Infrastructure

Do Oracle’s OOW cloud announcements signal the death of on-premises EPM?

This week at Oracle Open World, Oracle has announced more details around a few new EPM Cloud products (Essbase Cloud Services, PCMCS, and DMCS) in addition to their already existing stack of SaaS cloud services (PBCS, EPRCS, EPBCS, ARCS, and FCCS).
axeWith these new offerings added to their stable, is this the death of on-premises EPM as we know it?

Oracle’s stated direction of product strategy for the EPM products is to tap into unserved business users. EPM has been predominantly used by corporate finance departments from the beginning. At one point, Hyperion was marketed to CFOs and not CIOs because it could be run on an administrator’s computer under a desk without IT involvement. The evolution of EPM cloud is a return to the golden age of Essbase – easily created departmental applications that provide better analytic ability than Excel alone.

The EPM cloud products are really all about allowing easy adoption for non-traditional EPM users and providing rapid value to their customers. Spreadsheets still dominate at small to medium companies. The cloud offerings are really simplify life for those companies who struggle with maintaining servers and have a lack of technical skill at designing an optimized solution. With the EPM cloud products, it’s very easy to roll out a Workforce or CapEx application in EPBCS by sending out the URL and paying the monthly subscription fees. The cloud also allows the business users to be in the driver’s seat by not needing IT resources to get them up and running.

As we know, there is a long way to go yet on the EPM Cloud roadmap to get all of these products working well together. For instance, how exactly do we get data from our EPBCS application into ESSCS for additional reporting? How about my BICS dashboards using data from my ESSCS departmental cube or my PBCS budget data? It’s clear to see that with Oracle’s growth in the cloud and continued development of additional features and functions on the cloud products that these drawbacks will be remedied in time.

This whole cloud thing is just a fad, it will pass, right?

Even Mark Hurd stated during his keynote on Monday that the cloud is no fad, it’s a generational shift that is here to stay. Oracle has stated publicly that they fully intend to continue to support and develop EPM on-premises solutions. Matt Bradley, SVP for EPM and BI Development at Oracle, has said that Oracle expects most companies will enter into a hybrid cloud implementation if and/or when they decide to move their investments into the cloud. They have developed tools in DRM and FDMEE to support these hybrid cloud implementations. The shift to cloud computing is happening, but it doesn’t signal the immediate end of the line EPM on-premises. Once the cloud products have fully matured, there may continue to be valid use cases for on-premises EPM products going forward.

So, what is the future of my on-premises investment?

The market indicates that there is a healthy appetite for cloud solutions and all indications are that Oracle expects even large customers to eventually move their EPM investments to the cloud. While the on-premises products are still being developed, the availability of new on-premises versions has slowed down. For the last few years, we were blessed with several major releases of EPM software from 9.3.1 to 11.1.2.4. Oracle noted that the software release adoption cycle was about every two to three years, so we expect that the new software releases for on-premises will be more in line with those adoption cycles. We should expect to see some new features and functionality through Patch Set Updates to the latest code line in between major upgrades. Future on-premises releases will begin to showcase a simpler architecture to the components and focus on usability.

What should we do with our on-premises EPM environments now?

If you haven’t already upgraded to version 11.1.2.4, it is highly recommended. The 11.1.2.4 code line has some great features like better support for Essbase Hybrid Aggregation, improvements in HFM consolidations, FDMEE data synchronization between EPM applications, and the new Financial Reporting Web Studio. I have been on several calls with customers who are still working in old releases and the Classic Essbase add-in. It is time to move on and update those environments. If you have upgraded to version 11.1.2.4, it’s highly recommended to keep up with the latest Patch Set Updates on at least a quarterly basis. Sometimes applying the latest patches may cause some issues, so thorough testing of new patches is always recommended before implementing into production.

Staying on the latest release also allows companies to bridge from on-premises to cloud much easier. For example, as mentioned earlier FDMEE and DRM already support hybrid cloud implementations. Oracle has doubled-down at OOW 2016 on their assertion that cloud computing is the future. While on-premises EPM software isn’t going away any time soon, the cloud products are going to continue to mature rapidly. As the cloud products develop and integrations between them become more defined, more and more companies are going to see the benefits of moving their EPM investments into the cloud.

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Calculation Manager 11.1.2.3.505

On Tuesday, 6/9, Calculation Manager patch set update 11.1.2.3.505 was released. I have previously written about the errors in the CDF registration and how to fix those. I am very happy to report that all of the CDFs are now registered properly in 11.1.2.3.505. Not only that, but there are some new CDFs to report with this version of Calculation Manager as well. Calculation Manager 11.1.2.3.505 is a patch set update now available on My Oracle Support as patch number 20968612.

New Functions in Calc Manager 11.1.2.3.505:

@CalcMgrPadText (text,length,padText,append) – Fills the text with a padding text before or after the text to make up the length.

  • @CalcMgrPadText(“01″,5,”0”,@_true) = 01000
  • @CalcMgrPadText(“01″,5,”0”,@_false) = 00001

@CalcMgrMatches(text, regExpr, ignoreCase) – Returns true, if the first substring of this string that matches the given regular expression. For regular expression, please refer to java docs for java.util.regex.Pattern.

  • @CalcMgrMatches(“AsSeT”, “(Asset|Liability|Income|Expense|Equity)”, @_false) = true
  • @CalcMgrMatches(“CAT”, “c*”, @_true) = true

@CalcMgrFindFirst(text, regExpr, ignoreCase) – Find the first substring of this string that matches the given regular expression. For regular expression, please refer to java docs for java.util.regex.Pattern.

  • @CalcMgrFindFirst(“We are searching for a string in this sentence.”, “string”, @_false) = “string”
  • @CalcMgrFindFirst(“Can’t find this STRING anywhere”, “string”, @_true) = “Can’t find this STRING anywhere”

@CalcMgrFindLast(text, regExpr, ignoreCase) – Find the last substring of this string that matches the given regular expression. For regular expression, please refer to java docs for java.util.regex.Pattern.

  • @CalcMgrFindFirst(“acatamaranbatarang”, “ran?”, @_false) = “rang”

@CalcMgrDoubleFromString(text) – Returns a double.

  • @CalcMgrDoubleFromString(“12.54”) = 12.54(Double)
  • @CalcMgrDoubleFromString(“test”) = 0.0(Double)

@CalcMgrGetCurrentDateTime() – Returns the current date and time in the YYYYMMDDHHMMSS format.

  • @CalcMgrGetCurrentDateTime() = 20140101143001

@CalcMgrGetCustomDateTime(year,month,day,hour,min,sec) – Returns the custom date and time in the YYYYMMDDHHMMSS format.

  • @CalcMgrGetCustomDateTime(2015,06,11,21,27,01) = 20150611212701

@CalcMgrGetDateTimePart(date,date_part_ex) – Returns the Year/Month/Week/Day/DayOfYear/Weekday/Hour/Minute/Second as a number from date.

  • Options for the date_part_ex parameter are: Year, Month, DayofMonth, WeekOfYear, WeekOfMonth, DayOfYear, Hour, Minute, or Second.  These are Strings passed and the capitalization does not matter.
  • @CalcMgrGetDatePart (20141230052736, Hour) = 05
  • @CalcMgrGetDatePart (20141230125430, mInUtE) = 54

@CalcMgrMesssageFormat(text,parameters) – Creates a String with the given pattern and uses it to format the given arguments.

  • This one is interesting, it accepts the parameters to basically create a dynamic string that can be used in messages. You might pass those messages to a custom log file or even into an email for your administrators.

EPM Compact Deployment issue in 11.1.2.4

A compact deployment in EPM is when there are multiple Java Web Applications deployed to a single WebLogic Managed Server called EPMServer0.  A compact deployment is part of Oracle’s standard deployment documentation for EPM; however, I do not recommend it for production systems.  The compact deployment is an option for development or sandbox environments as it reduces the memory (RAM) requirements for the EPM system.  That means that you can size a development environment smaller than your production environment if you use the compact deployment.  There are some trade-offs in going this route, so do your homework to make an educated decision before using compact deployment.

This is a fairly minor issue with a quick fix.  I found on my laptop installation of EPM that my icons were not displaying in Shared Services when attempting to assign filter access to a user.  My colleague, Kenneth Staudt, pointed me to a Knowledge Base article on Oracle’s support site that described the issue exactly.  The instructions on KB article 1612768.1 are for 11.1.2.3.003 and later; however, the folders are a little different in 11.1.2.4.

If you run into this issue, copy the “ui_themes” folder from …\Oracle\Middleware\user_projects\domains\EPMSystem\servers\EPMServer0\tmp\servers\EPMServer0\tmp\_WL_user\SHAREDSERVICES_11.1.2.0\nth7gv\war to …\Oracle\Middleware\user_projects\domains\EPMSystem\servers\EPMServer0\tmp\servers\EPMServer0\tmp\_WL_user\WORKSPACE_11.1.2.0\rj8acj\war.  After that, restart your EPMServer0 Managed Server and you should now have the icons in the Access Control screen.

Oracle Critical Patch Update – April 2015

Oracle’s quarterly Critical Patch Update came out last week on April 14, 2015. There were two Hyperion products listed this quarter that require patches to fix the security vulnerabilities: Hyperion BI+ (Reporting and Analysis) and Smart View.

Hyperion BI+

There are patches available for Hyperion BI+ in the 11.1.2.3.x and 11.1.2.2.x code lines, which is consistent with Oracle’s Lifetime Support policy. The patch for the 11.1.2.3.x code line is the 11.1.2.3.506 Patch Set Update (PSU) for the Reporting and Analysis Framework (patch number 20029854). The patch for the 11.1.2.2.x code line is the 11.1.2.2.500 PSU for the RA Framework (patch number 18659116). Interesting enough, is that the 11.1.2.2.500 PSU has been available for 9+ months and fixes the vulnerabilities just uncovered this quarter. Hopefully if you are on 11.1.2.2.x, you have already patched to 11.1.2.2.500 for BI+.

Smart View

The Smart View vulnerability is patched in Smart View 11.1.2.5.400 (patch number 20327649).  This goes along with the theory that you should keep up with the Smart View releases. We need to get in the habit of thinking of Smart View like the apps on an iPhone; they often update automatically and you always have the most recent version. Why? By keeping up with the technology, you get the latest bug fixes and security updates as well as any new features.

Essbase, EAS, APS, and Essbase Studio 11.1.2.3.505

Last Tuesday, Oracle released new patches for Essbase and friends (EAS, APS, and Essbase Studio).  The Patch Set Update brings the new version to 11.1.2.3.505.  Here are the relevant patch numbers for your reference:

Product: Patch Number:
EAS Server 19613844
EAS Console MSI 19613853
APS 19509172
Essbase Studio Server 19509186
Essbase Studio Console MSI 19509181
Essbase Server 19906085
Essbase Runtime Client 19906081
Essbase Client 19906103
Essbase Client MSI 19906079

I think that it’s great that we now have Oracle Essbase, APS, EAS, and Studio all on the same patch versions again.  The readme files actually state, “Oracle recommends using the same version of all Essbase portfolio products (Essbase, Essbase Administration Services, Hyperion Provider Services, and Essbase Studio) and components (server, client, runtime client, API, and JAPI).” Given that, if you want one of these patches, you should install them all.

The majority of the content in these patches are various bug fixes that are covered in the readmes for each patch.  The Essbase server patch appears to focus on performance optimization and stabilization; however, there a couple of noteworthy items in that readme.

There was a new calculator command added with Essbase 11.1.2.3.500 that was not documented.  It is SET CALCDIAGNOSTICS.  This command enables diagnostic logging for CALCPARALLEL and FIXPARALLEL commands.  This logging is not on by default, since there is some performance overhead.  This feature is designed to help in tuning parallel operations, then it should be turned off.

Here are the example from the Essbase 11.1.2.3.505 readme:

Examples

The following example enables diagnostic logging for all parallel calculations in the calculation script.

SET CALCDIAGNOSTICS { LOGSIZE 4; };

FIXPARALLEL (2, @IDESCENDANT(“US_Market”))

AGG (“Product”);

ENDFIXPARALLEL

The following example enables diagnostic logging for a specific FIXPARALLEL block.

FIXPARALLEL (2, @IDESCENDANT(“US_Market”))

SET CALCDIAGNOSTICS { LOGSIZE 4; };

AGG (“Product”);

ENDFIXPARALLEL

Sample Diagnostic Log Output for FIXPARALLEL

The following sample output pertains to FIXPARALLEL parallel calculation.

OK/INFO – 1012899 – Statistics for [Calc1.csc], FIXPARALLEL of index [1] at line [14]: Number of FIXPARALLEL Threads = [2], Total Tasks = [261], Min/Max/Avg Thread’s Time = [103.453]/[103.519]/[103.486] secs.

OK/INFO – 1012899 – For [4] Longest tasks, next rows display : Time(secs), Thread_id, (Task_index/Task_count), Task_id, Member-combinations.

OK/INFO – 1012899 – 15.131, 1, (30/132), 53, [ID_051341].

OK/INFO – 1012899 – 10.759, 2, (124/129), 211, [ID_050092].

OK/INFO – 1012899 – 9.690, 1, (42/132), 125, [ID_052230].

OK/INFO – 1012899 – 7.192, 1, (38/132), 105, [ID_052073].

OK/INFO – 1012899 – Summary for thread[1]: Total Time = [103.519] secs, Total Tasks = [132].

OK/INFO – 1012899 – Longest tasks executing on thread[1] : Time(secs), Thread_id, (Task_index/Task_count), Task_id.

OK/INFO – 1012899 – 15.131, 1, (30/132), 53.

OK/INFO – 1012899 – 7.192, 1, (38/132), 105.

OK/INFO – 1012899 – 9.690, 1, (42/132), 125.

OK/INFO – 1012899 – Summary for thread[2]: Total Time = [103.453] secs, Total Tasks = [129].

OK/INFO – 1012899 – Longest tasks executing on thread[2] : Time(secs), Thread_id, (Task_index/Task_count), Task_id.

OK/INFO – 1012899 – 10.759, 2, (124/129), 211.

The diagnostic output is organized into 3 sections.

Under the known issues section, I did see this interesting tidbit:

  To avoid abnormal application shutdowns,

o    Do not use the DELAYEDRECOVERY configuration setting in essbase.cfg, and in particular, do not set it to FALSE

o    Do not run the MaxL statement alter database recover freespace.

There are a few other documentation updates listed at the bottom of the Essbase readme, mostly clarifications on a few points from previous readmes.

New EPM Patches for 11.1.2.3

Since my last post, Oracle has released a number of new patches. I wanted to take a moment to summarize them quickly and give the links. The Oracle Proactive Support Team (PST) for EPM and BI (@Oracle_EPMBI on Twitter) has been doing an excellent job of publishing these patches lately. I started this blog nearly three years ago and it had evolved into a patch notification site. I am looking forward to blogging about more interesting topics now that Oracle is taking over notifying the public on new patches.

The following products have new patches released in the last week or so:

  • Shared Services 11.1.2.3.502
  • Smart View 11.1.2.5.216
  • EPM Architect (EPMA) 11.1.2.3.501
  • Hyperion Strategic Finance (HSF) 11.1.2.3.504
  • Financial Reporting (FR) 11.1.2.3.505

Shared Services 11.1.2.3.502 (patch 19447055)

This patch came out on 11/4 and contains seven bug fixes, primarily fixing issues with HFM provisioning/access control issues and a new Planning LCM dimension merge/replace option.

Smart View 11.1.2.5.216 (patch 19858481)

The newest Smart View patch was released on 11/5 and contains fixes only for OBIEE. If you are in an EPM-only environment and do not have OBIEE, I would recommend just staying on the 11.1.2.5.210 patch which is still the latest version on the Oracle Technology Network (OTN) download page for Smart View. This patch fixes performance issues when using OBIEE as a data source and requires two prerequisite patches to be applied to OBIEE (18507268 and 18828701).

EPMA 11.1.2.3.501 (patch 19466859)

EPMA 11.1.2.3.501 was released on 11/14. There are seven defects fixed with this patch to make metadata management better with EPMA applications. If you are using EPMA, this is one you should apply.

HSF 11.1.2.3.504 (patch 19689889)

This patch was released on 11/11, there are four bugs fixed in this release.

Financial Reporting 11.1.2.3.505 (patch 19795686)

Released on 11/14, this patch contains 19 defects fixed and is recommended for all deployments on 11.1.2.3+.

As with any patches, please review the readme files for installation and known issues.  In some cases, known issues can be mitigated with the information contained in the readme files.

SSL woes

There I was, trying to wrap up a client’s installation but I was stuck.  This particular client has security concerns, they even have an external security company verify their installations and enforce corporate security policy.  That meant that OBIEE and EPM needed to both be secured by SSL.

I went down a rabbit hole to get SSL installed in OBIEE, that was an adventure in itself and it took me quite awhile to make sure everything was working properly.  I found a great resource from Oracle on their blogs page here: https://blogs.oracle.com/pa/resource/Configuring_OBIEE_with_Ful_End_to_End_SSL.pdf.  Thank you to  Veera Raghavendra Rao Koka for the detailed information.  I wish it was documented similarly in the BI documentation.

For awhile, I wasn’t concerned with EPM SSL.  I had implemented SSL termination at Oracle HTTP Server before in version 11.1.2.1, so I figured it would be pretty easy on 11.1.2.3.500+.  Wrong.  According to the documentation, there are only two supported scenarios for SSL deployment:

  • SSL Termination at an SSL Offloader (load balancer or bridge with SSL termination enabled)

SSL terminating at an Offloader

  • Full SSL deployment

Full SSL deployment

Hmm.  I don’t want either one of these options.  My client doesn’t really want un-encrypted traffic from their SSL bridge in their DMZ to the server inside the firewall.  So, I started to go down the path of full SSL.  This is a distributed installation, so that requires two different keystores for my servers running WebLogic JVMs, plus another keystore for Oracle HTTP Server.  I worked at it for awhile and was able to get the Foundation server deployed with full SSL.  I started the services and things appeared to be ok.  I was able to get into Workspace and click around into Shared Services fine.  I went into Calc Manager and the application appeared to be ok, but I got an error about not being able to connect to EPMA.  I tried to go into the Dimension Library, then I saw an error message:

Nested exception is: HTTP transport error:javax.xml.soap.SOAPException: javax.xml.soap.SOAPException: Message send failed: Unrecognized SSL message, plaintext connection?

At this point, I had pretty much had enough.  Oracle Support’s Knowledge Base article 1904344.1 states that this is a known issue that should be fixed with Shared Services patch 11.1.2.3.501.  Unfortunately, I had already applied that patch during the installation and I was still seeing the error.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.

So, I really didn’t want to pursue full SSL at this point.  What I really wanted was to do what I had done back in 11.1.2.1 and accept SSL connections at the Oracle HTTP Server layer and terminate those SSL requests there.  That would preclude me from needing to mess with keystores at the WebLogic layer and avoid any issues with EPMA in SSL mode.  This is what I’m talking about:

SSL termination at Oracle HTTP Server

The 11.1.2.3 Security guide mentions terminating SSL at the HTTP server; however, the architecture diagram they provide is the same diagram as SSL termination at an offloader.  The above diagram is actually from the 11.1.2.1 documentation and exactly what I want.  So, I did some Google magic and found that Pablo Bryan of Infratects has a blog and documented the exact steps that I needed back in January of 2014.  You can read his blog post here: http://hyperionvirtuoso.blogspot.com/2014/01/you-have-many-options-to-secure-your_14.html.  Thank you, Pablo!

So, I took his advice and made the two or three changes to the ssl.conf and httpd.conf files.  After restarting Oracle HTTP Server, all was right with the world and my client now has encrypted communication terminating at the HTTP Server.  It really is amazing how easy it was to set up the EPM encryption at the HTTP Server compared to the full SSL required by OBIEE.

Quick Followup on Essbase 11.1.2.3.504 and Calc Manager 11.1.2.3.502

On Friday, I mentioned that the patches for Essbase Server and Run-time Client 11.1.2.3.504 used the same OPatch numbers as the Essbase Server and RTC 11.1.2.3.503 patches, respectively.  I wasn’t sure if we would need to roll back those .503 patches in order to apply the .504 patch.  The answer is no, there is no need to roll back the existing .503 patch.  As I ran the .504 patches, the OPatch process did an auto-rollback of the old patch and then applied the later version of the patch.  So that was easy.

This morning, I saw that Oracle released Calc Manager 11.1.2.3.502.  There’s 7 bug fixes in this patch, and they all seem to be refinements to the product.  I did note in the readme that you should apply this Calc Manager patch to any server running the following:

  • Calculation Manager
  • Hyperion Planning
  • “Oracle Hyperion Financial Data Quality Management ERP Integrations Adapter for Oracle Applications (ERP Integrator)” (I’m sure they mean FDMEE here)
  • EAS
  • Essbase Server

So, this Calc Manager patch has the potential to be applied to every server in a distributed installation, depending on how you spread your products out.

Essbase 11.1.2.3.504

There is a flurry of activity going on with the Essbase product development team at Oracle.  Glenn Schwartzberg had the scoop on Essbase 11.1.2.3.504 that released just a few hours ago.

As I look at the current readme, I am struck by two things:

  1. This entry: “Caution: Oracle recommends using the same version of all Essbase portfolio products (Essbase, Essbase Administration Services, Hyperion Provider Services, and Essbase Studio) and components (server, client, runtime client, API, and JAPI). When only some Essbase portfolio products are included in a patch release, the last released versions of the products that are not included in the patch are supported.Essbase Administration Services 11.1.2.3.503, Provider Services 11.1.2.3.502, and Essbase Studio 11.1.2.3.502 are supported for use with Essbase 11.1.2.3.504.”
  2. And then this under Known Issues in this Patch: “The opatch ids for this patch were not updated so after unzipping the opatch file the root directory will not match the opatch id from 11.1.2.3.504 but will be the opatch ids from 11.1.2.3.503.  Any warnings from opatch can be ignored.”  I am wondering if you have applied the .503 Essbase patch, you may need to rollback that patch in order to apply the .504 patch since the IDs are the same.  I can report back on that later since I have .503 installed at a client site and now need to update it.

There are a set of patch numbers that you can search for, or just search under the Hyperion Essbase product.  There is no Essbase client MSI on Oracle Support for Windows (yet).  As per #1 above, the client for 11.1.2.3.502 should be fine as it was against Essbase 11.1.2.3.503.

Component Patch ID
Essbase Client MSI (Windows) 19613877
Essbase Client (OPatch) 19613886
Runtime Client 19613868
Essbase Server 19613865

The list of defects fixed isn’t terribly long; however, it appears that this patch addresses some instances where the Essbase server and/or applications may stop responding or terminate.  Based on that alone, it’s probably a good idea to patch any .500, .501, .502, or .503 instances to .504.

OBIEE 11.1.1.7.141014 Patch Available

On October 14, Oracle released patch 19261194 for OBIEE 11.1.1.7.141014.  This patch does not contain any new features; however, there are 86 bug fixes in the readme.  The bug fixes were in BI Publisher, BI Server, and BI Presentation Services.

One of those fixes is addressing SSO between EPM Workspace and OBIEE.  For those customers living on the edge and wanting your OBIEE presented in EPM Workspace, this might be the key to getting that integration working with SSO from Workspace into OBIEE and back into Essbase for analyses/dashboards.