Exploring 4.0: Information Design Tool

Ryan Muldowney —  March 8, 2011 — 2 Comments

The Information Design Tool is the brand new metadata modeling application used for creating universes in SAP BusinessObjects 4.0.  The universe layer has been completely reworked for the 4.0 release and the Information Design Tool (IDT) is the front-end for those changes.  Although the old Universe Designer is still available in 4.0, the IDT and the .unx files it creates are the way forward in BusinessObjects universe design.

The new model takes the traditional universe and breaks it down into three components:  the Connection, the Data Foundation, and the Business Layer.  These components all existed in some form in previous versions, but now they each get their own editor and a host of new features and options.  Let’s review these in a bit more detail.  (Note that the screenshots below are from the ramp-up version of this software and could change in the final release).

The Connection

The Connection is a named set of parameters that define how one or more SAP BusinessObjects applications can access relational or OLAP databases.  The big news in the 4.0 release is that a universe can have multiple connections to different data sources!  Previously this was only possible with Data Federator, but federation is now built into the universe layer.  More on this in the next section…

From a designer’s perspective, perhaps the best change is that the Connection now gets a proper editor instead of the old wizard dialog from previous versions.  This interface is much easier to use, especially if you need to quickly change something about the connection, such as changing the driver from ODBC to OLE DB.  More importantly, there is a Show Values tab where you can browse the schema, view the data, and even do basic queries right from within the Design Tool.

The Data Foundation


The Data Foundation contains a schema of relevant tables and joins from one or more relational databases that are used as a basis for one or more  Business Layers.  This looks and feels much like the old universe designer tool, but with an improved interface.  Users of the previous version of Universe Designer know that the interface hasn’t changed much since the early days of BusinessObjects 5.x and 6.x, so this revamp is a welcomed change.

As expected, you use the Data Foundation editor to define your database structure and joins as well as row-level security.  As mentioned above, you can even add data from another secondary source and map a join between the two sources.  This is as simple as adding the second connection to your project and creating the join.  The Information Design Tool treats the data as if it were all from a single source.  This is a very powerful feature, indeed.

Another big area of improvement is the context menu options when right-clicking a table in the designer.  You can now quickly replace a table with another, search for related tables, or even add a calculated column.  All this adds up to more rapid development and deployment and less time struggling with the quirks of the tool.

The Business Layer

The Business Layer is a collection of metadata objects that map to SQL or MDX definitions in a database, for example, columns, views, database functions, or pre-aggregated calculations.  This is the same as the left Universe panel on the previous designer tool, but with additional functionality.  The editor allows you to quickly view the query and values behind each object you create.  There is also an area to provide metadata describing the source of the object, including technical information, mapping, and lineage.

Aside from creating the various dimensions and measures that make up the Business Layer, the designer can also create and save queries using the traditional query panel to test their universe using specific use cases.  The query can be executed directly from within the Information Design Tool and the developer can do some analysis to make sure they are getting the correct results.

For More Information

For more information and to get a better look at the Information Design Tool, check out this great set of tutorials provided by the SAP Developers’ Network.

Ryan Muldowney

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