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SAP® BusinessObjects Licensing: How History Explains its Complexity

Make no mistake, although BusinessObjects has been part of the SAP portfolio for ten years, the way that it is licensed remains very different from the traditional licensing you find with ABAP-based SAP solutions. To better understand why, we should look back at the history of data analytics, business intelligence and BusinessObjects (commonly abbreviated as BOBJ).

Back in the late 1990s, the concept of data mining emerged as a significant business benefit. As a result, SAP created a Business Warehouse (BW) option for SAP systems. BW used a different structure than the then-current RDBMS’s (relational database management systems), which allowed for very powerful queries to be performed on the data. In the SAP world, this was an important step in the business strategy evolution. However, the data still required significant manipulation to provide value. The next evolution would add built-in intelligence, to allow easier, more time-relevant use for the business. SAP Business Intelligence (BI) was a logical expansion on BW, adding more seamless use of collected data, analytics, and aiding in strategic business planning.

From a licensing perspective, BW and BI shared several common factors: both were designed and built initially on the SAP R/3 platform; both run strictly in ABAP (SAP’s own language); both had integration options using the SAP portal; both were updated/ redesigned/ upgraded over time for Netweaver/ ECC, and now HANA/ S4HANA. However, BW and BI are essentially the same “under the hood”, with BI being the more powerful of the two offerings.

SAP continued to develop BI over time, adding functionality and increasing complexity, but the licensing, and the cost of the offering was still measured using the same tools and processes, nearly the same licensing model and with largely similar contractual language.

Around this time, BusinessObjects – a small Independent Software Vendor (ISV), created a dynamic and robust business intelligence system running in a client-server architecture, which began to revolutionize the BW/ BI space. BusinessObjects looked at, and used, business data in a different way. SAP recognized the strength and value of BusinessObjects and moved to acquire the company in 2007and integrated the product into their own software suite.

An important part of the integration of BOBJ into the SAP estate involved combining functionality with existing products and processes. From a Software Asset Management perspective, this is where historical context is important. Because BOBJ is not a native development of SAP, the complexity of management, measurement, licensing, and control increases.

Since BOBJ was independent prior to acquisition, the pre-SAP management is essentially client-server. The server and desktop deployments are measured as other client-server combinations: number of desktop installations, number of server installations, etc. In the post-acquisition BOBJ world, measurement is performed with the License measurement tool for SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence platform (LMBI) tool, which SAP sends to customers when a measurement is needed.

The interim systems, post-acquisition yet pre-integrated, are another issue. SAP is attempting to migrate companies across, yet some still have not done so. All of this highlights a single, salient fact in the world of BOBJ: getting the measurement data required for licensing is very difficult. Also, because of the acquisition and integration, there are other issues which can arise.

In one Snow customer’s example, a BW process was started which read Active Directory (AD) accounts and created approximately 3000 user accounts on BOBJ for AD users. Only a very small proportion actually needed any such an account. Had this not been discovered, an SAP true-up would have been very expensive.

Another area to be aware of is where one licenses users across an SAP estate which includes BOBJ.  Depending upon which other systems on which users are active, “upgrade” users mentioned above may come into play.  There may also be “packages” added to the BOBJ deployment, requiring additional contractual purchases to fully utilize the intended functions.

This point should not be overlooked; the measurement tools provided by SAP for measuring and consolidating the named users and engine/ package usage, are not really the friendly tools many companies consider them to be.  License Administration Workbench (LAW) and LAW2 are developed by SAP to gather data for submissions to SAP for audit purposes.  SAP has stated that the LAW is intended for this purpose.  Is the LMBI for BOBJ any different?  Probably not.  So, there are significant conflict of interests in play when employing the SAP toolsets to measure the SAP systems.

BusinessObjects in the SAP estate is a powerful addition to strategic planning, business data analysis and reporting. However, you should be wary of a several areas. The most difficult issue to overcome is the lack of visibility.  Being able to accurately measure BOBJ gives you the power to manage license allocations, monitor usage, and gain/ maintain control. 

So, how should one go about measuring BusinessObjects usage to enable license optimization? 

  • Few SAM product providers can accurately and effectively scan and collect from SAP BOBJ. 
  • Reading and scanning the available resources addressing BOBJ challenges is time consuming. 
  • Having an effective approach to managing allocations and entitlements takes planning and coordination between the SAP and SAM teams.

The first point seems to be the most difficult and challenging. Finding a product to scan, measure, analyze and manage BOBJ licensing can be daunting, at best. However, the answer is much simpler than most companies realize. 

Snow Optimizer for SAP® Software has native analytics, measurement, and management capabilities giving you the visibility into usage, user group assignment and BOBJ system analysis. The requirement to rely solely on SAP and SAP tools is no longer necessary, and the visibility into the BOBJ system returns control to you.

As with other SAP systems, compliance is the focus and intent. The challenging and complex nature of BOBJ licensing can be an easy place to get licensing allocation wrong. It doesn’t have to be! The capabilities of Snow Optimizer for SAP Software allow far more insight into the use of BOBJ, which in turn provides a clearer understanding for strategic business planning, especially with respect to the visibility of users provisioned in BOBJ.

The previously discussed scenario of AD users incorrectly assigned to BOBJ is a prime example of the potential risk, and the lack of an effective solution to manage and assist in administration of BOBJ could be very costly. Indeed, the potential to under- or overpay without full visibility is significant. It’s likely you are missing a huge cost saving opportunity.

If you want to know more about how Snow Optimizer for SAP Software can mitigate risks around BOBJ systems contact us today.

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