July 30, 2007

License Server is Dead: Who's Next on the Oracle Chopping Block?

For the longest time, Hyperion was a trusting company. If you bought a copy of Essbase (my examples always use Essbase, because I think it's neato), you were e-mailed a license key. This license key controlled how many users you had and to what Essbase modules you had access. For instance, you might only have access to the Essbase Spreadsheet Toolkit, so if you tried to access Essbase SQL Interface, the Essbase server would politely balk, tell you that you didn't have the rights to use that function, mock your sock collection, and nicely error out. What the license key did not do was limit on how many servers you could install the license key. The license key also never expired, so someone with an Essbase 3.2 license key could download Essbase 7.0 and activate it with the same license key.

Wait, you ask, how did Hyperion ever stay in business with such as weak licensing scheme? Simple: they trusted their clients to honor the contractual agreements they made when they bought the software.

Trust only got the Hyperion executives so far: when Essbase 7.1.2 came out, they decided to play hardball and institute an embedded technology from Macrovision called FlexNet. The goal of the innocuously named "Hyperion License Server" was to switch from a contractual licensing scheme to something more… what's a good synonym for draconian… technology-based. Gone were the days of a simple license key: Hyperion began to send out license files. These license files were the devil's work.

To begin with, license files could only be used on a single server and this server's name was embedded (with an encrypted check sum!) in the license file. If a server was renamed or a server crashed only to be replaced (for a week or so) by a differently named server, Essbase would stop working after 72 hours (and it would scream a lot in the meantime).

The truly egregious thing about the license file is that it had to be generated by a human (at Hyperion) based on information supplied by a human (at a customer site). This process often took up to 3 days (longer at quarter- and year- end) and rarely did the license file work on the first try. In defense of the licensing department, they did get quicker at regenerating these files as time went on, but they were still a bottleneck.

When System 9 came out, things got even worse. Pre-System 9, only Essbase utilized the License Server so the Hyperion Planning and Financial Management users (among others) of the world were spared the License File Water Torture. With System 9, most every product became a slave to the all-controlling entity of the License Server. We've done a lot of System 9 installations since 2005 when it came out, and we've always told people that the greatest uncontrollable factor affecting how long the installation would take is if Hyperion got the license file correct the first time.

When Hyperion ceased to exist at the end of June, Oracle took the greatest step forward in the history of software company and customer company relations: they killed off (functionally, at least) the License Server. Behold, the secret to unlocking all that you desire:


The master license files/keys on this site are astounding in what they allow a company to do:

  • They give you access to every single product Hyperion makes and every single option in every one of those products. Oracle obviously doesn't care about nickel and diming a client for some minor bit of added functionality.
  • They can be installed on as many servers as you'd like. If your server fails or is renamed, no more begging Hyperion for a new license file.
  • They never expire.
  • They are good for an unlimited number of users.

Before you get inspired to immediately install every product and roll them out across your entire organization, read the fine print at the top of this panacea:

"These master license keys / files unlock all features of the particular product; however, your specific product use is governed by the terms of your license agreement with Oracle."

In other words, these files are here to make your life easier, but don't use any product you're not licensed to. If you only own Planning, don't download and install Essbase. If you only own 100 users of Essbase, don't roll out Essbase to 1,700 users in 180 countries. Be honorable and Oracle will treat you honorably.

While it's obvious that you can't use applications/modules in production environments if you don't own the licenses, there's a gray area around development. If you're merely trying out functionality in a development environment to see if you want to buy it, does this violate the licensing agreement with Oracle? Some other blogs have speculated that if you use it for 30 days or less, you're okay. Definitely don't try to use it in production, and you should probably be fine. I doubt Oracle's army of contract enforcers is going to hit you up for a single user developer's copy of Visual Explorer. It's up to you, though, to make sure that production doesn’t exceed your licensing agreement or you risk an Oracle Army artillery strike on your IT budget.

Note: the License Server still needs to be installed at the moment, but the master files in the link above make it so that it won't annoy you. I'm sure that Oracle will do the right thing and remove the License Server entirely in the next release of Hyperion (hopefully in 9.3.1).

July 26, 2007

Downloading Hyperion Just Got Easier

For the last several years, Hyperion has used SubscribeNet to host the downloads of it's software. For the moment, it's still there:
The problems with this site were too numerous to list, but let me try:
  • You had to have a super-secret ID and password to get into the Download Center. What products you could download were determined by what someone at Hyperion Towers granted you the rights to see. If you bought Strategic Finance but the Tower People didn't want you to download it, you couldn't see it until you screamed really loudly at the right people. Half the time, the screaming just made the Tower Protectors drop boiling oil on your head.
  • Products often appeared under different names depending on what marketing called them when they were released.. At one time, I had access to products called Hyperion Essbase, Essbase Standard Edition, Essbase Classic, Essbase XTD, and System 9 BI+ Analytic Services each one of which contained a version (or several) of Essbase... and those are just the sections I remember.
  • You had to go through several unnecessary screens to get to the actual links to download product. No one ever thought to ask you all the questions (products, operating systems, and so forth) all at once, so some screens only existed to ask a single question.
  • If you wanted to install System 9, you had to go to several different products to download the installation guides (and the installation files themselves). There was no one "master" place to download all the guides at once, so you never quite knew where to begin. This made installing System 9 something that should only be undertaken either by highly priced (but deservedly so) consultants or people with a lot of time on their hands to try to figure out the correct installation order.
On July 1, Oracle did something deliciously unexpected and killed off the Download Center. The old Download Center is still there (though older versions of many products have been pulled due to Oracle's "quality control" processes). The new and much improved location for downloading is Oracle's eDelivery site. Once you get through the "Export Validation" silliness, click on the “Hyperion Performance Management and BI” product pack to get to all the Hyperion products.

Why do I love the new site? Let me count the ways:
  • Simplicity of login. No longer are the products you can download tied to your ID. Feel free to visit the link above and start downloading Hyperion products to your heart's content. You don't need to request access from any people in any towers. The only people who should theoretically have trouble are those in evil countries not allowed to download from Oracle (I'm guessing here, but presumably Iran and North Korea are on the "no download" list).
  • Simplicity of interface. There are three basic steps for downloading all products (Export Validation, Search, and Download). Every product is also now contained under a "Media Pack" that has all relevant installation files for every product grouping. There are currently 5 Media Packs (though the one most of us want is the top one) for Windows 32-bit (my example):
  1. Hyperion Performance Management and BI (9.3.x)
  2. Hyperion Performance Management and BI (9.2.x)
  3. Hyperion Enterprise Release (6.4.1)
  4. Hyperion Business Modeling (4.0.5)
  5. Hyperion Application Link (9.x)
  • All installation documentation in one place. Once you get into, say "Hyperion Performance Management and BI (9.3.x)", the very first option is "Hyperion System 9 (9.3) Start Here: License File and Installation Documents". If you download this 83 Mb file, you'll see that it contains ZIPped copies of every single installation guide for every single System 9 product. Nirvana! No more highly priced (but deservedly so) consultants showing us where the install guides are hidden!
  • All product documentation in one place. From the HPM & BI media pack, click on "Hyperion System 9 (9.3) Product Documentation" and you'll download all of the documentation for all System 9 products wrapped up nicely in a 150 Mb box.
Well, there you have it. Stop what you're doing and go download your a copy of Oracle Hyperion System 9.3. You can't use it legally, of course, but there's something inherently fun about being able to tell all your friends that you have your very own 8.7 Gb copy of Hyperion. One day, you can brag that you can afford a license so you can actually install it.

Dare to dream, boy. Dare to dream.

July 23, 2007

System 9: Order to Start Services

System 9 was built on a Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) which seems to mean that 14+ Windows services have to be started just to open your first Hyperion application. While I understand the benefits of SOA, the whole thing strikes me as a house of cards. While card houses can be quite stable, the key is to know which cards to place first. Until recently, the only way to determine the order to start the 14+ services of Hyperion System 9 was through experience.

Oracle finally decided to publish a document that shows the order of the services. It's called:


It can be found on the eDelivery site under the installation documentation for System 9.3. This document also has some interesting configuration worksheets that won't exactly make System 9 easy to install, but they will definitely make it easier than it was before.

One of the traditional problems with Hyperion is that it's complicated to install, configure, and get running. Once you get it running, it's a beautiful thing to behold, but a whole lot of companies throw up their hands in frustration before they ever get there. I sincerely hope that Oracle is going to correct and simplify the installation/configuration process and that the creation of this new Start Here guide is the first step of many in the right direction.

July 19, 2007

Hyperion Solutions Conference is Dead: Long Live, OpenWorld!

Hyperion held two major user conferences in 2007.  The larger conference in Orlando in April attracted over 4,000 people.  A much smaller conference was held in May in Lyons, France that was oriented towards the EURMEA audience.  I had the pleasure of attending and presenting both.  While I had a great time in Lyons, I had a better time in Orlando.  interRel put on 15 or 16 presentations on Hyperion-related topics and I personally delivered 6 or 7 of them.  I also got to play the lead role in "Eddie and the Consultants: A System 9 Musical" and my Essbase book was officially released at the conference as well.  All in all, it was the most enjoyable conference I've ever attended. 

There was an odd vibe around the Orlando conference that got even odder in Lyons, and that was the general feeling that Oracle's takeover of Hyperion was going to somehow change everything.  We didn't know exactly what would differ, but we knew that Solutions 2008 would not be the same.  Maybe the food would improve, maybe Oracle wouldn't have a sense of humor that allowed a musical about Hyperion, or maybe the conference would change from being information-centric to marketing-centric.  Little did we know that Solutions 2007 would be the last Hyperion conference.

Solutions is now just an Application Track at Oracle's annual self-stravaganza, Oracle OpenWorld.  The 2007 incarnation of OpenWorld will be held in San Francisco (like every year, I'm told) from November 11-15.

At Solutions 2007 in Orlando, there were over 250 presentations.  Now Hyperion gets a track with 3 subtracks within it:

·         CRM on Demand

·         Essbase and Business Intelligence Tools

·         Financial Performance Management

First of all, I fail to see how 250 presentations can be crammed into 3 subtracks unless there are a whole lot of subsubtracks.  It's obvious that the number of Hyperion-centric presentations will drop dramatically.  Partners were told that they would be allowed at most 2 Hyperion presentations at OpenWorld 2007: compare this to the 15+ that we did at Solutions 2007 either by ourselves or with clients, and it's apparent that OpenWorld is going to slash the number of Hyperion presentations.  I suppose that it's possible for Oracle to still deliver 250+ presentations, but they'll either have to do hundreds themselves (and who wants to listen to a software company talk about themselves for hundreds of hours?) or open up to more partner and customer involvement.  Although I've been going to Solutions/Dimensions since 1996, I suspect that Oracle OpenWorld is mostly going to be a marketing event, so I'm sad to say that I may actually stay home in November.

There is also something interesting about the list of Hyperion subtracks above.  Why is "CRM on Demand" listed under Hyperion applications?  This may be significant (is Hyperion going to be the analytic face of Oracle CRM on Demand?) or it's also possible that someone just goofed, I suppose.  When you visit the Application Track page, you'll notice that Hyperion appears more than in just the Hyperion track: it also appears under the "Business Intelligence and Analytical Applications" subtrack under All Applications with the following description:

"With the acquisition of Hyperion, Oracle offers the industry's most complete business intelligence product line for our customers. In this track, you'll learn how Hyperion's enteprise [yes, they spelled Enterprise wrong] performance management software, coupled with Oracle's business intelligence tools and analytic applications, form an end-to-end performance management system that includes planning, budgeting, consolidation, pre-built operational analytics, and compliance reporting. Find out what's new and how to get better results with business intelligence and analytic applications from Oracle."

Based on this, it seems that there will be some spillover of Hyperion presentations into the Oracle BI subtrack.  This also leads me to think that Oracle's serious about rapid integration of Essbase with the current Oracle BI suite, but this may just be wishful thinking on both my part and Oracle's.  Hyperion appears under other tracks as well such as in BI under the Technology track.

If you interested in registering for the Hyperion track, they're giving away some additional gifts to the first batch of people who sign up.  If you attended Solutions 2006 or 2007 (or the conferences of a few other companies Oracle has bought recently) and you're one of the first 3,000 people to sign up, you get an alumni jacket for free, it seems.  You also have the opportunity to buy some add-ons if you're one of the lucky 500-1000 first people to sign up.  The add-ons you can buy (no, they're not free) include:

·         iPod (Oracle branded?)

·         Book (Oracle branded as well, I'm guessing)

·         CD/DVD Kit (contains all 1,400+ presentations from the conference)

·         Preferred Keynote Seating (see Larry Ellison's nostrils)

·         Special Lunch Seating Area (who wants to sit with the "special" kids at lunch?)

·         Access to Club Oracle Gold Lounge (no idea if this includes an open or cash bar)

·         Special Oracle Gift (is it really a gift if you pay for it?)

You can see all the possible ways to price your admission here:


July 16, 2007

Someone Tell Romulus We Cannot Do This All in One Day

The journey of 1 gazillion steps begins with just one. This is the very first post on my very first blog, and you've managed to scroll all the way down to it. You are a decent human being despite what some stupid war crimes tribunal in The Hague has to say. A time will eventually come when this blog will bigger than The Beatles' blog, but only you can say that you were there at the beginning.

It probably makes sense to say a little about who I am or what it is I do that qualifies me to write a blog. My profound work-related joy these days is running interRel Consulting. My business partner, Eduardo Quiroz, and I originally founded interRel in 1997 to provide the highest-quality and highest-bill rate Arbor Essbase consulting we could. We were a little cocky: our original motto was "Reaching for Perfection, we achieve the impossible in record time." Essbase, for those who are curious, falls into a category of databases known as BI (Business Intelligence) although at the time they called it OLAP (On-Line Analytical Processing). For a complete history of BI from a completely unbiased source, read "A Short History of Business Intelligence and Where It's Headed" by Howard Dresner, former Chief Strategy Officer at Hyperion.

Hyperion is the company with which Arbor merged in 1998. Hyperion made financial consolidation and planning software and the merger of the two companies is widely concerned to be a model for how not to merge two companies. interRel expanded our consulting offerings in '98 to include the additional Hyperion products. What we didn't do was start consulting on competing BI products (Cognos, Business Objects, and all the rest). In April of 2007, Oracle purchased Hyperion for $3,300,000,000 (that's 3.3 billion with a 'B'). At some point, I'll comment on the acquisition, but suffice to say that interRel will, for the near future at least, be devoted to the former Hyperion product lines within the new, much larger, Oracle world. interRel celebrated its 10th anniversary in May of 2007, and the future looks even brighter. Sorry, that was trite.

I have two wonderful children (I'm not bragging, but they really are the two best children on the planet), two intelligent dogs (again, I'm not bragging, but my dogs are smarter than most people's children), and a beautiful wife (still not bragging, but if she was missing her arms and was made out of rock, people would mistake her for the Venus de Milo). I live in Dallas, Texas which is a nice place to work and a lousy place to live. Most people here complain about the heat, but being from the Pacific Northwest, I miss hills and mountains. Those people who complain about the heat aren't wrong, though. There's probably a lot more too me, and I'll open up some more once I've trapped you into visiting here for "useful" information. Oh, I co-wrote a book once that for a while was on lulu.com's top 100 best selling books of all-time.

I promise that I will update my blog as often as I have the time and inclination to do so. I will not necessarily wait until I have something interesting to say, so brace yourself for a sea of inanities and needlessly long sentences with big words that I try to use to make myself sound more articulate than I actually am.

I'll leave you with one last link. For the first five seconds or so, you'll wonder why a guy explaining "Smart BI" is stripping during the introduction. Continue on if you want beyond five seconds, but the stripping stops when he starts doodling (get your mind out of the gutter, pervert) on a virtual whiteboard.

Look smarter than you are,
Edward Roske, CEO

interRel Consulting