Wednesday, June 9, 2010

New Functionality in Dodeca 5.0

We have been hard at work on Dodeca 5.0 for nearly a year now, and it is nearly ready to ship. Some of our customers have heard about the significant new functionality coming in this release and some have used it in our beta. To summarize, there is a lot of excitement about this release. This blog post will summarize the changes; later blog posts may delve deeper into individual items.

Relational Functionality

Probably the biggest feature coming in Dodeca 5 is new and expansive relational capabilities. We have a number of customers who have used the SQLPassthroughDataset capabilities of Dodeca 4.1, so we listened to their feedback and desires to add to these capabilities. This new functionality includes a new Dodeca view type, the SQLExcel view type, which allows administrators to configure one or more SQL retrieval ranges, from one or more SQL databases, on each worksheet in a workbook template. The configuration supports automated, data-based Excel grouping with any Excel formula allowed in the group summary blocks. Further, the administrator can configure the ranges to allow direct writeback to the relational database. The same relational capabilities are also fully supported in the Essbase Excel view type; you can have Essbase and relational data on the same worksheet and can even cascade sheets with both Essbase and relational data.

Here are a couple of sample screenshots of the relational capability.

Relational View with multiple levels of grouping (click to expand)

Relational View with Excel-based grouping subtotals (click to expand)

We expect the relational capability will be used heavily by Essbase customers who want to implement drill-through to relational sources without the need to go through EIS or Essbase Studio.  Further, we believe the Dodeca relational capability may be some of the most robust spreadsheet relational technology available anywhere, so we expect this functionality to be a popular even among non-Essbase customers.

Essbase Clustering

We have implemented robust Essbase clustering in our Dodeca-Essbase services. The clustering functionality reads the APS cluster definitions and manages connections to the appropriate clustered databases. Clustering is supported on both stateful and stateless connections. The stateful connection clustering connects to a given server/application/database and stays connected to the same database until that database becomes unavailable. In that case, the connection rolls to the next available cube in the cluster. Based on a customer request, stateful clustered connections can be configured to optionally throw an Exception if the 'originally' connected database becomes unavailable so they can guarantee a number of sequential operations occur against the same database.

Essbase Selector Improvements

We have made a couple of important improvements to Essbase selectors. First, we optimized the search algorithm for our find dialog and made it up to 90% faster. This optimization really isn't that exciting unless you have really large outlines and have configured your selectors to show limited numbers of members such as would be the case if you were using metaread filter security in Essbase (which Dodeca selectors honor automatically).

The second improvement is that we now have exposed associated attributes in our MemberTips. Here is a screenshot that shows a MemberTip with attributes displayed.

MemberTips displaying Attributes

Request/Response Logging

Ever wonder how Dodeca is communicating via web-services with our server? This new functionality will tell you. The request/response logging feature traps all xml inbound requests, and all xml outbound responses, to xml files on the server for the Dodeca service, the Dodeca-Essbase service, or both. The logging can be enabled or disabled by the administrator for the entire application and/or for individual Essbase connection definitions plus it can be enabled 'on demand' for an individual user. 

Another use for these xml files is in stress testing your system.  We have created a stressor that will resend the captured requests to the server using a specified number of threads.  We use this stressor internally for stress testing our servers and, although we are not yet packaging the stressor with Dodeca, we will make it available to customers upon request.

Essbase Performance Logging

The Essbase performance logging tracks the performance and associated metrics, such as the Essbase server, application and database, username, number of threads active on the server during the transaction, size of the grid before and after the call, number of filled cells in the grid before and after the call and number of members returned, if any, along with the number of milliseconds it takes to complete. This data is stored in a relational database for later analysis. Like the request/response logging feature discussed above, performance logging can be enabled or disabled for individual Essbase connection definitions plus it can be enabled 'on demand' for an individual user.  Ever want to know who is hitting Essbase and how much data they are pulling back?  Here is your way to find out.

Installation Improvements

We have made a number of installation improvements including the elimination of the requirement for a Java JDK and the .NET SDK on the machine used to prepare the Dodeca service Web Archive ("war") file for deployment. We have a utility that does this preparation and it previously used the JDK for packaging the war file and the .NET SDK for digitally signing our deployment. The utility now supports these capabilities without the need for the SDKs and yes, we are creating a Java war file in .NET code!

We also made some minor adjustments to our core Framework code that will allow customers to run multiple Dodeca versions simultaneously and to fully support SSL for all transactions. We are introducing a new utility that helps customers determine the appropriate connection string for the Dodeca data store.

Cultural Settings

We have done some infrastructure work to assure that Dodeca is Locale aware. The work covers all aspects of Dodeca including the Essbase view types, SQL view types and workbook scripts. 

There are dozens of other minor new features that we added to the software such as improvements to the paste options available where, for example, you can configure paste special, values to be the default paste action or improvements to the documentation which is now part of our automated build process.  I plan to blog in more detail on some of the new features in the near future. Meanwhile, we expect to release Dodeca 5.0 on or around June 11.

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