Sunday, March 18, 2018

Happy 20th Anniversary to Applied OLAP!

Today, March 18, 2018, is the 20 year anniversary of our incorporation! I has been a long journey since that time; here are some of the highlights:
  • 1998 - We were a one-man shop and wrote a reporting and budgeting application for a customer in New York. I spent about 150 nights that year on the road.
  • 1999 - ActiveOLAP for Essbase was released and we earned the trust of two of our long-term customers. It was during the next couple of years that I traveled to the West Coast about 35 times in one year.
  • 2003 - Portions of our web-service technology was acquired by Hyperion Solutions and we wrote the Hyperion Objects product based on that technology.
  • 2007 - The Dodeca Spreadsheet Management System was released.
  • 2014 - We hired our first resource to focus solely on sales. Prior to that, we marketed our software via 'word of mouth'.
  • 2016 - The Dodeca Excel Add-In for Essbase was released and we acquired the DrillBridge product.
During this time, we have grown the company organically without outside investment. While this strategy meant we had slower growth, the benefit is that it has allowed us to focus solely on the needs of our customers and not the needs of 'investors'. It also meant that we 'ate a lot of beans' in the early days. Those were great lessons in the value of a dollar that we carry with us today in the value of the software we provide to our customers.

Thank you to all of our customers. We feel lucky to work with each and every one of you and we continue to learn from each of you. We pledge to continue working hard to make your companies successful.

Tim Tow
Founder and President
Applied OLAP, Inc

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Using MDX for Generated Members in Essbase Reports

There are times when Essbase users may need to see an ad-hoc collection of members aggregated together in Essbase, and that isn’t always an easy task.  If it were an aggregation that is needed on a recurring basis, the Essbase administrator may add an alternate hierarchy to assist.  Other times, users might just create a spreadsheet with the desired members in different rows or columns and use Excel formulas to add them together.  In this blog post, I will cover a third option, the use of MDX to create dynamically-generated members, how to run them in Smart View, and how to make them much easier to use in Dodeca.

In order to illustrate how dynamically-generated members can be used, let’s consider an example using the Sample Basic database.  Here is a simple quarterly income statement query that I will use as the basis for this blog post:

    {[Year].Children, Year} on COLUMNS,
    Hierarchize(Descendants([Profit]), POST) ON ROWS
    ([Market].[New York], [Product].[Colas], Actual)

The results from this simple query look like this:

This MDX is pretty straightforward, but what if you wanted to see how New York and Connecticut would look if they were combined?  This is the question that a generated member can return for you.

Generated members in MDX are created using the WITH MEMBER clause.  Moreover, the generated member can then be used anywhere a normal member can be used, even in a slicer dimension (or what we would call a ‘page field’ in the classic Essbase add-in or a point-of-view in Smart View).  Here is the query modified to use the new generated member:

    [Market].[SelectedMarkets] AS 'SUM({[New York], [Connecticut]})'
    {[Year].Children, Year} on COLUMNS,
    Hierarchize(Descendants([Profit]), POST) ON ROWS
    ([Market].[SelectedMarkets], Colas, Actual)

The results from this query look like this:

So far, so good, but there are a couple of things to note.  First, the member displayed in the POV is not a real member; that is to be expected.  This leads to the second thing in that you cannot refresh the query as an ad-hoc analysis; the dynamically generated member name will be replaced with the dimension member name in its place.

To go even further, what if you want to have multiple generated members?  In that case, the syntax is easy as you just continue with another MEMBER clause:

    [Market].[SelectedMarkets] AS 'SUM({[New York], [Connecticut]})'
  [Product].[SelectedProducts] AS 'SUM({[Colas], [Grape]})'
    {[Year].Children, Year} on COLUMNS,
    Hierarchize(Descendants([Profit]), POST) ON ROWS
    ([Market].[SelectedMarkets], [Product].[SelectedProducts], Actual)

The results of this query look like this:

The syntax for creating and using generated members is not that difficult, but there are a couple of things that make it a bit more difficult than it should be for end users to use this approach.

First, any time end users start having to deal with scripts of any kind, the level of complexity goes up exponentially.  As one of my mentors used to say, “The difference between zero lines of code and one line of code is much greater than the difference between one line of code and a hundred lines of code”.  In other words, it is hard to get users to deal with code of any kind.

Second, once an end user has to ‘write a line of code’, or script in this case, then they assume the responsibility for it being correct.  As there are differing levels of comfort and skill among users, the risk of error goes up.

Finally, when users use a script like the one used in this example, they have to type in the correct member names or, again, risk error. Here is the new MDX dialog in Smart View showing where users type in the MDX including the member names.

To make it much easier for end users, Dodeca does a couple of things.  First, Dodeca developers can configure reports to use MDX without the end user ever having to know that MDX is powering the report ‘under-the-covers’.  Further, Dodeca has flexible Point-of-View selectors that allow the end user to simply pick which members they want to use in the query.

Dodeca report developers use tokens as a sort of substitution variables in the script.  The tokens are replaced in the script at run-time by the members selected by end users.  Here is the same script with tokens in place of the hard-coded values:

  [Market].[SelectedMarkets] AS 'SUM({[T.Market]})'
    [Product].[SelectedProducts] AS 'SUM({[T.Product]})' 
    {[Year].Children, Year} on COLUMNS,
    Hierarchize(Descendants([Profit]), POST) ON ROWS
    ([Market].[SelectedMarkets], [Product].[SelectedProducts], Actual)

The Dodeca Essbase Scripts editor has tools to help the report developer create and test MDX scripts.  Here are the Test Tokens available in the editor that allow developers to simulate the values plugged in by the Point-of-View selectors:

And the script itself in the scripts editor which has built-in testing facilities:

Finally, here is a Dodeca view that utilizes the tokenized MDX query and allows users to easily select the members they want dynamically aggregated and the report is produced without the risk of error.

Let me know if you would like to learn more about Dodeca and how it could help your company.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Windows 10 Update Killed Essbase On My Laptop!

Like many Essbase consultants and developers, I run Essbase server on my Windows 10 laptop. It was a lengthy ‘Creator’s Update’ Windows update and, once it was complete, Essbase was dead on my machine. So, what do I do? First, I didn’t panic; us pilots have a way of not panicking when things don’t go as planned. We have several people internally who had this happen to them over the past several months and we fixed it each time, so there was nothing to worry about.

The root cause was that my OPMN service, which runs Essbase, was gone. This happened on the other machines we have that experienced that in the past, so I went to talk with one of our resident infrastructure gurus, Jay Zuercher. I remembered there was a command that I could run to recreate the service; Jay had the command filed away somewhere and within a couple of minutes, he sent it to me:

SC CREATE "OracleProcessManager_epmsystem1" binPath="C:\oracle\middleware\epmsystem11r1\opmn\bin\opmn.exe -S -I c:\oracle\middleware\user_projects\epmsystem1”

I ran this command – as an administrator – and then went into services to set the service to start automatically and start the service running. That did not, however, result in Essbase coming back to life. Next, I looked at the Essbase logs and noted several issues having to do with security. Initially, I thought there may have been due to an issue with Shared Services, but then I remembered about the fairly common Essbase issue regarding a corrupted essbase.sec file. I don’t know if the corruption was related to the Windows Update, but the timing sure was suspect. I replaced the essbase.sec file with a backup copy and I was back in business.

Hopefully this doesn’t happen to you when you update Windows but, if it does, perhaps this blog post will make your recovery quick and painless.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Possible solution for TLS 1.2 issues between Windows 10 and Oracle EPM Weblogic

We have recently seen some users of both Dodeca and Hyperion products where Windows 10 machines have issues connecting to the Weblogic servers shipped with Oracle EPM due to the absence of the TLS 1.2 protocol.  The underlying issue is that Windows 10 is an evolution of technology whereas Oracle EPM Weblogic, and more specifically the Java version tested and shipped with it, are stuck in the stone age.  Java 1.6 started its journey to "end of life" in late 2013 and, though it continues to be covered under Extended Support, the EPM team has not delivered an update for their server.  Ironically, there is even a Java 1.6 version, Update 121, that now supports TLS 1.2; EPM is on Update 35.

So, what do you do?  I would be very hesitant to upgrade the Java version delivered with the EPM System.  After all, Oracle spent a lot of time working to certify on that version of Java.  One of our Senior Support Engineers, Jay Zuercher, did find something that appears to work - it hasn't yet been widely tested but may be worth a try.  Here are the steps he followed:

  1. Login to the Weblogic console.
  2. Navigate to Environment->Servers->AnalyticProviderServices0 (or to the server in which you are attempting to connect).
  3. Click on the SSL tab and expand the Advanced section at the bottom.
  4. Enable the “Use JSSE SSL” checkbox.
  5. Save changes.
  6. Navigate to the Server Start tab.
  7. Add the following string to the “Arguments” box:
  8. Save changes.
  9. Activate all changes.
  10. Restart the applicable service. 
These steps are furnished with no guarantees, but hopefully you will find them helpful.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

ACE Alumni

Today, I asked Oracle to move me from Oracle ACE Director status to Oracle ACE Alumni status.  There are a number of reasons why I decided to change status.  When I started answering questions on internet forums years ago, I did it to share what I had learned in order to help others.  The same goes for this blog which I originally started so that I could give better and more complete answers to questions on the forums.

After the Hyperion acquisition by Oracle, I was contacted by Oracle who asked if I would be interested in becoming an "Oracle ACE".  It was an honor.  But over time, things have changed.  As more people found out about the ACE program, more people wanted to become an ACE.  If you have ever monitored the OTN Essbase and Smart View forums, they have become cluttered with copy and paste posts from people obviously trying to increase their points.  As the ACE program grew, it also become harder for the OTN team to manage and now require a formal activity reporting - a time report if you will - to track contributions to the community.  As I am already extremely pressed for time, I decided that tracking my contributions to the community - in exchange for a free pass to Open World, just didn't make sense.

All of that being said, just because I have moved to Oracle ACE Alumni status doesn't mean that I will stop contributing to the community.  My company will continue to provide free downloads and support for the Next Generation (Essbase) Outline Extractor and the Outline Viewer along with free downloads of Drillbridge Community Edition.  And maybe, just maybe, I will finally have time to write some new blog posts (maybe even some posts on some new Dodeca features inspired by our work with Oracle Analytics Cloud / Essbase Cloud!)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Breaking News! Dodeca Spreadsheet Management System Certified on Oracle Analytics Cloud!

Now that the Oracle Analytics Cloud, or "OAC", has been released, we had to get serious about our work with one of the Oracle Analytics Cloud components, the Essbase Cloud Service, or "EssCS" for short.  You would think that we should have been working hard on EssCS for quite some time, but we had been assured by Oracle product management that the Essbase Java API would be available in EssCS.  Of course, Dodeca was built using the Essbase Java API and thus we expected that support for EssCS would be very easy.

We got access to a production version of the EssCS last week and started our work.  As promised by product management, the Essbase Java API is available in EssCS and, believe it or not, we did not need to change a single line of source code in order to support the Essbase Cloud.  We did, however, have to update our build processes to use Java 8 instead of the decrepit Java 6 used in Essbase 11.x.

As far as configuration inside Dodeca itself, the only change we made was that we configured the APSUrl in the Essbase Connection object to point to the Essbase Cloud APS instance.  Note that the URL format has changed in the cloud.  The Java API was accessible in Essbase 9.3.1 through Essbase using the format:


In the cloud, this has changed to:


The Essbase Connection configuration looks pretty much the same as the configuration for an on premise connection configuration:

Of course, the Dodeca views look identical when run against an on premise or a cloud server:

In summary, it was trivial to test Dodeca using EssCS.  Every single Essbase functionality that we use in the product, from data grid operations to metadata operations and even report scripts, worked exactly the same as it does against an on premise Essbase cube.  Based on our testing, we are certifying the Dodeca Spreadsheet Management System to work on the Oracle Analytics Cloud.

We have a number of innovations we plan to introduce in the near future aimed to improve the Essbase Cloud experience, so stay tuned.  If you are planning to come to Kscope17 in San Antonio, plan to attend the Dodeca Symposium and you may just be the first to see of these cool new things!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Kudos to the Dodeca Support Team!

Here at Applied OLAP, we have a great support team that we have tasked with doing their best to make sure our customers are happy with their Dodeca software.  On most days, they are answering emails and firing up impromptu support webcasts to help our customers with any questions they have.

Today, we got some great feedback from a customer after a popup support webcast.  Here is an email I received today from Edgardo Rodriguez at Wall Street law firm Sullivan and Cromwell (email used with permission):

Hi Tim – just wanted to drop you a quick line on the tech support I received this morning.  Kevin & Rodney were helping me with a headcount report.  Have to tell you – they were great. They helped me leverage some of their code and walked me through the finer points of using it under our scripts – all under an hour!  They also turned me on to using the SQL retrieve as a possible solution (which I will be using shortly).

I appreciate you support more than you know. 

Just thought you should know..



So, here is a special call-out to our support team.  Way to go!