The 8 Most Common Misconceptions about Oracle Exalytics

•March 21, 2016 • 1 Comment

 

I get a lot of different questions and confusion about Exalytics. While it has been out for quite some time now, the new certification for HFM on the Exalytics platform has been a game changer for the engineered system. Here are a few common misconceptions I hear when at user group meetings, conferences, and clients about the Exalytics system.

 

1.) It’s a pre-configured appliance

An appliance is a server that is preloaded and configured for a specific task, such as the Oracle Database appliance. It comes preloaded with Oracle Linux and has an Appliance Manager that guides you though database sizing, creation, etc. It’s meant to plug in and hand over the users quickly.

An engineered system is for software that is developed specifically for that hardware, or at least aware of the hardware to take advantage of the architecture specific to the platform. In the case of Exalytics, the EPM software is engineered to be aware of its high system resources and can do things like in-memory computing. It also has a specific network interface, infiniband, that is a high speed interface specifically to talk to other Exa systems such as Exadata and Exalogic. It also has certain product features and tools that are only available on Exalytics platform.

Exalytics is not an appliance, it is an engineered system. It does not come pre-loaded with anything, and you would install only the specific components you use or have purchased.   As the engineered system evolves, product specific instruction sets are even being put on the chips, most notably Essbase operations.

Setting up an Exalytics server can be a very lengthy process. In order to finalize the purchase, a site survey should be done to understand all the components needed. One of the biggest hang-ups in an Exalytics set-up, believe it or not, is cabling. Once racked and stacked, the operating system needs to be installed, Oracle Virtual Machines (OVM) created, and the EPM/BI software installed. If you are considering Exalytics, plan accordingly for the hardware and software onboarding process.

 

2.) Exalytics is more expensive than commodity

Not necessarily. In some cases, it can actually be cheaper over a 5 year total cost of ownership. A lot of people just look at the surface costs of servers – simply comparing the costs of commodity hardware vs. Exalytics hardware and immediately come to the conclusion that Exalytics is more expensive. However we have done many deep-dive TOC assessments with customers and shown how, in some cases, consolidation of servers on Exalytics is much more financially favorable if you look at all the factors.

  • Software licensing
  • Operating system licenses
  • IT Labor costs
  • Storage costs
  • Network costs
  • Electricity and cooling
  • Patching, administration, maintenance
  • Datacenter space

 

For example: Here is a recent case study we did that showed a cost savings of about a half a million dollars:

exa

3.) I only need to buy 1 Exalytics machine

Can you buy just one? Of course. Should you? Probably not. In actuality, most customers purchase 2-5 Exalytics machines. In general, one box is used for the production instance, and then at least one more are used to house lower supporting environments such as DEV and TEST. Also for those looking for a highly available configuration then you will want to have 2 Exalytics machines in Production for load balancing and failover. Additionally, don’t forget that you may want to consider disaster recovery environment as well in another datacenter.

It’s also important to remember there are components of the EPM suite that are still Windows-only or not supported by the engineering team to run on Exalytic, so you may need to have additional servers outside the Exalytics to house these items. Examples are:

  • Enterprise Performance Management Architect (EPMA)
  • Data Relationship Management (DRM)
  • Strategic Finance (HSF)
  • The Database

There are many techniques to minimize the number of servers you need by using them for multiple purposes, virtualization, etc which can be vetted out by a thorough hardware design.

 4. I can virtualize it anyway I want

While there are options to virtualize Exalytics into multiple virtual machines, there are limitations. According to an Oracle statement in August 2014, there was a limit of only allowing 4 virtual machines, with a maximum of 28 vCPUs and 800GB of Memory each.   However, I believe Oracle increased the supported number of VMs to 10 now. If you find the need to configure things outside these limits, it may not be supported by Oracle. Remember, you always have the ability to install multiple instances of EPM on a bare-metal Exalytics (no virtualization), however each instance will need to be configured on different ports to avoid conflict.

The virtualization technology is different depending on the model you purchase. The X series runs Oracle Linux and uses Oracle Virtual Machine (OVM). The T Series runs Oracle Solaris and uses Solaris Containers.

Other OVM considerations:

  • An external server or a virtual machine must be provided to run Oracle Virtual Manager(OVM) and Enterprise Manager Cloud Control.
  • Is free, but must pay support http://www.oracle.com/us/corporate/pricing/els-pricelist-070592.pdf
  • In general, CPU and memory performance is similar to bare-metal, however disk performance can be a bit degraded, which could affect I/O intensive applications such as Essbase.
  • You cannot use Infiniband with virtualization, so if you plan on using Exalytics with Exalogic or Exadata, you must install bare-metal to take advantage of the networking platform.

 

 5. I need Times Ten for in-memory computing

Times Ten is not really used by EPM / Hyperion.  The use case is with OBIEE.  Times Ten is used as an in-memory database running on Exalytics as a source for OBIEE.  It allows loading a bunch of the database in-memory and other features for better performance.

However, now that the 12c database with in-memory is available on Exalytics, that could be the more robust and higher performing option.  It is positioned similar to Times Ten, depending on the exact use case.

 

 6. I cannot run any other software on Exalytics than the software listed as supported

Not (necessarily) True. It comes down to which group will support you. If you purchase an Exalytics, you get support with Oracle’s elite Engineered System Support Group that specializes in engineered systems. The following products are currently supported on Exalytics by the Engineered Systems Group:

  • Financial Reporting
  • Financial Close suite
  • Hyperion Financial Management
  • OFMA
  • Smartview provider
  • Planning
  • Foundation/Shared Services
  • Essbase Analyic Link
  • Profitability and Cost Management (HPCM)
  • OBIEE

Customers may run other software applications on Exalytics as long as that software runs on a separate Oracle VM guest based on Exalytics Oracle Linux OVM template. Customers shall be responsible for application supportability, sizing, deployment, availability and other lifecycle aspects of the deployment. Oracle may request such VMs to be turned off if they are found to interfere with the normal operation of Exalytics software. The same applies to Exalytics T5-8 implementations using Oracle VM for Solaris 64

Third party monitoring and backup software can be run on Exalytics, however Oracle does not certify them. Customers need to understand that these software programs may affect performance of the system. Should the software cause any issues in Exalytics system, Oracle support may request the customer to reproduce the issue without these monitoring/backup software programs running on the system.

Remember, OVM is a virtualization technology like any other, you can create a guest using any operating system in theory.

  • The X Series uses OVM and you can put a Windows Virtual machine with it, however the T series uses Solaris Zones and you CANNOT put a Windows VM on it.
  • You can run non-EPM software on an Exa platform, including the Oracle Database, however, the following applies:
    • It cannot run on bare metal and must run in a separate OVM/Zone.
    • It will not be supported by the Engineered System Team. You would need to get support from the third party vendor or normal Oracle support for Oracle products.
    • The disk system is shared, so be mindful of performance impacts

7. Oracle will supply Exalytics Patches

Yes, but not all in one place. Remember the Exalytics machine is just like any other wholly owned piece of hardware and will require the same maintenance. Customers are responsible for all patching:

  • EPM Software patching
  • OVM Patching
  • Operating System Patching

These are totally different patches, located in different areas, on a different release cycles, on a different version standard.

Also note that patching firmware and Kernel on the Exalytics is not supported, so you will have to leave that alone.

8. Oracle Professional Services must install the Exalytics machine to be certified

Not at all true. This is the most common misconception that I run into. Many customers and even Oracle sales reps believe that in order for an Exalytics environment to be certified and supported, Oracle Consulting has to set it up and install it.

I was once told by a senior member in Oracle that it is against Oracle policy to require Oracle be the one to set up any Oracle Software. Oracle Software is designed to be implemented by customers and Oracle partners alike.

Having said that, it might be a good idea to have Oracle assist with a site visit and ensure all the cabling and networking is in place. They have a very comprehensive 16-page questionnaire that covers logistics, networking, software, virtualization, capacity on demand configuration, ports, etc that is useful in staging the physical hardware, especially if infiniband is in play. However, outside of that, you can choose to work with a partner like ADI Strategies for installation, configuration, tuning, patching, artifact migration/upgrade, ongoing support, and managed services.

When considering an Exa platform, it’s important to do a comprehensive hardware design to ensure you are right-sizing and not overbuying. Contact me for more info.

 

Cloud Update for Q1 2016

•March 11, 2016 • Leave a Comment

The pressure for cloud

2 Trillion of global GDP out of about 75 Trillion is spent on IT. Of that two trillion, about half is consumer spending, and the other half is corporate spend. Of the corporate spend, 18% is spent on innovation, which has been fairly flat over the years, while consumer spending has been on the rise (due to devices)

 

However, in the last 7 years revenue has been less than 1% growth. Sustainable revenue has come from cost cutting. Cloud solutions offer opportunities to cut IT operational costs while still achieving functionally and agility.

And the competition is fierce. There is clearly a race to not only bring EPM solutions to a all business shapes and sizes, but grow EPM into every major business function.

EPM everywhere

 

EPM is evolving from financial reporting and dashboards.  Its is becoming a critical tool for gaining business insight and decision making, providing a tool to manage goals and performance, and aligning behavior to actions.

Innovation has been centered on user adoption, which means a focus on simplifying the user interface, and reducing footprint, and rapid support. Focus areas of modern software companies

  • Millennials – work anywhere on any device, on the go. Today Millennials make up 36% of the workforce, it will be 50% by 2020.
  • Flexibility to change priorities on the fly
  • Instant seamless scalability to handle globalization, acquisitions
  • Push corporate capabilities to all levels of the organization
  • Mobile delivery
  • Easy adoption and rapid value.
  • Agile
  • Collaboration

Your Cloud Options

When evaluating the cloud, it’s important to note there are many options. The first thing is to figure out what exactly you want outsourced. For those that want a simple, rapid solution, Oracle’s Cloud solutions such as Planning and Budgeting on the Cloud Service is a great choice if your requirements fit within its capabilities.

But for others that may have needs outside current SaaS capability, already own the software, and just want to outsource hardware and the associated maintenance overhead, perhaps an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is really the cloud type to consider.

 

cloud options

Cloud Roadmap Summary

 When considering your cloud strategy, it is also imperative to be in the know on Oracle’s Cloud roadmap to ensure it meets your timelines and capability requirements. Here is what I am hearing… as usual, these are my guesses only and nothing official at all, and these change all the time.

  • Oracle Planning and Budgeting on the Cloud service. Currently available, launched in Feb 2014. One classic planning application only. Currently there are about 1000+ Subscriptions.
  • Oracle Performance Reporting Cloud Service. Currently available.
  • Oracle Account Reconciliation Cloud Services. Currently available. Read this for more info
  • Essbase Cloud Service. Originally I heard it was gong to be released in the next month or so, but then I heard it was pushed out to the next fiscal cycle.   It will have sandboxing and workflow built into it. It will have the ability to import data from BI Cloud Services (BICS) and Database cloud service. They claim that consumers of Essbase Cloud will not need to have Essbase skills as there will be guided database creation wizards and guides.
  • Enterprise Planning and Budgeting on the Cloud service (EPBCS). This is PBCS with all the modules – CAPEX, Work Force, Project, etc. You will get ALL the modules with your subscription and you simply enable the modules you want. It’s designed to start with one and incrementally add functionality. At this time I do not have any information on the license methodology nor the technical methodology to migrate from PBCS to EPBCS. I think that is still being ironed out. Price is $250/user/month
  • Financial Consolidation Cloud Service (FCCS). Around May-July. Should be integrated with current cloud offerings, but will not be immediately migratable from on-prem. The Initial release is intended for net new customers and will have limited functionality. Think of it as having the same features as the initial release of HFM – the basic close:

 

    • Address management and legal entity consolidation.

    • Not meant to be HFM on the cloud. (It’s actually built on top of PBCS, with an Essbase back-end)

    • First release: Out of the box functionality with limited customization. I believe you will get 2 custom dimensions

    • Built in orchestration

    • Standard consolidations and eliminations only.

    • Currency translations and FX adjustment

    • Automated Cash Flow

    • Task management, status. Workflow.

 

As you would imagine, it will have tablet interface, social interactions, etc. I heard the price will be $120/user/month.

 You might want to shy away from the first release if you are an existing customer with custom scripts, rules, or complex things like equity eliminations, allocations, a lot of multinational GLs, etc.

Way Further Out (2017)

  • Tax Provisioning Cloud Service. Should be integrated with FCCS and I believe it will have a migration path from on prem HTP. Second Half of 2017.
  • Profitability and Cost Management Cloud
  • Dimension Management Cloud – think DRM

 

The Hybrid Approach

What we are seeing today is that everyone’s situation is a bit unique. While many companies would like to use Oracle’s SaaS cloud, they have situations where they have some products or features that are not yet available. For these, often a hybrid solution can be used to create a mix of different products and cloud services that is the most cost efficient and delivers the features and functionally that is needed. For example, if a customer has planning and HFM, we can use a combination of PBCS and a ADI hosted IaaS to seamlessly deliver an overall cloud approach. The trick for the seamless integration is active oversight and managed services as it relates to data integration, process orchestration, and metadata maintenance. If done correctly the actual physical platform is transparent to the customer and fully administered behind the scenes – all at a lower cost of ownership.

hybrid

 

The On-Premise Warriors

I know, you know, and Oracle knows there are some customers that will never go to the cloud.

Generally I see these being customers that:

  • have mature IT departments
  • want to capitalize software and hardware assets
  • have mature or custom internal processes, compliances, business continuity models.
  • have specific performance needs (Exalytics/Exadata), high I/O or Network requirements
  • are generally more comfortable having their data internal to their own data center.

For those customers – not to sweat.  All the functionality that is available in Oracle’s SaaS EPM services will be eventually available on-premise.  Just know that it will be applied to the cloud instances first and more frequent.

Summary

If your requirements align with the capabilities of Oracle’s SaaS cloud offerings, then it might be worth considering waiting and giving them a try when they are released.

Can’t wait and want to get the cloud now? Contact me for information on our Infrastructure as a Service outsourcing and Managed Services to get you up and running in no time with no limitations. We can chose between all the different options, including a customized hybrid solution that fits any situation.

 

 

Announcing Oracle Essbase Cloud Service

•October 26, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Oracle Essbase Cloud Service

Acronym name: ESSCS

Home

At Oracle Open world, Essbase cloud service was announced. This is a cloud based service to deliver the power of Essbase as a software as a service model.   This will be a tradition Software as a Service model, similar to Oracle Planning and Budgeting on the Cloud Service that will be priced by user by month. It should be added to the other cloud services under the Enterprise Performance Management applications along with Planning and Budgeting and Enterprise Performance Reporting.

cloud ora

It has some interesting features

The ease of creating and managing Cubes

To create and manage and Essbase cube, you can use the full suite of options within the user interface to create your application. However, one of the great features is that you don’t really have to know Essbase much at all. You can simply upload a spreadsheet, structured or unstructured data, and the application will be created and managed. Similarly, you can export to a spreadsheet.

According to Oracle, they assume 90% of your modeling will be done in Excel and uploaded. You can create ASO, BSO, or Hybrid cubes. Of course, you will be able to LCM applications from on-prem to ESSCS as well.

You can manage your storage types…

Storage

A calc script editor is embedded in the interface.

Calc

Sandboxing

Users can create sandbox version of their essbase cubes. The concept of sandboxing is not new, and is available in PBCS today. However, ESSCS takes it to a different level by allowing an approval process. Users create sandboxes, and different users can approve or reject those changes to be moved into the production cube.

Sandbox Screens

Sandbox

Sandbox Zoom

Here you can approve or reject the sandbox…

aproval

Limitations and Usability

It has still not been determined what limitations there will be for ESSCS. Rumors now are that you may be limited to 10 applications, and there will be a storage limit.

The primary reporting wool will smartview. There should be integration into the BICS cloud as well. Currently, Hyperion Financial Reports will not be supported, however there is talk to either support on-premise Financial Reporting or embed is into the ESSCS clouds somehow.

Excel

Apply now: Inside Sales Position: Oracle EPM/BI Hosting and Managed Services

•October 8, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Inside Sales Position: Oracle EPM/BI Hosting and Managed Services

ADI

Job Description: ADI is seeking talented professionals to join our growing team. Candidate will be responsible for business development to include leading sales efforts, and closing business for the Managed Services Practice. Candidate will report to the Managed Services Practice Lead and work closely with other Practice Leads and Business Development Managers. Territory will include all of North America.

Responsibilities of the Business Development Manager include:

  • Prospect Net New and Existing accounts to generate a viable pipeline of EPM and BI  Support and/or Platform hosting opportunities within assigned region
  • Develop and execute sales strategy for accounts within assigned territory
  • Position ADI appropriately and effectively with clients having an existing Oracle/Hyperion footprint
  • Develop reference accounts that are willing to be active in sharing their success stories with prospective customers
  • Maintain knowledge of the latest trends in the EPM industry
  • Actively participate and provide leadership within industry networking organizations
  • Development of marketing material
  • Familiarity or active use of social media marketing and collaboration tools.
  • Deliver high level presentations to audiences ranging from executives to business users

The following are required attributes:

  • 2-5 years sales experience focusing on farming opportunities based on need (production support) across a large stratum of clients (Small / Midsize to Fortune 500).
  • Self-starter. Ambitious and looking to be part of the energetic team that is growing this practice
  • Requires highly developed selling, customer relations and negotiations skills with the ability to effectively communicate with C-level executives and line of business representatives.
  • Clear understanding of the Sales process, product, and service value propositions.
  • Capability to leverage your relationships and your knowledge of the territory in which you are selling.
  • Consistent track record for developing new business and managing a complex sales cycle, from generating leads to closing deals.
  • Experienced individual contributor selling Professional Services Offerings
  • Effective oral, written, and interpersonal communication skill.
  • Demonstrated organizational and prioritization skills.
  • Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Finance, Economics, Business Administration or related field or equivalent experience.

 

About ADI Strategies Managed Services Practice: ADI 1MS (1 Maintenance Solution) is a highly consultative Hyperion EPM Managed Services offering. ADI provides its growing number of clients highly proactive and reactive support, as well as unstructured support options.

 

About ADI Strategies: ADI Strategies, Inc. was conceived and formed by six Principals in 2002. The Principals had the collective benefit of working together at the same company between 1994 and 1999. Working in small teams, the Principals led some of the pioneering enterprise and medium sized planning, forecasting and analytic implementations based on Hyperion Solutions Architecture. The headquarters is based in San Francisco, CA. (www.adistrategies.com)

 

Location: US – within one hour of major airport

Relocation: Not Required

Travel Requirements: 25-50%

Job title: Inside Sales Lead

Job Type: Full Time

Compensation Package: Competitive

401K: Available

Medical: Available

Dental: Available

Vision: Available

Visa Sponsorship: Yes

For consideration, please send your resume to morethanajob@adistrategies.com

#ODTUG Members: Here’s how to vote for the Board of Directors…

•October 6, 2015 • Leave a Comment

If you are a member of the Oracle Developers Tools User Group (ODTUG) you may have received an email this morning that looks like this:

email

There are numerous benefits to becoming a member:

  • Access to technical webinars
  • Access to files and recording
  • Fee discounts to conferences
  • Subscription to the ODTUG Technical Journal

One of the best benefit is that all members have voting power for who will sit on the ODTUG Board.  The Board is a powerful group of volunteers that controls, coordinates, and organizes the content, activities, conferences, and events for the community and its members.

“ODTUG is an independent, not-for-profit, global organization whose sole purpose is to keep you on the cutting-edge of the constantly changing technology landscape” – ODTUG Website

In essence it is a user group that is run by users, for users. The ODTUG is very near and dear to my heart as it has a lot of emphasis on EPM and the content is technical in nature.

The voting process is the way to ensure the ODTUG accurately represents the community by having the community itself elect their representatives

So, if you are member, please help ensure your voice is heard. There are 5 seats available this year. You will be able to vote for 1 to 5 candidates.

Before you do, however, take the time to review the the campaign statements for all 19 candidates  located here:   http://www.odtug.com/page/2016-nominees

One of the candidates you might see is me…. I would appreciate your vote.

campaign

When you are ready, log into the voting site located here: https://www.associationvoting.com/odtug

You will need to log in with the email address and Voter ID that you were sent in the email. If you did not receive an invitation to vote, click on the help button and request it to be resent, using the email address that’s associated with your ODTUG profile.  Again, voting is only open for ODTUG members.

login

Choose up to 5 candidates by selecting the box next to their picture and submit.  That’s it!   Voting closes on October 27th.

vote

Be sure to Tweet to all your followers that you voted.   Use #Vote4Eric to help support me.

Thanks for your support and membership to the ODTUG.

Under the Covers of the New HFM 11.1.2.4 at this year’s Oracle Open World

•September 28, 2015 • Leave a Comment

OOW logo

This year Oracle Open World is October 25th-29th, a bit later than normal.  I’m sure this year will be just as jam-packed with great sessions, events, and entertainment.   The Oracle customer appreciate event will include Elton John and Beck!

This year, I will be presenting on the new architecture of HFM in 11.1.2.4 that has demonstrated significant performance improvements.

I touched on this subject in this post:

HFM 11.1.2.4 under the covers – the new architecture

At OOW, I will be going into more in depth analysis of the new architecture, and changes to the underlying consolidation engines that give user options on parallelism techniques.

OOW

Follow the Open World Blog here:

Agenda and Registration info for the conference here.  Be sure to get your Hotel rooms ASAP, they are going fast!