Frequently Asked Questions - Open Reporting and Analysis Interfaces

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This Document Provides Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About:

Which types of Reporting and Analyis interfaces does SAP NetWeaver BI support?

SAP BW 3.x supports 3 different frontend interfaces:

  • OLE DB for OLAP

  • XML for Applications (XMLA)

Note that OLAP BAPI and OLE DB for OLAP are also supported for SAP BW 2.x.

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What is the difference of these three interfaces?

  • OLE DB for OLAP is a Windows-based interface which exposes a COM (Component Object Model) API and calls RFC functions to the SAP NetWeaver BI backend. A mandatory OLE DB for OLAP driver (by Simba) must be installed on the Windows client. The driver is part of the SAP NetWeaver BI frontend installation (as an option).

  • OLAP BAPI exposes the same function modules, but not via COM, but directly via RFC calls to the SAP NetWeaver BI server. This interface is not restricted to MS Windows-based platforms, but can be used for (Web-)Server-based products.

  • Microsoft developed XMLA to extend OLE DB for OLAP and provide XML support. This interface is prepared for eventual leverage by web services via HTTP/SOAP. XMLA has also been implemented into SAP BW 3.x. Note that this interface internally uses the BAPI function modules as well.

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What do the three interfaces have in common?

  • All three interfaces use MDX (Multidimensional Expression) as query language.

  • All three interfaces use the same meta data models (cubes, dimensions, measures...)

  • All three interfaces are equally powerful with respect to their functionality, as the underlying function modules are the same.

  • The performance of the three interfaces is virtually equal. As a matter of the architecture (e.g. OLE DB for OLAP has an additional component in between), very small differences might exist, but are not significant.

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If performance of the three interfaces is comparable, why does the performance of different frontend tools can differ significantly?

This might be due to the way the frontend tool accesses and displays the data. If only the data, which is relevant for a specific query navigation step, is read from the SAP NetWeaver BI, the response time of the SAP NetWeaver BI server is virtually the same - no matter which interface is used.

Note also that reporting and analysis interfaces are not designed for mass volume, e.g. the extraction of a complete InfoCube. For this purpose, dedicated interfaces like Open Hub Service should be used.

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Does SAP NetWeaver BI support the whole OLE DB for OLAP specification?

SAP NetWeaver BI supports 100% of the mandatory part of the specification. In addition, large parts of the non-mandatory part are implemented.

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Are SAP NetWeaver BI hierarchies and variables supported with the reporting and analysis interfaces?

Yes, but not every 3rd party vendor has implemented the feature yet.

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Are SAP NetWeaver BI variants supported by any of the interfaces?

No. Variants are a client-side concept and cannot be part of the data access API.

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What interface does Crystal Reports use?

In the cooperation with our software partner Crystal Decisions, we developed an additional interface. This is an API for data access that is similar to the OLAP BAPI. It differs in the way of data selection via a simplified MDX statement. The result is handed back as a string. In addition, there is the possibility for storing documents. This interface is only for usage by Crystal.

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Certifications for OLE DB for OLAP and OLAP BAPI exist. Is there also a certification for the XMLA interface?

SAP NetWeaver BI offers another certification scenario through the XML for analysis (XMLA) interface for its frontend partners. For details please contact Markus Pfeffer ( Information can also be found at

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Some frontend tools use direct SQL access to the SAP NetWeaver BI database tables. What is your statement on this?

See FAQ Partner issues.

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Why does SAP BI not provide an SQL editor for SAP NetWeaver BI end users?

SAP BI provides design time tools that enable users to model their business requirements into queries and generate the underlying SQL statements automatically. The benefit is two-fold:

  • the maintenance effort is reduced as changes are simply possible through pure modeling (drag&drop) --> no DML/programming language skills necessary to design queries.

  • all queries pass through the Analytical engine (OLAP engine) that guarantees all the sophisticated security, consistency and performance features like authorizations, correct currency handling, hierarchy handling, aggregate handling etc. (for a detailed overview, see here)

The direct access to the Analytical engine (without using the BEx design time tools) is possible through MDX (MultiDimensional eXpression) and one of the three supported OLAP interfaces: OLAP BAPI, OLE DB for OLAP and XML for Analysis.

Data manipulation using SQL is also possible at several points in time: at staging time via transformation rules; when the data is already in the SAP BI, you can use the Analysis Process Designer and its standard transformations or ABAP routines. During query runtime, virtual key figures and characteristics can be added that can be filled based on customer-specific ABAP routines.

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