The Hyperion Symposium at Kaleidoscope 2009 was one of those sessions that every Hyperion professional needed to attend. The focus of the Symposium was the new and exciting features that Oracle/Hyperion development is working on for the future. Due to economic conditions, it was difficult for many members to attend Kaleidoscope, so this column will focus on the some of the new features expected both in the Essbase engine and in the further integration of Essbase deep into Oracle Applications. If there was one clear message at the Symposium, it was this: Essbase is a key strategic technology for Oracle Applications and Oracle is investing heavily in the technology.
As always, the Oracle slides were all marked with the following disclaimer, which basically means that the features I am discussing are subject to change before they ship:
The following is intended to outline our general product direction. It is intended for information purposes only, and may not be incorporated into any contract. It is not a commitment to deliver any material, code, or functionality, and should not be relied upon in making purchasing decisions. The development, release, and timing of any features or functionality described for Oracle’s products remains at the sole discretion of Oracle.
The roadmap, as presented, provided details for 3 upcoming versions of Essbase:
- 11.x.x.x (future)
Essbase 188.8.131.52 is considered a minor release, but it brings with it a significant advancement in Fusion integration. This version introduces the concept of built-in drill back to Fusion Financials via pre-mapped pathways, using Smart View. It is due to be released soon (although Oracle is quite firm in not stating ‘release dates’ until they actually happen).
Essbase 11.1.2, known internally as ‘Talleyrand,’ is a major release. This release boasts a large number of improvements coming to the Essbase engine and toward integration into the Fusion application stack. There are also a number of improvements in process for Smart View.
It appears that the integration of Essbase into the Fusion application stack begins with the ability of the next version of Fusion Financials, i.e. Oracle Financials/E-Business Suite, to use Essbase for custom calculations and allocations. Thinking back to my days as an accountant, I can remember the tremendous complexity involved in some of our allocations; those allocations literally begged for a multidimensional solution. All Essbase users will benefit from this innovation, however, as the Essbase Aggregate Storage Option engine, known simply as ASO, will be getting outfitted with the first parts of a procedural calc engine. Procedural calcs are currently available only in the Essbase Block Storage Option, or BSO, engine. This new functionality will support specific calculation functions against ASO applications and will store results back in a slice of the cube. The calc functionality will be exposed in the C and Java APIs, as well as the MaxL scripting language.
Currently, most Oracle DBAs use Oracle Enterprise Manager to manage their databases. Starting in 11.1.2, many Essbase management functionalities will be incorporated into Enterprise Manager as well. Also Slated for inclusion are Oracle Single Sign-On and security integration, Oracle Diagnostic Logging, and the beginning of Oracle Process Manager and Notification Server (“OPMN”) integration. OPMN integration will add built-in, industrial strength failover to the Essbase stack that has been needed for many years, setting the stage for future innovations in Essbase reliability.
Another integration feature coming in Essbase 11.1.2 is the ability to access Essbase data via Oracle PL/SQL. For those of you from the Hyperion community, PL/SQL is Oracle’s proprietary procedural extension to SQL, targeted specifically at the Oracle database. This new feature will allow a whole new audience of developers to access Essbase data with the tools they are accustomed to using, promoting the use of Essbase to a wider audience. Further, Oracle JDeveloper developers will get a new Application Development Framework (“ADF”) control for Essbase that will make integrating Essbase content into web applications much easier.
Essbase Engine Improvements
Outside of Fusion integration, there are a number of other improvements coming in 11.1.2. One change that will help nearly every customer is the removal of the Shared Services-to-Essbase security sync. Currently, customers manage users in Shared Services and must either manually synchronize users from EAS to update the Essbase security (.sec) file, or they must setup an automatic sync process in the Essbase.cfg file. Many times these syncs cause performance issues, especially in large environments where auto-sync is configured to occur too frequently. Starting in 11.1.2, user information will automatically be retrieved from Shared Services at login. The only downside to this is that any changes to user provisioning in Shared Services will require a logout/login to be recognized by Essbase. The security file (.sec) file will not go away entirely, though, as Essbase filter security will still be stored in that file.
Essbase 11.1.2 will also add support for Oracle SQL*Net, which should increase both increase performance, as well as add support for Oracle Real Application Clusters (“RAC”), to the data load and dim build processes.
Essbase Studio gets a number of 11.1.2 improvements, including:
- The ability to move, copy, and backup the import/export catalog.
- Improved data source handling, including the ability to add or remove a table or column.
- Better support for ODBC DSN source, including the ability to set parameters in the DSN.
- Named level/ generations.
- Custom Text List mapping.
- Essbase Studio/OBIEE integration at the Business Model tier (in addition to the Presentation Layer as in earlier versions).
- Accessibility support (Section 508).
- Improved performance and usability.
- MaxL load scripts for batch load.
This last new feature, in particular, will make automation much easier, as it essentially records a cube deployment, much like the Macro Recorder in Excel records keyboard and menu actions into a VBA macro. I do suspect that the auto-creation of load scripts will “lower the bar,” when it comes to the skill-set necessary to automate Essbase administration tasks. But as with Excel’s Macro Recorder, I expect that the auto-creation of load scripts will serve as a starting point for further optimization by skilled Essbase developers, as well as an excellent learning tool for those new to Essbase administration.
Finally, my favorite new feature slated for 11.1.2 is the addition of Essbase web services. This is something that has been sorely missing from the Essbase stack, and I personally look forward to leveraging them in our products in the near future.