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Comparing Xcelsius Connectivity Choices

As more people deploy Xcelsius dashboard solutions, Xcelsius connectivity options has become a hot topic and I am often asked to compare the most popular methods used by BusinessObjects customers which are Query as a Web Service (QaaWS), Live Office and InfoBurst-XDS (or XDM for non-BOE deployments).

This is a brief summary of the differences between these 3 options which may be helpful.

QaaWS is a BusinessObjects web service that access BusinessObjects universes (and only universes) to pull back data.  Each time a dashboard is opened and selections are made, a real-time query is launched against production data, which, depending on the amount of data requested, can take many long seconds or minutes.  I have not found it to be very effective, and the few companies that do use it, have highly summarized tables in their data warehouse to use for this purpose (i.e. lots of preparation work).  The only upside I see to this method is that security is already in place based on BO user ids, and, real-time data retrieval (if that is the requirement). Large amounts of data (i.e., more than 500 rows of data) returned by the web service will significantly slow down the performance of the dashboard.

With Live Office you can access Web Intelligence or Crystal reports as your data source and use the functionality of these reporting tools to summarize, crosstab and format your data.  The advantage is that you can schedule these reports to refresh in BO (InfoView) and then use the latest instance of that report for your Xcelsius data source, without waiting for it to refresh.  The disadvantage is that it requires users to log into BusinessObjects every time they access the dashboard.  (Supposedly you can use single-sign-on with this, but I have not seen it working anywhere).  Obviously, if you want to deploy this solution outside of BusinessObjects, like hosting the SWF file on SharePoint or an Intranet, most companies do not like having to sign on again.  Also, it would not work if you want to deploy outside the network (outside a firewall).  There have been many posts on the forums about the “flakiness” of LiveOffice, often losing connections and unable to refresh reports.  Since Live Office has to hold the data in the Xcelsius spreadsheet, the amount of data returned will have a negative impact on dashboard performance.  This last item has been the biggest barrier to our customers, who often wish to show granular data in their dashboards, or a significant amount of historical data.

InfoBurst XDS and XDM were designed to overcome these obstacles.  XDS can use Web Intelligence or Desktop Intelligence reports as data sources for pulling data, which it can refresh overnight (based on a schedule) and convert this data to xml.  XML is the fastest way to load data into Xcelsius.  XDS does not require a BusinessObjects login.  XDS also has the option of accessing a database directly (any database that can be accessed via an ODBC connection) through SQL queries, which can also be scheduled and converted to XML.  XDS also provides options for distributing the dashboard (putting on a network share, an intranet site, or as an email attachment or embedded in an in-line html email).  The biggest advantage, though, is the Intelligent Cache feature which allows dashboard developers to “cache” a very large set of data (I am currently working on a data set of over 18,000 rows of data), and then pass parameters through the xml code, based on selections the user makes on the dashboard, which then returns the small data set needed for that particular chart.  (On the above example I am passing parameters, based on drop-down menus, for Division, Plant, Department, Day and Shift, which returns the 6 rows of data I need to display – shift hours per day per Department.)  Since the dashboard is only loading these 6 rows of data, obviously the performance is very fast.    We recently converted a QaaWS dashboard where the data loading time when changing customers went from 2 minutes or so to less than 10 seconds, using Intelligent Cache filtering.

Blog post updated 2012-05-21 –  Broken links fixed

About Roxanne

Roxanne Pittman is a Senior Business Intelligence Technical Consultant for InfoSol, providing consulting and training for BusinessObjects. She is a certified Business Objects Instructor for Business Objects, specializing in Web Intelligence, Desktop Intelligence, Dashboard Manager, Universe Design, Xcelsius Dashboards, Xcelsius Data Connectivity, and Knowledge Accelerator Customization. Roxanne has specialized in Xcelsius connected models, with extensive experience in using XML, Web Services, Live Office and InfoBurst-XDS and XDM to create dynamic dashboards. In addition to being a multi-certified instructor, Roxanne has experience working with Fortune 500 companies as a consultant in the deployment of business intelligence solutions.

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  1. Thank you for such a concise summary of what can be a very confusing topic!

  2. Excellent overview of connection models and challenges the customer may encounter or overcome!…Thank you and well done!!!

  3. Thank you for the excellent overview and analysis. I have not yet used Infoburst with Xcelsius, but it has proven extremely useful in other areas, and it is nice to know about this option. People seem to like the Xcelsius user interface and want to use it for more than high-level summary dashboard, and that leads to data retrieval performance challenges.