Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Which Conference Should You Attend?

At the recent IOUC meeting at Oracle Headquarters in Redwood City, I was asked by one of the Oracle people to write a short blurb for the Oracle website that will help Hyperion users understand which conference they should attend. Here is what I drafted for them:

With Oracle Corporation’s acquisition of Hyperion Solutions, the popular Solutions conference is no more, and the content formerly available at Solutions has been folded into three different Oracle-oriented conferences. This has created confusion within the Hyperion user community. This guide will help you understand the content offered at the three major Oracle conferences: Oracle Open World, sponsored by Oracle Corporation; Collaborate 09, sponsored by the Oracle Applications User Group, Independent Oracle User Group and Quest; and Kaleidoscope 2009, sponsored by the Oracle Development Tools User Group (ODTUG). Each conference targets a different audience.

Oracle Open World is a celebration of all things Oracle and features keynote presentations from all major Oracle executives, extensive sessions on Oracle technology and its future direction, and multiple exhibit halls full of Oracle partners and vendors representing the wide spectrum of Oracle’s offerings. If you want to learn about the vast solutions Oracle offers, Oracle Open World 2009, October 12 to October 15, in San Francisco, California is the place for you.

Collaborate 09 is the conference affiliation for the Oracle Applications User Group, which has an active Hyperion Special Interest Group (“Hyperion SIG”). The Hyperion SIG focuses its efforts at Collaborate on how to better leverage Oracle Essbase, Hyperion Planning, Hyperion Financial Management, and the other Hyperion products that comprise Oracle Enterprise Performance Management (EPM). If you want to know which Hyperion products you need and want to see case studies of how other companies have maximized their ROI in Oracle EPM, you will find what you want at Collaborate 09, May 3- 7 in Orlando, Florida.

Kaleidoscope is the annual conference presented by the Oracle Development Tools User Group (ODTUG) and is focused on the technical user. Kaleidoscope features intensive, technically-oriented training for the Hyperion developer with tracks dedicated to Oracle Essbase, Hyperion Planning/HFM, Oracle EPM, and an exclusive Hyperion Hands-on Lab. The conference kicks off with a full-day Hyperion Symposium featuring presenters from the Oracle Hyperion Development group. If you want to see the nuts-and-bolts of how to implement, automate, or optimize Hyperion products, don’t miss ODTUG’s Kaleidoscope 2009, June 21 to 25 in Monterey, California.

Fellow Oracle ACE Edward Roske has also spent a bunch of time trying to let users know which conference best suits their needs. He has a couple of webcasts scheduled that go into more detail and where you can ask specific questions. For more information on his webcasts, please read his blog post here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

EPM Cloud / Dodeca Web Services

Wow, I can't believe it is Friday already; it seems like Tuesday to me. I guess time sure flies when you are having fun!

On Wednesday, I sat in on a webcast from the Hynote group about their EPMCloud offering. It was pretty interesting what they have. One participant on the webcast was a guy from Amazon Web Services which is the host for the EPM Cloud; it is the same host for the Full360 cloud offering. His slides talked about the web service oriented functionality of cloud applications. That is music to me as our Dodeca product is architected such that the client is delivered via a web service and all data and metadata, from Essbase or relational sources, is transmitted via a web service.

The web service architecture of Dodeca differs greatly from other offerings in the EPM world. Every other 'web' application that talks to Essbase delivers, more or less, the entire user interface everytime you need different data. Dodeca, on the other hand, separates the user interface elements from the data requests. This allows us to significantly reduce bandwidth requirements using a patent-pending process in Dodeca that transfers only the necessary data while caching user interface elements in a private storage area on the users computer.

We have already tested Dodeca on the Full360 cloud; we plan to test on the EPM Cloud offering shortly. My vision is that Dodeca will be packaged such that customers can add Dodeca to their cloud environment very easily.

One of the advantages of cloud computing is that customers pay for computing resources on an as-used basis. Unlike Essbase deployments today, you really don't need to spend as much effort determining how large your deployment is going to grow and then buy hardware large enough to accomodate what you might need. Rather, you can start small and your cloud can grow as you grow and you only pay for what you actually use. Oracle already offers an annual usage price for Essbase (instead of shelling out big bucks up front); I believe they will eventually have to introduce a monthly, per-user pricing model to keep up with the cloud concept. When that happens, the potential user base for Essbase will expand expotentially as smaller companies that consider Essbase out-of-reach will then be able to afford world class analytics. Dodeca is ready for that wave!

Finally, information about the EPM Cloud is available on their new website at EPMCloud.com.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Essbase API for Unicode Applications

Recently we had a user report that the OlapUnderground Essbase Outline Extractor, which we now maintain and distribute, does not work with Unicode outlines. I had never tried working with a Unicode outline but I had my assistant take a look at it and sure enough, it didn't work. Upon further investigation, I found the ESB_INIT_T structure has a new parameter to handle Unicode (UTF-8) encoding:

' Essbase ESB Initialization Structure
Version As Long
MaxHandles As Integer
LocalPath As String * ESB_PATHLEN
MessageFile As String * ESB_PATHLEN
HelpFile As String * ESB_PATHLEN
ClientError As Integer
ErrorStack As Integer
usApiType As Integer
vbCallbackFuncAddress As Long
End Type

The usApiType parameter takes one of two constants as a parameter:

Global Const ESB_API_UTF8 = &H3

If you don't pass a value, the default value internally must be non-unicode as the ESB_API_NONUNICODE value is non-zero value but non-unicode applications work.

In the Outline Extractor, there is a catch-22 in the code. The EsbInit function gets called before the application can know whether the outline being targeted is from a Unicode application. We have added a checkbox to the user interface so a user can indicate if the outline being targeted from a Unicode application.

We still have one issue to work through before the Outline Extractor functions with Unicode. Visual Basic 6 does not write strings in UTF-8 encoding but rather uses ASCII encoding. Writing the strings produced by native VB6 to a file writes the wrong encoding and thus certain characters change. We still need to update the file writing algorithm to properly write the strings before we release it.

Most of my programming these days is in Java; encoding seems to be much easier in Java. Further, I do not believe a parameter like usApiType is necessary in the Essbase Java API.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Gas Free Commuting

In May, I will celebrate my 3 year anniversary of being a bicycle commuter. I started riding back when my doctor said that my cholesterol level was creeping up and that I might need to think about starting on Lipitor soon. I thought to myself "I am not old enough for that!" and decided to solve the issue through exercise. As I can never find time to go to the gym, the only way I can really fit a workout in is to ride my bike to work. I may also be a little bit obsessive-compulsive, so once I started riding, it became pretty much my routine and is now very easy to do.

My typical route to work is 17 miles round-trip and takes me down a greenway and through neighborhoods to the office. I do have a couple of big hills I go over each way but, to tell you the truth, I don't mind the climb up the hills so I can experience the thrill of coming down the hills. I ride when it is hot (106 degrees) and cold (14 degrees with a strong headwind just last week). I ride to work in the daylight and normally ride home in the dark; I did invest about $300 in a headlight for the bike and have, in total, 4 very bright lights in order to stay safe on the roads.

Last August, I started tracking my mileage on a website called GasFreeCommute.com. Since that time, I have logged nearly 1600 miles. My blood pressure and cholesterol are great and I get a chance to think about how to make our software even better while pedaling. Today, I looked on the website and I am currently ranked 4th in miles this month among the nearly 1700 members. I think that is because it has been cold out but not too cold here in Alabama, especially for someone with as much Michigan blood as I have in me. Here is my souvenir snapshot of the website with my initials; I am sure my initials won't be there as springtime gears up and more people get to ride.

For those of you who can manage it, I highly recommend bicycle commuting even if you can do it only once a week or once a month. You will feel better for it and will help the environment just a little in the process.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The ACE Vest

On one of my recent posts, fellow Oracle ACE Dan Norris left a comment; I had never visited his blog but took a quick look and found it was dedicated to the (much-maligned) Oracle ACE Vest.

I have the dubious honor of being the only Hyperion-oriented Oracle ACE that owns an Oracle ACE Vest. These vests were given out to attendees at the annual Oracle ACE Dinner at Oracle Open World in 2007. At that dinner, I did my best to share my Hyperion ideas with JDeveloper and Oracle Database tuning experts but the dinner seemed much like the old Stephen Wright joke.. "I like to reminisce with people I don't know.. Sure, it takes longer.."

At that dinner, we were given these nice red vests to identify us as Oracle ACEs. It certainly worked (at least for the two or three of us that had the cojones to wear them in public. Of course, I was a newly-minted ACE at that time so I wore mine all during OpenWorld 2007. By the way, the vest is bright red with a huge black ace symbol on the back. If I ever take up poker, maybe I will find an acceptable place to wear it in public again...

You can see the adventures that Dan's vest, nicknamed Stanley, on his blog at http://www.wtfistheacevest.com/.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

ODTUG Kaledioscope Cost Saving Idea

Fellow blogger Gary Crisci posted a blog yesterday about how to save costs to attend Kaleidoscope 09 in Monterey, CA and he specifically mentioned getting the hotel shuttle from the airport. I certainly concur if you fly into Monterey but my thought is that it may be a less expensive flight to go to an alternative airport. The two closest alternative airports are San Jose and San Francisco. Both of these airports are served by discount carriers and have decent driving routes to Monterey. The driving routes take you either over the coastal mountains to Santa Cruz, then around Monterey Bay or take you south through Gilroy, the "Garlic Capital of the World" and Salinas, where we have an customer in the produce business (and where I first saw broccoli in an Essbase outline.. really..)

I will probably fly into San Jose on Southwest and drive from there. If I booked my flight now, I could get there from Nashville, TN for about $400 roundtrip. My family is coming so my car will be full but perhaps we could setup a ride sharing post on Network54 and OTN if others want to fly into the other airports.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

ODTUG Kaleidoscope Early Bird Registration Deadline Approaching

If you are planning to join us in Monterey, CA in June for the best technically-oriented Hyperion ever assembled, the early bird registration ends in less than 3 weeks. Register at http://www.odtugkaleidoscope.com/registration.html before February 24 and save $200.

I hope to see you there.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Hosted / Cloud Computing with Essbase

Two of the hottest topics in technology these days is the concept of virtualization and cloud computing. Virtualization typically refers to running an operating system completely within another operating system. The most popular product that fits this paradigm is VMWare which we have been using for years. In the past few years, however, many other companies have jumped on the bandwagon. Novell and Citrix deliver products based on the open-source Xen hypervisor, Microsoft has both ‘Virtual Server and Virtual PC and even Oracle has the Oracle VM.

Cloud computing takes this abstraction to a different level with the hardware actually being virtualized and run in a different data center. Wikipedia defines it like this:

"Cloud computing is Internet ("cloud") based development and use of computer technology ("computing"). It is a style of computing in which typically real-time scalable resources are provided “as a service” over the Internet to users who need not have knowledge of, expertise in, or control over the technology infrastructure ("in the cloud") that supports them."

There is also the concept of hosted applications where applications can be hosted by a company in the business of ‘hosting’ applications for customers. I am not sure I am really clear on the distinction, so I turned to my friend, fellow Hyperion entrepreneur (and skier) Andy Jorgensen from K2 Analytics (now Titan Technologies) to explain the difference. According to Andy, one of the main differences is that a hosted application typically refers to a ‘fully managed service package where no customer administrative functionalities are needed.’ In other words, if you need the functionality that Hyperion Planning/HFM/Essbase provides but you don’t have the expertise in-house to manage it, the expertise can be bundled into a package. You can read more about Andy’s company at http://www.k2analytics.com/.

Another friend of mine, Rohit Amarnath, founder of Full360, has worked the cloud computing angle. With their offering, Full360 has Essbase instances setup on VMs running on the Amazon cloud in both Linux and Windows environments. With this approach, the idea is that there is an Essbase environment available to you via the web/remote connections and that you don’t need to find a server to host your application. Pricing on this model is based on actual resource time used on the server. One of the first things I thought about with this arrangement is that it would be very easy for a company to use the Full360 offering to try out new versions of the software. Further, it may be an ideal situation where a company finds it hard to do the capital expense outlay to obtain new servers or where they want to manage their own environment without managing the physical hardware. Full360 also provides management services on the cloud sites. You can contact Full360 at http://www.full360.com/. By the way, we have already deployed Dodeca on the Full360 cloud and it worked great.

I got an email last week from our partners at HyNote which is an IT Orchestration firm which has a strong background in the Hyperion world; the founders, in fact, are former Hyperion employees. They have put together a page on cloud computing at http://www.hynote.com/tech_cc.html and have a webinar scheduled for next week entitled “EPM Cloud for Hyperion”. I hope to attend the webinar and, if you are interested in attending, you can sign-up for the webinar at https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/667510291. That reminds me; I better go and sign up now!