Universes are patented Business Objects technology. They act as a semantic layer between the user and a database. A universe is a file that contains the following:
SQL structures called objects that map to actual SQL structures in the database, such as columns, tables, and database functions. Objects are grouped into classes. Objects and classes are both visible to Web Intelligence users.
A schema of the tables and joins used in the database. Objects are built from the database structures that you include in your schema. The schema is only available to Designer users. It is not visible to Web Intelligence and Desktop Intelligence users.
Web Intelligence users connect to a universe, and run queries against a database. They can perform data analysis and create reports by using the objects in a universe, without seeing, or needing to know anything about, the underlying table schemas in the database.
A universe provides an interface for Web Intelligence users to run queries against a database so as to create reports and perform data analysis.