Sunday, May 24, 2009

Interesting New Visual Studio Features

Dodeca has an interesting, best-of-breed architecture that features a .NET user interface connected to a pure Java server via web services. We selected .NET for the richness of the user interface elements, especially the spreadsheet functionality available in the SpreadsheetGear component we deliver as part of our product. Java was selected for the server component due to it's enterprise scalability and its 'Write Once Run Anywhere' mantra that makes it possible for our customers to deploy on Windows, Unix or Linux. Finally, the web services paradigm is found everywhere now as part of the Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) wave that is spreading throughout the IT world and forms the basis for the Oracle Fusion Middleware product line.

As part of my job, I need to keep up on all of these technologies and thus recently saw an interesting blog post about the new beta for Visual Studio 2010. The post, What's New in VS2010 and .NET 4 for Data Drivers?, had this very interesting paragraph:

For those developing data-driven applications, the beta is expected to give developers a first look at "Entity Framework version 2" or what Microsoft dubs "Entity Framework 4" As reported, EF 4 adds support for n-tier templates, Plain Old CLR Objects (POCO) and persistence ignorance.

Plain Old CLR Objects? How ironic. The server architecture of Dodeca uses the Hibernate Object/Relational Mapping system to persist metadata to the relational database. Hibernate introduced me to the concept of Plain Old Java Objects, or POJO's, years ago. Since then, POJO's have become a very popular concept. They were so popular, in fact, that Sun adopted the Hibernate model when they redesigned the J2EE Enterprise Java Beans 3.0 (EJB 3.0) spec and the new Java Persistence API contained within it. Even Oracle has jumped on board by donating some bits from the TopLink product, which is part of the Fusion Middleware stack, to the open source community.

It is good to see that Microsoft is adopting POCO's as it validates my decision years ago to use POJO's at the heart of Dodeca's patent-pending metadata persistence implementation.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Debugging FDQM

I got an email from a user who was seeing an error with FDQM and asking for my advice. First let me say that I have never used the product but I have debugged many, many Hyperion
issues over the years.
The user is getting a very uninformative error message: Error: At Line: 125. I'll bet you can look at that message and guess exactly what the problem really is, right?
The email mentioned a related OTN posting: I took a look at posting and the user had posted much more information from the logs:

** Begin FDM Runtime Error Log Entry 2009-02-05-14:35:32**

Code......................................... -2147417851
At Line: 125
Procedure.................................... clsBlockProcessor.ActConnect
Component.................................... upsWBlockProcessorDM
Version...................................... 931
Thread....................................... 7948

User......................................... administrator
Computer Name................................ DSDFS931
App Name..................................... TestOra
Client App................................... WebClient

Provider..................................... ORAOLEDB.ORACLE
Data Server..................................
Database Name................................ orcl
Trusted Connect.............................. False
Connect Status.. Connection Open

The thing that sticks out like a sore thumb, from my point of view, is the error code -2147417851. This looks like the error number that an ActiveX control (or server application) may throw when it has an internal error. I searched the web and found some references to that error number being thrown when trying to run Excel via COM Automation.

To find the real reason for the error, Oracle Support (or Dev) will need to look in the class 'clsBlockProcessor', method 'ActConnect'. I bet once they get to 'Line 125' as indicated in the error message, they will have a good start on finding a solution.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

LinkedIn Spreadsheet Poll

In the LinkedIn updates email I received this morning, one of my friends, Doug Bliss from DougWare, found an interesting LinkedIn poll regarding the use of spreadsheets. The poll was quite telling in our business as there seems to have been this running battle over the years in the Hyperion world: spreadsheets or web?

When Arbor first rolled out Essbase, the spreadsheet was king and the web was basically a gov't research project. Many of us in the Essbase world started out back then and still consider the spreadsheet king. By the summer of 2000, Hyperion had taken a new direction and declared that everyone in the Hyperion world would dump spreadsheets for the web.

I remember the Sales Kickoff in Miami Beach in the summer of 2000 when the mantra was that everyone in the Hyperion world, from the development side, would embrace and love Java and that other technologies, such as Visual Basic, would be abandoned en masse. In the end, Microsoft abandoned the (classic) Visual Basic world before Hyperion developers.

The LinkedIn poll shows the spreadsheet is still strong which, of course, we all knew all along. We have focused our company, and in particular on our Dodeca product, on the fact that the spreadsheet is king. Our aim is to leverage the spreadsheet concept but to make it easy enough that all users in a company can use them to get the information they need to do their jobs.

Take a look at the poll, and vote if you are so inclined, at

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The New Website is Live!

For those of you who know us, you know we have always spent all of our time working on the technology side and completely ignoring the marketing end of the business. Now that we have a number of very large customers live with their Dodeca implementations, including one with 7,000 users and one with 2,000 so far (and heading for 10,000 soon), we decided it was time to spend a bit of time working on marketing.

We embarked on our branding and marketing project about 4 months ago and, compared to development, it was blood, sweat and tears. I am extremely happy with the results. We finally have a site that gives someone some detailed information about Dodeca. That being said, once we tried narrowing down the marketing message, we quickly realized how much functionality is built into the product and thus there are many, many things that Dodeca does that are not even mentioned on the site. When we finally summarized it, we boiled it down to the fact that Dodeca is software built for Essbase applications used for:
  • Analysis
  • Planning
  • Reporting

Our customers love Dodeca because it is:

  • Easy to use and thus suited to occasional users, yet it is robust enough for power users.
  • Easy to configure with significant out-of-the-box functionality.
  • Easy to deploy with it's patent-pending web service based architecture.
  • Excel compatible with support for Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel XP, Excel 2003 and Excel 2007 file formats including formulas, formatting, charts, multi-sheet workbooks and other popular Excel features.
  • Flexible with it's Intelligent Navigation feature that enables users to explore and analyze data across systems from summary Essbase information, to the general ledger, to source documents, with a click of the mouse.

Be sure to stop by our new website at and take a tour. I would love to hear your feedback.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Login issues with EAS

I got an email today from someone who had followed my installation tutorial for 11.1.1, had installed based on my tutorial and is having trouble connecting with EAS. I thought I would blog it so other people can benefit from my response.

I often have the same problem on my laptop and have to restart the services. In my case, the root cause is that the Oracle TNS listener service goes to sleep when I suspend my laptop and does not wake back up. When this happens, I restart my services in this order:
  1. Oracle database (only if it is not running)
  2. Oracle TNS listener
  3. OpenLDAP
  4. Shared Services
  5. Essbase Admin Services server

Once this is complete, I have no problems logging in. I am sure that if I had the Oracle piece running on something other than a laptop, I would not see these issues either.

The user also had some other questions relating to the app server / web server terminology in the Oracle docs. The embedded Tomcat server is the app server that is shipped out of the box. I expect that to change in the future due to the Oracle acquisition of WebLogic.

He also asked about the role of Microsoft IIS in the equation. IIS is not used in the Essbase stack (OpenLDAP / Shared Services / Essbase / Essbase Administration Services / Essbase Integration Server / Analytic Provider Services). I believe that some portions of the other Hyperion products may need it.

Collaborate Follow-up

Now that Collaborate is over and I have had a couple of days to recover, I finally have the energy and the time to write down my thoughts.

My trip started out a bit late last Saturday. I headed out to the airport just as a big blob of rain was heading our way. By the time I had the plane loaded and was ready to go, it was an utter deluge. My wife was urging me not to fly off into that stuff and, of course not. There is an old saying about aviation that goes like this: “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.” I am quite conservative when it comes to flying my airplane and so we waited it out and watched the Kentucky Derby on the TV in the terminal. My decision was wise as there was a tornado warning with a tornado on the radar just 15 miles into my intended flight path. Within 30 minutes, it was gone and my 3 hour flight to Orlando was smooth; I didn’t even go into the clouds until I was over Ocala on my descent into Orlando Executive Airport.

I got to the hotel about 11 pm and immediately ran into some of my fellow ODTUG board members. We got a late bite to eat at the B-Line Diner at my hotel, the Peabody. The Peabody was the best hotel for conference attendees as it was directly across the street from the site of the conference, the Orange County Convention Center, and was an easy 3 minute walk to the conference. I know some attendees tried to save some pennies by staying at ‘non-conference’ hotels that were located further from the conference, but they ended up renting cars, driving, parking, etc which, in my opinion, is a pain.

Sunday started with the Hyperion SIG meeting. The crowd at the SIG meeting was down from last year and was an indicator of the Hyperion attendance at Collaborate this year. It was significantly down this year. I believe that was due to several reasons:
  • The economy and travel freezes at companies;
  • The swine-flu scare; and
  • Continued confusion on the part of the Hyperion community as to which conference to attend.

The most significant announcement at the Hyperion SIG meeting was that OAUG was planning a standalone Hyperion conference back in Orlando in November. There are several reasons that I believe this conference will not happen including in November. First, it is too soon to put together a standalone conference, plan the agenda, get speakers and get attendees. Nobody has budgeted for it this year and I believe the attendance would be even worse than at Collaborate. Second, it is too close to Oracle Open World and, with all of Oracle focused on Open World, Oracle will not have time to help OAUG by providing speakers or any other help. Personally, I like the idea of a single Hyperion conference and will be working with my ODTUG, OAUG and Oracle colleagues to foster the idea.

Sunday ended with an invitation-only Hyperion SIG meeting co-sponsored by a number of vendors in the Hyperion SIG and BI/DW SIG; we were one of the co-sponsors. The party was at B.B. Kings club just down the street from conference and it was good food, good music and good Hyperion conversation for a few hours.

Monday was the day the conference sessions started and the day the exhibit hall opened. I attend John Kopcke’s EPM vision session that day and it was indicative of the poor attendance at the conference. In the old Hyperion days, John normally did this talk during the keynote in front of thousands of people; at Collaborate 2009, there were just over 100 people in an auditorium designed for 300 plus people.

The Hyperion traffic at the booth was similarly dismal. I think we talked to less than 50 Hyperion users at our booth during the whole conference; that works out to costing us over $200 per contact. I did, however, talk to a number of people who were at Collaborate for the ERP products: E-Business Suite (Oracle Financials), Peoplesoft and J.D. Edwards, and did start the education process on how Hyperion and Essbase can help them. There are a huge number of customers out there that don’t yet know what Essbase is but, when they find out how it can help them, those of us in the Hyperion world will have a career working with them.

My sessions were on Wednesday and, as fellow blogger Edward Roske noted, the attendance seemed to wane during the week. I had 3 people in my 8:30 am session which is simply pathetic; my 11 am session was up to 25 or 30 which was better but no less pathetic. One of the problems with attendance is that one of my sessions was IOUG and one was OAUG; I don’t believe either was tagged as ‘Hyperion’ and you had to search the conference agenda with the keyword ‘Essbase’ to even find them. The two sessions were also in different parts of the conference center. In my opinion, the root problem with scheduling at this conference is that OAUG and IOUG seem to see their own brands as more important than the attendees needs. For the most part, attendees could care less which group is sponsoring a presentation but rather cares about the content; I have stressed this point in my work with the ODTUG board and I plan to provide some constructive comments to help Collaborate easier to navigate next year.

Wednesday ended with the conference party at the Islands of Adventure theme park. I started out the night on the Incredible Hulk roller coaster with fellow Oracle ACE Director, Debra Lilley, Duncan Mills, Sr. Director of Product Management for Oracle JDeveloper, and Stanley, the famed Oracle ACE vest. Duncan and I had the honor of serving as the guide for Stanley on the Incredible Hulk coaster. After that, I grabbed something to eat and rode the Hulk again before meeting up with D.J. Hoelscher and Larry Jack from Applied OLAP partner Harbinger Consulting Group. D.J. and I hit the Incredible Hulk hard and rode it 4 more times including 3 times in the front row and 1 time in the back row.

By the way, the front row of the coaster is a much better place to be; the back does whip you around more if you are into that. For those of you who have never been on it, here is the deal. It starts out like a normal rollercoaster in that it is slowly pulled up a steep grade (inside a tunnel) to begin the fun. About halfway up the incline, horns start blaring and lights start flashing; the cars then get catapulted to 40 mph in about a second, emerge from the tunnel and roll inverted 110 feet off the ground and dive straight down. Way too much fun! For those of you who would like to see it, here is a video from the front-seat perspective.

After the official party, there were a number of unofficial events at the Orlando CityWalk at Universal. I went to Margaritaville with my friends from interRel and later had a Margarita with my friend Andy Jorgensen from Titan (formerly known as Pinnacle and K2 Analytics).

Thursday morning came too early but I wanted to see a presentation on Smart View and Planning, so I was up early and out the door. The presentation was quite good but, as we saw during most of the conference, lightly attended with maybe 30 people in the room. Early in the week, I promised Debra Lilley that I would give Stanley (the ACE vest) an aerial tour of Orlando in my plane. Andy Jorgensen joined us as we took a quick tour of the Conference Center and Lake Apopka at 1,500’. My landing on that flight was perfect; a ‘greaser’ as they say, and thank goodness because, unbeknownst to me, Debra had filmed it on her cell phone and later blogged about it!

After visiting my daughter, a teacher in Port St Lucie, on Thursday night, I flew home uneventfully on Friday morning. Despite the fact that Collaborate was lightly attended, and especially so on the Hyperion side, it was still a fun time and I plan to be back there next year in Las Vegas. Hopefully we can work with the OAUG/IOUG/Quest user group people to make it better.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Collaborate Next Week

I am heading off sometime tomorrow to Collaborate in Orlando. This is one of those trips that makes my airplane pay off as it gives me the ultimate flexibility to arrive and depart whenever I please. Further, it is only a 3 hr trip in my plane and will take less time than any airline option.

Enough about travel, here is a list of things that you won't want to miss in Orlando:
  • Sunday, 3:30 – 5:45 - Hyperion SIG meeting. For more information and agenda, see the agenda at I will be speaking at this event (however briefly).
  • Sunday, 6:30 - 8:30 - EPM Reception. This is a private party at BB King's with only 100 tickets available and is sponsored by some of the leading Hyperion vendors (including Applied OLAP). The best way to get a ticket is to attend the Hyperion SIG meeting and ask how you can attend. Note that you have a much better chance of getting a ticket if you are a customer; even sponsors get only 2 tickets per company. As a sponsor, I will be at this reception.
  • Monday evening, Tuesday and Wednesday - Exhibitor Showcase. Be sure to drop by Booth 4042, say hello and take a quick look at our revolutionary Dodeca product. We are also launching our new website in conjunction with this show so, if you stop by our booth, you may see our new look. For those of you who know us, you know we have focused on the technology side of our product and now that the product is solid and is being used in mission critical applications in some of the largest companies in the USA, it is time for a coming-out party!
  • Wednesday, 8:30 - 9:30 - Session 2597 - How Cantor Fitzgerald Increased User Productivity with Essbase. In this session, I will talk about how one of our customers implemented Dodeca and realized an investment payback of about 30 days. I wonder if we should charge more for Dodeca?
  • Wednesday, 11:00 - 12:00 - Session 1753 - Consolidate BI and Planning Applications to Cut Costs and Improve User Productivity Using Essbase. In this session, I will talk about how some of our largest customers, including 2 of the largest banks in the country, have standardized on Dodeca. I will be showing some screencams for a couple of these customers so you can see what they are running today.
  • Wednesday night. - Islands of Adventure. I will see you on the Incredible Hulk roller coaster. This coaster has one particular turn and dip that reminds me of my days when I used to fly aerobatics. My current airplane is not made to do aerobatics but rather to go fast!

See you in Orlando!