June 17, 2008

Kaleidoscope - Tuesday

11:30PM - Dinners
I had the interesting experience of having two dinners scheduled at the same time. interRel's client appreciation dinner started at 7:30PM at Bourbon House while the Oracle ACE dinner started at 8:00PM at Arnaud's. The two restaurants were about 2 blocks apart (small, Bourbon Street blocks filled with wanton debauchery) so I was able to start off at the interRel dinner for an hour, go to Arnaud's for an hour-and-a-half, and then make it back to Bourbon House to say good-bye to everyone.

There were about 45 people at the interRel event and roughly 40 at the ACE dinner. I had some decent vegetarian food at Bourbon House. I did notice that both restaurants liked to keep the wine glasses filled almost to the brim. I don't drink alcohol, but my tablemates more than made up for my teetotaling.

After dinner(s), 8 of the interRel folks went to Pat O' Brian's for hurricanes. They had a non-alcoholic version of the hurricane called the Eye of the Hurricane (get it?). It tasted like fruit punch mixed with pineapple juice. While I didn't get drunk, I got a sugar high and three cavities. Off to sleep before midnight!

7:00PM - Oracle ACE Panel and Reception
From 5-6, I attended an "Ask the Oracle ACE" panel. There were so many Oracle ACEs and ACE Directors that they took up the first 3 rows of the room. Literally, over half the people in the room were ACEs, so it turned into more of a Q&A from ACEs and less of questions for the ACEs. One of the more interesting questions was "once you're an ACE, how long do you get to be an ACE?" The answer was that Oracle ACE is pretty much a title for life since it's a honor based on what you've done. Oracle ACE Directors have to agree to do things to actively evangelize Oracle to retain their titles.

All of the ACE types then went up to the rather beautiful Armstrong Ballroom/atrium on the 8th floor of the Sheraton for a "Meet the ACE and ACE Directors Reception." They gave me some pimptastic Mardi Gras-style beads, but the beads were gold and silver Ace of Spades. I'm so tired that I wore the beads around for an hour without realizing the ace symbolism. I had to bug out of the reception after an hour to head up to the interRel hospitality suite reception leading up to the interRel dinner.

5:00PM - Java API and Custom Defined Functions
Tim Tow gave a presentation on the Java API. I really haven't used the Essbase Java API much (unlike the VB API) so I feel like I learned a lot. I couldn't say that I could go off and write the Java API with what I've learned, but I know where to start, at least.

I had 30 minutes to deliver my 46 slides on using Custom Defined Functions. I gave some examples of some cases where we've built CDFs for our clients including:
-Custom industry calculations (Weeks of Supply, for retail, for instance)
-Statistical calculations (like the ones that come in the example files)
-Weather (yes, we pulled data from weather.com into a cube using a CDF)
-Relational database access (using a CDF to get data from a table into a dynamically calculated member)
-Advanced financial functions (we had a client once that replaced the @IRR() function embedded in Essbase with one that they felt calculated more accurately)

I admittedly went way too quickly. I actually finished the slides in 23 minutes and had time for a question or two. Tracy McMullen, Best Co-Author Ever, is giving a presentation immediately following mine on MaxL and Converting EssCMD to MaxL that I have to skip to head to the ACE panel. I'm sure Tracy will do a magnificent job.

3:00PM - VBA Toolkit and VB API
Lunch was not amazing: it was a plated meal with small servings. While it's nice to be waited on, I actually prefer buffets at these events, because I can eat at my own speed and get out of there.

They switched the order of Doug Bliss and Glenn Schwartzberg's presentations. Glenn's VB API presentation was moved to come after the presentation by Doug Bliss (from Ace Cash Express) on the VBA toolkits in the Essbase Spreadsheet Add-In and the Hyperion Smart View Add-In.

Doug's presentation had a few hiccups mostly due to audio/visual issues with his laptop. He had good content, but the audience seemed to feel it might have spent more time on "What is VBA" and not enough time on "Advanced VBA Toolkit Examples." There's only so much one can cover in 60 minutes and trying to satisfy all audience members at different levels is problematic.

Glenn Schwartzberg, Oracle ACE, gave the majority of the precreated VB API technology presentation with Tim Tow added color commentary. It's hard to make an API presentation interesting, but Glenn gave it his best. He had an interesting disclaimer slide that basically said don't trust anything he says because he's a rather shifty individual. I found the two of them to be entertaining.

They did the coding in VB6 but pointed out that the same code's usable in VBA. They did say that you shouldn't use the VB API inside of Visual Studio for VB.Net programming. They actually said you'd be better off using the C API inside of VB.Net. The real thing people should be using in .Net is HAB.Net which does have both a System 9 and an 11.1.1 version.

My Essbase CDF (Custom Defined Function) presentation is up next. I have 30 minutes to cover 46 slides!

11:30AM - Smart Space Gadgets with Visual Studio
Rob Hull save a presentation on how to build Smart Space gadgets in Visual Studio 2005. He started off with a brief demonstration of Smart Space (which is free to existing Hyperion users).

They've added a few new gadgets in Smart Space 11.1.1 to do a minor amount of Essbase administration. The list of gadgets now includes:
- Search
- Favorites
- Smart Book (web content and reports)
- Key Contacts
- Collaborator (instant messaging, if you will)
- Notification
- Essbase Calculations
- Essbase Data Loads

Rob spent about 30 minutes actually showing coding in Visual Studio 2005. He made it seem relatively easy if you're used to Visual Studio. For anyone interested in build Smart Space gadgets, there's an article on Oracle OTN:

Rob finished about 15 minutes early and turned it over to Tim Tow to show a couple of gadgets that Applied OLAP built. Tim showed an outline viewer that I think could be helpful. Tim also showed a an ad-hoc gadget that looks like Excel just through a Smart Space gadget. He had a prototype of a Planning gadget that links a Planning form to a spreadsheet directly in the same screen. His group built it in about a week, which shows that it's not that difficult to build one of these gadgets.

10:15AM - BI/DW/Essbase Experts Panel

I sat on a panel of Business Intelligence, Data Warehousing, and Hyperion experts:
- Edward Roske, interRel Consulting, Oracle ACE Director
- Jean-Pierre Dijcks, Oracle
- Tim Tow, Applied OLAP, Oracle ACE Director
- Mark Rittman, Rittman Mead Consulting, Oracle ACE Director
- Michael Armstrong-Smith, Armstrong-Smith Consulting, Oracle ACE

It was a rousing panel, because Mark is an Oracle OLAP guy, Michael is a legacy Oracle data warehouse guy, and Tim & I are Hyperion types. The first question was, with all of Oracle's acquisitions, what would recommend using to build a BI/EPM application today?

We were all relatively civil to each other, because we all like each other (although we're all fairly certain that our preferred technology is by far the best). Mark made an interesting comment at one point about how Essbase has a lot more energy surrounding it these days than Oracle OLAP has in recent years: "We've got 150 people in here supporting Essbase whereas most Oracle OLAP talks in recent years have been me and Dan Vlamis presenting to each other."

After the talk, I proposed a shoot out between an Essbase guru, an Oracle OLAP guru, and a Siebel Analytics "packaged BI app" guru. We'd all three try to build an Essbase sales analysis application in front of a crowd of people and see who finished first. Tim Tow felt that a wrestling match (battle royale?) would be simpler.

9:00AM - Calc Scripts: Beyond the Basics
I had a client status call from 8-8:45AM, so I missed the first 45 minutes of this presentation. When I came in, Ron Moore was covering methods for Essbase block creation (including lock & send, DATACOPY, and a few Essbase calc script settings). He then touched briefly on the new DATAEXPORT capabilities in Essbase 9.3x. What I saw of the presentation, I liked and I saw many 4's and 5's (out of 5) on the evaluation forms.

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