Crystal Enterprise Installation
At Multnomah County
FileName: CEExecutiveSummary Status: Draft
Created By: Mike Garrett Last Update By: Mike Garrett
Creation Date: 4/15/02 Last Update Date: 02/02/10
1.0 PURPOSE .................................................................................................................... 1
2.0 OVERVIEW ................................................................................................................ 1
3.0 CRYSTAL ENTERPRISE – ACCESS AND DELIVERY ..................................... 1
3.0 CRYSTAL REPORTS – CONTENT CREATION ................................................. 4
4.0 CRYSTAL ANALYSIS – OLAP ANALYSIS .......................................................... 4
5.0 RAS – CONTROLLED AD-HOC REPORTING .................................................... 5
This document provides an executive level overview of the features and benefits of the
various Crystal Decisions products that have been purchased by Multnomah County,
which include Crystal Enterprise, Crystal Reports, Crystal Analysis and Report
Application Server (RAS).
Multnomah County has selected the Crystal Decisions line of business intelligence (BI)
products to fulfill its countywide reporting needs. The Crystal Decisions solution set
provides the county with a centralized reporting infrastructure that can be utilized by the
various project applications to offload report processing, viewing, printing and
distribution functions (including export functions). It also provides a single point of
access to the many different and disparate data systems currently being run by the county.
With Crystal Enterprise it is no longer necessary for a report consumer to log into the
front-end application in order to retrieve information from a particular system. The
county can now provide secure access via a standard web browser (thin-client) to reports
running against any database system that can be accessed using Crystal Reports.
The report content of the Crystal Enterprise system is created using either Crystal Reports
or Crystal Analysis Pro. Crystal Reports is the de facto world standard for high-
performance enterprise reporting against relational database systems. Crystal Analysis
Pro enables users to access and analyze Microsoft Analysis Services OLAP data sources.
The Report Application Server (RAS), also known as “Smart Reporting” allows end
users to modify existing report objects from a standard web browser.
3.0 Crystal Enterprise – Access and Delivery
As long as relational databases have been around (and before) one of the stickiest
problems for organizations has been how to provide easy access to information stored in
the various separate database systems that exist in the enterprise. It is not uncommon for
a given organization to house a dozen or more individual operational databases, each with
its own separate application interface. While this tends to facilitate data entry,
it also tends to hinder data retrieval (see figure 1)
Figure 1: Traditional “point to
point” data access.
This has historically been the “Achilles heel” of relational database systems: the very fact
that the database and user interface are optimized for data entry oftentimes hinders the
retrieval of information for decision makers. This is due not so much to the difficulty of
actually retrieving the data (although this too can sometimes be problematic) as it is to
the difficulty of delivering the information to the right person at the right time in the form
In the past, in order to get information out of a database system you essentially had one of
two choices. The most direct route would be to run a report from within the application
interface used to input data into the system. This is can be perfectly fine for an operations
level person who works with the application on a regular basis (assuming the built-in
reports meet their reporting needs adequately). However, this can be cumbersome for
mid- to upper-level decision makers who don’t normally utilize the application interface.
If a decision maker oversees several functional areas that utilize different database
systems, that person is then forced to either log into several different application
interfaces or find someone to do it for them. Can you guess which option is used most
This scenario only gets worse as you add more decision makers and increase the number
of data systems required to meet their information needs (see figure 2). In database
terminology, this is a classic “many to many” relationship. As any database person will
know, many to many relationships can add a significant strain to any information system.
They can also add a significant amount of overhead to the process of gathering
information for decision makers.
Figure 2: Data access anarchy.
The second option is to utilize a stand-alone ad-hoc report writing and/or query tool (like
Crystal Reports). This improves the situation somewhat in that the decision maker is no
longer required to log into multiple application systems to run reports but can instead
access them all from a single application interface. However, there are some significant
limitations to this solution, such as:
The need to install Crystal Reports (a development tool) on decision makers PCs
The need to set up and maintain database connections for all report viewers
How to limit access to reports and prevent their modification
The processing of the reports is still point-to-point
Reports cannot be processed during off-business hours
The distribution of the report is still very cumbersome (export then email)
Crystal Enterprise solves your organizations access and delivery problems by providing a
single point of access for decision makers via a standard web browser (see figure 3). This
not only releases the decision maker from having to log into the front end application but
it also provides a reporting environment that is secure, scalable and centrally managed.
of Access CHS Data
Figure 3: Managed data access
Crystal Enterprise can also be utilized by the application developer to provide report
processing functionality from within their application. This allows application developers
to directly access the built-in security, scheduling, as well as report processing and
viewing features of Crystal Enterprise. And because the report processing is taking place
on a central server there are no additional resource requirements on the client PC and
network traffic is greatly reduced.
3.0 Crystal Reports – Content Creation
Crystal Reports is the foundational building block of the Crystal Enterprise system.
Without Crystal Reports, there would be nothing for report consumers to access in the
Crystal Enterprise system (except for Crystal Analysis applications, which will be
discussed later). It is important to understand that Crystal Reports and Crystal
Enterprise, although closely related, are distinct and separate products. Crystal Reports
is a report development tool that is used to create reports to be accessed by and delivered
to report consumers via the Crystal Enterprise system.
While technically Crystal Reports can be considered an end user report development tool,
it is important to realize that not all end users are created alike. It is not typically a good
idea to allow just any end user that wants to create their own reports to use Crystal
Reports on their own. The more sophisticated power user who understands the structure
of the data system can oftentimes find it useful to create reports using Crystal Reports.
However, the majority of end users who require “ad-hoc” access to data systems would
be better served by utilizing the Report Application Server (RAS), also known as “Smart
4.0 Crystal Analysis – OLAP Analysis
Crystal Analysis is a powerful new technology that enables flexible reporting against
Microsoft Analysis Services OLAP data. It is used to create “analytic reporting
applications” that are a kind of hybrid between a report and an application. Oftentimes a
Crystal Analysis application is compared to a pivot-table in Microsoft Excel. As with
Crystal Reports, Crystal Analysis is used to create content that can be accessed and
delivered by Crystal Enterprise, which means that the end user can utilize a CA analytic
report using a standard web browser (no client software required).
The primary advantage of using an OLAP tool like Crystal Analysis is that it provides a
way for end users to deal with data with multiple dimensions (especially 3 or more). A
dimension is a data element that would normally be used as a grouping in a standard
report. Basically a dimension is what follows the word “by” as when someone says they
would like to see an employee report by age, by address, by hire date and so on. In this
case the three dimensions are age, address and hire date.
As the number of dimensions increases, it becomes increasingly difficult to present the
data in a standard “flat” report format, since each dimension represents an individual
grouping within the report. Once you get past two or three dimensions a standard report
presentation becomes rather cumbersome and difficult to interpret. Crystal Analysis
provides an interface that is specifically designed to deal with multiple dimensions in a
way that allows the decision maker to “play” with the various dimensions to look for data
trends and exceptions.
5.0 RAS – Controlled ad-hoc reporting
Report Application Server (RAS), or “Smart Reporting” is an optional service that can be
added to the standard suite of Crystal Enterprise services. The purpose of RAS is to
provide the end user with a way of creating their own reports without the need to install a
stand-alone developer tool like Crystal Reports. The user interface for RAS is entirely
web-based (zero client).
RAS provides a manageable way of allowing end users to “play” with the data and create
their own reports. When a user wishes to create a report, they start with a report template
that has been provided them by a report developer using Crystal Reports. The advantages
of this approach are:
The tables required for the report have been pre-defined and properly joined
Access to fields can be limited to those already within the report template
The user is unable to create a “runaway” query that can strain resources
The user has a starting off point for report development
The user interface for RAS is completely customizable by anyone familiar with Crystal
Server Pages (CSP), which is a version of Active Server Pages (ASP) created specifically
for Crystal Enterprise. The process can be tightly controlled by stepping the user through
the process of modifying a report or the user can be allowed complete control of the
report development process.
Once the use has modified an existing template the new report can then be saved to the
Crystal Enterprise system for future use. Because it is now part of the CE system the
report can then be made available to anyone that requires access to that information.