A deep dive and demo of the coming Essbase Cloud Service

 

In case you missed it….

Yesterday, there was a Webinar hosted by Kumar Ramaiyer VP of product development to go over the new Essbase Cloud service. Included was a demo of a few use cases, which I will showcase below.

First and foremost it seems that Essbase will be included in a cloud service called Oracle Analytic Cloud – which will be a Platform-as-a-Service offing that combines Essbase and Data Visualization.

There will be two versions available: The Standard edition which will be Data Visualization and Essbase. The Enterprise edition will also include BICS.

Historically Essbase was created to model spreadsheet use cases that empower business users… a self proclaimed “Excel on Steroids.”  Of course, over time Oracle enhanced Essbase with tighter security, in-memory capabilities, Hybrid ASO/BSO, etc. But make no mistake, the Essbase cloud service certainly gets back to the roots of seamlessly extending and integrating Excel.

But as Kumar pointed out, Essbase in a cloud model is not new, as it is actually the back-end of many other cloud offerings available today such as Enterprise Planning Cloud, Planning and Budgeting Cloud, Financial Consolidation and Close, and even Financials Cloud and Project Management Cloud.

The general themes of the offering are:

  • Flexibility: Bring your own data, or start from scratch model
  • Ease of use: Users don’t need a lot of knowledge of Essbase
  • Collaborative: Workflow and change tracking built in
  • Relevant: Hybrid ASO/BSO is the default cube type
  • Fast: Real time benefits. Load data at the leaf level and data is automatically calced and aggregated on the fly.

 

So who is the intended customer for this?

Case 1: Move to the Cloud

For existing Essbase users, Oracle says that people have the ability to move their applications from on-prem to their cloud using LCM exports. For those that do not want to move existing models, the Essbase cloud service could be used in conjunction with on-prem by leaving existing apps on-prem and develop new models using an on-prem/cloud hybrid approach. This approach allows customers to test out applications in using the latest versions deployed in the cloud.

 

Case 2: Combination and Consolidation 

Of course, one of the biggest limitations of the Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (PBCS) is that you can only have one Planning application. This forces users to purchase multiple separate PBCS instances for each application they need. Oracle sees the Essbase Aloud  as an opportunity to consolidate data from multiple separate PBCS instances into one large Essbase Cloud application for a single enterprise wide reporting source.

 

Case 3: Extend Excel

Let’s face it Excel is great but there are many limitations:

  • Size limitations
  • No collaboration or versioning
  • Data is segregated with no integrity
  • No real data visualization

So for new Essbase customers that want to extend the capabilities of Excel, this is a good option. Of course proponents of an Excel-only environment like Excel because of the isolation and protection of data – if someone makes a mistake it only affects their spreadsheet and not the enterprise data. However, Oracle included Sandboxing in this offering to address those concerns. Sandboxing allows users to create a private copy of the data to try things out before pushing them into the system.

 

The Analytic Cloud:  It’s not just Essbase

Perhaps the most compelling part of the Analytic Cloud is the included data visualization capabilities that transforms Essbase from a multidimensional data store to a full fledged analytic platform.

Data visualization allows users to discover and research Essbase data in a new refreshing way. It provides insights with rich color that can easily track and monitor progress in a collaborative fashion.

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Data can be visualized in the Data Visualization web interface or in Excel just as easily. Through the interfaces, it’s easy to identify things like dimensions, hierarchies, measures and attributes. You can quickly and easily change graph types or look at the data in a table format.

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Architecture

As with many Oracle products that has moved into a cloud offering, Essbase was completely redesigned for the platform. They replaced the Essbase agent with a java based agent and created a unified middleware layer for all services that conforms to modern standards. REST, Java API, Scripting, R, and Groovy are all supported.

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They eliminated familiar tools such as Essbase Administration Services and Essbase Studio with other web based tools. These changes allow Oracle to expose ways to administer Essbase and run scripts without needing to give customers access to the servers. With these tools you can still view database statistics, edit the outline, manage connections and locks, and administer security.

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The new java based architecture gives way to a bring-your-own-browser environment as well as full smartivew connectivity and integration with BICS. It also creates a platform that is designed for higher concurrency, more secure, and scalable.

While you can have unlimited number of dimensions, you do have to chose your “shape.” You can choose from 1,2,4,8, or 16 CPUs with 7.5-15GB of memory per CPU. A CPU in this instance is a OCPU which is equivalent to a core. The service can be metered or non-metered.

They also simplified security. There are only two basic user role types

  • System level roles – to provision administrators and power users
  • application roles – app mangers, DB manager, update, read-only, etc.

Security provisioning is performed though a simple interface.

 

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Loading data and creating cubes

There are many ways to interface with and load into the Essbase cloud service

  • Life Cycle Management import/export
  • The new EssCS command line tool
  • Upload from free form excel
  • Design new in Excel
  • Java and REST APIs
  • Using a gallery template
  • The cloud UI itself.

 

You can use LCM to move cube artifacts from on-prem to the cloud. They can come from 11.1.2.3 or 11.1.2.4 deployments. Cross cube references such as XREF and partitions are not copied over, and will need to be recreated manually.

LCM imports can be done with the new EssCS command line tool:

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The EssCS command line tool can do a lot more. You can use this tool to execute jobs like calcs, clears, and data loads. You can even check status of jobs. Some commands out of the box:

  • login
  • Logout
  • Calc (execute a calc)
  • Dataload
  • Dimbuild
  • Download (download a file from a cloud instance)
  • Listfiles (ie – list all rul files)
  • Maxl (execute a MAXL script)
  • Upload (upload a file)
  • Version

Again, these new tools are for one reason: to give users the ability to interact with the cloud instance without giving the ability to get on the server. Remember this is a platform as a service… you will not have any access past the UI and these provided tools.

For a new Essbase applications, users can use the Cube Designer, which is a UI full of templates and excel modeling tools that help you create cubes. You can use Excel templates as a modeling tool that describes the structure that will be used to create the outline. There are pre-built templates for specific business use cases such as price analytics, margin analytics, cash flow, etc

 

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Summary of the Demo

Demo 1 – loading/editing data from Excel into a cube.

Case: I am looking at my staff of managers that all have staff and a budget to hire. I want to see them all on one place to see how the overall budget is going.

Log in:

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Look at the headcount

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Drill to detail:

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Add another manager called Imram who has a candidate Michal Jordon. I’m going to use an excel sheet to do it.

 

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Upload to the cloud:

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See the new data:

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Demo 2:  Import a spreadsheet and create a new cube from it.

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Choose Transform data:

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Choose application name:

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It automatically shows what it thinks the hierarchies are.

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Build the cube. You can watch the job in the job manager

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When complete, we can see the new app in the web UI and in Smartview:

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Demo 3: Creating a cube using a template:

Open up the Gallery and select a pre-built application workbook.

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Fill out the workbook

 

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Note: Screen shots taken from public Oracle webinar. A copy of the recorded webinar can be found on Oracle’s web site and blogs.

~ by Eric Helmer on December 16, 2016.

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