Friday, September 30, 2011

Oracle Support Events at Open World 2011

I was recently on the Oracle support site and saw some interesting information about the Oracle Support presence at Open World 2011.  When I first attended Open World years ago, my impression was that it was the big Oracle sales party.  Since that time, however, I have found more technical content in both the JavaOne and Develop tracks.  One thing I was pleased to see this year, however, is the Support Stars Bar.

The Support Stars Bar is a place where you can meet, in person, with Oracle support people.  I think this is a great step by Oracle as, once a sale is complete, Oracle Support really is the face of Oracle for the customer.  Many times, however, support people are just voices on the phone.  I really like speaking with people I have met in person and, if you like that as well, this is your chance to meet some of the support people.

I found out through the grapevine that at least 3 Hyperion support people will be there:

  • Kevin Lawrence - Senior Manager in charge of Essbase support
  • David Nguyen - Manager in charge of Essbase support
  • Majeed Malik - Senior Tech Support Analyst for BI+ (formerly Brio) 
The Support Stars Bar will be located in the Moscone West, Level 2 Lobby Sunday through Thursday.  

Oracle Support also has an interesting session scheduled for Tuesday.

Best Practices: Supporting Oracle Enterprise Performance Management Applications
Session Number 14910
Tuesday, Oct 4th: 1:15pm-2:15pm
Westin St. Francis, Elizabeth CD – Floor 2

You chose Oracle's enterprise performance management products to help your organization deliver superior results. Now learn how to take full advantage of your software with all the great tools, resources, and product updates you're entitled to through Oracle Support. In this session, Oracle product experts provide proven best practices to help you work more efficiently, plan and prepare for upgrades more effectively, and manage risk. Topics include My Oracle Support best practices, remote diagnostic tools, the My Oracle Support Community, and lifecycle framework reviews. New users and experts alike will leave with fresh ideas and practical, easy-to-implement next steps for successfully supporting Oracle and Oracle Hyperion solutions.

Finally, there is an Oracle Support Community Meetup (Note: Call it a party) on Monday night.  The event is free, but you do have to stop by the Support Stars Bar on either Sunday or Monday to pickup a pass.  The pass will tell you the location of the party (which sounds like it may be at a microbrewery).

Monday, September 26, 2011

Smart View Webcast

As you may have heard on other blogs, the new version of Smart View has been released and it has some pretty cool features.  What that means is, after having been available since Essbase 7X, Smart View is finally good enough, in many cases, to be a replacement for the classic Excel add-in.

Some of the new features include:
  • POV Toggle
  • Formula Preservation
  • Formula Fill on Zoom Operations
  • Sheet level Options
  • Member Name and Alias on Rows
  • Resolve Alias Name
  • Zoom Options
  • Submit without Refresh
  • Duplicate Member Name
  • Member Information
  • Range-Based operations
  • Multi-cell based operations
  • Use Excel Formatting
  • Butterfly Report
  • Substitution Variable Support
  • Linked Reporting Objects
The Smart View team is hosting a webcast this coming Friday THURSDAY morning to show off their new product.  You can sign up for the webcast at on the Oracle support site under document id 1356368.1.   Note that you must have a (free) Oracle account to sign up for the webcast.  My team and I participated on the beta and, despite the fact that I will be at Oracle headquarters that day and the webcast is scheduled for 6 am Pacific time, I will be there.

A few people have asked me about Smart View vs Dodeca and asked if the products compete in the market.  To some degree, Dodeca does compete against Smart View, but it is more of a co-opetition.   We know the Smart View team and have worked closely with them for many years.  In fact, when I was briefed on the functionality, my comment was that Smart View would finally be a decent environment for creating Dodeca templates.  Congratulations to the Smart View team for finally reaching that milestone!

Speaking of Dodeca, we are on the verge of announcing a major new version.  Watch this space over the next few days as we start to show off our work!

Friday, September 23, 2011

OTN Asia Pacific Tour / ODTUG EPM/BI SP Conference in Sydney

I am hitting the road soon as I have been invited to speak in Auckland, New Zealand as part of the OTN Asia Pacific Tour and in Sydney, Australia at the ODTUG Seriously Practical Conference.  Both of these conferences are scheduled for the week of October 31.  Due to commitments at my company, I was unable to speak at other OTN Tour stops in Bangkok, Thailand, Beijing, China and Manila, The Philippines but don't worry.  My friend Edward Roske will be speaking at all locations.

The trip will start in New Zealand with 2 presentations at the NZOUG Conference 2011 on October 31 and November 1.  The presentations, and related abstracts, I am scheduled to do in Auckland are:

Find Meaning in Your General Ledger Using Oracle Essbase

Oracle owns several General Ledger applications and, with the addition Oracle Essbase, now has a world class analytic engine. However, many Oracle general ledger users may not know that Essbase exists or know how it can help them. Attend this session and learn what Essbase and learn how
companies are leveraging Essbase to analyze the data in their General Ledger.

What is Oracle Essbase and How Is It Different From the Oracle Database?

Since the acquisition of the Hyperion suite of products, including the Essbase analytic server, many Oracle professionals have wondered "What is this piece of software called Essbase, how is it different than the Oracle database, and why would I need it?" Attend this session to see Essbase and
the Oracle Database compared and contrasted from both the technological and the business perspectives and to see opportunities for Oracle customers to leverage these technologies.

The first session is completely new content that I need to generate before I leave for Auckland.  My assumption for this presentation is that the audience will be from the Oracle GL user audience and I want to introduce them to Essbase.  I also plan to discuss the Oracle products that link together Essbase and the GL such as ERPi and FDM, but I don't yet have any good videos showing how it works.  Does anyone out there have any cool FDM type of videos you could share?  And, of course, I will also talk about Essbase Studio drillthough and Dodeca.

The second session in Auckland is a session that closely parallels the article I wrote for this quarters ODTUG Technical Journal.

The schedule calls for us to fly from Auckland to Sydney, Australia on Wednesday, November 2 for the ODTUG EPM/BI Seriously Practical ("SP") Conference.   I am doing two different sessions in Sydney on November 3 and 4:

Unleashing the Power of Essbase in Excel

Excel was the original user interface for Essbase and remains the most popular user interface for Essbase data. Attend this session by Tim Tow, Oracle ACE Director, and learn techniques, tips and tricks to make Essbase spreadsheets easier to create, easier to maintain and more performant using both the classic Excel Essbase add-in and Smart View. Tim, who was also one of five charter Microsoft Excel MVPs worldwide, has 16 years of Essbase spreadsheet experience, wrote some of the original Excel/Essbase demoware, and has helped thousands of users over the years.

Best Practices for Expanding Essbase with the API’s

The Essbase API is what elevates Essbase beyond being just a product and turns it, instead, into a platform. Customers can leverage the Essbase APIs to finely tailor their Essbase experiences and can range from simple automations to full applications. Join one of the world’s most experienced Essbase API developers, Oracle ACE Director Tim Tow, and learn best practices for using both the Essbase VB API and the Essbase Java API.

These two sessions will be, for the most part, new content but it is content that comes from what I do *everyday*.  I am excited about the SP Conference as maybe ODTUG can put on SP Conferences in other parts of the world.  Where would you like ODTUG to do a Seriously Practical Conference?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Oracle Executive Webcast - Oracle Database Appliance

The Oracle Executive Webcast announced the new Oracle Database Appliance.  Oracle ventured into the hardware space in just the last few years with the introduction of their Exadata database machine.  The Exadata, however, is a very large box intended for very large companies with very large applications (and has a price to match).  The new Oracle Database Appliance is somewhat of an Exadata-lite intended for the SMB and departmental applications.

The appliance itself is a self contained unit with 24 processing cores, 192 Gb of RAM and 12 Tb of storage.  It also has Oracle Database 11g, Oracle Real Application Clusters, Oracle Enterprise Manager and other management pre-installed on Oracle Linux and configured in a dual server configuration.  It also has what Oracle is calling a 'phone-home' feature that can automatically, and proactively, contact Oracle support even before the customer realizes they have an issue.

Software licensing is what Oracle is calling 'Pay-as-you-grow' licensing which means that you can buy the appliance with as little as 2 of the cores enabled and, as needs grow, can upgrade the license to more cores that take little more than a system reboot to enable.   You can also transfer existing licenses to the appliance.

Obviously, one of the advantages of this appliance is the ability to essentially buy the system, plug it in, connect a network cable and turn it on and thus eliminate a bunch of pain acquiring hardware and downloading, installing and configuring software.  One of the quotes in the webcast that stood out for me was that the statement that Oracle is looking for other opportunities to deliver products on an appliance.  Note to Oracle: I think both an Oracle EPM appliance and an Essbase appliance, preconfigured with an Oracle database as the repository, would be very popular!

The appliance is available now.  More information is available on the Oracle website at

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Oracle Executives on Oracle Database Webcast

I found out about an Oracle Executive webcast tomorrow, Wednesday September 21, at 1 pm US Eastern Time / 10 am US Pacific Time.  The webcast is focused on the Oracle Database and features Oracle executives

  • Mark Hurd, President;
  • Andy Mendelsohn, Senior Vice President, Database Server Technologies; and 
  • Judson Althoff, Senior Vice President, Worldwide A&C and Embedded Sales

The thing that intrigued me about this webcast is the statement on the registration page that 'Oracle executives will share plans for a new product that will offer customers and partners a faster path to take advantage of the world’s #1 database.'

I am going to try to catch the webcast so I can find out what new product is..  You can register for the webcast at  Note that you must have an Oracle account to register for this webcast.

Oracle Executive Webcast: Oracle Database Product Update

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Consulting and 9/11

This week, I read an interesting blog entry on the effect that 9/11 had on another consultant (  I, too, was affected heavily by 9/11; this is my experience.

Starting in late 1994, I worked primarily as a consultant.  At first, I was doing Excel consulting.  After all, I had co-authored some Excel books and was one of the original five Microsoft Excel Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs) in the world.  In early 1995, Dave Farnsworth from Solutions Experts and Ron Moore from Marketing Technologies Group showed me Essbase when we were all working at Smith Kline Beecham in Philadelphia; I was highly impressed.  Shortly afterward, the small consulting firm I worked for was contracted by Microsoft to write some demoware showing Excel as a frontend to Arbor Essbase.  That job changed my life.

Soon afterward, I was on the road every week doing Excel / Essbase consulting all around the country.  I spent tons of time in both California and New York while my wife held down the fort at home.  By 1998, I had ideas for a product, but my colleagues at the consulting firm wanted to continue consulting.  Many of them were not doing the heavy travel at the time, so I decided to leave and founded Applied OLAP.
I spent the first nine months of Applied OLAP doing consulting and spent most of that time in the New York area.  In fact, I spent something like 150 nights that first year at the Newark Airport Hilton; I was on a first name basis with the room service people there.   That initial travel did provide the capital to write a product and our original ActiveOLAP for Essbase product was born.   Having a product, though, led to even more travel.  I took 35 trips to San Francisco in one year!

ActiveOLAP also caused me to write the world’s first web services for Essbase.  Hyperion was highly interested in these web services; they eventually became the Hyperion Application Builder for .NET product and directly affected the architecture of Smart View.  Hyperion also told me they wanted to acquire the technology and invited me to join XML for Analysis Advisory Council.  Interesting story, right?  But what does this have to do with 9/11?

My meeting with Hyperion was on 9/6/2001 and the inaugural XML/A Advisory Council meeting was on Tuesday, 9/11/2001.  I flew to Seattle for this one day meeting and was due to fly home late that evening.   I will never forget the events of that morning; probably no American alive that morning could ever forget.  And although nobody from my family or any of my friends in New York were injured or killed, I still can’t think about what happened without choking up in tears.

I was in a hotel just off the Microsoft campus in Redmond when, early in the morning, my wife called and was upset.  An airplane had hit the World Trade Center and, at that time, it was thought to be a smaller plane.  As we had been flying a lot of trips in our Cessna 210, she asked me “How could that happen?  Didn’t they have GPS?  Could a GPS be off that much?”   I assured her that it wasn’t a GPS problem as I reached to turn on the TV.  Before the TV turned on, my wife screamed as the second plane hit.  That is when I knew this wasn’t a navigation issue.

The XML/A meeting was held that day, but I was the only Hyperion-related representative.  The Hyperion team was on a plane that was forced to land somewhere between San Francisco and Seattle.  There were representatives from many companies including Microsoft, Cognos, Microstrategy and Temtec.  We managed to get some work done that day, but there were some side conversations about how we would all get home.  A number of guys who attended the meeting set off the next morning driving eastbound to Toronto and beyond.  When I was younger, I made the drive a couple of times from my native Michigan to the west coast, so I really wasn’t interested in driving back to Alabama.

That night and the next day, I watched, along with most of the nation, as the search continued for possible survivors in the rubble.  I had worked with some companies in the World Trade Center and been there many, many times.  I remember walking through the mall under the World Trade Center at 3 am during the blizzard of ’96; it was absolutely silent and it seemed as though I was on the only person in the building.  When I traveled to New York, I normally took the PATH train into the World Trade Center from Newark.
Another day passed and I finally decided to get away from the TV for a while.  It hurt not being with my wife and family during this national crisis.  I thought about going to Mt Rainier; it was something grand and beautiful and strong and seemed untouchable for terrorists, but it would require several hours of driving to get there and back.  Instead, I headed to downtown Seattle and ended up at the Experience Music Project, a museum dedicated to guitars.  I saw the guitar played by my guitar hero, Eric Clapton, on the song ‘Layla’ and forgot about New York for a while.

Due to the airline groundings and with people trying to get home any way they could, rental cars where in short supply.  People were renting moving vans to drive themselves home.  I was reluctant to give up my rental car in case I needed to drive across the country, so I engineered a plan to keep my rental car until I knew I had an airline seat.  I parked my rental car at the home of a friend in Seattle and he drove me to the airport.  He generously volunteered to return the rental car after I finally left Seattle.

As I was traveling so much during that time, I had Delta Airlines Platinum status.  That certainly helped me on Friday, 9/14, as I waited 20 minutes in the Platinum line instead of waiting in the ¼ mile long line of those without airline status.  It took only a few minutes to get through the newly rigorous security and into the Delta Crown Room.   A couple of hours later, I settled into a first class seat and, as the plane lifted off, came close to breaking out spontaneously in the ‘Star Spangled Banner’.
In the weeks, months, and even years that followed, I heard from friends I knew to be in or near the World Trade Center.  One friend, a well-known Essbase consultant, was supposed to be in towers but was saved when his boss called a company meeting that morning.  Another friend, who worked at Deutsche Bank, told me he felt jolts but didn’t know what had happened.   He was evacuated a short time later through the basement but still was unaware what had happened.  When he came to the door at the surface, the first responder told him to ‘run and don’t look back’.   Only then did he know the scope of the tragedy.  He ran for his life as office furniture, and people jumping from the towers, fell to the ground all around him.

My wife had been urging me to spend more time at home and it was an easy decision to cut back on my travel.  Travel was fun at first, but I realized after a while that cubicles look the same in every city in the country.  I am happy to report that I have not had Platinum status since that year and, in fact, have probably not been in first class either.  And when I do have to travel, my wife often travels with me which makes exploring cities much more fun.

As a guy watching 9/11 on a TV in a hotel room in Seattle, the events had, and still have, an effect on me.  I can’t start to imagine the effect that the attacks of 9/11 had on the thousands that lost a loved one that day, but I will always keep them in my thoughts.  I am thankful I was nowhere near New York that day.