Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Hyperion Online Docs now integrated into the Oracle site

In responding to a question on the Oracle Technical Network (OTN) this morning, I found the Hyperion online documentation has now been integrated into the Oracle website. It also appears to be very well organized. In fact, I am going to bookmark this site as soon as I finish this post.

The docs are online at

Thursday, December 13, 2007

How to configure Tomcat, as delivered with Analytic Provider Services, to capture stdout

By default, the Analytic Provider Services (“APS”) service does not log standard out. Unfortunately, Java developers frequently use standard out to log information (particularly error information). If this information is critical to you, the logs need to be configured.

After doing a bit of digging, I was able to determine that logging is enabled by configuration parameters in the Windows registry. Specifically, the following parameters need to be added to the registry to configure the service:

  • StdError

  • StdOutput

The following screenshot shows how I configured these two settings to enable the standard out logging in APS 9.3.0. Remember that you must restart the service for these settings to take effect.

(Click image to enlarge)

When I installed System 9.3.1, standard out logging again stopped working. Upon further investigation, I found the names and location of the settings had changed. On the plus side, the settings actually did already exist but were set to ‘nul’ by default.

I modified the settings and added a path to the SysErrFile and SysOutFile parameters as shown below.

(Click image to enlarge)

If you find any other strange things with APS service logging, please email me at and I will add the information to this document.

I have made this content downloadable as a pdf document here.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Essbase API error fix - (geeky)

Edit: If you are running Windows 2008, Windows 7, Windows Vista (maybe) and later operating systems, see this link for updated information:

Here is something we came across while working on issues reported by a few olapunderground Outline Extractor users. The symptoms they were seeing is that the ancestor members were not being returned for some of the members in large outlines. I have also made this content downloadable as a pdf document here.

Essbase error 1042006 when API tries to do too many connections from one machine in quick succession

Note: this document was originally obtained from Hyperion tech support sources and has been edited to remove identifying information for the customer, etc and to place context into the document. We also included notes from our internal testing with the olapunderground Outline Extractor tool. If you have other comments about this document which others may find helpful, please let us know and we will try to incorporate them into this document.
– Tim Tow (

Occasionally, we have heard of the Essbase API failing when it tries to do too many connections in quick succession on the Windows operating system. One of the more frequent places we have seen this occurring is in the olapunderground Outline Extractor which does literally thousands to hundreds of thousands of calls (or more) to the API to get outline information. The typical scenario seen in that product is that parent member information may be missing for members in the extract file.

The problem relates to the port numbers used on the client. Those ports are ephemeral (“briefly used”) port numbers. The Windows default for the TcpTimedWaitDelay is 240 seconds (valid values are 30-300) and for the MaxUserPort is 5000 (valid values are 5,000-65,534). The default values essentially limit the number of ephemeral ports available and the API runs out of ports to use for the connection. Adjustment of the MaxUserPort and TcpTimedWaitDelay settings in the Windows Registry may fix the error. Other alternatives to solving this issue include modifying the API code to avoid a massive number of calls to the application in a short period of time. For member manipulation calls, for example, you may try to get the outline to the client machine and then lookup the attributes of the members using a local copy of the outline.

The values of these 2 settings determine how many connections can open on the client side and how long those connections last. You can examine how many client ports are in a TIME_WAIT state by using the Netstat tool on the client computer. Run the Netstat tool with the -n flag and count the number of client sockets to your Server IP address that are in a TIME_WAIT state. Note that the MaxUserPort and TcpTimedWaitDelay settings are applicable only for a client computer that is rapidly opening and closing connections to a remote computer.

When you use the TCP/IP protocol to open a connection to a computer that is running Essbase, the underlying network library opens a TCP/IP socket to the that computer. When it opens this socket, the network library does not enable the SO_REUSEADDR TCP/IP socket option. Note that the Essbase network library specifically does not enable the SO_REUSEADDR TCP/IP socket option for security reasons. When SO_REUSEADDR is enabled, a malicious user can hijack a client port to Essbase and use the credentials that the client supplies to gain access to the computer that is running Essbase. By default, because the network library does not enable the SO_REUSEADDR socket option, every time you open and close a socket through the network library on the client side, the socket enters a TIME_WAIT state for four minutes (240 seconds using the default TcpTimedWaitDelay). If you are rapidly opening and closing connections over TCP/IP , you are rapidly opening and closing TCP/IP sockets. In other words, each connection has one TCP/IP socket. If you rapidly open and close approximately 4000 sockets in less than 240 seconds, you will reach the default maximum setting for client anonymous ports, and new socket connection attempts fail until the existing set of TIME_WAIT sockets times out.

In our testing with the olapunderground Outline Extractor, we noted the following items while debugging a reported issue and testing these registry adjustments:

  • We replicated the problem on Windows XP but, despite some limited efforts, did not replicate the issue on Windows 2000; we did not try to replicate the issue on Windows 2003. Our tests were limited to a single outline submitted by an Outline Extractor user.
  • The registry key ‘MaxUserPort’ did not appear to exist by default in the Windows XP registry. We had to create it and, in our test case, a value of 12000 solved the issue. It seems logical, however, that the processor speed of the client machine, combined with the code path of the actual API code, could have a tremendous effect on whether the number of ports becomes an issue.
  • After changing this registry key, we needed to reboot XP for the new setting to take effect.
Note: the below was apparently provided by a Hyperion engineer; the name has been removed to maintain keep the identity anonymous. This section is quite technical and goes into the background of how the ports work.

Registered Ports, ports between 1024 and 49151, are listed by the IANA and on most systems can be used by applications or programs executed by users. Table C.2 specifies the port used by the server process as its contact port. The IANA registers uses of these ports as a convenience to the Internet community. To the extent possible, these same port assignments are used with UDP. The Registered Ports are in the numerical range of 1024-49151. The Registered Ports between 1024 and 5000 are also referred to as the Ephemeral Ports. At least on Windows, the TCP stack (OS) re-uses these ports internally on every socket connection cycling from 1024...5000 and wrapping around to 1024 again. This could lead to some interesting problems if sockets are opened and close very quickly as there is usually a time delay before that port is made available again...

Second, the number of user-accessible ephemeral ports that can be used to source outbound connections is configurable with the MaxUserPort registry entry (HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Tcpip\Parameters). By default, when an application requests any socket from the system to use for an outbound call, a port between the values of 1024 and 5000 is supplied. You can use the MaxUserPort registry entry to set the value of the highest port number to be used for outbound connections. For example, setting this value to 10000 would make approximately 9000 user ports available for outbound connections. For more details, see RFC 793. See also the MaxFreeTcbs and MaxHashTableSize registry settings (HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Tcpip\Parameters).

Below are also excerpts from Microsoft website and the links for your references:
  • TcpTimedWaitDelay

    Determines the time that must elapse before TCP can release a closed connection and reuse its resources. This interval between closure and release is known as the TIME_WAIT state or 2MSL state. During this time, the connection can be reopened at much less cost to the client and server than establishing a new connection.

    Registry key=HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Tcpip\Parameters
    Data type=REG_DWORD
    Default value=0xF0 (240 seconds = 4 minutes)
    Valid values=0x1E to 0x12C (30 to 300 seconds)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

OpenWorld Sessions Available Online

Many of the sessions from Oracle OpenWorld 2007 are now online. You can query for the sessions at:

Unfortunately, I don't see the 'Futures' type of sessions posted there yet (despite the fact that I was told they would be there). Those sessions talked about some of the upcoming features of Essbase and the upcoming Essbase Studio (which I thought looked really cool!) I will try to contact the presenters to see if they will be made available there or to see if I can make them available somewhere on the web. I will keep an eye out for those sessions and other sessions I think are of general interest and will post some direct links if/when I find them.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Oracle OpenWorld 2007 Part 9

The last major piece of the OpenWorld 2007 experience I haven't written about yet is the expo hall. Frankly, I didn't get to do the expo hall experience at all until Wednesday and then it was to find someone from Hyperion that I needed to work with. I did get a bit of time to walk around and got some general impressions on the comparison between the Hyperion Solutions expo hall experience and the Oracle OpenWorld experience.

The first major difference between the two is scale. OpenWorld has so many exhibitors that they actually have 2 very large halls at the Moscone Center filled to capacity. Oracle obviously has much more than just 'business intelligence' products and they have acquired many large software companies over the years. One our local Oracle Partner Network (OPN) contacts (yes, we actually have one locally here in Huntsville, AL), Oracle had about 300 'pods' where they had displays. A 'pod' is defined, as I understand it, as one third of a freestanding circular display with a desk for computers and demos. Each pod was manned by a person knowledgable about the product in that pod. Hyperion had somewhere between 30 to 50 pods and based on the Hyperion personnel they posted there (many of whon I have known for many years, I would certainly consider them well manned.

I also took a little time to look at some of the other Oracle pods. They have some interesting products. I had not seen the 'E-Business Suite' product, which evolved from Oracle Financials, since I worked on Oracle Financials back in the early 1990's. I can definitely see where some customers I have worked with in the past could greatly benefit from the product, particularly in a hosted model. It will be very exciting as the Hyperion acquisition matures and we start to see things like connectors to data sources such as this that will greatly lessen the effort needed to create analytical cubes for those users.

There were several traditional Hyperion partners that had displays including Palladium, Ranzal and TLC Technologies. I only got to ask one of these how they felt about the 'booth traffic' at OpenWorld vs Solutions. That partner told me they thought the traffic wasn't as high as at the Solutions conferences but that the quality of the leads they were getting was much higher; they also told me they had already decided to signup for a booth next year.

We decided not to get a booth this year as we felt with all of the Oracle / Peoplesoft / Siebel and other vendors at the show, we would spend an awfully large amount of time explaining what Hyperion Essbase is instead of talking about how we add value to Essbase. This trip really turned into an exploratory trip to determine if we want to get a booth next year. One positive factor is that the cost of the booths are definitely more affordable than at Hyperion Solutions. At Solutions, a 10' x 10' booth was $15,000 this year; at OpenWorld the same booth was $5,500. Right now, we are leaning towards getting a booth next year.

There were some other things that you never saw at Solutions. For example, there were cars on the show floor. One display had a BMW model that uses embedded Oracle Lite on-board; I didn't find out why but I do remember thinking it would be a perfect car for a geek like me.. If I got stuck in traffic, I could play with the on-board database. Another thing out among the booths was a video game area filled with (free?) arcade games. Twenty-five years ago I may have wandered in there but I am so over video games that the last 5 laptops I have owned have never had a game played on it (unless, of course, you consider writing Essbase Java API code a game; I certainly do and I certainly like the fact that when you win, you win cash!

In general, I thought the OpenWorld experience as both fun and a great learning experience. I hope to see you there next year.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Oracle OpenWorld 2007 Part 8

Sorry, but I was extremely lazy over the holiday weekend and didn't write my final major entry on OpenWorld 2007 which will cover the Expo Hall stuff. I didn't spend that much time there to start with but did want to give a feel for the bit that I did see.

In place of that, I am going to post the link to the keynotes.. It appears that all of the keynotes are now available online. I attended the opening keynote entitled "Sunday Night Live" and the Michael Dell / Larry Ellison CEO keynotes and found them interesting. Some people I talked with thought the Sunday night keynote as a bit unusual but if you have any interest at all in the detailed history of how Oracle got its start (with the CIA as its first customer), you may want to watch it. The keynotes are available here:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Oracle OpenWorld 2007 Part 7

The next topics I will cover are the special events at OpenWorld. OpenWorld featured several events that were similar to previous Hyperion conferences and some events that didn’t have an equivalent. First, both OpenWorld and Hyperion Solutions had a welcome party. The OpenWorld event, unlike Hyperion welcome parties that I remember, actually had a theme. The party was entitled “A Night of Nostalgia” and was held in the Howard Street tent. Unfortunately, I can’t give you any details on the party because I did go.

Instead of going to the opening party, I attended the Oracle ACE dinner that was held at the historic FlyTrap Restaurant just down the street from the Moscone Center. Hyperion never had anything like this where they actually recognized people from the community that help other users (which is something I happen to like to do). I immediately met Emily Yip. She runs the Oracle ACE program and basically a very nice person (and no, I am not just saying that so she will send me more OTN t-shirts ). One of the things I discussed with Emily was working together to create a team of Hyperion-related Oracle ACE’s. If you think you fit the profile of an ACE, please email me and I can guide you on the nomination process. Of course, they have a committee at Oracle that reviews the nominations and makes the awards so I can’t help you on that end. Oh, and the swag was unique. We all got red Oracle ACE vests that say ‘Oracle ACE’ (or Oracle ACE Director) on the front and have a huge black ace symbol on the back. It is kind of a cool vest and I felt a bit obligated to wear it but I did feel a little like I was wearing a bowling shirt.

During the dinner (which was delicious), I managed to find and sit with the Oracle Java Gurus. Some of the ACE’s at my table, in fact, were noted Oracle authors so, as an absolute geek, I feel as though I was at home. Next year, however, maybe we can have a table that discusses Hyperion stuff.

On Monday there was a Hyperion Customer Appreciation event at the Westin St Francis hotel on Union Square. There you could hobnob with some of the former Hyperion executives including John Kopcke (Hyperion Chief Technology Officer) and Robert Gersten (Hyperion Chief Development Officer) but the food vanished very quickly. There were many familiar faces from the Hyperion world between Hyperion employees, partners and customers.

After that event, the same hotel hosted the Oracle Technical Network (OTN) “Meet You There” night. They had games (Oracle Jeopardy), music and a Linux “install-fest”. Hyperion never had anything like that at the Solutions conferences and, frankly, the technical content of the Hyperion conferences seemed to decline over the years.

The big event for the week was the Oracle OpenWorld Appreciation Event which is similar in concept to what the Solutions Tuesday night events used to be. The event is essentially a three stage concert festival staged at the historical Cow Palace which has also hosted, among others, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and The Doors. This is the only event, that I am aware of, that is not walking distance from the Moscone and nearby hotels. Unfortunately, I missed the bus as I was at a dinner with some Hyperion friend and had to cab it to the venue and it cost about $25 to get there. The headliners, who played simultaneously, were Billy Joel, Lenny Kravitz and Stevie Nicks with Mick Fleetwood. Some of my friends wandered between the stages but I stayed at Billy Joel. I saw the others within the last few years but had never been to a Billy Joel concert; I thought it was really good.

Finally, Oracle has a Thursday night ‘It’s a Wrap’ party at the Howard Street tent. This year, it featured two different bands and was highlighted by the grand prize drawing sponsored by Hitachi. During the Expo hours, there was a game you could play by visiting as many of the 30 or so kiosks scattered throughout the 2 separate Expo halls; this game got you entered into the drawing for the grand prize which was a new car. Hyperion never had anything like that. If fact, the ‘closing’ for the Hyperion conference essentially was that you went to one of the central meeting areas and picked up a sack lunch. No fanfare at all.

I still need to write about the Expo halls and will try to do that within the next few days.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Oracle OpenWorld 2007 Part 6

In addition to the Hyperion sessions I attended, I also went to a few Oracle sessions. Two of the sessions were technical sessions about the Oracle .NET providers and Oracle deployment best practices on Windows. Much of the information in those sessions is also available on the Oracle Technical Network (OTN) but the question and answer section at the end was very good. I also went to a session on project planning for OBIEE implementations. The information looked basically the same as what you would see on a large Hyperion implementation. Frankly, the reason I went to the session was that a friend from Oracle Consulting in Birmingham, AL was giving the talk. I had not seen Rob Reynolds since I left Intergraph in Huntsville, AL around 13 years ago. At that time, Rob was an intern working for my boss, Kipp Woodard. In a strange twist of fate, Kipp now works for me (although I pay him a lot more than he paid me. Hmmm...)

The Oracle session rooms seemed much larger than the Hyperion session rooms. The Oracle sessions I attended all had seating for perhaps 1,000 people but there were plenty of seats available in those sessions. There were 2 reasons for all of the space. First, the sessions didn't have core Oracle database or Oracle application topics; I would think those sessions would be harder to get into. Second, they were all late in the conference and much like the Hyperion conferences of the past, having a session late on the last day pretty much guaranteed you an empty room.

Between sessions at the Hyperion conferences there were almost always snacks and drinks. That is not so at the Oracle conference. Besides the events and the lounges (like the OTN lounge), the only food served at the conference was the lunch. Lunch was served in the huge tent located on Howard Street. The tent, which also served as the location for the welcome and closing parties, covered the complete street surface area of Howard Street between 3rd and 4th Street.

The drill for lunch was that you were guided into the tent, you presented your color coded lunch ticket for the specific day, and you walked through and picked up a box lunch. The boxes had things like turkey or roast beef sandwiches, a caprese sandwich, Thai chicken wrap or other 'special needs' (diabetic / vegetarian / religious) meals. You also picked up water. They had plenty of tables in the tent so it wasn't hard to find a seat. Lunch also seemed to open much longer than at the Hyperion conferences. In fact, I actually got to eat lunch 3 days in a row; that never happened at Solutions.

I wish the session scheduling had been a bit different. For me, there we a whole bunch of interesting Oracle sessions that were only offered on Monday and Tuesday which, of course, conflicted with the Hyperion sessions. Most sessions were not repeated so I was out of luck.

Keynotes at OpenWorld occur throughout the day. Despite my best intentions, I made to only one keynote during the week. The Michael Dell/Larry Ellison keynote was very interesting with some great content. While the old Solutions keynotes were heavily focused on marketing using customer success stories, this CEO keynote was much more product oriented. Michael Dell showed off some new Dell blade server technology that packs more power into a less power hungry frame (i.e. read ‘Green’ as seems to be the message for nearly every business now). He also showed off a new laptop that will be introduced soon the doubles as a tablet computer. The screen of this new laptop opens, then pivots and closes face open and uses touch input. It looks pretty cool but the screen is only 12” which is simply not enough for us developer types who run huge resolutions (and thus need bifocals very early in life).

Larry Ellison showed the first product from the Fusion strategy. It is a sales force automation tool that helps salespeople manage presentations. One of his demos was a sales presentation manager that used a jukebox paradigm with what appeared to be a preview of the first slide of the presentation. Each presentation also carried comments input by other users that have used the presentation. Visually, the web-based application looks very cool and reminded me of some of the UIs I have seen on the iPhone commercials.

It seems to be clear from that keynote that the company is a technology driven organization. I had heard recently that ‘Developers are King’ at Oracle and that seems to be true. In fact, I learned this week that Larry himself wrote some of the early database software. In those days, he was scrambling to fund the new company and was once weeks from facing foreclosure on his house. He has come a long way since then with the fighter jet toys, big houses and beautiful wife, but at heart he sounds like pretty much like the rest of us geeks (except he is living *really* big).

I have a couple of areas still to write about: Events and Expo.. I will try to start posting on these topics in a couple of days.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Oracle OpenWorld 2007 Part 5

I am writing this entry on Thursday night after the 'It's a Wrap' party ended and I don't actually have anything on my schedule for the next hour! I am going to talk about the conference sessions both from my view of the sessions I attended (with some relevant Hyperion info, of course) and from conversations I had with other attendees.

During registration, there was a special Hyperion program that you could register for and it was priced less expensively than the full conference price. The Hyperion related sessions were on Monday and Tuesday and were headquartered at the Marriott Hotel that is attached to the Moscone Center. I talked with some former Hyperion people and they said there were about a thousand people attending the Hyperion program.

A couple of Hyperion sessions I attended were very informative. The first, entitled "S291191 - Hyperion Super Session: Introduction to Oracle's EPM System", was given by John Kopcke, the former Hyperion CTO who is now a Senior Vice President within Oracle. This session essentially covered the strategy Oracle has for integrating the Hyperion suite into Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition ("OBIEE") suite. The good news is that the architecture shows Essbase, Hyperion Planning and Hyperion Financial Management playing a prominent role in the Oracle strategy. Further, Interactive Reporting, Financial Reporting, Web Analysis and the other reporting tools are on the architecture slide in a box next to the existing OBIEE tools. I expect that over time, the Hyperion and OBIEE product lines will converge as part of the Oracle Fusion architecture (note: I will talk a little more on Fusion coming in a later post). It was very informative but I think the OBIEE terminology is too hard to say. Can you say it fast 3 times? (O-B-I-E-E O-B-I-E-E O-B-I-E-E)

Another great session (that I caught most of) was the Hyperion Roadmap session given by some of my friends in Hyperion Development. There was some really cool stuff in this session including:

  • A new unified, distributed installation for all products. It will gather information about all of the Hyperion products you want to install, get server topologies and then perform all of the installations.
  • Lifecycle management tools that can significantly help migrate applications from development to production. The lifecycle management will allow administrators to choose artifacts form Planning, HFM and Essbase to migrate and will also maintain an audit trail of the migrations.
  • A next generation administration tool called Essbase Studio. It will replace Essbase Integration Server and portions of Essbase Administration Server when it ships; it will eventually replace all of EAS. It unifies modeling of many sources including relational, flat files, xml, BPM architect and SAP and will provide traceability of the data lineage.

Much to my surprise, the slides from the OpenWorld sessions, including these sessions, will be posted online which never was the case for roadmap sessions. When they are posted, I will make another post with the URL. After all of the exciting things I had to write about this week, I may not have much to write about for a bit.

There were also two sessions on Smart Space Gadgets, a new UI concept that mimics some of the online vendors gadgets/widgets and also a prevalent new UI element in Windows Vista. One of the sessions, were I was a co-speaker, was more of a technical session on using the Gadget Developers Kit that makes it easy to write your own gadget. Unfortunately for me, during the session my demo failed due to a bug in the beta code that caused my connection settings to be lost when I tried to add a new instance of the gadget; of course, I found out about it *after* the demo. No biggie, when you give demos on beta software, you have to be prepared to be publicly embarrassed from time to time. Our session ended with some great interactive discussion of possible gadgets that Hyperion, partners or customers could build. There will also be Oracle Technical Network (OTN) forums on Smart Space and Gadget Building when the product ships so I expect more great gadget idea threads there.

Regarding the Hyperion sessions as a whole, some of the people I talked with had some interesting observations. First, there were very few Hyperion customer 'success story' sessions where attendees can learn the lessons learned by other companies and gain ideas that can really help their implementations. On the flip side, the Oracle Applications Users Group (OAUG) has a conference in Denver next April which has more focus on success story sessions. Further, it has only been seven months since Solutions 2007 and I expect the next Oracle OpenWorld next September will feature more Hyperion content.

One word of wisdom I can relay to you on sessions. If you go to OpenWorld in the future, definitely go into the online Schedule Builder and sign-up for the sessions you want to see. People who have pre-registered get in first; others are let in if the room is not full 5 minutes before the session starts. They also use the registration to determine the necessary room size and will change to a larger room if the session gets too crowded. In fact, the Kopcke 'Super Session' was in a small room of about 150 seats. At least 40 people were turned away from this session because they didn't preregister. That was never an issue at any Hyperion Solutions conference I attended.

I also attended some Oracle sessions and will talk about those in another (shorter) post to come.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Oracle OpenWorld 2007 Part 4

Despite my best intentions to update the blog daily during the conference, it has been an extremely busy week. In fact, I had not even visited either of the Expo floors until yesterday nor had I eaten most days until very late. In fact, Monday I had a cookie midday and finally grabbed a slice of pizza at about midnight. I sure am glad we didn't get a booth as my time would have been even more limited; I am running on 5 or 6 hours of sleep per night..

I also realized that if I wrote a daily blog, it may very well become a thing where "I did this, then I did that".. In other words, boring.. Instead, I have decided to blog by general topic. I plan to do a posting on sessions, one on expo hall and one on 'other things that happened' during the week. I hope to get the first of these posted tonight. If I don't, I fly back tomorrow and will try write my thoughts on the plane and post them over the weekend.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Oracle OpenWorld 2007 Part 3

The Oracle OpenWorld conference starts on Sunday and this post will talk about my Sunday experiences. The first thing I dealt with on Sunday, after Starbucks (of course), is registration. Unlike the Hyperion conferences I attended in the past, there are a number of registration areas just due to the size of the event. There is registration at multiple Moscone Center locations and at some of the conference hotels as well.

My registration as a speaker was at Moscone South. The line when I went was about 5 minutes long for speakers and about the same for Oracle employees. My COO, Michael, had already registered at the Marriott where the Hyperion activities were centered; there was nobody else in line.

After I registered, I had to go to Moscone West to pickup my conference materials. The lines for registration were quite a bit longer over there; it looked like about a 30 minute wait. Luckily, I didn't have to wait in a line to get my materials. One really nice thing is that as a previous Hyperion Solutions attendee (about 12 times), I qualified as an alumni. Here is where one of the big differences became very apparent... Swag.. That's right, swag.. As an alumni, I also got a jacket with the OpenWorld logo. It was the first of many items adorned with Oracle logos that I snagged. I have snagged so many, in fact, that I hope the are giving away Oracle logo suitcases sometime during the week so I can manage to get the stuff home!

Next on my agenda was the Oracle Partner Network ("OPN") Partners Meeting. There was the usual stream of execs talking about the 'go to market' strategy; now that my company resells Oracle products, it was much more useful than it used to be. The guest motivational speaker, Alison Levine, gave a very interesting presentation that I was very interested in. She suffered from a heart condition as a child that prevented her from even climbing stairs. After 2 heart operations before age 30, she led the first women's expedition to climb Mt Everest. As I am a rock climber, it fascinated me to hear the story she had of climbing within 300 feet of the summit of Everest only to turn around due to impending severe weather conditions. She did, however, make the right decision and her entire team did make it off the mountain successfully. The OPN meeting ended, of course, with more swag (a long sleeve t-shirt with OPN logos and the sturdy, insulated lunch bag that contained our 'bag lunch').

The next event was the Larry Ellison keynote entitled 'Sunday Night Live'. It featured skits by 3 former and current Saturday Night Live cast members, Kevin Nealon (who I met in New Orleans after a similar performance at Microsoft Tech*Ed '95), Victoria Jackson and Darrell Hammond. Larry then took the stage and told the story of how Oracle started (in much detail). He was followed by the Oracle Pre sident and CFO Safra Catz who highlighted Oracle's community outreach and philanthropic efforts. The general session ended with a Seattle band, GearDriver, whose drummer is Oracle's senior vice president of alliances and channels. I thought the keynote was entertaining although some people I talked with didn't care for it as much. One thing you can say about it is I don't think I have ever been a mere 50 yards from a 'thirty or so' billionaire in my life.

Following the keynote was a welcome reception that looked like it could be a good time but I had an Oracle ACE dinner to attend. There were about 100 Oracle ACE's there and I sat at dinner with a few Oracle JDeveloper experts and with one of the ACE program directors. One of the things we discussed is how to fill out the ranks of the Oracle ACE's in the Hyperion world. Next year, I hope to sit at a table with some fellow Hyperion-oriented people. The dinner ended with, you guessed it, more swag. This time, it was a nice fleece vest. It is, however, Oracle red trimmed with black and has a 9 inch black ACE logo on the back. When I wear it, people will certainly not miss the fact that I am a geek!

That was enough for one day. I will report again tomorrow.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Oracle OpenWorld 2007 Part 2

Now that I am on the plane, I have a bit more time to write about my pre-conference experiences and compare/contrast them with how it worked back in the Hyperion days.

My general impression is that everything is on a much larger scale. My first Arbor Dimensions conference in 1996 was at the Hyatt in Santa Clara, California. Ironically, it is about 2 blocks south of the building that Hyperion moved to a couple of years ago. That conference was entirely contained within the hotel and had a total of about 3 presentation rooms. I would guess the attendence was somewhere in the range of 500 people. The next year the conference grew significantly and moved to the Dolphin and Swan in Orlando and, I believe, had more than 1000 attendees. The 'Tuesday Night Party' put on at that conference was at one of the amusement parks in Orlando (Disney MGM Studios I *think*); it was great to go on all of the roller coasters with absolutely no lines..

Over the years, the conference continued to grow and eventually hosted somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 people. The locations varied between Orlando, Las Vegas, Chicago and even (pre-Katrina) New Orleans. There were many great sessions, great networking and great 'Tuesday Night Parties'. For entertainment, we again had amusement parks, museum trips and comedians. I even snuck backstage after an event in Vegas and met Howie Mandel. That is where I learned to 'knock knuckles' instead of shake hands. Howie doesn't shake hands; he is a germ-phobe. Of course, he did hug my beautiful wife but hey, I can't blame him for that! My wife now hates that I 'knock knuckles' with my teenager instead of hugging him; I think both he and I feel more comfortable that way)..

For me, those were some very busy conferences. I often did multiple presentations and, in fact, a couple of years I did up to 5 presentations during the 2 1/2 days. We also had a booth that was always jam-packed with people. On top of that, there was the networking with Hyperion people be it working deals with the sales people or talking with the dev people in 'R&D Central'. I don't know yet how this conference will compare 'busy-wise' to the Hyperion conferences but I do have a bunch on my schedule.

When we first looked at going to the conference, we had to make a fundamental decision. We had to decide if we were going to have a booth this year. We had a booth at every conference since 1999 but in all of those years we were one of about 50 to 75 partners with displays. At Open World, they have over 600 vendors with booths and apparently there is no single concentration of 'Hyperion' vendor booths. We felt as though we may be buried among vendors concentrating on Oracle relational, Siebel, JD Edwards, Peoplesoft and the scads of other Oracle technologies, so we declined to get a booth. One positive note is that the booth as *much* less expensive at OpenWorld than they were at Solutions.

This year, I may actually have time to walk around and see what other vendors are doing with the technology, and perhaps even more important for me, learn how they are marketing their products. We think we have the 'cats meow' in our Dodeca product but we don't emphasize the marketing aspect too much. It is so cool, in fact, that one of our customers made a comment to me just yesterday that I think it golden. That customer had a webcast recently with about 100 users in their company. It created quite a buzz and since then they have done a dozen or so followup webcasts with different groups. In the 'golden' comment, they compared their old solution (using a competitor's product) to their new solution (using Dodeca).. They said "it is like comparing a '63 VW Bug to a 2007 Porsche". I hope we get official permission from their legal department to use that quote, properly attributed, in our marketing literature!

OK, enough of that marketing stuff, back to the pre-conference discussion.. Once we decided not to have a booth, I had to decide if I wanted to spend the money to go. Frankly, I don't think I ever paid for a conference admission before as I was always a speaker. So, I started looking to see where I could dig up a free admission. It ended up that I had 3 opportunities to get in for free. First, as an Oracle ACE, I qualified for a free OpenWord pass (and an invitation to the Oracle ACE dinner on Sunday night). Second, as I spent a bunch of time working on the new Smart Space product, both as a consultant during the design phase and as a gadget builder before Solutions and during the beta phase, I was asked by my friends on the Smart Space team to co-present with them. Interestingly, in the last few years of the Hyperion conference, only the primary speaker got a free pass to the conference. By contrast, virtually all Oracle speakers get a free pass to the conference (I think there is an exception for speakers from the public sector who get a pass only for the day they are speaking). Finally, I saw a page that said anyone who wants to blog about the conference is entitled to a 'press' pass to the conference.

The on-line registration site for the conference was pretty easy to use. It was a single site where you sign up, get your conference id and choose your hotel. My first idea of the scale of Open World came when I picked a hotel. There was one outrageously priced hotel near the venue and a number of other choices much further away. My best hotel choice was at a hotel south of SFO airport about 11 miles from the Moscone Center. Although I wasn't pleased with that arrangement, they do have shuttles that run often between the distant hotels and the conference. My first big lesson learned: keep trying if you don't like your original hotel choice. A week later, I checked the site and there were several 'reasonably' priced hotels available; I ended up a couple of blocks away for $239/night which is very reasonable for San Francisco. I would guess that when you have 60,000 hotels rooms reserved for a conference, there are occasionally some cancellations. That's right, they have a block of 60,000 hotel rooms reserved.. Wow.. As for the rate being reasonable, I was in San Francisco just a couple of weeks ago and the hotel I used to stay at nearly every week, a Holiday Inn at that time, was priced at $599/night.. Needless to say, I stayed elsewhere.

Next, I got an email invitation from Oracle to speak with instructions on how to confirm your speaker status, etc using an on-line tool. Essentially, I had to confirm I had agreed to do the session, that I understood the firm A/V setup they have, slide presentation upload due dates, etc. Hyperion always communicated with speakers directly via email and didn't have an on-line system accessible to manage the speakers. It also had much earlier deadlines for the presentations. Hyperion required presentations be turned in about 60 days before the conference started. The deadline for Oracle was yesterday. Oracle also had a formal speakers meeting via webcast with a formal presentation on the general rules for the presentations, dress code, etc. That was a first for me.

When I first signed up, I took a quick glance at the schedule and found that during some time slots, there are literally a hundred (or maybe hundreds) of sessions scheduled at that time. Over the next couple of weeks I managed to pick most of the sessions I wanted to attend. There are many different types of sessions and there appear to be a good number of deeply technical sessions along with bunch of hands-on lab type of sessions. There is a specific Hyperion session track and those sessions are concentrated on Monday and Tuesday. There is, however, a Hyperion "Meet the Experts" on Thursday and a few other Hyperion sessions on Wednesday and Thursday. I don't remember seeing as many technical Hyperion sessions and I don't remember seeing any hands-on lab sessions relating to Hyperion technology. I will check again and will certainly book at least one hands-on lab so I can report if they are useful or not. One thing to note is that a large number of the sessions do not repeat which is unfortunate. One particular session I want to go to, on the Java Persistance API, directly conflicts with a session I have to go to.

Finally, the parties are legendary. On my schedule this year is the Oracle ACE dinner, the Oracle Technology Network (OTN) night party (which I believe has a Linux 'install-fest'; perfect for us geeks), the 'Appreciation Night' featuring Billy Joel, Stevie Nicks/Mick Fleetwood and Lenny Kravitz. There is also a closing 'It's a Wrap' party where one attendee will win a new car.. There is also a website for 'AfterDark' gatherings that are informal. I know I will probably visit my favorite restaurant in the city at least a couple of times this week. It is 'La Gondola' on Columbus near the Transamerica Tower. I was there just a couple of weeks ago. I had the Caprese (mozzarella and tomotoes) and angelhair pasta with rosa sauce with mozzarella (not on the menu but recommended). I also sat and drank wine with the owner, Gino, for a couple of hours. If you are lucky, perhaps Gino's wife will be there as well. She is one of the world's best flamenco dancers. Great people and great food..

To wrap up, some of the differences I have noted so far are that it is *far* larger with many more sessions to choose from (in many, many more topics than available at the old Solutions conferences). The conference takes over all of the Moscone Center, some of the local hotels and they even close some of the streets near the Moscone and put up tents. The location for OpenWorld does not change so get used to visiting San Francisco every fall. The parties and entertainment are also more numerous and far larger. On the downside, it is harder to get a hotel so I would advise booking in advance.

So long for now. I have to spend some time on this flight working on a patent application. Sounds like fun, right?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Oracle OpenWorld 2007 Part 1

I have been lucky enough to attend every Arbor Dimensions/Hyperion Solutions conference since 1996 and, during that time, have given scores of presentations at those conferences. I figure one way I can help the Hyperion community understand how things may differ in the new Oracle world we live it is to comment on the differences I find between the Hyperion conference experience and the Oracle OpenWorld experience. This is the first of a series of posts on the topic over the timeframe of the conference and pretty much commits me, once I post this, to actually completing that mission.

As I write this, I have already registered for the conference, etc and am sitting at Atlantic Aviation waiting to go over to the main terminal. I often fly my own plane from Huntsville, AL to Nashville, TN and hop a flight on Southwest. I fly Southwest not only because I tend to book my flights late and thus it doesn't cost that much but also because they have a much better East/West schedule that the airlines that fly from Huntsville. I also get to fly my own plane at least part of the trip to I get to have a bit of fun before heading out to work (and make no mistake about it.. These conferences are work!) Southwest also has more room between the rows and the planes are all configured the same so I know exactly where the good programming seats are! (6 bulkhead / 3 exit rows on the left / 1 exit row window seat on the right).

During the flight, I hope to find some time to writeup my pre-conference experience (along with working on some patent documentation for our product and perhaps even doing .NET work with Oracle.

Once I get to Oakland tonight, I plan to have dinner with my best friend from college and then to watch the Michigan-Wisconsin game at his house tomorrow morning. After that, I plan to take the BART system into the city, check into my hotel and maybe even take the BART back to Berkeley and try to go to the USC-Cal game Saturday night.

I have to run for the plane now..

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Welcome to my blog

My name is Tim Tow and I am an Essbase addict. Funny, now that I have made that confession, and don't feel the need to join a 12-step program to treat it, I can proceed with my plan to use this blog to spread information and insight about Essbase.

I have been a frequent contributor to various online forums for many years now. My first forums were way back in the Compuserve days. I actually used to answer questions about Excel 4.0 from my DOS-based home machine well before I ever had Windows or Excel on my home system. That activity eventually lead me to earning the designation of "Microsoft Excel MVP" or Most Valuable Professional. In fact, I was one of the original 5 MVPs in the world! The MVPs essentially took the pressure off Microsoft Tech Support in return for trinkets and t-shirts.

I started working with Essbase back in 1995 by writing some of the original demoware used by Arbor Software to sell Essbase. In the years since, I have been active on the Hyperion Developer Network boards, the Network54 Essbase board and now on the Oracle Technology Network. Based on my willingness to share information on the forums, I was given the Oracle ACE designation. Many other Oracle ACEs also contribute to the community by writing blogs, thus I decided I should follow their lead and also write a blog.

I plan to start off the blog with a series of posts comparing and contrasting my experiences as a Hyperion 'old-timer' venturing to my first Oracle OpenWorld. Stay tuned and I will let you know how it goes!