Supporting Multiple Versions of Java in Your Enterprise

Java has always been tricky to support in the enterprise. With so many different applications requiring the JRE (Java Runtime Engine) for browser-based applications, it can be difficult to find a single Java JRE version that supports all of the desired applications simultaneously. Although Oracle stopped supporting Java 6 in 2013 (see Oracle’s Java SE Support Roadmap), many organizations still deploy it as a desktop standard for compatibility reasons with older web applications. However, Java 6 will not work with the latest releases of the SAP BI platform, as described in SAP’s Product Availability Matrix (PAM):

Support for JRE 6 as a browser JRE is deprecated as of December 31, 2013. JRE 6 as a browser JRE will not work with BI 4.1 SP03 and above.

This can create compatibility issues for Web Intelligence users, as most users (myself included) prefer to use the Java applet for creating and modifying reports. Web Intelligence comes in three editions: HTML (no plug-in required), Applet (Java JRE plug-in required) and Desktop (aka Web Intelligence Rich Client). By default, the HTML edition is used for viewing and the Applet edition is used for editing. Below are the default BI Launch Pad preferences for Web Intelligence.

Web Intelligence 41 Preferences 01 500

Java 7 support has been present in XI 3.1 and BI 4.0 for a couple of years (see related article, The Future of Web Intelligence and Java) and has been included with BI 4.1 since its general availability (GA). But for enterprises still dependent on Java 6 for application support, here are three options for SAP BusinessObjects.

Option #1 – Create a Citrix environment to host Java 6 applications

Legacy and modern Java applications can both be supported by strategically using Citrix. Citrix can run legacy Java 6 applications in a walled garden (possibly even with an older browser like Microsoft Internet Explorer 9). With a convenient place to access older applications, enterprise desktops can safely update both Microsoft Internet Explorer and the Java JRE. From a Web Intelligence user’s perspective, this is the most attractive option.

Option #2 – Avoid Java with the HTML Edition of Web Intelligence

Another possibility for Web Intelligence users is to avoid Java altogether with the HTML edition, which can be chosen using the settings below.

Web Intelligence preferences

While the HTML edition is capable, it continues to lag behind the Java panel in features and functionality. For writing queries, I find the HTML query panel more difficult to use than its Java sibling. The HTML edition of Web Intelligence doesn’t support data sources like BEx, Analysis Views, or spreadsheets, plus some useful formatting options are unavailable. I’ve seen several organizations choose this option, but it is my least favorite.

Option #3 – Use the Web Intelligence Rich Client

The third option for supporting Web Intelligence is to skip the browser and opt for the Web Intelligence Rich Client instead. The Rich Client is the desktop edition of Web Intelligence that combines the features of the Java edition with the power of the user’s own desktop or laptop. The Web Intelligence Rich Client can be installed as part of the SAP BusinessObjects Client Tools (including the Universe Design Tool and Information Design Tool) or installed from the BI Launch Pad by clicking the “installation required” link.

Web Intelligence Preferences

Clicking “installation required” will launch the installation program on the user’s workstation.

Installing the Web Intelligence Rich Client

I still find myself going to the Java panel in the BI Launch Pad out of habit, but I really like the responsiveness of the Web Intelligence Rich Client UI, not to mention avoiding the timeouts of its browser-based siblings. Plus, it’s the only edition of Web Intelligence that offers the Data Manager, a recent enhancement that was sorely missed from Desktop Intelligence.

Web Intelligence Rich Client Data Manager

 

Web Intelligence Data Manager

As a BI administrator, I prefer to give users options #1 and #3, allowing them to choose between the Java edition and the Rich Client according to their personal preference.

SAP Support for Java 8

Earlier this year, I wrote about Oracle’s launch of Java 8 (see related article, Are You Ready for Java 8). With Oracle planning to stop supporting Java 7 in April 2015, it is comforting to know that Java 8 support is already in place for BI 4.0 and BI 4.1:

  • Java 8 is supported on SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 SP04 and higher
  • Java 8 is supported on SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 SP10 and higher
  • Java 8 is not supported by any version of SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1

Java Considerations for Crystal Reports

Crystal Reports users should note that its Java viewer is not supported in Java 8. Since the Java viewer’s days are numbered, SAP recommends the following strategy in the BI 4.1 Product Availability Matrix:

The Crystal Reports Java Applet (“Web Java”) viewer is not supported with JRE 8. Please note as well that the Crystal Reports Java Applet viewer itself will be deprecated soon – please use the Crystal Reports DHTML (“Web”) viewer instead.

Final Thoughts

For those of you struggling with Java 6, please accept our condolences. However, business intelligence teams can take comfort that SAP BusinessObjects isn’t the application holding back enterprise adoption of Java 7 or Java 8.

Which edition of Web Intelligence is your favorite? Is your enterprise still struggling to retire Java 6?

3 thoughts on “Supporting Multiple Versions of Java in Your Enterprise

  1. We are running in to this now. We are currently on BI 4.1 SP2, and it will allow you to use Java6. We have an upgrade scheduled to go to SP4, which flat out requires Java7. Unfortunately our corporate environment won’t allow a widespread move to Java7 because it breaks other things. In our case this isn’t an SAP issue, it’s really about other applications that affect our corporate computing world.

    The really awesome thing is that when you open the BI Launchpad after the upgrade, it prompts you to go out and download Java7, so many people would just do that reflexively.

    We ultimately decided to convert everyone to the HTML version and move forward with the upgrade. We ruled out the Rich Client because, while it does work just fine, it would be a maintenance issue. We are trying to make WebI utilization widespread and having to install and maintain the client on many machines isn’t something we wanted to take on. Some people here in our group may choose the Rich Client, and that’s OK. Or they may upgrade their own machine to Java7 and deal with the fall out.

    The data sources we lose with the HTML version aren’t anything we actually use. We do lose a little functionality, but we feel like it’s more advanced kind of things that people who are getting started don’t need or won’t miss. Eventually that may change, but our major focus right now is just to get people into the concept of using WebI and Universes. Hopefully we can get the organization to Java7 soon and then we can move people back as needed.

    At the end of the day, our choices are very limited. We can’t move the entire organization to Java7, and we really need the SP4 upgrade to resolve some other issues.

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