September 28, 2014

Oracle Exalytics X4-4 - Bigger, Better, Stronger

X4-4 - Same price as the X3-4 but with more power

The big announcement about it is today at OpenWorld (it would be awesome if they mentioned it during the Intel keynote tonight), but the Exalytics X4-4 is actually available now.  It's the same price as the X3-4 ($175,000 at list not including software, maintenance, tax, title, license, yada yada).  This does mean the X3 is - effective immediately - no longer available, but then again, since the new one is the same price, I'm not sure why anyone would want the older one.  No word yet on if you can upgrade an X3 to an X4, but since they did offer an upgrade kit from X2 to X3 (though I never heard of anyone buying it), I'm guessing there will be one for those wanting to make an X3 into an X4.

X4-4 Specs

The main improvement over the X3 is the number of cores: it's still 4 Intel chips, but those chips all now have 15 cores on them, meaning the X4 has 60 cores compared to the X3's 40 cores.  Here are the important details:

  • 4 Intel Xeon E7-8895v2 processors running at 2.8 - 3.6 GHz
  • 8 - 60 cores (capacity on demand, more on this in a second)
  • 2 TB of RAM
  • 2.4 TB of PCI flash
  • 7.2 TB of hard disk running at 10K RPMs (not that fast these days)
  • 2 Infiniband ports running at 40 Gb/s
  • 4 Ethernet ports running at up to 10 Gb/s

Cool Thing 1: Variable Speed & Cores


You probably heard about this last July.  Oracle worked with Intel to design a line of their Xeon E7-889x chips specifically for Oracle.  What we didn't realize until we saw it show up on the X4 spec sheet was that the chips were going in the Exalytics X4.  Simply put, on the fly, Exalytics can vary how many cores it uses and when it's fewer cores, the speed goes up.  If it's running 15 cores per chip, Intel sets the speed to 2.8 GHz.  If it's only using 2 cores per chip the speed goes all the way to 3.6 GHz (a GHz is one billion clock ticks per second).


June 15, 2014

Oracle Tours Africa and the Middle East

Happy Father's Day, everyone!  I got up early this morning to write about my recent experience traveling the world on Oracle's behalf.  I got to attend the first annual Oracle Technology Network tour of Africa and the Middle East.  It made 2 stops in North Africa (both in Tunisia), 2 stops in Saudi Arabia, and the final stop was in Dubai, UAE.

Tariq Farooq first mentioned the idea of doing a MENA (Middle East & North Africa) tour to me in Beijing last fall.  He asked if I'd be willing to travel half-way around the world to speak to people in English that primarily spoke French and Arabic, and I - of course - said "yes."  Here's Tariq being interviewed by Lillian Buziak at Collaborate 2014 (audio is a bit difficult to hear):


I had two reasons for wanting to go: I do love educating/evangelizing for Oracle EPM, BI, and Business Analytics.  The possibility of reaching new audiences for the first time was exciting. My other reason for going was that I wanted to experience totally different cultures than I ever have before.  I've spoken on 5 continents (now 6 after this tour and I'm anxiously awaiting the OTN Tour to Antarctica) before and have seen presented everywhere from a women's college in Mumbai that was 95F with no air conditioning in the presentation room to a ballroom in the Philippines that had 3 simultaneous English sessions going on (in one room!) all happily observed by smiling Filipinos.  From China to India to Australia to Germany, I have seen some amazing slices of life, but nothing prepared me for the differences I saw on this tour.

In each of the sections below, I have linked the header to a blog from my new best German friend, Bjoern Rost.  He blogged after every stop and unlike me, he actually understood all the Oracle RDBMS sessions on the tour.  Visit http://portrix-systems.de/blog/author/brost/ to see his entertaining blog posts.  (Warning: though I think Bjoern is hilarious, being German, you may find his posts to be 'not funny.'  German humor is an acquired taste.)

I left for the first stop, Tunisia, on Memorial Day (in the USA), May 26, 2014...


December 16, 2013

My Friend, Mike Riley, Has Cancer

I found out this summer that one of my best friends - one of the entire Hyperion community's best friends - has cancer. This is his story.

But first, a mea culpa:

In 2008, I Was An Idiot

Back in early 2008, I wrote a blog entry comparing Collaborate, Kaleidoscope, and OpenWorld.  In this entry, I said that Collaborate was the obvious successor to the Hyperion Solutions conference and I wasn't terribly nice to Kaleidoscope.  Here's me answering which of the three conferences I think the Hyperion community should attend (I dare you to hold in the laughter):
Now which one would I attend if I could only go to one?
Collaborate. Without reservation. If I'm going to a conference, it's primarily to learn. As such, content is key.
I actually got asked a very similar question on Network 54's Essbase discussion board just yesterday (apparently, it's a popular question these days). To parrot what I said there, OpenWorld was very, very marketing-oriented. 80% of the fewer than 100 presentations in the Hyperion track were delivered by Oracle (in some cases, with clients/partners as co-speakers). COLLABORATE is supposed to have 100-150 presentations with 100+ of those delivered by clients and partners.
In the interest of full-disclosure, my company, interRel, is paying to be a 4-star partner of COLLABORATE. Why? Because we're hoping that COLLABORATE becomes the successor to the Solutions conference. Solutions was a great opportunity to learn (partying was always secondary) and I refuse to believe it's dead with nothing to take it's mantle. We're investing a great deal of money with the assumption that something has to take the place of Hyperion Solutions conference, and it certainly isn't OpenWorld.
Is OpenWorld completely bad? Absolutely not. In addition to the great bribes, it's a much larger conference than COLLABORATE or ODTUG's Kaleidoscope, so if your thing is networking, by all means, go to OpenWorld. OpenWorld is the best place to get the official Oracle party line on upcoming releases and what not. OpenWorld is also the place to hear better keynotes (well, at least by More Famous People like Larry Ellison, himself). OpenWorld has better parties too. OpenWorld is also in San Francisco which is just a generally cooler town. In short, OpenWorld was very well organized, but since it's being put on by Oracle, it's about them getting out their message to their existing and prospective client base.
So why aren't I recommending Kaleidoscope (since I haven't been to that either)? Size, mostly. Their entire conference will have around 100 presentations, so their Hyperion track will most likely be fewer than 10 presentations. I've been to regional Hyperion User Group meetings that have more than that (well, the one interRel hosted in August of 2007 had 9, but close enough). While Kaleidoscope may one day grow their Hyperion track, it's going to be a long time until they equal the 100-150 presentations that COLLABORATE is supposed to have on Hyperion alone.
If you're only going to one Hyperion-oriented conference this year, register for COLLABORATE. If you've got money in the budget for two conferences, also go to OpenWorld. If you're a developer that finds both COLLABORATE and OpenWorld to be too much high-level fluff, then go to Kaleidoscope.



So, ya, that entry may live in infamy.  [Editor's Note: Find out a way to delete prior blog posts without anyone noticing.]  Notice that of the three conferences, I recommended Kaleidoscope last and dared to say that it would take them a long time until they had 100-150 sessions like Collaborate.  Interestingly, Collaborate peaked that year at 84 Hyperion sessions, and Kaleidoscope is well over 150 Business Analytics sessions, but I'm getting ahead of myself.


In 2008, Mike Riley Luckily Wasn't An Idiot


I had never met Mike Riley, but he commented directly on my blog.  He was gracious even though I was slamming his tiny little conference in New Orleans:
Hyperion users are blessed with many training opportunities. I agree with Edward, the primary reason for going to a conference is to learn, but I disagree that Collaborate is the best place to do that. ODTUG Kaleidoscope, Collaborate, and OpenWorld all have unique offerings. 

It’s true that ODTUG is a smaller conference, however that is by choice. At every ODTUG conference, the majority of the content is by a user, not by Oracle or even another vendor. And even though Collaborate might seem like the better buy because of its scale, for developers and true technologists ODTUG offers a much more targeted and efficient conference experience. Relevant tracks in your experience level are typically consecutive, rather than side-by-side so you don’t miss sessions you want to attend. The networking is also one of the most valuable pieces. The people that come to ODTUG are the doers, so everyone you meet will be a valuable contact in the future.

It’s true, COLLABORATE will have many presentations with a number of those delivered by clients and partners, but what difference does that make? You can’t attend all of them. ODTUG’s Kaleidoscope will have 17 Hyperion sessions that are all technical. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I have been a member of ODTUG for eight years and this is my second year as a board member. What attracted me to ODTUG from the start was the quality of the content delivered, and the networking opportunities. This remains true today.

I won’t censor or disparage any of the other conferences. We are lucky to have so many choices available to us. My personal choice and my highest recommendation goes to Kaleidoscope for all the reasons I mentioned above (and I have attended all three of the above mentioned conferences).

One last thing; New Orleans holds its own against San Francisco or Denver. All of the cities are wonderful, but when it comes to food, fun, and great entertainment there’s nothing like the Big Easy. 
Mike was only in his second year as a board member of ODTUG, but he was willing to put himself out there, so I wrote him an e-mail back.  In that e-mail, dated February 10, 2008, I said that for Kaleidoscope to become a conference that Hyperion users would love, it would require a few key components: keynote(s) by headliner(s), panels of experts, high-quality presentations, a narrow focus that wasn't all things to all people, and a critical mass of attendees.

At the end of the e-mail, I said "If Kaleidoscope becomes that, I'll shout it from the rooftops.  I want to help Kaleidoscope be successful, and I'm willing to invest the time and effort to help out.  Regarding your question below, I would be more than happy to work with Mark [Rittman] and Kent [Graziano] to come up with a workable concept and I think I'm safe in saying that Tim [Tow] would be happy to contribute as well.  For that matter, if you're looking for two people to head up your Hyperion track (and enact some of the suggestions above), Tim and I would be willing (again, I'm speaking on Tim's behalf, but he's one of the most helpful people on planet Hyperion)."


K(aleido)scope


Kaleidoscope 2008 ended up being the best Hyperion conference I ever attended (at the time).  It was a mix of Hyperion Solutions, Arbor Dimensions, and Hyperion Top Gun.  With only 4 months prep time, we had 175 attendees in what then was only an Essbase track.  Though it was only one conference room there in New Orleans, the attendees sat in their seats for most of a week and learned more than many of us had learned in years.

After the conference, Mike and the ODTUG board offered Tim Tow a spot on the ODTUG board (a spot to which he was later elected by the community) to represent the interests of Hyperion.  I founded the ODTUG Hyperion SIG along with several attendees from that Kaleidoscope 2008. I eventually became Hyperion Content Chair for Kaleidoscope and passed my Hyperion SIG presidency on to the awesome Gary Crisci.  In 2010, Mike talked me into being Conference Chair for Kaleidoscope (which I promptly renamed Kscope since I never could handle how "kaleidoscope" violated the whole "i before e" rule).  Or maybe I talked him into it.  Either way, I was Conference Chair for Kscope11 and Kscope12.

During those years, Mike worked closely with the Kscope conference committee in his role as President of ODTUG.  Mike rather good-naturedly ("good-natured" is, I expect, the most commonly used phrase to describe Mike) put up with whatever crazy thing I wanted him to do. In 2011, he was featured during the general session in several reality show parodies (including his final, climactic race with John King to see who got to pick the location for Kscope12).  I decided to up the ante in 2012 by making the entire general session about him in a "Mike Riley, This Is Your Life" hour and we found ourselves laughing not at Mike, but near him.  It included Mike having to dance with the Village Persons (a Village People tribute band) and concluded with Mike stepping down as President of ODTUG...

... to focus his ODTUG time on being the new Conference Chair for Kscope.  Kscope13 returned to New Orleans and Mike did a fabulous job with what I consider to be Hyperion's 5 year anniversary with Kscope.  Mike was preparing Kscope14 when I got a phone call from him.  I expected him to talk over Kscope, ODTUG, or just to say hi, but I'll never forget when Mike told me he had stage 3 rectal cancer.  My father died in 2002 of colorectal cancer, and the thought that one of my best friends was going to face this was terrifying... and I wasn't the one with cancer.

I feel that the Hyperion community was saved by Mike (what would have happened if we had all just given up after Collaborate 2008 was a major letdown?) and now it's time for us to do our part.  Whether you've attended Kscope in the past or just been envious of those of us who have, you know that it's the one place per year that you can meet and learn from some of the greatest minds in the industry.


Mike Helped Us, Let's Help Him


Kscope is now the best conference for Oracle Business Analytics (EPM and BI) in the world, and Mike, I'm shouting it from every rooftop I can find (although I wish when I climbed up there people would stop yelling "Jump!  You have nothing else to live for!").  I tell everyone I know how much I love Kscope, and on behalf of all the help you've given the Hyperion community over the last 5 years, Mike, it's now time for us to help you.

After many weeks of chemo, Mike goes into surgery tomorrow to hopefully have the tumor removed.  Then he has many more weeks of chemo after that. He's a fighter, but getting rid of cancer is expensive, so we've set up a Go Fund Me campaign to help offset his medical bills.  If you love Kscope, there is no one on Earth more responsible for its current state than Mike Riley.  If you love ODTUG, no one has more fundamentally changed the organization in the last millennium than Mike Riley.  If you love Hyperion, no one has done more to save the community than Mike Riley.  

And if after reading this entry, you love Mike for all he's done, go to http://bit.ly/HelpMike and donate generously, because we want Mike to be there at the opening of Kscope14 in Seattle on June 22.  Please share this entry, and even if you can't donate, send Mike an e-mail at mriley@odtug.com letting him know you appreciate everything he's done.

October 30, 2013

Competitors, Welcome to Our Webcasts

I was happy to be a part of Oracle's EPM Showcase yesterday in New York City.  It was a half-day event (plus a happy hour) that had Oracle giving a keynote followed by two 90-minute breakout session timeslots (with two sessions happening concurrently).  I was speaking during the first timeslot on Hyperion DRM (Data Relationship Management) along with Nikki from Verizon and Erin Lineberry from interRel.  In my talk, I described how companies need a single system of record for hierarchies and explained how DRM was a really good fit particularly with the new data governance module in 11.1.2.3.
There were partners in my session, and I had no problem at all with it.  After all, this was a conference open to anyone and I am a firm believer that when people learn more, the whole community benefits.  This is what motivates me to write all of my books, cause believe me, it's not for the money (Google "Starving Authors" before you ever think to make money writing).  I also speak at way too many events around the world each year from tiny user groups to massive conferences like Kscope, Collaborate, and OpenWorld with no concerns that my sessions are primarily filled with Oracle partners looking to improve.

After my session was over, there was one more timeslot for the day and since I didn't want to sit in the hall for 90 minutes, I went to Huron Consulting Group's (they're the company that bought Blue Stone) session on the future of Planning.  It sounded more interesting than Hackett's session which was my other possibility and I saw that one of the speakers was Mike Nader who is a great presenter.  If nothing else, I would get to hear Mike's engaging take on the world since he joined Blue Stone.  I sat in the room in the back row (there were plenty of extra seats, but I wanted to leave the good seats for potential customers).

Right as the session was about to start, Rick Schmitt from Huron (Blue Stone) came over to me and asked me to leave.  I was curious why since I was an official attendee at the event and he said that they were going to be talking over "some proprietary stuff."  I assumed he meant his slides at the beginning on the Blue Stone acquisition or "why Blue Stone is the best at XYZ," so I offered to leave for the first few slides.  I don't need nor want competitive info and I certainly didn't want to make him nervous during his sales pitch.  He said that no, they were going to share lots of proprietary info throughout the session and he didn't want competitors in the room during their session at all.

Rather embarrassed but more bemused, I smiled, gathered my things, and walked out of the room.  I sat in the hall for a while wondering what cool things I was missing and feeling jealous of the 50 clients that got to hear from Blue Stone.  (There's nothing like being excluded from something to make you want it more.)  As I sat there, I pondered my own stance on information sharing.  Personally, I believe that if the community as a whole gets better - if the community learns more - the quality of Hyperion implementations will rise.  Satisfaction with Oracle EPM will rise, and as the reputation of Hyperion gets better, the Hyperion market will grow which benefits the entire community: customers, Oracle, and partners.

And it made me ask what I could be doing better.

So starting effective immediately, all of the public webcasts interRel does (and we did over 100 webcasts last year) will be open to everyone.  That's right: competitors, please come join our webcasts and we'll share all the information that we spend months putting together with you.  You've always had access to our books, our sessions at user groups, our presentations at conferences, and now you have access to our webcasts too.  I hope that this starts a trend: I strongly encourage our competition to open up their sessions and webcasts to anyone who wants to attend.  Don't be afraid: if you're good at what you do, you shouldn't be afraid to help the competition get better too.  Information is meant to be free and to point out the obvious, if the Hyperion market gets bigger from happier clients telling everyone they know to buy Hyperion, your potential customer base gets bigger too.

Our next webcast is Thursday, October 31.  It's on how Smart View is finally an awesome replacement for the Essbase Excel Add-In and I hope to see a ton of our competition on the webcast.  Visit http://bit.ly/iRWebcasts to register.

July 16, 2013

Exalytics - Version X3-4 is Here

I've mentioned before that the Exalytics X3-4 was nearly available (the first clue was when it hit the engineered system price list back on June 4).  It was talked about at-length during the Kscope13 Sunday Developer's Symposium and... it's finally here.


Hardware Upgrades


  • RAM.  Doubling from 1 terabyte to 2 terabytes.  This will help everything on the box but those of us running Essbase now have even more RAM to use for making RAM drives.
  • Flash.  Exalytics now comes standard with 2.4 TB of flash.  I mentioned this earlier as an upgrade option to the Exalytics X2-4, but it now is native to the X3-4.  As mentioned in my earlier article, flash impacts Essbase performance far more than OBIEE (which isn't as disk I/O intensive).  Having .25 millisecond read latency (what these flash drives are rated) means there's virtually no seek time finding values in an Essbase cube on disk.  I'm expecting most Essbase customers will put their physical cubes on the flash drives and then quickly load them into a RAM drive upon start up (which has better performance than reading into the Essbase caches for each database).
  • Hard Drive.  They are upping the traditional hard drives from 3.6 TB to 5.4 TB.  It still has 6 physical drives in it, but they are going from 600GB drives to 900GB drives. [Updated on 8-25-2013.]
The cores (still 40) stay the same... for now.  At some point, someone is going to start hitting these limits and they're probably up the cores and I wouldn't be surprised if they went 100% flash drives in a future release.

Software

X3-4 supports OBIEE 11.1.1.7, Endeca 3.0, Essbase 11.1.2.3, and any Linux-allowed Hyperion EPM product on 11.1.2.3.  They also strongly imply that there are some Essbase optimizations in 11.1.2.3 that only work on Exalytics, but I haven't found them yet to verify.  Regardless, Exalytics X3-4 is the best engineered system you can currently buy for Essbase, bar none.

Pricing: $175,000

The X2-4 was $135,000 for the hardware (software sold separately), but to add-on flash, you paid an additional $35,000 giving us a real price for X2-4 of $170,000.  The new box is $175,000... and for that additional $5,000, they double the RAM and increase the hard drives 50%.  In other words, you're getting a hell of a deal.  For what is literally $40,000 more in total, you're getting 1 TB more of RAM, 2.4 TB of really good flash, and 1.8 TB of additional hard drive.

What if I Already Bought an X2-4?

First of all, congratulations.  You're really smart, despite what your high school guidance counselor said.  To upgrade your X2-4 to an X3-4, you can buy an upgrade kit!  The upgrade kit (to get flash and the 1 TB of RAM) does cost $105,000 though.  So your X2-4 with an upgrade to an X3-4 will end up costing you $240,000 in total.  Oracle will support your X2-4 under their lifetime support policy even though it is being phased out.  

Availability

You can order an X3-4 now.  I haven't seen one actually ship yet, but it was just officially launched yesterday.  While I think you can still buy the X2-4 until the end of this quarter (August 31, 2013), I'm not at all sure why you would.  Find the extra $40K and get not only blazingly fast flash drives but more RAM than you know what to do with.