Having defined what Crystal Enterprise is, the following sections describe some of the reasons why an organization would want to deploy a Crystal Enterprise infrastructure.
Leverage existing infrastructure. The underlying objective of Crystal Enterprise is that is designed to be an open system and hence leverage existing infrastructure; for example, Enterprise can be installed on a variety of different operating systems. The open nature of Crystal Enterprise is illustrated by its use of industry-standard programming languages, authentication methods, and application servers. The infrastructure can be extended using either the COM, .NET, or Java SDK, running on some of the more commonly found application servers. This effectively means that one set of developers could be using .Net and another group could be using Java, but they need only a single instance of Crystal Enterprise running.
Crystal Enterprise supports Active Directory, NT, and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) authentication and includes some preconfigured attribute mapping for iPlanet Directory Server, Lotus Domino Directory Server, IBM Secureway, and Novell Directory Services. If your LDAP server is not listed here, Crystal Enterprise was built to support the Version 3 LDAP standard and if your LDAP server supports this standard, integration could be achieved via custom mappings.
Authentication is also available against common ERP packages, like SAP. This authentication is enabled via the installation of a solution kit available from Business Objects.
Crystal Enterprise supports an out-of-the-box authentication known as Enterprise authentication (see Figure 22.1). Here the user is created and supported only within the Enterprise infrastructure. This is useful when the user is not supported on an LDAP or third-party authentication system, for example, an employee of the organization might have an Active Directory or Windows account; however, an external user, like a customer, most likely will not. Crystal Enterprise could be configured in such a way that the internal user has single sign-on and Crystal Enterprise authenticates itself against the Windows authentication and the external user is authenticated against the Enterprise authentication.
Figure 22.1. The various forms of authentication within Crystal Enterprise.
Please see http://support.businessobjects.com/communityCS/TechnicalPapers/ce10_supported_platforms.pdf.asp for a listing of supported platforms. An alternative source of supported platforms is Platforms.txt, which can be found in the Platforms folder on the Crystal Enterprise CD.
Leverage existing skill sets. At the time of this writing, Business Objects has more than 14 million registered copies of Crystal Reports. Furthermore, the organization stated that the Crystal technology is embedded in more than 350 third-party software products. Crystal has a wide installed base and if an organization does not already have Crystal skills, they can be readily attained or existing staff members trained.
Leverage your existing Crystal investment. Crystal Enterprise allows for an easy and efficient way to consolidate all your existing Crystal Reports into one manageable infrastructure. For example, the Publishing Wizard enables users to easily point to multiple reports and publish them all in a single step.
No more HTML reports. HTML reports take a long time to create and are generally static and not easily maintained. Crystal Enterprise provides a complete DHTML viewer allowing the user to either embed the report into an application or run the report in an external window. Furthermore, the capability of Crystal Enterprise to hyperlink easily between content or to extract a single object such as a chart or cross-tab and embed just that object reduces the need to create static HTML within applications.
One toolmany data sources. Crystal Reports is well known for is its capability to connect to not only standard relational databases such as Oracle or SQL Server, but through its wide array of partners Crystal Reports can connect to ERP applications like SAP or PeopleSoft using specific drivers. As you might have discovered in the earlier chapters, Crystal Reports can also report off of a data objects, such as JavaBeans or ADO.NET.
This great range of connectivity results in organizations only requiring one tool to access their information versus possibly multiple software tools and hence many different skill sets.
Simplified content creation. Crystal Enterprise 10 incorporates a new feature called Business Views, a metadata layer that abstracts the complexity of the data source. Databases typically have complex joins between tables, technical field naming conventions, and complex security requirements. To complicate matters further, all the data might not sit in one data source and can be spread over multiple data sources. The combination of these factors makes report design challenging without detailed knowledge of the data source. This layer allows, for example, a database administrator to join, filter, and secure different data sources, providing the content creator a listing of user-friendly field names, formulas, and parameters that she can make use of in her content. For example, the administrator could join multiple disparate data sources and provide the content creators a business view. The creator does not need to concern herself with the complexities of the data source, rather with meeting the business requirement.
This division of labor speeds report development as the content creators can focus on their task of report development. Furthermore, this reduced dependency on database knowledge enables more business-oriented people to become content creators.
For more detailed information on Business Views, p. 363
Reuse of components. The capability to change a component and have this change cascade through all content makes reuse a valuable proposition. For example, the organization wishes to change how it calculates a formulasay "Days Sales Outstanding." In this example, the designer could simply make one change to the formula in the repository and have this change cascade through all reports that use this formula. If the user just had a bunch of reports on a shared drive somewhere, he would need to sort through these reports and determine which reports had this formula and then make changes to all the affected reports.
The Crystal Reports repository that was available in the version 9 product has been migrated to Crystal Enterprise 10. This repository allows sharing of commonly used content such as formulas, text, image files, and custom SQL statements. One of these objects can now be updated and any content using the object will be updated, saving a large amount of maintenance work.
Another example of reuse is the capability to have multiple reports using a single Business View as its data source. If the Business View is changed, for example, its data connection is pointed at another data source, all reports that use this data source are updated.
One of the main components missing from this reuse and update functionality is the capability to do version control. In other words, it is difficult to go back to the old version after an update has taken place.
For more detailed information on Business Views and the Repository, see Chapter 17, "Introduction to Crystal Repository," and Chapter 18, "Crystal Reports Semantic LayerBusiness Views."
Where-used components. Related to the reuse of components is the concept of where is a component used. For example, a Database Administrator wants to make a database unavailable for a period of time; however, he is uncertain what reports are using this database. Crystal Enterprise would provide him a listing of reports that would be affected should he take the database down.
Information flow. Information flow refers to the flow of information from the bottom of an organization to the top. With the increased focus on corporate accountability, it is vital that senior management know what is actually happening at lower levels. Crystal Enterprise, through its security model, allows for inheritance of permissions, enabling senior employees to see data and reports that subordinates are using. This same information can be summarized ensuring consistent information flow from the bottom of the organization to the top.
Scalability and reliability. Reliable and timely access to information is not something that should be taken lightly. Performance and downtime are difficult to predict in real world situations. Crystal Enterprise provides an infrastructure that is designed to scale and enables fault tolerance.
Crystal Enterprise takes the process required to create and deliver a report and breaks it down into various services (processors on Unix). Auditing tools enable you to determine over/under usage and you can then take the appropriate action. For example, when scheduling a job, there is a service (or process on Unix) called the Job Server that performs this task. If the jobs are taking too long to run, another Job Service can be registered with the framework. This new service could run on the same server as the initial service or another server on the network. By adding this service on the second server, a level of fault tolerance is achieved and should the initial Job Service fail the second one will take over.
There are specific guidelines for the optimal performance of the Crystal Enterprise framework and for establishing a fault-tolerant infrastructureplease contact Business Objects regarding this.
For a more detailed discussion on Crystal Enterprise Architecture, p. 506