January 25, 2010

#7. Consulting Company Consolidation

When the decade started, the Hyperion consulting world was dominated by niche companies that only did Hyperion (and sometimes, its competitors like Cognos and Business Objects). Some of the big names included Application Partners, Beacon, Ranzal, ThinkFast, Painted Word, Navigator, Vertical Pitch, and WhittmanHart Consulting. By the end of the decade, not one of those firms was still standing.

Starting in about 2003, the value of BI/EPM really started taking off, and the merger/acquisition of the independent firms began. The first to go was Beacon (acquired by what’s now called Hackett in 2003). The next year, Edgewater gobbled up Ranzal and then in 2007, it also ate Vertical Pitch. ThinkFast and Painted Word merged with Balanced Scorecard Collaborative in 2005 to form Palladium (raise your hand if you think that was a good idea in retrospect). Hitachi acquired Navigator Systems in 2006, WhittmanHart was acquired by Rolta (an Indian conglomerate) in 2008, and the list goes on. Oh, and Application Partners? They just disappeared.

While the landscape was once dominated by focused BI/EPM firms, by 2010, only a handful remain. Yes, as of this writing, interRel is still independent, and you'll get this company out of my (and my co-founder, Eduardo's) cold dead hands. I think I sounded a little like Charlton Heston right there (when he was alive enough to say things like that).

January 18, 2010

#8. Release of Hyperion Planning and HFM

Remember Pillar and Enterprise? When the decade started, those were all we had for budgeting and financial consolidation & reporting. By the end of the decade, Pillar was dead and Enterprise though still on the price list was on intensive care. Their replacements, Hyperion Planning and Hyperion Financial Management, were built at the start of the decade by the recently combined Hyperion and Arbor Software teams (remember that merger?).

Less than 10 years later, Oracle adopted Hyperion Planning as its strategic direction for budgeting and planning. It also adopted HFM (Hyperion Financial Management) as its strategic direction for financial consolidation, reporting, and management. While there are those who fondly remember Pillar (and even more who fondly remember Enterprise), everyone acknowledges that Hyperion Planning and Financial Management are the way of the future.

January 11, 2010

#9. The Rise of EAS and MaxL

It may be hard to fathom, but when this decade started, we were all developing Essbase cubes in Application Manager and automating them through EssCMD. While we all had our reasons for loving Application Manager (I still miss being able to paste members from Excel right into an outline), the simple fact is that it looked like a Windows 3.1 application. EssCMD was getting so complicated that it was turning into a programming language in its own right yet it couldn’t do a lot of the things a real programming language could.

EAS (Essbase Administration Services which replaced Application Manager) and MaxL (which replaced EssCMD) were first released back in the Essbase 6.5 days and predominantly due to their lack of functionality, the adoption rate was slow at first. By the end of the decade, though, no one would think of going back to AppMan and EssCMD.

January 5, 2010

Oracle Gets Sued Over EPM Workspace (among other things)

The Story
Let's hit the high points. In 2005, a company called MB Technologies started licensing a technology called "Bindows" to Hyperion. Bindows (to way oversimplify which I'll be doing a lot of in this post) allows a Microsoft Windows like interface but over the web. The negotiations actually dated back to 2004 when Hyperion wanted to give Hyperion System 9 a "Windows on the Web" like experience.

It's my understanding (if I'm wrong, let me know via comment or personal e-mail and I'll correct happily) that this technology was used in pretty much every Hyperion web-delivered application including Hyperion Workspace, Hyperion Planning, and so on. If you login to Workspace, you'll notice menus, toolbars, and more that parallel remarkably the look-and-feel of Windows: that's Bindows technology at work.

Now fast-forward to 2007. Oracle acquired Hyperion and they obviously didn't want to rewrite all the Hyperion front-ends to not use Bindows, so they sought an addendum from MB Technologies allowing Oracle to keep using Bindows for Hyperion products that existed at the time of the acquisition. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, let's say Oracle decided to use Bindows for non-Hyperion applications in the Fusion product arena. Would Oracle ever do such a thing and if so, would they ever admit to it? Here's what MB Technologies claimed Robert Gersten (head of Oracle's EPM and BI development) wrote to them:
Bindows is used in three EPM components that are add-ons to the Fusion applications... We believe it would be better for my group to not re-write these GUIs of these components. It would be nice to work out something that is favorable to both parties.
Well, there's not a lot of wiggle room in that first sentence. Clearly, Bindows is being used in other Fusion apps (at least as add-ons). After some protracted negotiations, MB Technologies filed a suit on December 22, 2009 for fraud and copyright infringement.

So Who Cares?
That's fascinating and all, but isn't this a little inside baseball? Isn't the most likely outcome that Oracle has to pay some more money to MB Technologies?

Yes and no. While the likelihood of an out of court settlement is huge, long-term, Oracle won't want to remain tied to a third party company for licensing their core EPM interfaces. As Oracle stated at the time of the merger, they will eventually rewrite the front-ends to not use Bindows. While this won't necessarily mean a major change to the look-and-feel of products like Workspace and Planning (since Oracle could write their own "Windows on the Web" interface), it will mean that products which have spent years maturing are suddenly back to version 1.0 as the code bases start over again at ground zero.

I'm hoping that Oracle pulls an Ellison and just buys MB Technologies outright. Since they'd then own them, they could keep Bindows around for as long as they'd like. Since I don't see that as very likely, though, don't be shocked if you see a brand new front-end on several of the former Hyperion products (and some new Fusion EPM products just being created) in the next year or two as the GUIs get rewritten to remove Bindows. If so, prepare for bugs. But since this all just speculation, just sit back for the moment and hope for the best.

January 4, 2010

#10. Release of Version 11

This is the first in the "Top 10 Hyperion Events of the Decade" series. Remember to check back every Monday as we countdown the Top 10. Feel free to comment, discuss, or debate these items in the comments. Hurray for free speech and all that jazz.

#10. Release of Version 11
Oracle wanted their first major post-acquisition release of the Hyperion product line to be more enterprise friendly while adding features across all the products. In the summer of 2008, almost exactly one year after Hyperion ceased its independence, Oracle released "EPM System, Fusion Edition" and the world was impressed.

Oracle EPM 11x was the most revolutionary version of Hyperion in many years. While all the products were extremely enhanced, Essbase in particular was substantially improved to include text & dates inside the cube, attributes that change over time, and the new Essbase Studio product. Oracle even introduced a new application: Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management application.

While all was not perfect with the release (it was definitely not bug-free and the first version of EPM 11 was English- and Windows-only), it showed that Oracle would be investing a great deal of research and development into the former Hyperion products.

January 1, 2010

Top 10 Hyperion Events of the Decade

As I was enjoying the New Year's festivities at 3 o'clock this morning, it occurred to me that we're not only ringing in a new year, we're welcoming a new decade. Last year, I did my "Top 10 Hyperion Stories of the Year" but this time, I'm going to go for the gusto: "Top 10 Hyperion Events of the Decade."

A lot can happen in 10 years. For example, at the start of the 2000’s, HAL (Hyperion Application Link) didn’t even exist, but by the end of the decade, it was gone only to be replaced by DIM (Data Integration Manager). Oh, wait. DIM was itself replaced by ODI (Oracle Data Integrator) so two technologies effectively came over the last 10 years.

The Top 10 of the Decade series seems like it should be more major than 10 daily back-to-back postings, so I'm going to release an item each week on Monday. Since today is Friday, January 1st, that means the first in this series will be Monday, January 4th. Come back then as we countdown the decade's most important Hyperion stories.

Oh, and one minor change to this blog itself. Historically, I tagged all of my posts related to Hyperion with "Hyperion" and Oracle with "Oracle". I realized recently that ALL of my posts are about Oracle and Hyperion, so I'll be dropping those tags henceforth. Just assume that everything you read is Oracle- and Hyperion-related.

Happy New Year/Decade, readers, and remember to check back every Monday from now through, yeesh, mid-March for the "Top 10 Hyperion Events of the Decade." Now get back to bed and enjoy your hangover.