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Put to the Test: BusinessObjects XI Makes It Easy and Tempting to Upgrade

XI Release 2 supports legacy reports while improving Web-based functionality, easing administration and expediting migration from older deployments.

Easing Administration

While BI has been spreading across the enterprise, enterprise-class administrative tools are still largely lacking. To fill the void, XI Release 2 offers new usage-monitoring capabilities and improvements in deployment. To monitor enterprisewide usage, the upgrade adds an Activity universe and more than a dozen powerful, prebuilt reports. Administrators can control the level of detail monitored, going beyond system load and user login auditing. The resulting report, shown at left, gives you enough information to understand how the system is being used; do users just view reports or are they charting and filtering the data? Such detail ensures the universes truly and reports truly meet user needs.

Many organizations want to isolate development, user testing and production environments. This was theoretically possible in previous BusinessObjects deployments, but moving objects from one environment to another was a manual, error-prone process. XI Release 2 introduces Business Intelligence Application Resource files. Developers can use a BIAR file to specify the contents (universes, documents, users) they wish to promote from test to production. The Import Wizard creates an XML file of the contents that can be integrated with third-party version and control systems.

Streamlining Migration

Upgrading to BusinessObjects XI is straightforward for Crystal Enterprise customers but more complex for BusinessObjects 5x and 6x customers, due primarily to the change in repository architecture and security. A new wizard migrates content from version 5.1.4 and higher to XI Release 2. In multiple test scenarios, the wizard worked as expected. However, customers need to plan for this task.

In particular, political and cultural issues could arise if you're consolidating departmental implementations. In addition, security is much more granular and now object-oriented (rather than user-oriented, as in BusinessObjects 6x and earlier versions). Customers asked for this granularity, but there's a steep learning curve in understanding the impact.

The number of customers moving to XI Release 2 has been surprisingly large, I suspect due in part to the benefits of the upgrade as well as the strength of the migration utilities.

Sizing it Up

Support is an important consideration when BI is mission critical, and this has been the vendor's Achilles' heel. Business Objects has taken a number of steps to address the problem, and customers say the situation is improving.

On the product front, the distinctions between leading BI vendors are increasingly less apparent. Vendors leapfrog each other in certain areas with each new upgrade. The beauty of XI Release 2 is that it puts Business Objects ahead of the pack--at least for now--in providing a broad BI solution while being best of breed for casual users, power users and developers. Among the competitors with recent suite releases, Business Objects has also done the best job of making it easy to migrate to the latest platform.

Pricing: Set either by named user or by BusinessObjects Enterprise server in two editions, Standard and Premium.

Cindi Howson is the author of Business Objects XI: The Complete Reference. She teaches TDWI's "Evaluating BI Toolsets" and publishes more in-depth reviews at BIScorecard.com. Write to her at [email protected].

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