BO XI 3.1: To Upgrade or Not to Upgrade?

As SAP announces the “ramp up” or controlled release for SAP BusinessObjects XI 4.0, some companies who are planning to upgrade to BO XI 3.1 are wondering if they should now wait.

The simple answer is “no” and there are many good reasons to upgrade to XI 3.1 as soon as possible.

Firstly, BusinessObjects XI 3.1 has been the general release for a couple of years now and has proven to be a stable and solid platform. It brings a new version of Web Intelligence with the Rich Client (offline) capability with access to external data providers like Excel. It also has other features, previously only available in Desktop Intelligence, like the fold/unfold feature and stored procedure support through the universe. It adds new functionality also like the ability to track data changes between versions, contextual hyperlinking and use of drop-down selection boxes for prompts.

At the same time, XI 3.1 fully supports Desktop Intelligence reports unchanged which is quite significant when you consider that there will be no support for Desktop Intelligence in XI 4. This means that XI 3.1 will be the last BusinessObjects release to support Desktop Intelligence or the old Full Client reports.

BusinessObjects XI 4.0 will be a major new release with a lot of new functionality some of which will be available in the first 4.0 release and some which will be released later in service pack updates. It will be a 64-bit software application. It will have a new semantic layer that will combine the capabilities of the old BusinessObjects universe and Crystal Business Views and with a slew of new functionality including support of OLAP (MDX) data sources like SAP BW and MS OLAP cubes. The old BusinessObjects Universe Designer will remain supported in XI 4 for compatibility and easier transition.

There are new functionalities and capabilities in Web Intelligence, Xcelsius, Crystal and other content providers including taking advantage of the new semantic layer and universe design tool. There are two versions of Crystal – Crystal Enterprise which is new and uses the new semantic layer and Crystal Reports 2011 which is a continuation of Crystal Reports 2008. There is a new OLAP analysis tool called Advanced Analysis which replaces Voyager and there are significant improvements to Data Services and the BOE infrastructure functionality.

There will also be a new utility to move the contents of your old BusinessObjects content to XI 4. The Import Wizard is effectively replaced by this new tool called the Upgrade Manager Tool. This works for upgrades from XI 3.1 and the plan is to also be able to upgrade from XI R2 with security model changes. There is no upgrade available from earlier releases meaning you would need to move to XI R2 or XI 3.1 before moving to XI 4.

The ramp up will probably last 3 to 6 months so the general availability of XI 4.0 is expected sometime between February 2011 and May 2011. It is unlikely that the first service pack will be available until late in the year and most existing BO customers will probably not look at moving to XI 4 until 2012 or 2013 (based on previous trends).

For these BO customers still using Desktop Intelligence, there will be the added consideration and work of converting or replacing their old reports with Web Intelligence which for some may be a considerable effort and cost.

According to information disseminated at the ASUG BO annual conference in October, in addition to Desktop Intelligence, the following other existing BO XI products will be end of  life :  Voyager, Encyclopedia/Discussions and Performance Manager.

Historically, the current and immediately prior software releases tend to be actively supported for all software issues which would suggest that at some point in 2011 only XI 4.0 and XI 3.1 will be considered the actively supported releases.

Taking all of this information into consideration, it does make sense to upgrade to BusinessObjects XI 3.1 in the coming months if you have not done so already.

About Stephen Lau

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