We played poker until about 1AM. I was up several hundred dollars and decided to call it a night. While I like the poker action in the Harrah's poker room, I smell disgustingly like an ashtray. The poker room is nonsmoking, but it's in the middle of the smoking-encouraged casino floor. It's times like this that I miss the nonsmoking California card rooms.
I called my business partner, Eduardo Quiroz, to meet me at a small grocery/convenience store by the Sheraton. We needed to stock up our hospitality suite (curiously named the "Huey Long Suite") for the next few days. Eduardo and I filled two entire shopping carts with chips, dips, other snacks, and lots of "beverages."
We got to the front and paid before we faced the question: how do two guys not in very good shape carry two shopping carts full of stuff back to the hotel? We proposed multiple trips when one of the store employees volunteered to go with us back to the Sheraton. He was a nice young lad with a partially shaved head, a mohawk/mullet, 10+ body piercings, and a beard that resembled Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean.
Eduardo and I pushed our bright red shopping carts up Canal Street with the upstanding youth in tow. We assumed he would walk us to the entrance of the hotel so we could transfer the items to a luggage cart, but he assured us that people regularly pushed shopping carts through Sheraton lobbies. We rattled across the lobby getting a couple of waves from the bellman and front desk personnel who really did seem like this sort of thing happens every day. On the elevator ride up to the suite, Piercing Boy said that normally the shopping carts were used to transport Bourbon Street drunks back to the hotel, so the Sheraton people were probably happy to see food and beverages in our carts.
Once we got to the 48th floor, we unloaded everything into the suite (which is huge with a great view, by the way). We tipped America's Future twenty dollars for his efforts, and he wheeled the carts out of the suite assuring us that he would see us tomorrow. Eduardo and I spent the next 90 minutes reviewing the conference so far before heading off to our respective, adjoining rooms to sleep.
It's 3AM, so I think I will have to miss the general session ("Web 2.0 meets the Enterprise" by Vince Casarez from Oracle). I don't want to miss Robin Hazel's Essbase keynote at 10:30, so I'm going to stop typing and sleep a mite.
8:00 PM - Welcome Reception
I got talking to people and missed the keynote from Tom Kyte: "How do you know what you know?" Apparently, it was quite entertaining. There are a few other people blogging about Kaleidoscope who you might want to follow this week (because these people do things like attend keynotes):
- Mark Rittman at http://www.rittmanmead.com/blog/
- Blogging About Software Development at http://www.bloggingaboutjava.org/2008/06/odtug-kaleidoscope-2008-the-pre-conference-conference/
Mark Rittman refers to New Orleans Bourbon Street as a cross between "Amsterdam and Animal House." True dat.
I did make it to the welcoming reception held in the exhibit hall (which was kinda small but this is a much smaller conference than OpenWorld, Collaborate, or Solutions). The entertainment for the reception was ad-hoc: they asked ODTUG members to get up on stage and jam. There was a fellow who did some nice jazz piano, but he's the only one I heard play.
The food was stellar (and my expectations are getting rather high). I won't detail the entire menu again, but it's worth noting that there was a pasta bar. I love pasta bars and this one was entirely vegetarian (which is rather odd) which made me love this pasta bar even more. There were also several appetizer stations (many serving hot food) and several open bars. Like everything else so far at this conference, this is world's above and beyond Collaborate.
I just finished sitting down at the reception to eat what basically amounts to dinner with a Gary Crisci, Glenn Schwartzberg, and Doug Bliss. A few people want to go play poker at Harrah's, and I have been known to play on occasion, so I just might join them.
5:00 PM - Developer Panel
There was a developer's panel that Al Marciante put together. These panels can be helpful or disastrous. Sometimes people ask really off-the-wall, totally off topic questions. Sometimes they're remarkably enlightening. I'll paraphrase the questions/answers as best I can.
Q: What's the plan with the APIs?
A: The Java API is the go forward direction. The VB API is being kind of ignored. The C API has to be paid attention to because Essbase is written in it.
Q: How difficult is the upgrade from System 9 to 11.1.1?
A: It should just be an install in place (overwrite). It should be easy than Essbase 7x to System 9.
Q: Is there a global option to turn off implied shares?
A: Yes, there is in Kennedy, 11.1.1.
Q: [Really long-winded question about a specific Planning problem that pretty much no one could understand and was really specific to the questioner's company]?
A: [Great answer from Steve Liebermensch] I'm really not here to solve your specific implementation issue from up on the panel. [which is why I love Steve Liebermensch]
Q: Is ODI (Oracle Data Integrator) the replacement for HAL?
A: Yes, and if you own Planning, you can use a limited copy of ODI for free. The Essbase adapter, we think, is free, but you'll have to pay for ODI to load data into your straight Essbase apps.
Q: Does Oracle do concurrent ports?
A: No, just named and CPU licensing.
Q: Pre-acquisition, SAP was looking to put Essbase on top of BW? Is that still happening going forward?
A: Yes, as part of Oracle's push to surround and conquer SAP.
Q: What's the methodology for requesting enhancements? How do go about requesting changes?
A: Submit through support and it will get put into "Orion," Oracle's enhancement system.
Q: What versions of Office are dropped in Kennedy?
A: Office 2000.
Q: Is Kennedy Windows only?
A: Yes, it was the first slide of the day, actually.
Q: Is it supported across all the application servers then?
A: Yes, it is. All app servers (WebLogic, WebSphere, Tomcat) and both Firefox and Internet Explorer. If it runs on Windows and we traditionally support it, we'll support it in the first release of Kennedy.
Q: Are Financial Reporting, Web Analysis, and the like still being developed?
A: Yes, but we're Essbase developers, so we can't talk about it in detail. Ask Robin Hazel tomorrow since Robin will be talking more about that.
Q: Will Smart View support both member names and aliases in rows like the Essbase Add-In already does?
A: Parity between the add-ins needs to happen. It's trying to be in there for the Talleyrand, mid-2009, release.
Q: Is Block Storage going to be a passive technology in the background as ASO becomes the go-forward direction?
A: Yes, that's something we're looking at. Those conversations are happening but they're very far off.
Q: When will members on the fly be supported?
A: That's something that the team has looked at in the past and will probably be resurrected.
Q: Does Larry Ellison really like his new $3BB toy called Essbase?
A: Larry learned what he bought from Vaishnavi Sashikanth in December and he seems to be a big fan of Essbase. He enjoys the product now and Thomas Kurian, manager of the middleware group, really likes Essbase and wants to use it within all the Fusion apps. We have more to do than we have bodies to do it.
That's not an exhaustive list of questions, because I couldn't write them all down quickly enough. It was a pretty good panel though it went on a bit too long. Since I'm the one that scheduled a 2 hour developer's panel, this is definitely my fault.
Now we're all off to Tom Kyte's keynote "How Do You Know What You Know..." followed by a welcome reception (and jam session!) in the exhibit hall.
3:30 PM - Break
We had a brief snack/recharge break. The ODTUG food planners graced us with tasty beignetes covered in powdered sugar. They also had soft drinks for sugar boosts!
3:00 PM - JDeveloper
David Mellor and Duncan Mills from Oracle development gave a thorough demonstration of JDeveloper's Essbase access. JDeveloper is a long way off before it will be the primary development environment for Essbase web-applications. It's already there for other products, but it's a bit too... complicated right now for traditional Essbase development. I guess it's no more complicated than Hyperion Application Builder (or AlphaBlox, if you can remember that far back).
JDeveloper is the IDE for Oracle for J2EE applications, Web Services, WebCenter, Oracle database, XML, and someday Essbase. It has built-in version control. The editors include a visual editor (looks like a flow diagram), a dialog editor, and a code editor.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear that JDeveloper is free. It sounds like the Essbase component of JDeveloper is currently in beta. David started to say that it would be out this summer, but Duncan said that the development team would not say any more definite release date than "by the end of 2008." Both of these should be available (check OTN, I think he said) by the end of the year.
2:00 PM - Essbase Studio
I'm in post-lunch euphoria (and ready for nap time). The presentation I just saw was from a nice (and somewhat funny, though not as funny as Al) product development fellow named Subhash Gaur. He went through some Essbase Studio slides and then concluded with a demonstration of Essbase Studio that was a little difficult to follow but showed the power of the studio.
Essbase Studio is the next generation Essbase application building and administration. It's a graphical environment that seems at least as easy to use as EIS (though more IT-centric than EAS). One of the things that I saw today for the first time was "artifact lineage" which is basically impact analysis: when I change this dimension, which cubes will be changed?
I really like how ES (which replaces EIS immediately, but EAS not so much) creates rules files that can be kicked off independently of the studio. In other words, you can build a cube with data load and dimension build rules in studio, but then launch those rules independently via MaxL or EAS.
On a replacing EAS note, there's definitely a lesser need to use the Data Prep Editor in EAS. Essbase Studio lets you do a lot more rule-type activities than EAS does, but Subhash did admit that not every load rule function is in the studio. Future versions (Subhash referred to "Kennedy+") will replace a lot more EAS functionality including viewing/editing outlines, creating calc scripts, editing report scripts, and so on. There was no timeline listed for these enhancements.
Subhash went into detail about creating drill-through reports. Some of the nice things include dynamic association of reports (no more having to rebuild the cube to add reports), reusability of reports across cubes, and the expanded data sets for building cubes (RDBMS, flat file, Essbase, EPM Architect, and SAP R/3).
He talked about the future of Essbase Studio beyond the current release. Some of the planned enhancements include drill-through reports from cube to cube (so called "drill across" reports), localization, import/export XML (like EIS has now), the ability to cancel long tasks, and adding Netezza as a data source.
Next up is a look at JDeveloper's new Essbase access.
1:00 PM - Best Lunch I've Ever Had at a Conference
I almost skipped lunch, and that would have been my biggest mistake of the conference: lunch was truly amazing. I had the nice company of several people from the Hyperion track (including Al Marciante, John Rambeau, and Val Blackburn, all 10+ year veterans of Arbor Software out of the Dallas office). While company was nice, the food was superb and no, I don't just mean in comparison to the gruel from Collaborate.
Lunch was hot, you were given water or ice tea in real glasses, the tables had tablecloths, the silverware wasn't plastic, and it was served in a ballroom with high ceilings, skylights, and a gorgeous view of New Orleans. There were people coming by the tables to clear them and help you with any needs you might have. While all those things were 10 times better than Collaborate's attempt at lunches, check out today's menu (v for vegetarian):
-Smoked corn macque choux salad (v)
-Vidalia onion and creole tomato salad (v)
-Creole roasted new potatoes (v)
-Scane roasted spaghetti squash with julienne carrots and asparagus slivers (v)
-Pasta primavera with sundried tomatoes, olives, and capers (v)
-Grilled chicken with pecan rice, black eyed pea salsa, and roasted red pepper sauce
-Catfish fillet stuffed with crawfish and corn stuffing
-Gumbo ya-ya with chicken and sausage
-Super-soft dinner rolls
Oh, and did I mention that dessert was bourbon pecan pie with nutmeg creme anglaise? Recall that Collaborate gave out 3 Oreos for dessert (yes, THREE Oreos per person). I can metaphorically say I've died and gone to food heaven. I am really extremely impressed at how strikingly good everything I tried was (though I had to skip the sinfully good looking pecan pie since it's not vegetarian). While part of is the hotel doing a good job on the food, ODTUG spared no expense paying for lunch.
I know it's only half way through the first day, but I love this conference. Everything is so far done very professionally (though on a smaller scale attendance-wise, of course, than Collaborate or OpenWorld). Lunch today proved to me that the ODTUG people are not out to make a profit on this conference. I genuinely feel that ODTUG is putting the vast majority of the conference admission fees right back into the conference attendees.
I can't believe I'm writing this, but I can't wait for lunch tomorrow.
12:00 PM - Essbase 11.1.1 New Features
My mind is officially blown. Al's been talking for 2+ hours on all the new features in Essbase 11.1.1. He started off by covering the release schedule. Right now, Essbase 188.8.131.52.0 (the Windows only, English version) is scheduled for July 8. The code will be done by the end of June, but it won't push out until July 8 (subject to change, of course). The non-Windows version (code named "Kennedy 2" and was formerly code named "Shelley") is due out in the second half of 2008 and will be called 184.108.40.206.0. The Dickens version will support localization in the second half of 2008 and should be version 220.127.116.11.0.
There were several screen shots of the new Installation and Configuration product. It definitely seems simpler. There are four main screens and it does a good job of installing the products in the correct order and then auditing the install to make sure it actually works. On an "under the covers" note, there is now a single HYPERION_HOME location for all applications. Products will be under HYPERION_HOME\Products while application server deployments will be under HYPERION_HOME\Deployments. There are are also a few new environment variables including ESSBASEPATH which seems to actually replace ARBORPATH after 10+ years.
Lifecycle Management (LCM) is going to be part of Shared Services and launched through there. LCM is the product that allows an administrator to move objects (Planning, Essbase, Business Rules, HFM, EPM Architect, etc.) from environment to environment (like Development to Production). LCM will not migrate data from Essbase or HFM between servers. It does give you a nice report on what successfully migrated and what didn't. You can also run a report that compares environments and there's even an audit report that shows you a history of migrations. Apparently, you can migrate between different shared services servers which is a nice surprise You can't migrate between versions unless both shared services versions support LCM. Since right now the only version that supports LCM is 18.104.22.168.0 (not yet released), this is really only helpful moving forward.
There were a couple of minor enhancements mentioned. All the new logs (across all Hyperion products) will be in one common directory which should make it easier to troubleshoot issues that show up. Also, the default security for Essbase in 11.1.1 is not native (Essbase.SEC) security but rather it's Shared Services. Since Essbase native security is very insecure (remind me to show you some tricks one of these days on how to hack Essbase security), I'm glad they're trying to push people to Shared Services (and by extension, external authentication).
There was a lengthy discussion of Varying Attributes (AKA Slowly Changing Attributes) which is the ability of an attribute to vary across the intersection of 2 or more dimensions. For instance, the manager of a product may change from year to year. I took a ton of bullet notes on this:
- Can look at point-in-time (show me the relationships as how things were in January of 2007)
- Must build through Essbase Studio or manually through EAS. Not exposed through DimBuild rules in 11.1.1.
- There's a new outline property of a member: "Varying Attributes Enabled"
- Can do ranges (like "Bob was the manager from 2002-2005") without having to specify every member in the middle. It does this by going in outline order from Member X to Member Y.
- Appears as an attribute dimension
- Don't need to run a calc: they're dynamic like attribute dimensions
The discussion on Date and Text measures in Essbase was extremely lengthy. Suffice to say that "Text in an Essbase data cell" is the greatest enhancement to Essbase since Aggregate Storage (and maybe since Dynamical Calc members). Here are my bulleted notes:
- New Outline property: "Typed Attributes Enabled"
- Basically a text measure is a number used in a "VLookup." Because of that, you would never use text measures to store, say, an address for each customer, because every value would be unique to one lookup. You need a limited range of text measures.
- Dates are stored as numeric, so there are no limits to the dates allowed
- Writeback is allowed to a text/date measure
- Must create a "Text List" object (very similar to a SmartList)
- Can import in a mapping table of numerics to texts
- Date type measures can be used with new Text functions
- Supported in Smart View, Web Analysis and classic Add-In
- Al's not sure if text/date measures are supported in Financial Reporting 11.1.1
- Lookups are stored in a separate file referenced by the outline (OTL) in Essbase
- There are API calls for
- Maximum for text is 255 characters
- Users can't type in their own text: they have to select from a pre-established list
- 1024 different values in a Text List and NoData and OutOfRange
- Dates are recognized in Excel as dates (not text, very cool)
- Can use text measures instead of attributes or UDAs for member selection
- Can now format measures/accounts (and dynamic calc members of other dimensions) as a string using new property "Associate Format String"
- Dates stored as seconds since 1970 so dates are limited to 1970-2038. This will be corrected in future releases.
There are new MDX Time Intelligence functions that went by too quickly for me to note them. Suffice to say that there were at least 10 new functions. There were also some new calc script functions:
- @LANCESTORS (all the ancestors for a list of members)
- @LDESCENDANTS (all the descendants for a list of members)
- @SHIFTSIBLING (nth sibling of a specified member)
- @NEXTSIBLING (nth forward sibling of a member)
- @PRIORSIBLING (nth prior sibling of a member)
- $ (used to get an environment variable for the operating system into a calc script)
The new backup, transaction logging, and replay feature in Essbase BSO was explained further. It will record everything done to an Essbase cube such as outline changes, calc scripts run, data loads initiated, dimension builds, and lock&sends. You can then rollback specific transactions or replay specific transactions. You can't exactly cherry pick specific actions to replay after a crash, but you can specify, say, "everything from this time onward." It's basically a super-ramped up improvement/replacement for the old Essbase SSAUDIT setting.
Most of the items above (like date/text measures and varying attributes) are applicable to both BSO and ASO, but there are a few ASO specific improvements:
- Unicode support. Previously, only BSO cubes could be unicode.
- Partial data clear. You can set a region of data to 0 or #Missing using either a physical clear (it actually blanks out the members) or a logical clear (it creates a slice with a reversing entry in effect making the intersection equal to zero). On one of their test clients, a logical clear was 30 times faster than a physical clear, but a logical clear does add some time to the retrieval.
- Target of a partition. Data can now be transparently partitioned into an ASO cube.
- Writeback to level 0. You can now send data into the bottom intersections of an ASO cube (like BSO) although in ASO, data sent to upper levels is ignored.
There were a couple of slides on xOLAP, the technology that allows an entire Essbase cube to be stored in relational database. Why would one do this? A cube could be real-time on RDBMS data, for one. For another reason, doing this would allow the underlying table to still be accessible via standard SQL queries, if you're into that kind of thing. There wasn't a demo of the functionality and I haven't tried it out. My main concern has to do with speed. As some of you may recall, IBM once allowed storage of Essbase data in DB2 (it was one of the storage options in IBM DB2 OLAP). Everything ran slower (by about 3 times) when you tried storing data relationally. I just can't believe that RDBMS storage of cubes could be as fast as native storage, but maybe it won't be terribly much slower?
There was an interesting question from someone about whether there would be an Essbase Add-In for OpenOffice or Google's spreadshet. The answer was that right now, there were too few calls for it. While I agree, it would be nice for Essbase to be "the first BI application to allow ad-hoc analysis through Google's spreadsheet." I suspect that if they do this, it'll be a long while off.
Al showed a brief demo of the new Smart View Connection Manager and Smart Slice functionality. It seems extremely easy to set up a "starting view" of the cube using Smart Slices. The demo had to be cut short, sadly, because everyone in the audience was losing consciousness from lack of food, want of drink, and need of toilet.
Off to lunch, and I pray to the conference gods that it not be as bad as what Collaborate served us.
10:00 AM - Keynote on the Future of Essbase
Al Marciante just gave the keynote address "The Future of Essbase: Code Name Kennedy and Beyond" in place of Robert Gersten who was called away at the last minute to an Oracle event in EMEA. Al started off by giving a history of Essbase (and to a lesser extent, Hyperion as a whole). It's impressive to realize all the things where Essbase broke new ground (first to meet Dr. Codd's rules for an OLAP database, first to have a thin client, first to have a 64-bit server, first to have a Linux server, and so on).
Since today is all about the future of Hyperion, Al gave the standard "don't hold us to anything we're about to tell you" disclaimer slide. He then went into his three themes for today:
- New applications & ERP Integration.
Al started by talking more about Profitability Management 11.1.1. I've talked about this product before (it's basically a nice graphical tool for creating allocation models). He did mention today that HPM (Hyperion Profitability Management) is built entirely on Essbase. It actually creates calc scripts behind the scenes and utilized a multi-cube architecture (one for calculating and another for reporting).
On ERP Integration, Oracle has resurrected the old PeopleSoft PeopleTools product that used to integrate PeopleSoft data with Essbase. It hadn't been updated in a long-time (as of Essbase 5 or 6), but starting with PeopleTools 8.49, it will support current versions of Essbase. PeopleSoft 9 will even be able to build cubes directly. The new version of Hyperion will also support seamless drill through to Oracle EBS (eBusiness Suite).
- Comprehensive Analytic Application Framework
Essbase is the new analytics standard for Oracle Fusion. In other words, all the new Fusion apps will use Essbase (most likely in a "lights out, behind the scenes" version) as the supporting database. Essbase will be integrated in the near future with all the financial, CRM, and procurement applications.
JDeveloper will be the new front-end development tool against Hyperion going forward. Al wasn't exactly sure about the pricing for JDeveloper, but his opinion was that the "Essbase adapters" for JDeveloper would be free. What he wasn't sure about was if JDeveloper costs money to Essbase users or would be free. I'd be surprised if they didn't charge for it, because it looks like a very powerful, Java-based, Oracle-aware development tool.
Al talked briefly about some of the newer features in Smart View. The three coolest things (which I've previously talked about) are the new Connection Manager (it's a tree now instead of bizarre URLs), Smart Slices (AKA personal cubes or making cubes seem like they have fewer dimensions than they really do), and what they're currently calling Report Designer which is the ability to make a dashboard in Microsoft Office of Hyperion-aware things like grids, tables, charts, and sliders.
- Advanced Analytics
There were two major points on Advanced Analytics. First was that Crystal Ball (that product Hyperion bought just before Oracle bought them) would be integrated into Hyperion for forecasting and optimization. Crystal Ball Predictor and OptQuest are being integrated with Smart View (and exposed through the web) for forecasting and optimization scenarios.
The other major point was that data mining models will now be able to be created and visualized through HVE (Hyperion Visual Explorer). This is very cool, because right now data mining models have to be set up using a really kludgy interface in EAS.
9:00 AM - Welcome and Kickoff
We just finished kicking off the day. During our kickoff, a massive storm hit New Orleans. It gave the talk a lot more gravitas to have thunder cracking everywhere and lightning flashing outside the window.
Tim started off by polling the audience about their Essbase experience. It impressed me that there were 4 people in the audience who went to the very first Arbor Dimensions conference back in 1995. Tim was the only one who had an ESSBASE vanity license plate on his jeep. I did write a musical about Essbase, though, so I think I've also earned my Hyperion geek cred.
John Jeunette (President of ODTUG) and Mike Riley (Head of Kaleidoscope) both stepped forward to say a few words of welcome to the Hyperion attendees. I have been genuinely impressed at how welcoming the ODTUG people have been. Even though Hyperion is new to the ODTUG party, they've done a great job of making the new users feel at home.
I was assigned to give some announcements about the Hyperion track as well as Hyperion in general. I walked everyone through the "themed days" we'd be doing at Kaleidoscope and then briefed everyone about the ramifications of Kopcke's letter from last week. I introduced Al Marciante (Senior Director of Product Management in the Hyperion space) who'll be doing the keynote for the "Developer's Symposium" and then hurriedly sat down to write this blog.
8:30 AM - Preparing for the day
Tim and I are trying to do last minute preparations for our "Welcome and Kickoff for the week" presentation, but we keep stopping to talk to people we know. The problem is that we know darned near everyone hear. My rough count shows over 100 people here which considering it's Sunday morning (and Father's Day, no less) is fairly impressive. I was worried we'd have around 11 people and that would include the 6 interRel people here, Tim Tow, and Al Marciante.
Oracle was kind enough to pay for copies of Look Smarter Than You Are With Essbase System 9 for every attendee in the Hyperion track here at Kaleidoscope. It's neat to see everyone walking around with a copy of the book with the special "Limited Edition for ODTUG Kaleidoscope" banner on it.