bothering me so much. I see it nearly every day, and it worries me. I honestly don't know what the answer is. I can only challenge those who also see this as an issue to try and help reverse it. Take a moment before you hit "Send" on that terse response to what you feel is a "stupid" question. Don't be overly emboldened or brave because there is an LCD screen between you and the receiver, and you can't see their face while you communicate. Take a minute before you lose your temper at the IT Support technician on the other side of the phone. Remember those people are PEOPLE. And unless I woke up on Mars or in another dimension this morning, we're often all working towards the same goal. We all want our businesses to succeed. Success is the truest metric there is. If we are treating our people, and our customers well, does the rest of that stuff really matter in the long run? Is it worth losing our sense of empathy for other human beings over?

Greg Myers

DSLayer: Bundles of SAP Joy

Posted by Greg Myers Apr 17, 2013

SAP Analytics customers have a new way to purchase products, and SAP has a clever way to get us kids to eat our vegetables (so to speak). Eric, Jamie, and I sat down with Jayne Landry, who's job title is hard to fit on a business card, to talk about the new licensing strategy of Bundles.

Head on over to DSLayer.net and download the podcast, and serve it up with a heapin' helpin' of show notes:


00:30 - Intros and bromance

01:20 - Some good chuckles about Jayne's long job title

02:00 - What's a Bundle?

02:30 - Janye gives a history lesson on now license bundles came to be

03:15 - We like to eat elephant

04:20 - An Analytics smoothie

05:00 - Who is the target market for analytics bundles?

05:40 - A shout-out to Tammy Datri and her enthusiasm for EDGE

07:30 - Sad reality that we can't put the whole BI suite on a PC under our desk

08:00 - First mention of Visual Intelligence

08:30 - Greg reminisces about the time he had to choose Microsoft over SAP

10:00 - Jamie is curious about packages. Industry packages, that is.

11:00 - Jayne relays how a partner did a happy dance in her office

12:00 - Jamie speculates about the addition of database tech into the bundle

13:30 - Mobi gets some love

13:40 - Jamie blows the lid off of the Afaria inclusion into the Bundle

15:60 - How does all of this go over in other markets like APJ?

17:50 - Discussion of the Concurrent Session Based License (CSBL)

19:00 - Rounding out the offering?

20:00 - Predictive gets some love

21:15 - Wrap-ups and parting comments

My good friend and colleague Eric Vallo and I were invited a few months ago to travel to the SAP office in Zurich, Switzerland to teach a 3-day course on SAP BusinessObjects BI4. This was a totally new offering by SAP Education and they were really excited to have us out to kick off their new professional seminar series. Eric and I decided to make a true adventure out of it, and brought our wives along for the adventure as well.


We left the USA late on Friday evening to head "across the pond" and arrived in Zurich around lunchtime on Saturday. Some of us slept on the flight over, and some of us did not. We did our best to stay up the whole day on Saturday, so we headed to downtown Zurich to explore. We did some more sightseeing and sight-eating on Sunday so we could adjust to the time zone (6 hours ahead for me, 7 hours ahead for Eric) before we were due in the classroom.


Day 1

Day one of our training adventure started on a gray, cloudy, and cold morning. Switzerland is very geared towards foot and bicycle traffic and mass transit. There are lots of cars on the streets, too, but traffic is very friendly to pedestrians and cyclists.


The SAP building was only a 10 minute walk from our hotel.

2012-11-12 08.27.36.jpg


We were greeted at the reception desk by a question from the receptionist "Are you the Masters of the Universe?" I guess we looked particularly American and lost, since we were only 1 of 4 sessions scheduled for the day. Our Switzerland office host, Matthias Straub  was stuck in traffic, and arrived a tad late. He was a little frustrated himself since it took him 2 hours to travel just 20km.

2012-11-13 08.50.43.jpg


We started a little behind schedule, but were pleased to find out early on that our students were very engaged and ready to participate in the course by asking lots and lots of questions. This is a great experience for every instructor. Nothing is worse than teaching to a "dead room" where nobody is asking or discussing.

Eric kicked us off with introductions on who we were, why we partnered with SAP to deliver this training, and importantly, how to keep us on a path of interactivity to get the most out of this event for everybody involved.

2012-11-12 10.25.44.jpg


Following that, I started us off with a reprise of my Politics of Upgrades presentation, which led to some good conversation. Everyone is feeling the pinch of both the BI4 implementation, and many others are feeling the pain of retiring Desktop Intelligence.


Eric followed me with an overview of what is new in BI4 from previous versions.  In this conversation, we tackled the conversation from the perspective of three personas:


  • The User
  • The Developer
  • The Administrator


It’s clearly important to consider this upgrade from all perspectives.  Everybody takes a turn at being impacted by it.  This took is through to lunch, which we got to share with our Switzerland SAP host, Matthias Straub, and our students. We were introduced to a Swiss fall dessert staple, Chestnut Mousse.  Why can’t the Apple Strudel be the national dessert?


After lunch, Eric began some detailed discussions on the new multi-source universe, then each of the reporting tools in turn. Web Intelligence, Crystal Reports Enterprise, Mobile BI (Mobi), and ended off with an impromptu discussion and demonstration of SAP Visual Intelligence that wrapped up our day. Our students asked a ton of questions and we ended up with a very successful day.


We then took the immaculate Zurich rail system downtown to grab some dinner, then off to bed.


2012-11-15 09.24.44.jpg

Day 2


The weather was better today. It was still cool, around 40 degrees Fahrenheit, but the rain that had been steady since Sunday morning finally abated. We had a good Euro-breakfast at the hotel then the quick walk back over to the SAP building to start off Day 2 of our lecture series.


Our students were wide awake and ready, and they were loaded with questions.


Eric started off the day by going over the new Information Design Tool in detail.

2012-11-13 03.14.08.jpg


Staying true to the theme of our discussions, we stuck to live demo for the whole day today. We wanted to keep the discussion flowing and the idea of participant’s heads buried in their PC’s out of the question.  We brought our own BI4 server that Eric installed on a Mac Mini so we had a local server to run our demos from. Server is on the bottom, the white box on top is the Mac AirPort (router).

2012-11-13 03.15.46.jpg


This session was all about important concepts in the semantic layer, driving information security, and importantly, concepts in increasing user adoption and buy-in.  In the end, there was even sufficient time that we were able to tackle concepts in Agile BI and parting business users with IT to deliver better outcomes.


In all, we had time on day 2 to…


  • Spend some time discussing the difference between 32-bit and 64-bit architecture, and why it makes a difference when using the IDT.
  • Design universes that reach the appropriate audience in the right context.
  • Uncover that the business layer that is really what us old-timer BOBJ folks knew as the universe. This is where we change technical data definitions into business terms.
  • See that the attendees really liked the new query panel. Eric highlighted how this was new, and how much it can reduce universe design and testing time. Eric stressed that it was always important to validate your SQL over, and over, and over.
  • Verify that integrity checks now involve multiple levels of checks, and everyone should use them. As a best practice, you shouldn't export a universe to the repository unless the integrity check has been run.
  • Review concepts on the Project Synchronization utility that is a part of the IDT now.  There were some great questions about how this works, and spent some time doing detailed explanations and demonstrations


That brought us up to our lunch break, which is still weird because even after a few days here it still feels like early morning to my stomach. :-)


On a personal note, I'm finding that more and more there is no way to continue saying "I'm a BOBJ-only person". SAP is doing a great job at pulling more and more customers into the BOBJ world. I have found that it is nearly impossible to have a conversation about BOBJ without talking about BW, or Solution Manager, or how this data relates to what is in SAP ERP, etc. The lines are blurring and soon will fade away. As a BOBJ person, especially as a BOBJ consultant, it will soon be (if it isn't already) detrimental to be "BOBJ-only". The world is changing fast.

For the afternoon, we dove into multi-source universes and the data federation engine. Eric set me up by creating a multi-source data foundation and then turned it over to me for a while to discuss the Data Federation Administration Tool.  I found that the Data Federation Admin Tool was a little too technical for our audience. It requires a lot of expertise and understanding of how databases work and operate to be proficient with, and I noticed I was losing our students.

So we rounded out the day with a discussion about Business Intelligence Competency Centers and Agile BI, to bring the discussion up to a more strategic level, and re-engage with our students.


We got some lively conversation sparked back up to round out the day.



Day 3



The agenda for the last day was Sizing, Performance tuning & Troubleshooting, and Platform Security. I presented a large portion of the content, so I didn't get to take a lot of notes throughout the day. Sizing is always a lively discussion. Many customers don't understand all that goes into a sizing estimate, and our students seemed grateful to have the process spelled out for them and be given a set of tools to use. Troubleshooting is also a very lively topic. I gave our students a practical process to use that would help speed them on the way to a resolution of their BI Platform issues. I stressed heavily the need to start the conversation with SAP Support early in the process, and then continue to troubleshoot on your own while the support engineers get back to you. I gave them an overview of platform architecture, and showed how understanding the different tiers can help with troubleshooting as well.


On the maintenance side, I showed the students how to run a tight ship, by keeping your system clear of orphans, unused content and inactive user accounts. We also covered the basics of backup and recovery, including the newly added hot backup features of the platform.


Security is a tough topic to tackle in any classroom. We covered the basics of user and content security, and rolled into the newer features from BI4, such as encryption keys. We covered SSL and firewalls in a general sense, and completed the conversation talking about multi-tenancy.


The end of the session brought lots of great questions as our students put what they learned into context of the challenges they each are facing in their own workplace. Some were having problems fleshing out a proper user and content security model since their landscape was very complex. Others were struggling with how to practice a recovery from one of their daily backups to check it's viability.



Overall, each day, the students seemed very pleased with the course. Many wrote back to our SAP sponsor with some encouraging feedback.

Here's one of note:


“Masters of the BI4 Universe provided a great way for me to learn from well recognized BI architectural experts. I especially appreciated the course structure, which not only covered key topics but also left plenty of time for open discussions. I think the trainers did a great job. The fact that there were 2 of them, made the seminar more interactive and interesting.“


Gurdeep Sangtani, Holcim Group Support Ltd


It was an honor for me to be a part of this new educational offering from SAP, and I certainly hope to have the opportunity to do more in the future. Of course, seeing a new country is pretty cool, too.

2012-11-15 13.33.29 HDR.jpg

Greg Myers

The Power of Mentors

Posted by Greg Myers Oct 23, 2012

This year at SAP TechEd Las Vegas, I had the honor of being a panelist for an ASUG Leadership 2.0 lunch panel. If you're not familiar with the ASUG L2dot0 initiative, it is meant to go beyond the technical aspects of SAP, and help members develop leadership skills as well.

The topic for this event was "The Power of mentors" (note the lowercase 'm' since we were talking about mentors in general, and not specifically about SAP Mentors). Our discussion was centered around how involving yourself in a community is good for everyone.


I was also honored to be on the panel with my friend, mentor, and fellow SAP Mentor Jon Reed.  The two of us made up the entire panel, so we both had a lot of time to discuss our perspectives. Jon always impresses me with his ability to think strategically, and get to the meaningful point of the 'big picture'.


So if you missed the panel, from my perspective, here were the highlights of the discussion:


  • Involvement in a community, such as ASUG or SCN, does not need to dominate your schedule. If you have an hour to spend each week, someone will benefit from your contribution.
  • When you participate in a community like ASUG or SCN, you get connected with other people who are just like you. It's like Match.com for techies, only better. When you connect with other people who are like you, and do what you do, magic starts to happen. You learn from one another, and everyone is better for the relationship.
  • Volunteering time to a community has value. Many people don't factor in the value that their time has, and therefore have a hard time justifying participation. Volunteering has value to the community. Someone, somewhere needs that bit of information you have to share. Volunteering has benefit to you. You're helping to build the collective, community knowledge with your insights and your time. Your content is saving someone time and money somewhere in the world.
  • Many people feel they aren't 'qualified' to participate. My challenge was to start with the forums. Spend an hour a week in the forums, and answer any question you know the answer to. Chances are, you'll find a couple you know, and you'll surprise yourself.
  • My friend, mentor, and fellow SAP Mentor Graham Robinson was in the audience, and Jon had him get up and talk about the "Multiplier Effect", which was just magic. By participating in a community, you gain a voice, and that voice gets repeated, echoed, and multiplied across the community. It becomes a strong voice, and difficult to ignore. Thanks, Graham for sharing your insight with the group.
  • Mark Finnern, SAP Mentor Herder, and the inventor of the SAP Mentor Program also stood up and shared some ideas with the group about "Culture Jamming". Mark is always inspiring to listen to with his visionary perspective. You can change things around you by your ideas, and by surrounding yourself with enthusiastic, positive people. While SAP Mentors are very different in terms of profession, location, and expertise, but are alike in one thing that binds us together, and that is passion for community. We share, therefore we are.
  • Along the lines of what Graham was saying with the Multiplier Effect, volunteering and sharing with a community can be good for your career. As you build a following, it tends to be more meaningful that a list of followers on Twitter or a bunch of 'Likes' on Facebook. These are people that follow your content because they can learn from it, and continue to learn from it. As you build your content (forum posts, blogs, wiki pages) over time, you will get noticed, often times in very positive ways.
  • Jon Reed had a brilliant insight. In all professional positions today, especially in technology, it is no longer okay to just 'coast'. Either you are continuing to learn on a daily basis, or you are falling behind. With companies continuing to tighten their belts, employees who are falling behind really aren't an option.
  • On the topic of having time to volunteer or contribute, I quoted a former manager of mine. "You never HAVE time for anything. You MAKE time for things that are important to you".
  • I mentioned at one point that I was up there on stage as a member of the panel because I was a volunteer. Nearly everything I have learned about my SAP specialty, I learned from the community. Participating in ASUG and SCN is a way for me to 'pay it forward' to those who are now where I was a few years ago. And the beauty of it is, I haven't stopped learning myself.
  • I was asked for closing comments to wrap up the discussion, and only one thing sat in my mind. I said that I am a better person because I am associated with these people, as I pointed around the room. This community has made me a better person, and hardly have words to describe the personal and professional satisfaction I feel at being a part of it, and by being here with all of you.


Let me echo my challenge to this audience as I said it to the panel audience. Take just 1 hour a week, and find a topic area that interests you and engage in it. Whether that is commenting on an interesting blog to start a discussion, or answering a question in a forum. Just one hour. Not only will someone else out there in the community benefit from your insight, but you will benefit from having made a difference.

I'll be honest here from the get-go. Until I really started digging into the guts of the new monitoring engine in SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 (BI4), I had never even heard of Apache Derby. I thought it was a place where you went to watch horse racing and sip mint juleps, or a place where you went to smash your jalopy into someone else's jalopy. It turns out that Derby is a database that runs entirely inside of a Java Runtime Environment (basically in-memory) and is widely embraced by developers because of ease of use and no install footprint. So is it strange that I've never heard of it before? Not really, when you consider that I am an administrator of enterprise applications and servers, and not a developer.


Thus begins my argument. Apache Derby does not belong in enterprise software. (Please read all the way through, then if you are still moved to disagree, let's discuss in the comments).


First, let me state my case as to why I am concerned. As I said, I did not even know Apache Derby existed before delving into the BI4 monitoring engine, which uses Derby to store the monitoring trend metrics. So I did a little experiment. I logged onto a Windows server running SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 to see if the Derby files where a part of the previous release of the platform. Lo and behold! They were. But only in two places:


In XI 3.1, Derby is a part of the Business Process BI and dswsbobje web applications. Chalk this up as my learning experience for the day. Apparently these applications haven't overly suffered from the inclusion of Derby (although I could start another argument about the Query as a Web Service - a.k.a. QaaWS- app, but not today).


Now to compare, I went onto a Windows server that has SAP BusinessObjects BI4 SP04 installed on it:


WOW! So someone at SAP who thought using Derby was a good idea in XI 3.1 seems to think it was a REALLY good idea. Notable applications that Derby include the Data Federator Service, Visual Difference engine, Lifecycle Manager, and the Monitoring engine Trending DB. It is clear that Derby is very much a part of the SAP BI4 platform.


So, SAP BI4 aside, the question very generally remains, does Derby belong in any enterprise software?

Out to the inter webs I went looking for any other answers out there to back up my gut hunch. I found three.


Take first, for example, this discussion where Apache Derby performance is characterized as "disappointing".

Second,  in this discussion thread, a Derby expert from Oracle defends the use of Derby in enterprise software, but really fails to see he countermanded his own argument.

"> is there any limitations of derby...?

Yes. However, every big enterprise application I know of encounters

database system limitations, and deals with them using the standard

techniques of big enterprise applications: partition and replicate

your data, update it asynchronously, distribute it over multiple machines, etc.


As with all database applications, step 1 is your database design, and

the basic principles are both database-independent and well-established

over decades of experience. So long as you follow those, Derby works well to surprisingly large scales."


Countermanded his own argument! How can we, as enterprise application administrators, partition, replicate, backup, or tune a database we didn't even know existed?


Third, I found this YouTube video of a presentation given by a Derby expert at some conference somewhere, where he flat-out says that Derby is NOT for enterprise applications because of performance. At 12:52 he starts talking about size, "not an enterprise-caliber DB" and then says it plain out that it is only for "Small Business Applications".

Derby Use Cases.png

Now, I will openly admit that each of these links are several years old. I was hard-pressed to find anything more current.

But does that mean that Derby has matured by leaps and bounds and these same arguments don't hold true? Not in my book. Code bases don't change THAT much over the course of 3 or 4 years. Features get added, sure. But short of a total rewrite, that legacy code is still in there somewhere.

The existence of legacy code explains why we see errors resurface in BI4 that were fixed back in XIr2!


Now, I'm going to have you indulge me while I voice my opinion. Dissenting opinions are welcome in the comments below.

Let me restate my position: Apache Derby does not belong in enterprise software.


My Reasons:

1. Developers make super-cool applications and components of enterprise software, but in my experience, application developers make really crummy database architects. Derby is a crutch used by developers to circumvent traditional database design restrictions. Because Derby exists in a local Java Runtime Environment, the app developer can do whatever they want with the database, often without any need to consult someone trained in the art of database design.


2. Derby uses up crucial resources on the enterprise server. Take BI4 as my case-in-point. As a 64-bit application, part of the benefit is that I can now use as much memory as the operating system can see. But my total memory is being leeched by these multiple Derby instances, which each need memory (and disk for storage) to operate. Making matters worse, I, as the enterprise application administrator, have little or no way to control the memory or disk consumption of those Derby instances. I'm totally slave to whatever heap and disk settings were put in place back during the development phases at SAP. I don't even get to specify where the Derby files get written. Whacked much?


3. Derby was not designed with high availability in mind. If the lights go out, or the server crashes, what happens to my data? How robust is Derby to be able to handle fail-over and clustering? In-memory it is, but SAP HANA it's not.


4. Why this huge divergence from the tried and true System Database? As the enterprise administrator, I should get to choose the database platform and have a team of qualified DBA's to manage it, back it up, etc.


5. Evil silos of data exist where they should not. This is something that as practitioners of analytics fight on a daily basis. This is the whole argument for having a data warehouse as the single version of the truth. Now we have to fight them from within the application as well as from without. All data is valuable, even the data being generated by my BI4 system. Audits, industry and regulatory requirements are becoming more stringent year after year, and I want the clearest insight into the operations of my analytics system possible. Evil silos of data make that goal a real challenge.


Time for a little rumination on my part, then I'll stop (I promise). This large increase of use of Derby in the BI4 platform says a few things to me.

First, it screams that the development teams are not talking to one another enough. When I look at all of these little pockets of data, it seems disjointed to me and not clean and unified as I would expect this release to be. A lot of time was spent making the front-end look clean and unified, the same attention should have been paid to the back end. This brings to mind the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson, where Steve talks about learning design concepts from his Dad and how good design goes all the way through; even to the parts that nobody sees.

Second, BI4 is for analytics folks. We call ourselves analytics folks, because, well shucks, we care about data. None of us likes to see data siloed, dirty, and unmanaged. Since I can't see into those Derby databases, I have to assume the worst. I have to have a System DB and an Auditing Data Store anyway. Why not just continue along that model?

Why this sudden splintering into a dozen different little memory-leeching databases scattered across my platform? This makes the internal data from my BI4 system extremely difficult to analyze. As analytics people, we practice bringing disparate data sources together in order to gain insights. Evil data silos get in the way of those insights, big time.


I'm asking all of these questions because I care. I really like BI4. It is such a huge improvement from previous versions and I like working with it. But this is a disturbing trend that makes me nervous.


My challenge to SAP. By whatever version of BI4 it is that goes into ramp-up next year (October 2013) if it is not 100% Derby-free, let me at least have the option to switch every component that uses it into either the System DB or the Auditing Data Store. Please give me the choice. Derby should not be a part of the BI4 platform. It does not fit in the mix as a sustainable, maintainable part of a high-performing analytics application.  It leeches system resources from the server, and creates pockets of isolated, unmanaged data. It is time to go on a Demolition Derby.


Ok, I know I've made some strong (but hopefully constructive) criticism here. Let's discuss!


EDIT: Per Toby Johnston and Denis Konovalov's suggestions, I have created an idea in Idea Place to have Derby removed from BI4.

Please vote it up if you agree with me.

I was blogged forward by @Kristen Gentile http://scn.sap.com/community/about/blog/2012/08/20/blog-it-forward-krysten-gentile


My name is Greg Myers, and I am a Principal Technical Architect at EVtechnologies and an SAP Mentor. I specialize in SAP BusinessObjects architecture, sizing, performance, and administration. I also recently finished writing SAP BusinessObjects System Administration for SAP-PRESS. I've been working with BusinessObjects in some way, shape, or form for about 10 years now and I just don't think there is any going back. :-)


This picture was taken at EPCOT, shortly after the SAP BusinessObjects User Conference last year.



Fun Fact:

When I'm not fixing broken technology, I enjoy working in my organic vegetable garden. I am into both "regular" composting and worm composting, and I get some of the biggest and tastiest vegetables imaginable. I have also, once, appeared as "Dark Elvis" whilst in Vegas at SAP TechEd.


What was your dream job as a kid?


I actually used to think I was going to make a living as an artist. I spent a lot of time in art class in middle and high school, and even spent my first year undergrad at the Maryland Institute, College of Art for Graphic Design. After a year at art school, though, I realized I hated it. The lack of right and wrong, everything being subjective really drove me bonkers. Information Technology ended up being a much better fit for me.


What is your favorite place in the world?

This is a trick question. I'm not sure I can pick just one. My favorite man-made wonder I have ever been to is Macchu Picchu in Peru. Scientists still don't know how it was built without modern machinery. It defies words. My favorite natural wonder is the Grand Canyon in Arizona. I got to take the mule ride down as a young man, and the impression it left is indelible. My favorite city in the world is Paris, France. Food, wine, culture.

What was the most fun project you ever participated in and why?

I'd have to say that the most fun project I ever got to work on was our haphazard project at InnoJam at SAP TechEd on 2011. We weren't going to compete at all, and just went to watch, but the gears started turning around the table, and before you know it, we had a project going. There was so much brain-power at our table, it was really the most fun "work" ever.

I’d Like to "Blog it Forward" to:

Aslan Noghre Kar

Kristen Scheffler

Tom Cenens

Tridip Chakraborthy

Please reply to one or all of the following questions:

·              What was your dream job as a kid?

·              What is your favorite place in the world?

·              What was the most fun project you ever participated in and why?

Please "Blog It Forward" to some of your SCN contacts to keep the chain goin!

Please join us for a public SAP Mentor Monday webcast on Monday, August 13th, at 5pm Eastern where we'll be joined by SAP's Christopher Vozella from SAP Support and Kristen Scheffler from the SAP Customer Experience Team to discuss a new initiative we're affectionately calling " BI4 Enlightened Error Messages".


For a little history on this initiative, not too long a go, I went on the record to state my frustration with finding information about error messages that I was getting from SAP BusinessObjects 4.0. Putting an error message into the SAP Support Portal KB wasn't yielding much, a Google search did little more, and using my older bookmarked favorite sites for XI3.1 didn't have what I needed, either. Not long after I went on the record about this, Chris Vozella reached out to me and asked "How can we make this better"?


So here is how we're going to try and make it better together. If you are an SAP BusinessObjects professional, please attend to find out how you can get involved. SAP is starting this up as an "Outside - In" initiative, where they are willing to take suggestions from the community on how to improve the way we can support our BI4 systems, and the customers that use them. Suggestions are being taken now via this survey. You can also check out the podcast we did to introduce this topic over on the Diversified Semantic Layer .


Hope to see you all bring your great ideas so we can make BI4 an easier product to support.  


Session Details:


When: Monday, August 13th, 2012 5:00 PM-6:00 PM. Eastern Standard Time

Where: SAP Connect Session: https://sap.na.pgiconnect.com/sapmm +1-720-897-6637 ,,3782244518

I feel the need to do a little response to the ASUG News article that was posted today about SAP Support. Let me first say that Tom Wailgum quoted me correctly. But I'm not sure this really paints the whole story.


Taken in context, at the time of the SAP acquisition of BusinessObjects, the changeover in support was major. It was a huge shift. New phone numbers, new process, new website, new everything. It was a major turnover for everyone who was used to the old way of doing things. Managing change is never easy, no matter who you are or where you work. At that time, I worked for a small software company in Wayne, PA, and our experience with the support turnover was dreadful. We also had to bear the weight of losing our dedicated Technical Account Manager, and going into the larger pool of support and getting a different technician to work with every time. It was a painful time for all of us. And while SAP imported over the old BusinessObjects Kanisa support system, we didn't even have continuity of a functioning Knowledge Base for several months.


But that time is long in the past. SAP Support has been doing some pretty awesome things recently, that I'm not sure got enough credit in Tom's piece. First, they have been opening several Customer Engagement Initiatives around fixing what customers don't like about SAP Support. There are usability studies going on to get some real analytics about how customers are using the site, and what would make it better. Just last week I got to speak one-on-one with Kristen Scheffler about some topics to prioritize for the coming revamp of the SAP Support portal. As Tom quoted me in his piece, one of my biggest gripes is that I cannot put an error message from SAP BusinessObjects into the SAP Support portal search tool and get a positive hit on what the error message means, or how to remedy it. I typically have to go to Google to search for the answer. I told this to Kristen last week and now that is on the list. See my point? Someone from SAP Support listened to this concern, and now its on a list for future improvements. That is a huge difference. SAP is has a twitter handle now, staffed pretty much 24x7x365 to help you navigate SAP Support and get additional help if you need it. The handle is @SAPSupportCE. I used this myself recently at about 1am on a Sunday morning when I was having some trouble, and I got an answer. Kristen even had the guts to come and be a guest on the Diversified Semantic Layer with us and talk support. How's that for customer outreach?


I'm not disputing the report quoted in Tom's piece. I'm sure there is a way to measure how happy customers are with support from other software vendors and that SAP didn't do as well. But there is no doubt in my mind that the folks at SAP Support mean to change that, and have been making great strides in that direction over the past few years.

Like I was quoted, Support is a tough job. You don't call them to have a pleasant conversation. I often find myself being short or cross with the technicians while I try to navigate the system. But the system does work, and when the need is truly dire, they will come through for you. Said incident at 1am on a Sunday morning, SAP Support did a STELLAR job in helping me through a critical production outage in a timely fashion, and even followed up with me the next day to make sure everything was going smoothly. That, to me, is customer service. 


You can't please everyone all of the time, but I am overall a very satisfied customer of the SAP Support System, and look forward to working together in the coming years as customers, partners, and vendors to continue to improve the system.

Greg Myers

The World Is Changing

Posted by Greg Myers May 31, 2012

"The world is changing, I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air..." - Lord of the Rings


Now that I've been home from SAPPHIRE Now & ASUG Annual Conference 2012 for several days and have had some time to reflect, the overarching theme of what I took away was a theme of change.

The first change I want to reflect on is the fact that this was my first ASUG Annual Conference and SAPPHIRE. In the past, I never made this event a priority to attend, because it was more business-focused (and less technical) and traditionally BusinessObjects folks were steered towards the SAP BusinessObjects User Conference in the fall. Those days are gone. There were 9 Influence Sessions, 49 Education Sessions, 3 Community Lounge Sessions, and an 8-hour Pre-Conference session, all focused on Business Intelligence and Analytics presented in Orlando last week by ASUG members and SAP. There were over 450 submissions competing for those 49 slots. What an overwhelming display of interest in Analytics content for this conference. And to the ASUG volunteers who spent months working on that content, my sincere gratitude for a job very well done. This is a major change from just a few years ago, and a welcome change to me.


The SAP Mentors had a singular honor for the second year in a row, and that was a private meeting with Prof. Hasso Plattner. I was humbled to have some time just to be in the room with him, and hero-worship discussions aside, the man is truly brilliant. While running the risk to the world kitten population, Hasso has really brought a vision to life that will fundamentally alter the way we perform analytics and that is SAP HANA. Throughout my career in Business Intelligence, so much effort has gone into data warehousing, data modeling, data aggregation, drilling in and out, up and down. Aggregates are a thing of the past. Disk is becoming a thing of the past, or at least relegated to a sidebar role instead of center stage. HANA has a lot of growing up to do, but it is growing up fast.


The last change on the wind that I'd like to reflect on is the concept of the BusinessObjects "Legacy" customer, or those customers who only run SAP BusinessObjects. For the past six years since the acquisition of BusinessObjects by SAP, there has been some strong resistance to change in the community. Many feared that we would lose our unique identity in the large sea of SAP, and change is understandably fear-inducing. There were numerous presentations at ASUG Annual Conference and SAPPHIRE with regards to managing change and human's response to change, mine included. To me, the "Legacy" BusinessObjects customer is gone. It doesn't exist anymore. I, instead, will focus going forward on being an SAP customer, and that feels just fine to me. It took some hard work, but I feel more at home now with SAP than I ever did with the BusinessObjects organization. I have local and online communities for Analytics people just like me with ASUG. I have the SAP Community Network, with forums and blogs tons of interaction on a daily basis for folks just like me. I was intimidated by the SAP acquisition, too, but I've come to realize that change has brought about some really special things. SAP is listening to me, as an SAP customer, and helping me run my Analytics applications better, faster, smarter. So as the BusinessObjects name continues to evaporate from the SAP branding, I'm not concerned. It was a good run, but what is coming ahead has me way more excited. I'm an SAP customer, I'm an ASUG volunteer, I'm an SAP Mentor and these are exciting times.

If you've been an administrator of Business Objects Enterprise for a while like we have, then there are a few big questions you regularly get asked and until now have had no good answers for.

What's going on inside of Business Objects when I run a report? Which step in the process is taking so long?

How do I know when something bad is lurking in there?

The answer is a relatively new offering by SAP called the Remote Support Component, or RSC for short. While SAP won't win any awards for naming, this product packs some serious punch where it matters; functionality.

If you've been around the traditional SAP side of the house, then you're likely familiar with the Solution Manager tool. SolMan is a big investment in time and effort, but certainly gives some revealing information on system operations. Remote Support Component was meant to give some of the same Solution Manager functionality to Business Objects only customers.

While easier to set up than Solution Manager, the RSC install process is not exactly easy. Take your time and read over the install guide a few times, and do a practice install on a dev box before you head in for Production. Once you give it a try and get familiar with the terminology, it's not too terrible. Like most monitoring tools, RSC has a central monitoring application, and then remote agents on the nodes you want to monitor. In RSC terminology, the central monitoring application is called the "Managing Host". This is where you will install the actual Remote Support Component application, and Wily Introscope Manager. These two tools come with the install media and the instructions are pretty solid. The servers you want to monitor with RSC are called "Managed Hosts". These will get two pieces of software installed on each. The first is the RSC agent, (amusingly called a Solution Manager Diagnostic (SMD) Agent) and the other is a Wily Introscope agent. Again, both are covered in the RSC install guide. For an order of events, first you'll install your Managing Host and get that all set up and talking to the SAP Service Marketplace. Then you'll install and configure your Managed Agents. Last but not least, you'll run the Configuration Wizard in the RSC application and "identify" your new Managed Agents. That's pretty much it. Totally oversimplified for the sake of this blog, but you get the picture. Then the fun begins! 

The Remote Support Component (RSC) does part of the work for you. By properly configuring your systems with RSC monitoring agents, the RSC can collect information about the operations and configuration of your system. It uses your Service Marketplace account, and will send this information back to SAP, who will then create an Early Watch Alert report for you. This is where all of the things that might be lurking in the system can come to light, hopefully before there is an issue. It gives you some expert insight on your BOE system health. This part is fantastic for the busy BOE Administrator because it's passive. Once RSC is set up, it will dial home periodically and you'll get the Early Watch Alert reports right in SMP. Nothing further is required.

screen shot 2012-03-05 at 3.33.26 pm.png

But when things are going awry, you'll want to take a more active role with this tool, and that's when you'll want to switch over and use the Wily portion of RSC.

Wily is a pretty well-known industry standard monitoring tool. It is widely adopted because of it's really powerful capability to give visibility to what applications are doing under the hood. Traditionally, Wily did not work when run against BusinessObjects Enterprise. Those days are over. While it can only monitor the java portions of BOE, that is a TON of information you can get. And the best part, in my opinion,  is the Transaction Tracer. This is where you can get visibility into every step of the processing workflow. If a report is causing an error, you can turn the Transaction Tracing on, run through the problem report, and trap a ton of great information about what specific part of the system is breaking, and why. You can also combine your Web, App, Intelligence, and Processing tiers into one big workflow and trace the work across hosts. It's quite impressive, and something that has been asked for for a long time.


SAP has been really excellent with listening to customers about this need. RSC is offered free of charge to every customer with an active support account.
Currently RSC only supports Business Objects XI 3.1. The BI4 version is coming soon, I've heard. Another mention-worthy tidbit is what Wily can and cannot do in this version. This is not the full version of CA Wily you would buy from Computer Associates. This is an OEM version that SAP has licensed, and has limited functionality. The limit is on the Alerting mechanism. The full version of Wily has the ability to throw alerts based on your watch rules and notify administrators or operators. This version of Wily does not include alerting, but I have heard you can purchase a key to unlock it from SAP. But free is free, so if the monitoring part is enough for you, you make out on the deal.

Here is a video produced by SAP that highlights some of what RSC can do.

Being an SAP Business Objects Administrator just got a whole lot easier. SAP did a fantastic job giving admins some major upgrades in tools by rolling out the Remote Support Component.

This article is intentionally cross-posted from our company site. My intention was to make this information available to a wider audience.

Performance testing for SAP BusinessObjects is somewhat of a touchy subject. Users want and need their data, and they want it fast. With so many high-speed technologies around these days, it is easy to understand why. Your BusinessObjects Admin can do a lot to help improve the performance of your reports, but that person can certainly use your help. Here are some tips of information that is useful for your Admin to help diagnose and fix a performance issue with your reports:

  • Record the exact start and stop time of each report execution.
  • Record the exact prompt values you passed (if any) so the administrator can re-run the report themselves. They might have a few diagnostic tools you don't.
  • Don't run anything else. Run each report in singularity, and try to get the system as quiet as possible to avoid any interference with your test.
  • Compile a nice big list with the Report Name, Folder Name (Admin might not know your structure), Universe Name if you know it (if not the Admin can get it), and the user name you used to run your tests.
  • If you're looking at Operating System metrics, take a baseline first. You'd be surprised how many people skip that step. You have to know what your system looks like when no reports are running.  

And just so you don't think I'm being a lazy admin, let me tell you why all of this stuff is important.
Nobody knows their data better than the developers. Administrators know your system inside and out, but generally don't have the best sense of the types of data or reports being run in there. Knowing what prompts your passed will help the Admin run the report the exact same way you did. Prompt values can have a HUGE impact on how many records are returned in a report. Is it fair to compare a 5,000 record report with a 65,000 record report? Nope.
Plus, your Admin likely has some sort of browser watch tool and can watch the trace logs in real-time if they can run a report again themselves.

Exact start and stop times help the Admin immensely when sifting through trace logs. If you saw how many files verbose logging can spit out in a minute… you'd likely need to take a seat before looking at that. Knowing where in that mess to start looking can REALLY help.

Performance testing is not an art. It's a science. It really has to be approached with discipline in order to be meaningful. By making sure the system is quiet or as quiet as possible, you'll increase the value of your performance metrics. If there are 500 schedule Webi reports firing off when you do one test, but not when you run the second test, is that a fair comparison? Nope. Apples to Apples. Oranges to Oranges. Each test must be as close to exactly the same as the next, or it is not a fair (or valid) comparison to another test.

The more information you can give your Administrator, the better they will be able to help you. The sooner you help them help you, the sooner everyone can get back to playing Angry Birds. ;-)

Back in October of 2009 at the ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conferece, a group of ASUG members were recruited by SAP Product managers to participate in the first-ever BusinessObjects Enterprise Influence Council. This group met for 2 hours every month, and got first-hand looks at what was then called "Aurora" and is now known as BI4.

What good, do you ask, is having ASUG member customers and partners involved in reviewing product features while the product is still in development? Good question! It gets a customer and expert user perspective in the hands of the product development team at SAP, and can actually influence the direction and features of the product while it is still being worked on.

After a year of hard work, and almost another year of silence waiting for the General Availability of BI4, I can now tell you what was done by the Influence Council. Our non-disclosure agreements expire once the product becomes GA.

While the Influence Council got to see the entire product offering, from stem to stern, there are a few areas that stand out with the Product Management team that got special attention directly because of the Influence Council. Those ares in general were Monitoring and Auditing. Here's a list of things that were influenced by and/or validated by the Influence Council:

  • Improved reportability of the Auditing Database
  • Improved auditing universe
  • The Auditing Database schema
  • The Auditing Dashboard
  • Improved consistency of Auditing Events
  • Simplified Auditing configuration and management

It seems a little small when I list it all out like that, but when you get your hands on the product (if you haven't already) you'll see that many of these improvements are huge. It was extremely helpful for the Product Managers to have such direct feedback from customers and experts on a regular basis that certain parts of the product really shine.

If you are interested in participating in Influence Councils, head on over to ASUG.com and see what is currently in-flight. Many councils are running, especially in the Business Analytics space. Get in there and get your voice heard!

There will be another installment of this blog after BI4.1 is released. We had some seriously cool input into that release as well, and I'm looking forward to sharing.

InnoJam is a very interesting concept. SAP grants access to some of their newest technologies, teams are formed, and a theme is applied. The goal? Create a working application in 30 hours to solve a business case. This was my first time participating in this event even though I was a bit skeptical about how much I would have to offer. 

InnoJam - It's not just for Developers

My first impression was that I would not have very much to do at InnoJam because I'm not a developer. I typically work in infrastructure operations, and don't have a lot to do with product development other than keeping environments running. I was surprised, however, to find that I could contribute more than I thought I would. There were some administrative tasks that needed doing, and I was excited to be able to actually do some work in BI4 for the very first time. I didn't need too much coaching to find my way into the BI4 Central Management Console and get our users up and running. I was also pleased to be able to do some work in Explorer, and helping to figure out how Personalization of Information Spaces works. 

What Exactly is Gamification?

This year's InnoJam theme is about Gamification. If you're not familiar with the term, it's about brining elements of video games into places (applications) where they are generally absent, such as enterprise apps. Think about badges you earn on Google News, or even the points you earn on SCN. I still remain skeptical about real applications of gamification in the business world. I feel that only the most progressive of companies would embrace or even allow such a thing to be going on during the work day. Time is money, and I just don't see the more traditional firms out there wanting to add gaming elements to their enterprise apps. 

Judgment Time

In just a few hours, we'll have to go present our finished application to the entire InnoJam group and a panel of judges. We'll see if what we built will stand up against the other brilliant applications that were built over the last 30 hours. There have alredy been other blog posts put up about our app and what it does, so I won't belabor that here. I wanted to focus more about the extremely cool experience I had participating. 

InnoJams of the Future

If you're curious about what InnoJam is but not sure how you could contribute, I would challenge you to try it just once. There is room for all kinds of people in this event. Business People help keep developers on-track meeting real needs. Developers are needed to do what they do best; code. Infrastructure and Applications specialists are needed to help answer questions and keep things functioning smoothly. I'm in Vegas, so I can bet. I'll bet that you won't be disappointed. 


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