Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Data Replication? Who Cares ...?

I don’t expect data replication will be on the top of many business agendas. I don't have any research statistic to back that up however I don’t recall ever seeing it on one the lists that get published telling us what’s on the agendas of the IT manager, CTO, CIO or whoever.  In my experience growing businesses in particular tend to use many different independent applications to manage their operations it is an afterthought. It’s only considered once the business realises there’s an issue.

The issue might be that data from one application wasn’t in line with data in another. This might sound small but the impact could ripple. For instance imagine the customer details in a financial system were not the same as those in the online CRM application. The impact is a frustrated customer as the invoices goes out with a misspelling of their name as when the customer called in to notify you of the change it was only updated by a customer facing employee who only had access to the CRM system. What would happen if it were the address, do you think you’re going to get paid on time?

Another might be with using legacy systems, which were meant to have died out with the dinosaurs but in reality are still the cornerstone of many businesses IT infrastructure, reliably storing and serving up data. The requirement for data replication comes when the data is not getting returned quick enough or the frequency at which its being requested impacts the performance of the application the legacy system supports. Recently a client told us that users were binning a recent IT project of implementing a companywide Intranet application saying it was too slow. The issue related to the response times of the AS400 as this was where much of the data in the intranet solution was stored. In order to improve the performance the data required was replicated into a dedicated MS SQL database, issue solved.

Making sure your data is synchronised between applications is always going to be an issue. Perhaps the one that we are seeing more than most is the need to replicate data out of multiple database types for business reporting. Many businesses do this by accessing the data directly against the individual databases however more and more are using staging databases, data warehouses to bring business critical data into one place. This could be due to one of the issues mentioned above, it could be due to the inevitably growth in data. As data storage becomes even cheaper and usable data coming from more sources specifically online data there should be a realisation. If more data can be captured then more data will be captured! Business Intelligence, which is quite a hot topic on many organisations agenda according to the majority of research that’s published conforms to the belief that success is in the detail. Understanding data helps support the decisions a business makes to shape its future.

In these instances finding a tool that can reliably connect the dots of heterogeneous data sources is golden.

The right tool can have a positive impact, it can reduced the number of man hours spent on a process that has been used for years. It can improve reliability and relieve frustration by reducing the operational risks in all manner of ways. There is a ripple effect and it starts with the data.

Related Articles of interest:

Written by:  Ben Hedger, Senior Sales Consultant 

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Repairing a Broken SAP BusinessObjects Edge System

Back in the days of Crystal Enterprise 10 and earlier it was quite commonplace to install a copy of Crystal Reports 10 on the Crystal Enterprise 10 server. This was done to assist in checking database connectivity and was used purely as a troubleshooting mechanism to resolve any connectivity issues.

Nowadays installing Crystal Reports 2008 on an SAP Crystal Reports Server 2008 machine or SAP Business Objects Edge XI 3.1 machine can be a much riskier business. A perilous journey, fraught with unsuspecting error messages like the one below.

Here is my account of what happened when I installed SAP Crystal Reports 2008 V1 Service Pack 3 onto an SAP Business Objects Edge XI 3.1 Service Pack 1 machine. It is a harrowing tale. Searching the internet, I came across many poor souls who had done the same thing as me and the one message that came from these forum postings was; - that the problem was solved by performing a re-installation. There were other potential solutions on these forums that I will mention later.

Let’s set the scene. Crystal Reports installed without error or indeed any warning message that it had detected another SAP Business Objects application on the same machine. All the published reports had been failing to connect to an Oracle database over a WAN, so in order to get a more verbose error message, Crystal Reports was installed for troubleshooting the database connectivity problems.
Soon after the installation, things started to go wrong. No-one could log in to Business Objects Edge. The services in the SIA were either at a ‘Failed’ or ‘Stopped’ status. No Client SAP Business Objects application would open. The image above appeared. This looked like a serious problem. The Business Objects Edge Server was re-started and the services took a long time to start, but they did start eventually.
But now, there were different errors to consider. I tried opening the Designer client application. This worked and I was able to import a universe, but as soon as I tested the Universe Connection an error appeare.

I tried importing a different universe and got a similar message in the image below.

I then took a bit of time to consider exactly what was working and what was not working. I could log in to InfoView and I could run and schedule Crystal Reports without any problem. I then decided to record every error message I could find by attempting to open all of the client design tools.

Desktop Intelligence wouldn’t allow me to generate a query.

Xcelsius failed when it tried to access external data.

Query as a Web Service would allow me to edit a query, but not to execute it.

Even Web Intelligence wouldn’t schedule, but strangely, you could view a Web Intelligence report on demand.

A pattern was developing from each of the error messages shown in the images, with the exception of the Web Intelligence image.

On searching the internet, typing the entire contents of the errors, brought about two potential solutions. The first was to place the Oracle Home folder into the PATH Environment Variable. I checked this and it was already in place. The second was to place the full path to the ConnectionServer folder shown in the error message images into the PATH Environment variable. I tried this and it made no difference.

Now it was time to think of other potential solutions. The first was to perform a brand new installation onto a new server and then migrate the contents of the source system to the new destination system using the Import Wizard. But there was no other server available. A complete restore of the server from a backup was possible, but deemed too much of a risk, as the server had other business critical applications running on it.
The only way forward was to manually repair the system somehow. I looked in the ConnectionServer folder and examined the .dll files. As soon as I did this I could see a potential way of solving the problem. By lloking at the version numbers of the .dll files, I could see that some were version 12.1 and others were 12.3. This confirmed that the installation of Crystal Reports 2008 V1 SP3 had overwritten key .dll files and now it might be possible to copy back the 12.1 versions from the backup to effectively put the system back to its original state.

But wait a minute. .dll file have dependencies, don’t they? And don’t they need registering using Regsvr32.exe? More searching of the internet was required. 

I decided to perform a test on one of the .dll files. I copied the 12.1 version back to its original location and then tried to register it. The message below appeared.

More searching of the internet led me to an application called Dependency Walker. Located at  This application allows you to locate a file and then see all of the dependent .dll files it requires to perform correctly. I used this for each of the .dll files in the error message images and manually, one by one, copied each required 12.1 .dll file back to its original location.
This had been a last resort. I had no further ideas or potential solutions I could think of, other than obtaining a server and performing the migration as mentioned earlier.

I restarted the servers from the SIA and hoped for the best. An image of Dependency Walker is shown below:

 After all the services had re-started and were running and enabled I tried opening each of the client applications, and this time they all worked as normal.The only exception was Web Intelligence scheduling. But after searching the internet again by inserting the entire error message into Google, I completely stopped and then started the Adaptive Job and Processing servers and this resolved the problem.

This manual fix took the best part of a day. If you intend to install multiple SAP Business Objects applications on the same machine, be it a server or even a client machine with SAP Desktop applications like Crystal Reports and Live Office, you must first check what you have installed already and note down the build number. This will be found in the ‘Help->About’ section. Typically this number will look similar to For SAP Crystal Reports 2008 V1, SAP Crystal Reports Server 2008 V1 and SAP Business Objects Edge XI 3.1 applications the first number (12) denotes the build and the second (3) denotes the service pack currently installed. In order for the applications to work alongside each other you must ensure that each application is at the same service pack level.  If possible, test this on a pre-production or development machine before rolling out to a live production environment.

Written by Steve Chapman, Senior Business Intelligence Consultant, DSCallards
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Thursday, 2 February 2012

Are You Making the Most of Your Crystal Reports?

I’ve just sold another of our SAP Crystal Training Courses to the Ministry of Defence ... and like so many of our customers, James has an old Crystal Reports license and feels that he’s only using half of its functionality and that it's starting to let him down.

So many of the people I talk to every day have a license of Crystal on their desktop and use it perhaps once or twice a week on one database. They’ve got into a rut with their reporting whilst they know that it should really be helping them decipher exactly what's happening to their business,  throughout the whole of their business and they’d be right.  They’re being asked for ever more demanding reporting but they don’t know what they’re missing to achieve this.

SAP Crystal Reports is an amazingly powerful entry level Business Intelligence tool that delivers clear business insight, it's been developed over a time span of 20 years and has changed so much in that time. 

You can see for yourself how its changed by evaluating the most up to date version free from our website You can also come and join our Crystal Training Courses or our free Seminars  and start to see what Crystal can really do, 20 years on, in the 21st century.  You'll be amazed!

Written by Sue Mitchell, Crystal Solutions Account Manager, DSCallards  (01364 654222)

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Knowledge is Power: Arm Yourself!

In our last post we told you how bringing your reporting in house could save you time and money while allowing you more control over the depth of your data. You may have said to yourself “Those are all great reasons, but I still don’t know anything about reporting!” We hear this time and time again from our clients. We know it seems overwhelming and unattainable. Our staff understands that a software solution is only as good as the people who use it, which is why we work tirelessly to offer our clients holistic solutions. At DSCallards, we’ve become the leader in offering BI solutions by helping people make their business better not just through product solutions but also through in-depth training. We give you the tools as well as the knowledge you need to make your business a success.

With that in mind, we’d like to invite those of you who are new to SAP Crystal Reports to attend our SAP Crystal Reports Masterclass on 7th March at SAP UK HQ in Maidenhead. This class is run by industry leaders who will guide you through SAP Crystal Solutions and help you realize just how easy it is to build robust reports, integrate your reporting with your existing business platforms, and share your reports with your staff. The best part is you can achieve all of this without the help of your IT staff or a third party vendor which saves you time and money!

The slides above are but a taste of what you’ll see when you attend our masterclass. We take you through it all: From best practices in designing your data to integration with Java and Sharepoint. And all for free!  Why do we do it? Because we know our clients need more than just a software provider, they need someone to guide them from purchase all the way through to implementation. You can trust that our staff will be there for you every step of the way.

If you would like to attend our SAP Crystal Reports Masterclass all you have to do is click here. We look forward to seeing you in Maidenhead on March 7!