January 23, 2012

Kscope12 - Schedule is Published

Waterpark at the JW Marriott Hill Country
2012 will be my final year as conference chair for the Kscope conference.  In case you haven't heard elsewhere, in 2012, it's June 24-28 in San Antonio, TX at the gorgeous JW Marriott Hill Country.  The schedule has been finalized, published, and (I'll humbly admit this since I really had very little to do with it) it's the best schedule I've seen for a conference in my memory.  Yes, historians, the schedule is better than the last Hyperion Solutions conference because there are no marketing sessions (beyond one timeslot for clearly marked vendor sessions) and the content is deep and not just broad.

It's also not dominated by the software vendor (unlike Solutions).  When the maker of the software speaks (Oracle, in our case), it's because they're asked to speak and on topics we care about.  On the subject of Hyperion, for instance, Oracle is hosting an entire day-long symposium on what's going to be released in the future for Hyperion, Essbase, and OBIEE.  It's led by product development and not the Oracle product marketing guys.

One of the expansion areas this year is that in the areas of BI and EPM, they're adding more business and introductory content.  Here are all the dedicated BI/EPM tracks for Kscope12 amounting to over 150 sessions (click on the name of each to get a page about each track):
- Business Intelligence.  This track is led by some of the best OBIEE (and other Oracle BI product areas) people in the business.  The track has been expanded this year as the importance of BI has grown tremendously within Oracle.
- Essbase.  They have over 50 sessions all on Essbase this year.  This is more than any other conference in the world.  This track will cover intermediate to advanced Essbase sessions you won't get at conferences like Collaborate, Connection Point, or OpenWorld.
- Essbase Beginner.  This is a new track that allows people who are just getting started in the world of Hyperion to get some introductory training from the best in the business.
- Hyperion Applications. Hyperion Planning, HFM (Hyperion Financial Management), Hyperion Strategic Finance, and all the other Hyperion applications finally get a track of their own... and it has over 50 sessions dedicated to the Hyperion applications.  Like the Essbase track, this makes it the largest Hyperion application track of any conference in the world.
- Hyperion Business Content. For the first time in 2012, we are adding a track devoted to the business users.  If you're a director, manager, VP, controller, power user, or any type of person who primarily uses or manages Hyperion/Essbase instead of implementing it, you finally have a place to turn.  Since Solutions ended in 2007, a true Hyperion or EPM business-specific user didn't have dedicated content at any conference.  Collaborate tried (and no offense, failed).  OpenWorld missed dramatically by assuming most users were either CFO's or users with hard-core IT backgrounds.  Business people, welcome to Kscope.

In addition to those 150+ sessions on Business Intelligence and Enterprise Performance Management, there are other tracks serving the non BI/EPM community:

If you haven't registered for the conference yet, I will save you $100.  If you've already registered, it's too late.  When you register, put in promo code IRC (it stands for interRel Consulting) and it'll take $100 off whatever the prevailing rate is.  Consider that my gift for you reading this far in the blog (for which $100 is not nearly enough, I'm sure you're thinking).

January 13, 2012

Hyperion Solutions Roadshow to Denver

Hyperion Solutions Roadshow to Denver - Agenda
I just finished booking my travel to Denver for the big Hyperion event on the 24th at the Hyatt Regency (downtown by the convention center).  It's the closest Denver has come to a HUG (Hyperion User Group) meeting since Hyperion got acquired 5 years ago (wow, it's hard to believe Hyperion was acquired in 2007).  Oracle and interRel are putting on a 5+ hour event split across two educational tracks.

The first track is an introductory track that introduces some products and also covers what's new in Oracle EPM/BI 11.1.2:
  • What’s New in Oracle EPM and OBIEE 11g: A Customer Story with Catholic Health Initiatives
  • Taking Control of Your Hierarchies with Data Relationship Management 
  • Quick Start to Hyperion Financial Close Solutions
The second track is for people that have more intermediate to advanced experience with Hyperion:
  • Hyperion Financial Reporting: Top 10 Tips & Tricks
  • Thinking Outside the Cube: Non-Financial Applications of Oracle Essbase
  • 10 Reasons Why You Don’t Have to ‘Code’ or ‘Customize’ Hyperion Planning
I will be giving some of the sessions, Essbase expert and fellow Oracle ACE Director, Glenn Schwartzberg, will be delivering some others, and Oracle and Catholic Health will be splitting the rest.  I'm most excited that Toufic Wakim (one of the greatest Product Development guys in the EPM/BI business unit at Oracle) will be delivering the keynote to start off the day.  He'll be talking about the future of Hyperion in an interactive discussion.  Among other things, Toufic is responsible for development of Smart View and the classic Essbase Excel Add-In, and you've seen how much those products have evolved recently under Toufic's tutelage.  For anyone that's had a chance to hear Toufic speak, his sessions are always hugely attended, hilarious, and full of information.  I will actually be attending his keynote and taking notes (and hopefully, blogging whatever we're allowed to publicly restate).  

Throughout the day, we'll be having networking time and at the end of the day we're going to have a group dinner and then go to the Colorado Avalanche game after.  I think the Avs play hockey (it's a Canadian ice sport played with sticks, I think), but I'm primarily going to the game to meet the local rocky mountain Hyperion users.  It's time that the users get back together and form a community.  If you're an Oracle client and can fly in on January 24th, send an e-mail to Danielle White and she'll send you more information on registering.  Flights in and out of Denver are cheap and the event is free, so I hope to see you there.

January 12, 2012

Exalytics - Pricing Has Been Announced

The official catchy Oracle name is "Exalytics In-Memory Machine X2-4" which come to think of it is not very catchy but does sound techie.  Larry Ellison announced Exalytics at OpenWorld 2011 to great fanfare and little details.  In a nutshell, it's Essbase, OBIEE, and TimesTen running in-memory on a really powerful server.  How powerful?  40 Intel cores (4 Intel Xeon E7-4800 processors with 10 cores each), a terabyte of RAM, an InfiniBand backbone (40 GB/s when talking to Exadata), two 10 GB/s ethernet ports for connecting to non-Exadata sources, and 3.6 TB of hard drive.  Imagine Essbase running fully in memory with ethernet speeds so powerful it's like you're running Essbase locally (subject to the speed of your actual corporate network, of course).

It's an exciting development for those people who want to make BI virtually real-time.  There's even a slightly modified front-end on the OBIEE side of things to make queries a more interactive "speed of thought" activity.  If you want to make Essbase even faster, this is the solution for you.  Early benchmarks have been all over the map (I've seen 5 times improvement all the way up to 80 times improvement) but suffice to say, that once you've tuned your Essbase cubes for running in-memory, you'll be looking at five-fold improvement at the bare minimum.  If you want to learn more, Oracle has an in-depth whitepaper at:

Various rumors have leaked out on the pricing for Exalytics, but it's now been finalized and posted on the Oracle website. While there are a few places where you can find this on the web this morning (including the actual PDF of the pricing from Oracle), the best summary I've read comes from Chris Kanaracus at IDG.

Here are the pricing highlights:
  • Hardware: $135,000
  • Processor Licenses of TimesTen: $34,500
  • Named User Licenses of TimesTen: $300
  • Processor Licenses of BI Foundation Suite: $450,000
  • Named User Licenses of BI Foundation Suite: $3,675
Some additional points:
  • Annual Maintenance is the typical 22% of net.
  • Licenses of TimesTen and BI Foundation Suite must be equal (if I'm reading a footnote on page 8 of the price list correctly).
  • BI Foundation Suite includes Essbase, OBIEE, and Oracle Strategy & Scorecard Management.  The pricing above is the current pricing for BI Foundation Suite (technology price list, page 5).
  • Processors must be licensed for every core meaning full list at processor licensing for every core on the box is almost $20,000,000 (though the article points out that Oracle would probably drop that as much as 70%). That's still a lot of money so I foresee most companies going with the named user license.
  • Oracle will probably discount named users as well. Assume ~50% discount on these (though Chris Kanaracus points out that it can go as much as 70% for large deals). Hardware, following Oracle traditional appliance discounting, will discount at most 25%.
Following the math, list price for 100 users (the minimum you're allowed to buy) would be about:
  • Hardware: $135,000
  • Software: $397,500
  • List Total: $532,500
  • Discount: $232,500 (25% hardware, 50% software)
  • Net Total: $300,000
  • Maintenance: $66,000 (due on signing for 1st year)
It's expensive, to say the least, but keep in mind that list for 100 users of just Essbase is $290,000 and this gives you some great hardware, Essbase, OBIEE, and TimesTen with everything pre-installed and configured (reducing your infrastructure costs).  I don't know what Oracle will do if you already own licenses of BI Foundation Suite.  My guess is (and I don't work for Oracle) that they won't make you pay for it again, but you'll at least have to pay for the full hardware and TimesTen.

Before I leave the subject of Exalytics, I have to point out just how worried SAP is about Exalytics competing with their HANA solution.  SAP's Sanjay Poonen (President, Corporate Officer of Global Solutions at SAP) wrote one of the worst attack pieces I've ever read right after Exalytics was announced.  To summarize his point, Essbase is an old dying OLAP technology that's been around for 20 years and is therefore worthless.  First of all Sanjay, the relational database has been around a lot longer than that and no one is saying that RDBMS' are going away.  But my main problem with his article is that if you take him at face value, he has no idea about Essbase beyond 10 year old bad competitive intelligence information.  To quote from his article he paid to post on Forbes.com:
Essbase even with all its “optimization” cannot efficiently run in-memory – you still have to do pre-calculations and pre-aggregates, with no ability to do calculations on the fly. You’d have to limit how far the Essbase calculations propagate to ensure performance doesn’t blow up, and insert operations force the indexes in the database to be rebuilt, thus ruining performance...
Um, not to imply that no one fact checked your essay Mr. Poonen, but you're talking about Essbase Block Storage (the 20 year old technology which most would think means it's more reliable than something released in the last 2 years).  Essbase Aggregate Storage (created about 6 years ago) was created to solve all these problems.  It's a fundamentally different architecture than Essbase block storage: it doesn't need to be aggregated, it doesn't need to be pre-calculated, and it does all formulas and calculations on the fly.  There is no separate index that needs to be rebuilt.  Basically, all your problems you're listing (forgetting that there are many things the Essbase Block Storage does better than any OLAP technology out there), are for the Essbase Block Storage technology.

I would forgive Sanjay Poonen for just using out-dated information under the excuse that he doesn't have access to Essbase directly, but a simple Google search takes you to the Essbase Wikipedia page where it defines Essbase Aggregate Storage:
Although block storage effectively minimizes storage requirements without impacting retrieval time, it has limitations in its treatment of aggregate data in large applications, motivating the introduction of a second storage engine, named Aggregate Storage Option (Essbase ASO) or more recently, Enterprise Analytics. This storage option makes the database behave much more similarly to OLAP databases like SQL Server Analysis Services.  Following a data load, Essbase ASO does not store any aggregate values, but instead calculates them on demand.

That text has been on Essbase's Wikipedia page for a few years, so the only conclusion I can draw is that either Sanjay doesn't know how to use Google, or he was blatantly ignoring the facts.  Assuming he's not a moron, SAP must be very afraid of Exalytics to put this piece together and hope no one pointed out how fundamentally errant the whole discussion is.  I don't have time to point out every one of the wrong things in his article, but if you wish to comment on his article, visit here, and feel free to correct anything you disagree with.

And just in case Sanjay thinks I'm not willing to stand behind what I write, I challenge him to a cube build-off.  Let's get together and put whatever cube technology SAP is pushing today (SAP BW?  SAP BIW?  Business Objects?  HANA?) up against Essbase.  You and I can jointly benchmark cube build time, query time, calculation time, whatever you want, and we'll both jointly publish the results.  If you're not afraid of how the results will come out, call my office at 01-972-735-8716.  Ask for Edward Roske and say it's Sanjay Poonen calling.  I'll make sure my receptionist knows to forward your call to my cell anywhere I am in the world.  I look forward to hearing from you.

When does Exalytics release?
Exalytics should be generally available soon, but it has to wait until, among other things, Essbase comes out since they're tweaking Essbase to run better in-memory.  If I had to guess, I'd say before the end of Oracle's fiscal year (May 2012).  Exalytics will continue to make Oracle Essbase and OBIEE a factor to be reckoned with going forward.  I'm told there's a waiting list for the first Exalytics boxes to come off the line, so call your Oracle rep now if you're interested.