May 28, 2008

Oracle ACE Program

Somebody asked me about the Oracle ACE program that I mentioned briefly in another blog entry. It's basically a title that Oracle awards to dedicated Oracle evangelists. If you eat/breathe/sleep Oracle and spend most of your free time helping other people understand how great Oracle is, you might get nominated to be an Oracle ACE. Once you get nominated, there's a selection committee that looks into your background to make sure you do things like post regularly on discussion forums, write books, make blog entries, give public presentations on Oracle, name your first child Ellison and so forth. In other words, Oracle ACEs are the gurus in their fields of expertise. If you see the Oracle ACE icon next to someone's name on the Oracle forums, they most likely know what they're talking about.

There is a further distinction above and beyond just the Oracle ACE level, and that's an Oracle ACE Director. While an Oracle ACE is a recognition of past achievements, you have to commit to future preaching of the Oracle gospel to become an ACE Director. Fewer than one in three Oracle ACEs becomes an Oracle ACE Director (there's a separate nomination you have to go through to get to this level).

At the time of this writing, there are ~175 Oracle ACEs in the world of which ~50 are ACE Directors. Of those, 6 are in the BI/EPM field and of those six, 4 are in the Hyperion space:
Glenn, Tim, and Gary all post far more in the OTN forums than I do. (I tend to do mass-communications like webcasts, books, blogs, and presentations.) Look for them particularly on the Essbase forum. and on Network54's Essbase site. All four of us will be presenting at Kaleidoscope as well, so you'll be able to meet them in New Orleans. Across all of the tracks, there will be 31 Oracle ACEs and ACE Directors presenting at Kaleidoscope.

Oh, I guess while I'm on the subject of Kaleidoscope, I should point out that as of today, there are only spots left for 18 more attendees in the Hyperion track. If you've been meaning to sign up for the best Essbase training you'll see in 2008, I'd hurry and click here (or forward the link on to the Essbase admin or developer at your company):

May 9, 2008

Solutions Road Trip - End of the Day

After the sessions and before the baseball game started, we had a networking event that the North Texas HUG (NTxHUG) likes to call "User to User Exchange." It's an opportunity for everyone to ask questions about his latest Hyperion issue to see if anyone else knows the answer. It can turn into a bitch session at times with everyone complaining at length about their bug of the week, but today was thankfully restrained.

Mike Burkhart from Alcon started off by asking how many new attendees were in the audience. Over half the audience raised their hands to say this was their first NTxHUG meeting. Each of the new members got to give a brief introduction. To my pleasant surprise, half of the new attendees were from out of town. Some were from Austin (about 200 miles outside of Dallas), a lot were from Oklahoma City and Houston, and there were a few from farther away than that. Two guys actually flew in from San Francisco which just goes to show how starved for a Hyperion conference people are. Humorously, one of the guys from California won a pair of Dallas Stars NHL Playoff tickets we were giving away. He asked to swap it for a certificate for 1 free day of Hyperion training. Another person who won a pair of playoff tickets asked to swap it for one of my Essbase books. I guess the National Hockey League isn't as popular as it once was.

Speaking of sports, the baseball game pitted the Texas Rangers against their hated rivals, the Oakland A's. Note that while the Rangers hate the A's, the A's couldn't care in the least about the Rangers, because as a general rule, the Rangers are shockingly awful. Tonight though, the Rangers not only won, they posted
their third straight shutout. They've now gone 31 innings without a run scored on them which apparently hasn't happened since 2005. Here's the view from our patio:

In total, I think today was a great success. We're definitely going to repeat this in the future at locations other than North Texas. Already, two other regional Hyperion User Groups have contacted us about hosting similar road trips to their areas. We're more than willing to travel around the United States or the world, so if you're interested in having us come to put on, say, "Solutions Road Trip to Alaska," don't hesitate to send
Danielle an e-mail.

The only thing I'd probably do differently is to expand the event to an entire day. This would allow us to get 6-9 more presentations in (3 tracks times 2-3 presentations per track in the morning). We'd probably need to charge a fee, though, to cover costs of the food for lunch. We ate all the costs (pun possibly intended) for this event and with the rooms, food, drinks, door prizes, travel costs, and so on, we ended up spending several thousand dollars. Was it worth it? Yes, but if we had just asked each person to pay $49 for the day, we wouldn't have lost money with the event. Any overage we could have given to the local Hyperion User Group, and people would be thrilled to pay $49 for all these hours of education. I talked to several people that were shocked we weren't charging since they're used to paying $750 for a day of Hyperion training.

Would you pay up to $99 for a full-day conference? Discuss.

Solutions Road Trip - The Presentations

After Al Marciante's talk, we all moved from the Diamond Club (a really nice large room overlooking the ballpark that holds a few hundred people) to our offices in Centerfield. We just added 2,000 new square feet of office space to the ~3,000 sq. ft. that we already had. Since they haven't had a chance to begin construction on the 2,000 feet yet, it's basically one big empty space perfect for having meetings with large groups of people.

There were three tracks of presentations with 3 presentations per track. We had given some of them before in our
free weekly webcasts, but most people hadn't heard them before. All the sessions were delivered by interRel people so that we could guarantee the quality level of the presentations (and accept all the blame if they sucked eggs). The feedback we got was stellar, though I'm considering having client companies do some of the higher-level, best practice discussions next time so that more people can experience the thrill of public speaking.
  • Hacking Hyperion: Undocumented and Unsupported. This track was for covering all the information that is normally not discussed and if it is documented, it's buried pretty darned deeply.
    1. Hacking Essbase. I delivered this presentation. I got to cover all kinds of things I've been keeping to myself over the years. I started off by showing the audience just how week the native Essbase password authentication was. People were shocked and I was amused. Someone asked if my they could have copies of my slides and I said, "Hell no." If there's anything I know, it's how to minimize my chances of being sued.
    2. Hacking Web Analysis
    3. Hacking Hyperion Planning. Tracy McMullen (best Essbase book co-author ever) gave this presentation (one of three she delivered today in addition to Hacking Web Analysis and Tuning Hyperion Planning) and from what I'm told, it was excellent. She covered, among other things, how to modify the JSP (Java Server Page) code for the web forms and how to make sense of the table layouts in the Planning repository. Tracy is also delivering a few presentations at Kaleidoscope, and if that's not motivation to go to New Orleans, nothing is.
  • Tuning & Optimization for Mere Mortals. This track was for everyone interested in improving performance of their Hyperion applications.
    1. Hyperion Planning
    2. Essbase. I gave this presentation too and while it seemed to go well, I really think it should be split into multiple hours. There's just too many Essbase tuning tips to cover in an hour. This is why we're devoting all-day Wednesday at the Kaleidoscope conference in June to optimizing Essbase.
    3. OBIEE+. I also presented this session. It was supposed to be about tuning Web Analysis, Financial Reporting, and Interactive Reporting. The only problem was that most people aren't aware that OBIEE+ now includes these products. As such, it was my least attended presentation by far. The other sessions had 60+ attendees each, but this one had about 15. Since it was my last presentation of the day, though, I really enjoyed the break.
  • Best Practices. This was mostly for the non-technical people in the crowd.
    1. System 9 Installation and Configuration
    2. Financial Reporting and Consolidation
    3. Essbase Design

Solutions Road Trip - Hyperion in 2009 and Beyond

The final part of Al Marciante's presentation was on the long-term vision for Oracle Hyperion EPM System 11 (will I ever get used to saying that?). Here was what I was able to jot down as Al was running out of time:
  • Planning. The main change for Planning, as mentioned earlier under the Smart View entry, is that Excel will be the primary interface for Planning going forward. This means that everything a user does (including Workflow) will be available in Microsoft Office via Smart View. It's my understanding that task lists and process management (the new name for Workflow, it seems) will be supported natively in Microsoft Outlook which makes more sense than doing it in Excel or over the web anyway. Planning will also be adding new modules (like Workforce or CapEx) including revenue, project planning, and public sector budgeting. Planning will be the go-forward budgeting tool for Oracle EBS, PeopleSoft, and JDEdwards. Planning will, finally, support cell-level security like Essbase has since its inception. You'll be able to run reports on Planning audit tables. There will also be a plethora of Hyperion Planning UI enhancements including better collaboration features, accordion menus (like Outlook), charts in Planning, traffic lighting on forms, ad-hoc form design, automatic calculations on web forms, aggregation of cell text (huh?), and "conversations in Planning" which sounds like Web 2.0 talk to me.
  • Essbase. Essbase cubes will have flexible dimensionality which will include query-defined hierarchies, visual totaling capabilities, and server-processed but user-defined calculations and members. The last one of those is particularly exciting, because it will allow users to add members to outlines without needing to contact an administrator. Supposedly, this will all be accomplished without the need to restructure the cube. People have been clamoring for users to be able to modify portions of the outline for years and until now, the only way to implement this was with complicated Essbase API code. Oracle Clustering support will be added to improve Essbase scalability. Essbase Studio will be enhanced to get it up to the level of EAS. Finally, Essbase will be able to run in a "faceless environment." In other words, it will be able to run as multi-dimensional storage cube technology under various Oracle Fusion products without the need for an administrator to maintain the hierarchies, data loads, and what not.
  • HFM. Going forward, HFM will be able to run in a 64-bit environment. There will be a tight close calendar, ad-hoc schedules, and improved JV/intercompany capabilities. HFM Talleyrand (the code name for Oracle Hyperion EPM 2009) will support more dimensions (no more having to reuse Custom Dimensions 1-4 to cram multiple dimensions into one application). Finally, HFM will be cross-platform whereas right now, the application tier is Windows-only.

Someone asked Al which of the features he showed would need to be paid for (like clients had to pay to "enable" System 9) in System 11. His exact quote was:

To my knowledge, only Profitability is planned to be a priced product, due to it being an application. The other features and modules (such as Studio) I believe are part of system 9 enablement, and are not planned at this time to be monetized.

My translation of that is that Oracle only plans on charging for Profitability Management because it's the only truly new application. Essbase Studio, for instance, would not need to be paid for since it's part of Essbase already. Of course, Oracle's pricing changes pretty regularly, so get what you can while it's free.

I really liked Al's talk. The only thing I'd change would be to give him more time, because I felt that the Essbase changes by themselves could have taken several hours to cover in detail. I had an hour's worth of questions on text in an Essbase cube alone. Luckily, Al Marciante is the moderator for the

Essbase Developer's Symposium at ODTUG Kaleidoscope in New Orleans. All day Sunday at Kaleidoscope, Al and members of the Essbase development team will be talking about Essbase 11 and beyond. There are even a couple of developer panels so Essbase users can ask detailed questions about what's coming and what they would like to see in future versions. Robert Gersten, head of EPM/BI development for Oracle, will start off the day with a look at the future of Hyperion. At last check, there were 20 spaces left in the Essbase track at Kaleidoscope, so if you haven't already signed up yet, get off your arse and do it now.

Solutions Road Trip - Future of Hyperion

Profitability Management was next in Al Marciante's presentation on the future of Hyperion. He pointed out that HPM (my new acronym for Hyperion Profitability Management) was the first application built from the ground-up using the System 9 framework (which is now the System 11 framework, I guess). For the first time, I finally understand what this application does (thank you, Mr. Marciante). It's basically a big allocation engine. It takes high-level costs and using a graphical interface, allocates them down through multiple stages along multiple dimensions. With the costs fully allocated, profitability can be analyzed! In other words, it's what we've been building for years in Essbase cubes just a whole lot easier to use than pages and pages of complicated Essbase calc scripts. He showed a screen shot of a traceability interface that allows a user to track his costs back graphically to see how he was allocated specific costs. We certainly couldn't do that with Essbase calc scripts. I think I'm going to like this application (now that I understand what the heck it does).

Al started off the discussion of the OBIEE+ products with a curious statement that I tried to write down word for word:
Oracle Answers+ is having the OLAP UI updated to access Essbase more like
Web Analysis does. Oracle products are the future direction, but IR, FR,
and WA will be around for a while.
I can draw two things from this: in the future, Financial Reporting, Web Analysis, and Interactive Reporting are going away; and they're probably being replaced with Oracle Answers+. While this is obviously subject to change, I've heard rumors along these lines from other people. If I was a betting guy (and it's been previously established that I am), I would start looking to Answers+ for my future development.

He did say that changes already underway for the OBIEE+ products would continue. The only interesting (to me) improvement to Financial Reporting is that a user will be able to annotate a report right on the report itself. The annotations can be across an entire report, down a column, across a row, or on a specific cell. Annotation types can include plain text, links to entire documents, or links to the web (URLs).

Aside from some graphical improvements, I didn't see much interesting in the way of new Web Analysis enhancements. Interactive Reporting 11 will include active sections embedded within documents, charting enhancements (the new charts look very pretty), and dashboard enhancements.

Workspace is being significantly enhanced. There was an entire slide of tiny bullets of which I was able to jot down just a couple. It seems that Workspace is also going to be carried forward and will most likely be the face of OBIEE going forward as well. Improvements I was able to jot down include improvements to searching (being able to find documents no matter what folder they're in), UI customization (hiding/showing specific menu items, filters, and other personalization), dynamic help, contextual navigation, and integration with Oracle WebCenter (whoopee!).

Al said that Smart View was here to stay. His exact quote was:
Oracle is standardizing on Smart View. OBIEE is even moving to Smart View.
I'm extremely pleased to hear this because we have a number of clients standardizing on Smart View for Microsoft Office integration. Standardizing on Smart View also means that Oracle will have a vested interest in fixing all the Smart View bugs, anomalies, and undocumented features in Smart View 9.3.x. Someone asked if the Essbase Add-In was disappearing because of the enhancements to Smart View 11. Al admitted that he didn't know when the Essbase Add-In was going away, but he did say that it was going to be still included in Essbase 11. He felt that it would be at least 2010 before enough people were comfortable with Smart View to drop the Essbase Add-In, but he also pointed out that all new functionality was only going to be made available in Smart View. Speaking of new functionality, Smart View enhancements include:
  • Report Designer. There will be a new designed in Smart View (it looks Excel only) that lets you build a complex report with multiple sections: a dashboard, for lack of a better term. Some sections could be grids, others could be charts, and still others could be objects like buttons & drop-downs.
  • Personal Views. This is awesome. One of the problems with Essbase cubes these days is that they're getting too big. A few years ago, most Essbase cubes had 5-9 dimensions and since users could actually comprehend them, it was good. Modern day Frankencubes have 10+ dimensions and users find it impossible to locate the data in the cube. Every day we hear cries of "I started drilling and all my numbers disappeared." Smart View Personal Views are supposed to cure that. First of all, administrators will be able to set default queries. If you have to specify a version, scenario, and year before any numbers appear, then your default query would include an already selected year, version, and scenario. That's not all, though: if you have a user that only needs to analyze 8 of 10 dimensions in your Essbase sales cube, then the user can be set to only see a slice of the cube with those dimensions being the only ones that the user ever sees. In other words, you can have one master cube that appears to be several different cubes depending on the user audience. This will allow a company to build one very large ASO cube with tons of dimensions without having users' heads explode (never a good thing).
  • Additional Data Sources. The new version of Smart View will add OBIEE, Hyperion Strategic Finance, and Hyperion Enterprise as data sources. That's right: Hyperion Enterprise is not only still alive and kicking, it's getting its Excel add-ins (Retrieve and Analyst) replaced with Smart View. Welcome to the 21st century, Enterprise users.
  • Ease of Use Improvements. There will be better flow of the user interface, default POVs (points of view), and default aliases in the new release. There is also a much improved connection manager. The old one required a user to know about provider types and sensitive URL strings. The new one looks more like Windows Explorer and is, in my opinion, 149 times easier to use. A user can finally log on without a crash course in Quantum Hyperion Dynamics.
  • Hyperion Planning. In the words of the great Al, "Excel will be the primary interface for Planning going forward. While users are happy doing HFM entries over the web, they seem to really want to use Excel as their means of sending in Planning data. Smart View is being expanded to become the primary interface for Hyperion Planning." He did say that it would be 2009 before Smart View was that primary interface, but there are several improvements to Smart View 11's access of Planning including form-based ad-hoc planning (you can now make forms that give a user a starting point for "ad-hoc planning"), the ability to launch Smart View from Planning web forms, and document attachment support.
Planning 11 will include the new Calculation Manager (which runs as part of EPM Architect). This will allow a user to graphically write rules that will become calc scripts behind the scenes. Yes, I know this sounds like Hyperion Business Rules circa 2004, but I'm told from someone who beta tested the new Calc Manager that it writes much better calc scripts than it did before. A user can even import templates with well-written scripts right into Calc Manager. Planning 11 also has a number of UI improvements including attaching documents, showing member formulas from a data form, hiding and showing rows dynamically, job status viewing, and folder security. As part of the Planning 11 beta, I've seen an entire 77-slide PowerPoint (yes, seventy-seven slides) on the new features of Planning 11. I encourage anyone who has Planning to request a copy of the new feature list from your Oracle Account Manager, because the changes to Planning in System 11 are massive. Once the product becomes generally available, I'll probably schedule a webcast to walk everyone through the new Planning 11 features.

Life Cycle Management will be released as part of System 11. This tool will allow an administrator to easily move objects (or entire applications) across servers. It's all done using XML files, and one of the beta testers told me it's very slick. The nice part about Hyperion using XML to do the application/object transfer is that if you wanted to, you could directly edit the XML files since they're plain text. This opens up the possibility of writing our own editors for objects without being stuck in the Hyperion way of doing things.

The other change Al mentioned for Oracle Hyperion EPM System 11 was that HAB (Hyperion Application Builder), Hyperion Objects, and a few other web-based development initiatives Hyperion tried over the years were all being replaced with Oracle JDeveloper (in Oracle ADF). While I'm glad that we're getting a single development environment, I'm sort of tired of having to change technologies every year or two. I'm hoping that they stick with JDeveloper for at least the rest of this decade.

Solutions Road Trip - Future of Essbase

Before I repeat some of the neater things from Al Marciante's presentation, I'd like to point out that everything in his presentation is forward-looking and subject to change at Oracle's whim. That said, Oracle Hyperion 11.1 and Oracle Essbase 11.1 are both about to be released, so it's unlikely that much will change about this version. Beyond 11.1, I'd look for much to change.

I guess I should explain the versioning (11.1) a bit more before I continue. In case you didn't get it before, Hyperion 9.5 (AKA "Code Name Kennedy") is officially dead. All of the products that were going to be released under the 9.5 name are now going to be part of version 11.1. The collective name of almost all of the former Hyperion products is "Oracle Hyperion EPM System 11" the first version of which will be 11.1. All of the apps will be released under this name just with EPM being replaced by the Hyperion product name. For instance, Hyperion Planning will now be "Oracle Hyperion Planning System 11" or possibly "Oracle Hyperion Planning" (more on this later).

Essbase is officially dropping the Hyperion name (Arbor Software would be so proud). It's new name will be Oracle Essbase Before anyone gets excited that calling it 11.1.1 makes it somehow get patched on the day of its release, it doesn't. will be the most major release of Essbase since 7.1.2 (when they added Aggregate Storage) but it will be a completely unpatched version of Essbase. My advice is to wait until the last digit starts counting up from 0 before anyone tries to implement it. I know people who were in the "Oracle Essbase" and "Oracle Hyperion Planning" betas (check me out: I'm using the new names), and every one of them said that they got the products to crash multiple times during the betas. Definitely delay implementing until a real patch comes out.

One of the things that Al mentioned is that when "Oracle Hyperion EPM System" is released tentatively in June of 2008, it will be English-only and astoundingly, Windows-only. This had been mentioned at Collaborate among other places, but it still bewilders me since a large portion of the client base is on Unix. I heard a rumor from one of the System 11 beta testers that further, the initial release will not work on any web application server but Oracle Application Server. Considering Oracle now owns BEA, it would bowl me over if the initial release didn't run on BEA WebLogic, but in case this rumor is true, I had to pass it on.

The next release ( is tentatively scheduled for Q3 of 2008 (late September, in other words). It will support other operating systems, other application servers, and include a few minor enhancements Oracle couldn't get into The localized version with languages beyond English should be out by the end of 2008. Code named "
Dickens," it will be numbered The version beyond that is code named "Talleyrand" and should come out sometime in 2009.

Al discussed the new installation procedure in System 11. Oracle has been getting an earful over how difficult System 9 is to install, so System 11 will have a single installation and configuration program. This program will begin by performing a platform preinstall check to confirm that everything is correct before the installation begins. If your operating system is the incorrect version, for instance, it should notify you that you need to download a service pack or upgrade your entire server. The new install will be organized by tier and should install across multiple servers at once (I'm not sure how that will work). The new installation program will also install every Hyperion product you own in the correct order. This should take the guesswork out as to the order products need to be installed. (Can I hear a hallelujah?)

The "What's Coming in Oracle Essbase 11" portion of Al's talk went into excellent detail. I'll hit the high points here. If you want a thorough discussion (with a few screen shots) of Essbase 11, my fellow
Oracle ACE Director in the Hyperion space, Tim Tow has 2 detailed entries: the first is on the Collaborate Essbase New Features presentation and the other entry (which gets a bit API-geeky towards the end) is specifically about the new date and text measures in Essbase cubes. Here are the new Essbase things worth mentioning:
  • Varying attributes. Right now, when you change the attribute (on an attribute dimension) for a base member, Essbase treats that member as if it always had that attribute. Let's say you had a product dimension and attribute dimension (boolean) called "Discounted". Product XYZ is not currently discounted, so it has a boolean on the Discounted dimension of false. Next month, it's being discounted, so it gets a boolean on the Discounted dimension of true. What this does is to restate all of history (and all forward forecasted months too) as if that member was always discounted. The new "Varying Attribute" functionality will allow that member's Discounted status to change over time without restating of history. I think this will be implemented the way Planning already does it: through Smart Lists. It will just be done at the Essbase server level so Smart Lists will be expanded before the results are ever returned to the client.

  • Non-numeric measures. This will allow cubes to finally contain text and date values as measures. (Can I hear another hallelujah?) With this change, Essbase can finally replace many of the data marts that have required relational databases to this point. It's my understanding that these measures will be stored as numerics behind the scenes and replaced with text/dates at query time (again, like Smart Lists). Tim has an entire blog entry on this if you want more detail.

  • Operational logging, backup, and recovery. Al didn't explain much about this one, but I've heard that all changes to the database will now be stored in a separate audit log. This will include things like outline changes, data loads, calcs, sends from Excel, sends from Planning, and so on. Further, if a database crashes, an administrator will be able to replay the activities in the log from the time of the backup to get the database back up to the point where it crashed. Say that since the last database backup, two data loads and two business rules have run. The database crashes and has to be restored from the backup. Once the backup is restored, the two loads and rules can be replayed in the order they were executed to get the database back up to where it was. If it works this way, this will be very cool. It certainly has to be the almost useless transaction log that Essbase maintains at present.

  • Time Intelligence in BSO. In 9.3, ASO added support for built-in, time aware dimensions. Essbase 11 brings these to BSO (Block Storage Option) databases.

  • ASO Enhancements. The three that I know about are ASO as the target of a transparent partition, the ability to clear a portion of an ASO database, and user submission of data to level-0 of an ASO cube. It's obvious to me that ASO is the future of Essbase (at least so far as Oracle is concerned) so look for ASO to quickly be brought up to the capabilities of BSO.

  • Performance enhancements. The ones mentioned included faster restructuring of cubes, optimization of queries, and "allowing an on-line feed into a persisted cube while allowing read/write to continue." I'm not sure what that last one means, but feel free to discuss it in the comments to this entry if you have any idea. It might be an ASO thing.

  • OBIEE Integration. You'll be able to use OBIEE as a data source for an Essbase cube. I'm curious to see just how automated this will be. For instance, will you be able to just press a button and an Oracle OLAP cube gets persisted into an Essbase BSO cube? I guess we'll wait until late June to find out.

  • Essbase Studio. The long-term vision for the Essbase Studio is to replace both EIS (Essbase Integration Services) and EAS (Essbase Administration Services). Let me tell you that it's not there yet. The first release of this will need to be used in conjunction with EAS, but it may be able to replace most of the EAS functionality. It will have the ability to do snowflake and star schema builds into Essbase cubes like EIS. It will have the data load and dimension build editors from EAS. It also adds some nice features like the ability to have a dimension library and push one dimension to multiple cubes. Further, it will be able to tell you that if you make a change to X dimension, that change will impact the following N cubes.

  • Drill Anywhere. Utilizing the Essbase Studio, the ability to drill to detailed information will be expanded. The sources into which one can drill now include relational, OBIEE, URL, FDM, Essbase (linked partition), and intriguingly, a Java method (basically, it runs Java code). In old Essbase, drilling into transactional data was only allowed on data, but drilling in Essbase 11 will also be supported on metadata. I can't think of how I'll be using that yet. Maybe if you double-click on a customer name, it will take you to a report showing you the contact information for that customer? I'm anxious to try it, at least.

Solutions Road Trip - Welcome to Texas

I really long for the days of the Hyperion Solutions conference. It was a great opportunity to get a bunch of like-minded individuals together to learn about Hyperion in a non-sales sort of way (that nonetheless had the effect of making a lot of people buy software once they heard other people were doing great things with it). It was a fun few days of deeply educational material and some networking too. For the moment, I'm going to overlook that some of the Solutions presentations were sales pitches for consulting firms, others were client presentations delivered at such a high-level that no one walked out having learned anything, and many were delivered by presenters who frankly aren't qualified to teach anything other than driver's ed. The point is that all-in-all, it was a pretty good conference every year, and I miss it.

To that end, several of us at interRel are trying our darnedest to bring Solutions (and sexy) back, so we decided to put on a mini-version of Solutions in Dallas, Texas. It was only from noon to 10 PM, but we managed to get a keynote, 3 tracks with 3 presentations per track, and have room for a reception & baseball game. We held the "Solutions Road Trip to Texas" at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (where the Texas Rangers attempt to play baseball) where our corporate headquarters are located (seriously: we're located on the 3rd story of the outfield).

Check-in for today started at noon with our first presentation at 1PM. Al Marciante, Senior Director of Product Management at Oracle, was our keynote speaker. His topic was "The Future of Hyperion: 2008 Road Map and Beyond." In other words, it was a talk about what's going to be released in the Hyperion space over the rest of this year and a little into 2009. I personally asked Al to speak, because I find him to be one of the best presenters at Oracle. Not only does he know his stuff, he can be quite entertaining as well. I always get a chuckle or two out of Al's presentations (in a good way). He was an Essbase expert back in the day, and he's still much more technical than your average product management director.

When Al got started, we had around 100 attendees (huge for a regional user's group) and many more joined after that. I've been to a number of "What's New with Hyperion" presentations over the last year, but Al presentation today was probably the best. First of all, it wasn't a big sales pitch for OBIEE+ (Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition Plus). Second, it actually had some details that I hadn't seen elsewhere. Another plus was that it had some nice screen prints. I wonder if Al would be willing to share them since Oracle Hyperion 11.1 is only a month or so away from release?