June 30, 2008

ODTUG Hyperion Developers SIG

In continuing ODTUG news, there's now a dedicated Hyperion Developers SIG page on odtug.com. Right now, it's mostly made up of all the presentations from Kaleidoscope. You do have to be a member of ODTUG to download the Hyperion content.

The good news is that I think you only need to be an Associate member to download the Kaleidoscope presentations. If that's correct, the even better news is that an
Associate Membership of ODTUG is free. Don't quote me if I turn out to be wrong on that (but, please, someone let me know if a full membership is required). Until you hear differently: sign up as an Associate member and download away.

Tim Tow Joins ODTUG Board of Directors

I just saw a press release on the ODTUG site announcing that Tim Tow has just been elected to the ODTUG Board of Directors. With Oracle directing the Hyperion development community to ODTUG, Tim's addition makes a nice statement that ODTUG is serious about their commitment to Essbase and the rest of the Hyperion world.

June 28, 2008

Essbase 11 - Preview PDF

Thanks to the wonders of the Google gods, Sebastien Roux found a link (which he posted on Network54) to a 66-page preview of Essbase (which I think cubegeek then downloaded and put on his site). The preview is in PDF format, and though slightly dated (for instance, it still mentions "Shelley" which was pulled as a code name from the next release), it's remarkably thorough.

It has a ton of screen prints (all of which cutely refer to "Hyperion 9.5"). It goes into enough detail to cover things like new environment variables and there are multiple slides on the new calc script functions which shows just how detailed it is. I particularly liked the slides with shots of the new Smart View Report Designer. There are slides on the new installer and life cycle management tools too.

Go here for the direct link to the PDF:

Based on some of the more technical content in the PDF, if I had to guess, I'd say this is probably a presentation from someone in the beta program and not one of the Hyperion 11 marketing PDFs floating around. The author (per properties in the file) is "yaoma" which means exactly nothing to me although I choose to believe that Yaoma is a rogue, hyper-intelligent Oracle spy with the looks of Keira Knightley and the attire of Trinity in the first Matrix movie. I also choose to believe that I look good in interRel polo shirts and khaki shorts, so it's possible my judgment is suspect.

I also heard that the newest pushed back release date (subject to change at a moment's whim compliments of Oracle) is July 10. I doubt there will even be a press release when it's made generally available, so make sure you check
edelivery.oracle.com or just set up an RSS feed to this blog for further news.

[Update on July 3, 2008: Gary Crisci e-mailed me to say he's pretty sure that this PDF is from the "Hyperion Essbase - What's New, What's Coming" presentation that Aneel Shenker from Oracle delivered at Collaborate in April. I've met Aneel and while he's a nice guy, he's not exactly Keira Knightley.]

June 20, 2008

Daniel Poon's MDM Blog

I came across a blog recently from someone going by the stage name "Daniel Poon." His blog is mostly about MDM (Master Data Management) or as it's now known, DRM (Data Relationship Management). From what I can tell, "Mr. Poon" is a DRM consultant for KPI, a consulting firm out of San Francisco.

There's a humorous posting where "Daniel" seems to be quite pleased at his ability to find a bug in DRM. He seems to be fairly frequent in his posts, and I recommend you check it out if you're interested in MDM, DRM, or WAOCUW4T (Whatever Acronym Oracle Comes Up With for MDM Tomorrow).

June 18, 2008

Kaleidoscope - Wednesday

11:30PM - New Orleans Party and Poker
We got to the party right after it started. On the way in, someone handed me some additional drink tickets. Each person was limited to two drinks (like Collaborate). The original two drink limit kinda surprised me, because there haven't been any limits to the drinks so far that I've noticed. Since they gave me additional drink tickets, I guess the limit is irrelevant, then. The irony, of course, is that I don't drink alcohol so have no need for drink tickets anyway. I ended up giving them to some of the Essbase track attendees who clearly needed more alcohol and to a few interRel people who clearly didn't.

I was skeptical of the party beforehand, but it ended up being a lot of fun. On the way in, there were 5 Tarot card readers telling people's fortunes (or whatever it is Tarot card readers do). I skipped them and went to one of the two temporary tattoo artists. I asked if they had anything resembling a cube, and they showed me a Celtic pattern that looked for all the world like a 4-dimensional hypercube. Sensing fate, I got a dark blue hypercube tattoo on my right forearm. I was thinking it would be a chick magnet the rest of the night, but it turns out that multidimensionality isn't the female draw it used to be. [Note to my wife: I'm kidding. No one has ever been attracted to me but you and I think it maybe wasn't my Essbase knowledge that put you under my spell. I'm thinking it was my manly beard and musky scent.]

The food was plentiful and I ended up getting a semi-spicy penne pasta and then sitting down at a table to eat with some friends. We sat by the dance floor. There was a zydeco band that also did some classic rock. I can now say that I've heard "Stagger Lee" accompanied by a washboard and spoons. One of the highlights is when the lead singer invited people up to the stage to play instruments. Two non-musical types came up on stage and proceeded to play non-musically. Well, it has to count for something that they got up there at least.

There was dance floor filled with, at least as of when I left, no more than 2 people at a time. Natalie and Jay ended up dancing together. At least, I think it was dancing. Natalie has rhythm, but Jay has... whiteness. Again, at least he put himself out there, dancing ability be damned.

After we finished eating, four of us went over to Harrah's for poker and roulette. I stuck to the poker and won around $500. On my last hand of the night, I drew to an inside straight (I know, girls don't make dates with guys who chase straights). I pretended to be remarkably distracted by ESPN's Top 10 Plays of the Day throughout the hand. Pre-flop, the other fellow bet $12. It was my big blind and I only had a Jack/Eight of diamonds, but I was tired of him raising my blind every single time, so I decided to make a stand and see what the flop brought. In this case, it was a 4/7/9 of all different suits.

I needed a 10 after the flop for a straight. I checked, the guy bet $20, and I called. The odds weren't right, but I figured that if a 10 came, he'd never put me on a straight. A 10 arrived on the turn (giving me a straight) and a fellow bet $40 at me. I called looking like I was doing it out of a lack of attention. The dealer actually had to say to me, "hey, we're playing poker here." The river card came, and I knew I had the nuts (the best possible hand). As soon as the card came out, I went all-in and went back to watching ESPN. The guy called and turned over two pair. I showed my straight and took all his money. Everyone seemed very surprised except the player next to the dealer who said "couldn't you people smell a straight? That was the worst acting job ever." Hindsight's 20/20, my friend.

Eduardo lost over $700 at poker, but went over to the roulette table and won $900 betting on red and black. That's not the easiest thing in the world. I left to go back to the hotel and pack. My flight leaves New Orleans for New York at 11AM tomorrow, so I won't be attending tomorrow morning's sessions on Essbase infrastructure.

As such, I guess this makes this my last Kaleidoscope entry although I will do one at some point comparing the various Hyperion conferences now that I've been to all of them. It's been a great ride, folks. Thanks for reading along, and next year, try to make it to to Kaleidoscope yourself. I'll see you there, wherever there is.

6:30PM - Ask an Essbase Guru Panel
Tim Tow and I shared the moderating of the "Ask an Essbase Guru" panel. It started about 15 minutes late (my fault due to the Optimizing Calc Scripts presentation running over earlier). The panel was made of up the two Oracle Hyperion ACEs (Glenn and Gary), the speakers from the Essbase Optimization Day, and two of the infrastructure people from Friday to handle any installation questions. It made for a crowded stage.

Steve Liebermensch and Gary Crisci (along with me, even though I was supposed to be co-moderating) ended up answering the majority of the questions. Some of the questions were overly detailed (Does the Set AggMissg setting in a calc script override the database-level setting? Yes.), others were humorous (Is it true that one of Edward's employees beat his score on the Hyperion Certification Exam? Yes, on the Planning exam, Jason Novikoff got a perfect score and I didn't.), and others were purposefully vague (What's your favorite Essbase optimization tip that you didn't hear today? Mine was to use report scripts to speed up large Excel retrieves.)

All-in-all, the panel went well, but by 5PM, my mind was thoroughly blown and I was ready for a break. I thanked everyone for their time (since I won't be here tomorrow) and adjourned for the day. Everyone seems to be getting a great deal of value out of the Hyperion track so far. Cameron Lackpour said some nice words on the Network54 Essbase forum that I think echoed the sentiments of just about everyone here.

After the panel, I thankfully had a 90 minute break before the 6:30 party was due to start. I went back to the room with a few other interRel-ites to meditate on the week (and to eat snacks and have a few drinks, of course). We're headed down to the party now. I'm staying in my interRel bowling shirt (with the Arf on the back) but everyone else in our group changed into less nerdy attire. I am what I am, so I don't see any need to hide it.

4:00PM - Optimizing ASO
Steve Liebermensch, Consulting Product Director from Oracle, gave one of the best ASO Optimization presentations I've ever attended. He really knows his stuff, and I enjoy his sense of humor. He started off by pointing out that ASO optimization is totally different than BSO optimization. He then covered far too many points for me to mention, but here are as many important bullets as I could write down:

  • Compression. Compression dimension is not mandatory, but helps performance. The compression dimension is a dynamic dimension. It should be the column headers in a data load file. Ideal compression is achieved if the leaf level member count is evenly divisible by 16.
  • Accounts. Accounts is a dynamic dimension that allows for non additive unary operators (minuses in a structure still make a hierarchy dynamic). The only reason to make a dimension Accounts in ASO is for time balancing. Expense flags are accomplished through UDAs and member formulae.
  • Time. Can make a good candidate for compression dimension. Should be stored. Use multi-hierarchy if formulae are necessary. Prior to 9.3.1, to-date is best performed in Time dimension. 9.3.1+, use an "analytic dimension" with to-date members like MTD, QTD, and YTD.
  • Meta-data vs. data. Don't evaluate data when a metadata check will suffice. For instance, IIF(Is(Scenario.CurrentMember,Actual) is faster than IIF(Scenario.CurrentMember=Actual) because the latter IIF actually compares values.
  • MDX Optimization. Don't use the MDX Round() function: rounding is a function of formatting in a reporting tool not the database. Remove CurrentMember if possible, because that's what's already being calculated. Use LastPeriods() instead of Lag() when doing of range of Time periods. Don't use a function where direct referencing can be performed. (Call out specific members instead of functions, for instance.) Only perform calculation when data to support the math exists [i.e., start off with Case When Not IsEmpty()]. In 11.1.1, there is a new NonEmptyMember directive to only calculate when data exists.
  • Materialization. You can turn Query Hints (Level Usage for Aggregation) on for specific members (the member information tab in the member properties in EAS). You can also specify a specific level intersection to materialize via EAS. Both types of Query Hints can only be set through EAS. He mentioned that only 1,024 level intersections can be materialized which I've never seen anyone ever come close to.
  • Slices. Is the primary feature enabling Excel (Lock&)Send and trickle feeding functionality. Creates "subcubes" alongside the primary slice of the database. Dynamic aggregations are performed across the necessary slices to provide query results.
  • Data load. Data should be loaded as additive values (instead of replace even on an empty database). Multiple buffers can be used to parallel load the database. Requires simultaneous MaxL processes to be executed. Ignore Zeros and Missing values whenever possible (buffer setting which was available in 9.0).

Everybody's been writing down their questions for the "Ask an Essbase Guru" panel on little slips of blue paper. Tim and I are going to co-moderate the Guru panel. It should go quickly, because everyone's tired and we're running behind on time.

3:00PM - Optimizing Essbase Retrievals
I didn't know the next speaker, Mike Killeen from Ranzal. Mike submitted an abstract for the conference, and we asked him to give this presentation instead of the one he submitted. Tim Tow's met Mike before and knew he could do it.

He started off with some slides on testing methodology. He had a good slide on recommended standard Essbase.CFG settings that he uses on his projects. They seemed to make sense:

There were a few more that I couldn't write down in time. He then talked about optimizing outlines for retrieval including use of dynamic calc members. He mentioned optimizing memory management, caches (data cache, data file cache, index cache, dynamic calculator cache), and some other settings (like retrieval buffers and sort buffers). On the server-side, he also mentioned maintenance routines (defragmentation, log purging, recycling of services to clear memory, and archiving off older data sets into things like history cubes).

He went to optimizing reports themselves. The most important thing, of course, is the layout of the dimensions on the report. He gave two good tips:

  1. Make reports symmetrical.
  2. Try to order your dimensions like a columnar export: dense dimensions across columns and near the data in your rows, sparse dimensions in your rows.

He pointed out that on Excel retrieves, turning off preserve formulas speeds up retrieves (and just use Excel protection to keep the formulas). Nice tip that I often forget to mention.

For Hyperion Reports (Financial Reporting), he recommends using the MemberProperty() function for filtering along attribute dimension associations, and I completely agree. He made an interesting point that in some reports, it might be better to calculate within Reports instead of the server if a lot of rows are suppressed.

He also covered optimizing report scripts and Web Analysis. Overall, it was a great presentation. Mike went way beyond what I expected from the presentation. The recommendations on optimizing specific front-end tools was a very nice surprise. I definitely feel like I learned some things during his presentation.

2:00PM - Optimizing Calc Scripts
I went 15 minutes beyond the end of my presentation timeslot and into the next timeslot. I guess I'm overly passionate about calc scripts. On a related note, I'm a geek. The audience seemed to enjoy it. In a room of 150+ people, I only saw one person leave at the scheduled time. A lot of people were also taking notes which is always a good sign of concentration and attentiveness.

Doug Bliss, Steve Liebermensch, and Glenn Schwartzberg offered some helpful clarifications to some points. There were some good questions during the presentation from others too. Here are the main points I tried to cover:

  • The tips are for BSO only (since ASO doesn't do calc scripts) but does apply to 64-bit BSO
  • To optimize calc time, always minimize reading from the hard drive
  • Make sure your database is defragmented
  • Avoid two-pass members
  • No left-handed cross-dims
  • Repeating CLEARDATA commands causes multiple database passes
  • CALCDIM vs. CALCALL vs. AGG (use AGG)
  • IF vs. FIX (it's not always true to FIX on sparse and IF on dense)
  • Avoid unnecessary IFs when, say, a FIX would do.
  • You can use @ISxxx functions outside of IF statements
  • How to check for missing or zero
  • Changing zeros to missings
  • @XREF being called in a dynamically calculated member
  • Try not to use @ALLOCATE or @MDALLOCATE
  • AGGMISSG ON speeds up aggregations
  • Pivot calculations to avoid cross-dims
  • Use VARs and ARRAYs (especially when pulling info in from an XREF)
  • Compile calc scripts into default calc scripts
  • CDFs vs. built-in functions (built-in functions are faster)
  • DATAEXPORT is fastest way to export
  • Use substitution variables to improve maintenance
  • CLEARBLOCK before aggregating? Depends but can often slow down calculations
  • Use CALCPARALLEL set to max in most cases.
  • FIX arguments are reordered
  • SET CREATENONMISSINGBLK is the devil's work (second only to left-handed cross dims)
  • Use SET FRMLBOTTOMUP ON to speed AGGs (in most cases) but watch out for incorrect results
  • Avoid functions that cause Cell Mode calculations

When my slides are posted to the ODTUG website, I'll link to them from here. Someone asked a great question: "Why isn't Tracy McMullen [best co-author ever] an Oracle ACE?" There was the obvious subtext that she does at least as much work answering questions, presenting, and writing as I do. I remarked that no one had nominated her yet, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time until someone does. I asked the room who thinks Tracy should be an Oracle ACE, and the entire room gave a round of thunderous applause.

12:30PM - Lunch
Lunch was a boxed salad. Not much more to say, really. I'm told that there were desserts available on the 3rd floor in the exhibit area, but since I couldn't eat them anyway, I don't have first-hand evidence. Have to go start my presentation now.

11:30AM - Optimizing Caches and CFG Settings
Rick Sawa from Oracle just gave the cache and CFG optimization presentation. There was a lot of theory and not a ton of concrete tips. That said, I actually learned a ton. Rick has an interesting perspective on optimization, because he's normally brought in to tune huge Essbase cubes running under huge Planing implementations with huge concurrent user counts running huge calcs. When he's brought into these huge projects, it's usually because they've failed. As such, Rick really taught everyone about optimizing Essbase for mass concurrency which is a perspective you don't see that often.

He covered the background behind how the memory and storage managers work in Essbase. He didn't exactly say how to tune the caches but rather he said to set them to the minimal amount possible. One of his more interesting points was that the old "load your entire index into RAM" rule is out-of-date. Now, he says to set your index only as large as is necessary.

As a speaker, Rick's very knowledgeable (he wrote one of the appendices for our Look Smarter book) but he does read everything from a prepared script. This makes the presentations not very interactive: it's hard to change based on audience interest if you have pre-planned words. Luckily, this audience seemed in tune with what Rick was trying to get across. Rick has a very interesting whitepaper on the conference CD (and it might by on the ODTUG website some day) that I encourage everyone to see.

10:15AM - Optimizing Data Loads and Dimension Builds
My friend Jeff McAhren from Health Markets gave the optimizing Essbase data loading and dimension building presentation. I think he did a great job of going beyond the standard tips like "sort your data load file correctly." While he did cover the sorting, he gave a ton of other tips including some on ASO loading and others on staging data in your data source.

9:00AM - Optimizing Outlines
I'm the moderator for today's "Optimizing Essbase Day." I said a few brief words and then turned it over to Tracy McMullen, Best Co-Author Ever. I really enjoyed her presentation. She had a fun slide on the differing schools of thought on recommended Essbase block sizes. She first gave the Essbase Database Administrator's Guide recommendation of 8-100Kb, but she pointed out that the DBAG is always very slow to change. She then gave the "Edward Recommendation" of 1-8Kb. She finally pointed out that every one has their own opinions on block size.

She pointed out that some of the rules people follow are not correct such as:
-Hourglass order for dimension ordering
-Accounts first, time second
-Dynamic calculated members slow retrieval

All of those rules are still taught in Essbase classes around the world, and they're all either out-of-date or wrong some of the time (in the case of the last one).

There were some good questions throughout the presentation that I wasn't able to take down quickly enough. I'm impressed at the level of Essbase knowledge at this conference. During one of my normal Essbase sessions, I usually know more than anyone else in the room. At this conference, there are several people that know more about a specific Essbase topic than I do, which is both comforting and frightening.

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.

June 16, 2008

Kaleidoscope - Monday

10:00PM - Dinner
After the presentation, the 6 people here from interRel tried to find a restaurant that everyone could agree on. Every one of us had one or more bizarre dietary issues making a single restaurant problematic. Here were some of our individual quirks:
- One person can't eat seafood.
- One person is a vegan (and doesn't like to eat salad, go figure).
- One person can't eat anything with pepper in it.
- One person can't eat wheat.

Combine all of those and we have no options at all in New Orleans (at least for traditional French, Creole, or other New Orleans fare). We ended up at an African restaurant serving food from Cameroon and Ghambia (seriously: Bennachin). The food was tasty if a bit unpronounceable and in some cases, unidentifiable. I had fried plantains (adios, diet), black eyed pea fritters, and something that merged eggplant, cous cous, and curry. Those were all good, but I really did not enjoy the pounded yams. I was expecting mashed potatoes and got, well, paste. It brought back not so fond memories of my kindergarten years. I think it was supposed to be really bland to blunt the spiciness of the curry, but the cous cous worked just fine for that.

I'm actually getting to bed early tonight to prepare for programming & automation sessions tomorrow from 8AM-6PM. Note to self: design next year's agenda to be a lot densely packed with presentations.

6:00PM - Migration to ASO from BSO
Steve Liebermensch, Consulting Technical Director in the Enterprise Solutions Group at Oracle, gave a presentation on converting BSO cubes to ASO cubes. I came up with the topic and asked Steve to deliver it and he did a bang up job.

He covered why to migrate to ASO, functional differences between BSO and ASO, MDX to Calc Script equivalents, migrating Sample Basic (as an example), and Gotchas of migration.

Why to migrate from BSO to ASO:
-Decrease update window
-Reduce database size
-Increase dimensionality
-Increase dimension size

Functional differences between BSO and ASO:
-Upper level loading
-Procedural calculations (calc scripts to do things like currency conversion)
-Native expense handling
-Dynamic time series (not in 9.3.1 or 11.1.1, despite rumors to the contrary)
-Stored results of subtraction (as soon as a dimension has a minus sign on a single member, that dimension must be dynamic in ASO)
-Attribute dimension functionality (any dimension can have an attribute in ASO and it's worth pointing out that attributes perform must better on attribute dimensions)
-Time intelligence
-Formula syntax
-Performance characteristics

Some gotchas:
-Unit * Rate calculations
-Upper-level data load
-Custom functions

He made a good point that people shouldn't convert a cube to ASO if BSO is working just fine.
Steve's giving a presentation on Wednesday about optimizing ASO cubes and I'm sure it will go as well.

5:00PM - ASO: Understanding MDX
Glenn Schwartzberg, Oracle Hyperion ACE and ODTUG Ambassador, wore a jester hat to introduce Gary Crisci, Oracle Hyperion ACE. Glenn gave a personal ad for Gary that was Hyperion-centric and humorous. Gary started off by thanking me and Tim for putting the track together which was extremely gracious. He commented that some people told him that they feel they've gotten better information so far at this conference than at any Hyperion conference they've been to.

I won't be able to repeat everything Gary Crisci said, but I'll try to draw out some points that some people might not know. Gary pointed out that MDX is used to query both Essbase BSO and ASO cubes but can only be used in ASO cubes. He also pointed out that MDX is used for both querying metadata and data. For additional MDX help, go to the Essbase Technical Reference and visit MDX->Aggregate Storage Topics->MDX Outline Formulas (in System 9 and later).

Steve Liebermensch pointed out that some of the tips Gary gave for doing things like Time Balancing change between Essbase ASO 7x, System 9, and 11.1.1. Steve promised to go into these more on Wednesday during his ASO optimization presentation.

Gary recommended two MDX books:
- Fast Track to MDX; 2004; by Whitehorn, Zare, Pasumansky
- MDX Solutions with Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Server 2005 and Hyperion Essbase, 2nd Edition; 2006; by Spofford, Harinath, Webb, Huang, Civardi

Tracy McMullen (best co-author ever) pointed out that the Read Me files with each file list all the new MDX functions in each version. You have to read all the Read Me files if you started MDX under 7 and are now on later versions. She also pointed out that MDX shouldn't be used for bulk exports; one should look to report scripts or do a calc script export.

Someone asked if MDX has variance financial intelligence? The answer was that you can do it with a UDA and an IIF function.

Gary promised to get his slides & examples up on the ODTUG website. When I notice, I'll blog it here. Gary gave a great presentation (he's a fun guy). I'm going to ask him to speak at events in the future.

3:40PM - 64-Bit Essbase
The "Power of 64-Bit Essbase" presentation with Tim went well. I ran about 10 minutes over, but that's because we had time at the beginning of the presentation for interRel and AppliedOLAP commercials.

While my presentation went on for 30+ slides, there were two points that I wanted everyone to remember:
- Consider using 64-bit if you want to build bigger cubes with more concurrency on users and CPUs but be aware that 64-bit is not as stable as 32-bit.
- Throw away all the old optimization tips and try everything again with 64-bit.

After the presentation, we're breaking for 20 minutes for soft drinks and cookies.

2:15PM - Large Scale Implementation Panel
I just attended a panel on Large Scale Implementations of Essbase headed by Steve Liebermensch from Oracle who is also the moderator for the day. I was the one who recruited the panel members:
-Jay White, MDAnderson Cancer Center
-Andy North, Alcon Laboratories
-Rob Donahue, WhittmanHart
-Gary Crisci, Morgan Stanley
-Jason Novikoff, interRel Consulting

Here are the questions as best as I can paraphrase:
Q: What's your definition of a large-scale implementation? User count, number of cubes, large number of cubes?
Gary: Anything that would cause a block storage cube to break. Maybe the biggest dimension has 50-60K members, but it takes a lot of people working together to get it to work.
Jay: Number of users, number of load files, number of dimensions. A lot of it has to do with complexity.
Rob: A departmental solution isn't enterprise-wide. Number of users, cubes, and infrastructure requirements.
Jason: Number of users can drive your architecture. You can make several services redundant, you can load balance your cube... You need to load balance your cube.

Q: What should you do to load balance using what used to be Spreadsheet Services then Deployment Services and is now APS?
Gary: We're setting up SAN-based storage with clustering. Multiple servers are accessing a central SAN drive storage. It's good for business continuity planning (BCP) if the building burns down or whatever.
Andy: We basically ZIP up exports for backup purposes.
Jay: We run multiple servers. We literally run from 3 different physical locations for redundancy and continuity.
Steve: If you want true redundancy, you have to double your storage, but if you just want duplicate servers, you can feed everything off a central Storage Area Network.

Q: Are you running multiple environments?
Jay: We run multiple versions, because not everyone at our company is comfortable with System 9.
Gary: Our SQL farm is better funded and staffed than our Essbase farm, so we leverage the SQL farm to help us recover from backups more quickly.

Q: Has Oracle changed messaging these days? Why is IT supporting Essbase more?
Gary: Oracle buying Essbase has gained IT support?
Rob: Compliance and SarbOx. IT has to have a compliant system and support that system. Essbase is now a multi-tier solution used across the enterprise.

Q: Have you discussed why you might want to go to System 9?
Andy: We just signed the contract to go to System 9.
Gary: Good month for Oracle sales: we just signed ours to.
Andy: Our reason is mostly to stay in support not features really. It's a small group involved right now.
Jason: One of the driving factors for RadioShack for going to System 9 was for reporting purposes. For our new reporting project, they wanted to go from Crystal Reports to Interactive Reporting. We wanted to be on System 9 for the new IR reporting.

Q: How do you enforce playing nicely with others in a shared environment?
Jay: We don't play nicely. We were wholly owned by finance and now we're owned by IT. What we did (as a not for profit) was to break across multiple servers.
Andy: We broke up servers along departments, so if you're stepping on someone, you're stepping on your own group.

Q: How many people in the audience report up through IT?
A: [about 20%]

Q: How many report up through finance?
A: [about 80%]

Q: And how many of those have changed from finance to IT or the other way around?
A: [about 10%]

Q: How do you measure ROI on a large-scale implementation
Jay: We're rolling out System 9 right now. Part of our methodology is you must prove ROI. We justified our ROI was single sign-on across all the various applications we use.

Q: Have you built BI Competency Centers (AKA Centers of Excellence)?
Rob: We've seen some at some of our clients but leadership has to be on-board.
Jay: We've hired outside help to work with us to create a Center of Excellence.

Q: What blows away your capacity planning? Lots of concurrent users? Running big queries? Lots of simultaneous calcs?
Jay: We set limits in our Essbase config so queries can't run more than 180 seconds.

Q: How do you handle backing up Essbase cubes and defragmenting cubes with users demanding 24x7 uptime?
Steve: A Planning cube has to have downtime. A reporting cube can do things with partitioning and swapping cubes (even if you don't use clustering) to give close to 24x7 uptime.

Q: How many Essbase support people do you have?
Jay: We have 3 areas and have 42 people supporting the applications across those 3 areas. 3 of those are admins and we have 5 Oracle DBAs supporting our Hyperion apps too.
Gary: We have 7-8 developers, 6-9 production DBAs, and 5-6 people in our infrastructure team.

I enjoyed the panel although like most panels, a couple of people dominated the panel answers. Steve did a fabulous job of getting the panel to open up as much as he could and spread the answers around. I don't know if he'll let me talk him into something like this again, but I would definitely hit up Steve Liebermensch to host a panel for me again. Not only is he entertaining, he keeps the off-topic questions to a minimum.

Tim Tow and I are about to deliver a vendor presentation on 64-bit Essbase. It's officially a paid presentation, but that's only because I didn't want someone else buying the timeslot and making me sit through a 60-minute advertisement. If anyone wants the slides because you're considering going to 64-bit Essbase, e-mail me at info@interrel.com.

1:15PM - Lunch
Lunch was a hot plated meal. It was admittedly tasty but I liked the options of the yesterday's buffet more. I'm still satiated, though, and they brought me a vegetarian portobello and potato cake.

It's time to head back to the Essbase room for the Large Scale Implementation Panel.

11:33AM - Essbase Keynote
I did indeed miss both breakfast and the general session. I got to the Essbase ballroom 30 minutes before the keynote only to find that some guy from Pinnacle snagged my choice spot by the only power supply near the seating area. I'll have to blog without a table today so I can go sit by an electric outlet.

ODTUG Ambassador Gary Crisci (Oracle ACE from Morgan Stanley) introduced Robin Hazel, Oracle's Director of Strategy for Essbase. Robin Hazel has what seems to be a very realistic British accent, so I can only assume he's intelligent. He started off with the boring disclaimer slide that most people in the audience can quote from memory at this point. He then continued on into the EPM System Vision slide (the cycle of EPM that Hyperion created: Set Goals, Plan, Monitor, Analyze, Report, Align, repeat as necessary).

He covered the architecture of Oracle's EPM layer. The EPM Workspace sits on EPM Applications (Planning, HFM, Strategic Finance, Profitability Management, etc.) and BI Applications (the pre-packaged OBIEE apps that came from Siebel Analytics). Those sit on the BI Foundation (Essbase, BI Server, and Predictive Analytics). The BI Foundation sits on Fusion Middleware which sits on all the underlying data sources. That's a lot of sitting. I really should find the EPM architecture slide to show this visually. I just found an image at http://www.oracle.com/solutions/business_intelligence/docs/epm-system-graphic.pdf:

Robin addressed the Oracle OLAP elephant in the room: What's going on with Oracle OLAP (the old Express) now that Essbase is owned by Oracle? Here are Robin's differentiators:
- Essbase is for heterogeneous data and OLAP is for Oracle-centric data.
- Essbase is owned by lines of business (end users) and OLAP is owned by IT.
- Metadata in Essbase is owned by users and OLAP metadata is owned by IT.
- Essbase has hot pluggable data sources whereas Oracle OLAP has hot pluggable BI Tools.
In other words, Essbase is driven by the users whereas Oracle OLAP is driven by the IT organization for enhanced data warehousing.

He tackled the question of "Why does Oracle love Essbase?" (his words, not mine):
- It has the richest business user experience. It has excellent Microsoft Office integration and a range of superior reporting tools (like Financial Reporting, Web Analysis, and Visual Explorer). It also has Smart Space (the only persistent, always on BI/EPM gadgets in the world).
- It has a highly advanced calculation engine. They're now claiming 350+ functions which is a stretch unless you count some functions multiple times based on optional arguments, but the function library is impressive nonetheless.
- A bunch of other reasons that the readers of this blog already know. At one point, Robin opened up the keynote to the audience to tell their stories about non-financial applications of Essbase.
Oracle seems interested in getting Essbase out of its "financial niche."

Robin gave an interesting slide titled "10 Things You Can Do Today to Prepare for Oracle Fusion Applications":
  1. Move to the latest applications releases.
  2. Prepare a roadmap to evolve to Oracle Fusion applications.
  3. Inventory your enterprise assets.
  4. Rethink your "customization" strategy.
  5. Consolidate your master data.
  6. Embrace SOA-based integration.
  7. Extend your BI applications portfolio.
  8. Adopt enterprise reporting & publishing.
  9. Secure your global enterprise.
  10. Centralize your application's lifecycle management.
Robin opened it up for questions at the end. There was only one: "What direction is Oracle planning on taking with underlying databases feeding into Essbase like DB2, for instance?" Robin didn't know the answer specifically, but did say that Oracle's direction for Essbase was to sit on top of every source database they possibly could.

It's off to lunch. After yesterday's foodapalooza, I'm excited. I can't say that I've ever really felt that way about conference food before.

Kaleidoscope - Sunday

3:00 AM - Poker and Shopping Carts
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 (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 The Dickens version will support localization in the second half of 2008 and should be version

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 (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 t
here 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.
After Al's talk, he released us for a brief break so we could catch up on our blogging (presumably).

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.