When it comes to Analytics Visualizations, which one is the better tool? Applications built using SAPUI5/Fiori or SAP Lumira Designer? Let’s discuss.
At Visual BI Solutions, we talk to a lot of customers for their front-end needs and luckily, we have the in-house expertise to service their needs regardless of the tool in question. Parts of those talks also involve helping customers choose the right tools for their needs in the first place. The means to that end varies with the type of end-product that needs to be deployed to the end users.
Along those lines, choosing the right approach for Analytics Applications is a decision that a lot of customers are perplexed by.
Before we begin this discussion, it is worth noting that UI5 is a framework given by SAP and Fiori refers to applications built on the UI5 framework. In this blog, we have used these terms interchangeably because they refer to the same, Fiori applications being the end product and UI5 being the means to that end. This brings us back to the question – which is better, Lumira Designer or Fiori/UI5?
Unfortunately, there is no straight answer to that question. However, depending on what your needs are, you should be able to find the right answer in this blog – we have things in a nutshell on the image below, but in-depth explanations for your perusal right below. Read on!
Development – Effort and Timeline
This is a huge factor for choosing the right tool – the amount of time that customers are willing to allocate for development can make or break this decision.
On the other hand, designing SAP Lumira Designer applications is far simpler thanks to a WYSIWYG interface to design applications. A lot of basics like using data sources, binding and abstracted scripting functionality for applications is built-in and can be configured using the property sheets of components. Functionality outside what is available out of the box is also easy to script. There are a couple of themes available to change the look-and-feel, and CSS can be used to make additional changes on the application as well.
One of the areas where there could be a bit of dilemma is the performance factors for the end-product built on these tools.
In case of SAPUI5, most customers have observed quicker startup times for the applications that they build – this is especially so on mobile devices, and as a result, there is a faster perceived performance. However, one point to note is that most SAPUI5 applications are built to use just charts, tables and simpler components like KPI tiles. There isn’t too much complexity in the applications, and as a result, they are lightweight. However, when the complexity of these applications increases, one generally finds that the performance of the applications is either on par or comparatively poor.
SAP Lumira Designer applications generally have a slightly longer startup time when compared to an SAPUI5 application, and this is typically due to the number of libraries that need to be loaded. However, one thing to understand here is that there are several different best practices, such as Query Parallelization, Background Processing and On-Demand Data Source Loading, that can be applied to optimize the performance of an application. Also, the complexity in the applications that are built is generally higher, requiring more data sources and components to achieve. We have seen that with a little bit of elbow grease, Lumira Designer applications can be made to run faster and become a capable and comparable alternative to UI5/Fiori Analytic applications.
Data Sources – Support and Write-back
SAPUI5 applications support all data sources which have been exposed as OData. While this provides the flexibility to use different types of Data Sources for the applications, this also introduces the complication of possibly using middleware to convert or expose the data as OData. Moreover, it is important to realize that the data needs to have a simple structure – fewer dimensions in the rows, simple table formats are preferred.
On the other hand, SAP Lumira Designer applications will only support BW, HANA or Universe Data Sources out of the box. To leverage other types of data sources, there is still a workaround – one can use Lumira Discovery to acquire data sources and then use interoperability to bring it to Lumira Designer. Alternatively, aftermarket extensions for Lumira Designer will also allow users to use various types of Data Sources such as Excel or Google Spreadsheets, Web Services or even OData.
If writing data back to the source system is an important concern, then there’s good news – both SAPUI5/Fiori Apps and SAP Lumira Designer applications can both write data back to data sources. If the data source in question is BW, then SAP Lumira Designer can directly leverage Planning Objects (Sequences and Functions) and input-ready queries to write data back to planning cubes. In case of HANA, or even with BW if required, SAP Lumira Designer can write data back using a combination extensions and web services.
SAPUI5/Fiori Apps can write data back to SAP HANA directly using OData Services, XSJS or using HANA Procedures. As far as BW is concerned, once again, web services can be used to write data back.
Collaboration and other Features for end-users
SAPUI5/Fiori Applications do not have scheduling capabilities – there isn’t an easy way where users could schedule reports to be delivered to their emails or BI inboxes when required. A Commentary based feature can still be implemented on these applications, but they entail excessive scripting and will need to leverage HANA tables or BW Functional Modules to deliver this functionality.
SAP Lumira Designer leverages options on the BusinessObjects BI platform to schedule documents. Therefore, you will find several options to schedule documents – including the ability to use events or custom time periods to schedule documents. Similarly, it also leverages the commentary application on the BI Platform to provide options for end-users to comment on applications.
Bookmarking and Personalization
There is no robust bookmarking functionality for SAPUI5/Fiori based applications – tracking navigation steps within an application cannot be done inherently and bookmarks are more of ‘shortcuts’ or entry points to Fiori-based applications.
To the contrary, SAP Lumira Designer applications have very robust bookmarking capabilities – it’s easy to implement the functionality on an application to track navigation steps by a user and retrieve earlier states of navigation. Personalization also comes as a built-in function and allows users to save personalized states of the same application.
Components and Options
SAP Lumira Designer has a limited number of components available out-of-the-box, which can be quickly dragged-and-dropped on to a canvas and configured using their properties. Modifying the look-and-feel of these components will still require CSS. There are a wide range of aftermarket extensions available to augment or add additional functionality to applications.
Due to the usage of CSS and SAPUI5 controls, a responsive UI is inherent in SAPUI5/Fiori based applications. These applications need to be developed, configured and maintained only once for all devices.
Responsive UI in SAP Lumira Designer, however, is not inherent – this needs to be configured using an Adaptive Layout Container and CSS concepts such as viewport-based sizing or Media Queries. If built optimally, these applications also need to be only developed once for multiple devices.
With a bit of an effort, it is possible to create offline-based applications in SAPUI5. This of course would entail the usage of a web page cache for offline usage, and the implementation of offline local data storage using indexed databases.
SAP Lumira Designer applications can also be taken offline but will require the data to be acquired using SAP Lumira Discovery first.
SAPUI5/Fiori based applications typically run on SAP’s Gateway and can be deployed in a local or federated model. However, this would mean that these applications can be deployed directly on a HANA Platform or an ABAP-based platform depending upon data sources used and other requirements. When doing so, security for these applications need to be set up either using Analytic Privileges or using Catalog Objects in case of BW which means that existing BW or HANA security must be very carefully done or redone to accommodate these needs.
SAP Lumira Designer applications are deployable only on the BusinessObjects BI Platform. But this can also stand as an advantage because the applications will inherit security policies defined directly on the BI Platform. Moreover, if required, object-level security can be set up for individual applications. Thanks to version management, recovery in case of failure also becomes far easier.
As mentioned before, the right choice of tool becomes much clearer once a customer has decided what their primary requirements are. But a point to note here is that most of the capabilities offered by SAPUI5 based custom applications are also offered by SAP Lumira Designer. Moreover, there are additional options possible, thanks to the BusinessObjects platform integration for SAP Lumira Designer applications. While we feel that SAPUI5 based applications are good for simple applications that require a lot of customized functions, we think that SAP Lumira Designer applications are just as good or maybe even better when it comes to building complex analytic applications. Watch out for more on this space.