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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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FDMEE and Essbase calculations

Since January, I have been on a project using FDMEE against Essbase and Planning applications. There are certainly many more companies using FDMEE with HFM, so I wanted to share some things I have learned about FDMEE and Essbase.

The topic of this post is about the process of running calculations in Essbase. Typically with Essbase data loads, especially repetitive loading of data during a close cycle, we will want to clear out the data first and then load in the new data. Of course, after that data loads to Essbase (BSO) we will likely need to run an aggregation after the load.

Lucky for us, Oracle baked in the ability to run calculations on your Essbase Target Applications at certain points during the load process. In this post, we will cover how to set up a clear script before a data load, but an aggregation script after the load is the same process with a different script.

First, we need an Essbase calculation script to run a CLEARDATA command. For this occasion, I wrote a quick little CLEARDATA script to clear out Sales in California for whatever period I happen to be running in FDMEE. I have saved the script in the Sample.Basic application as “fdmClear”.

SET CALCTASKDIMS 4;
SET CALCPARALLEL 4;
SET UPDATECALC OFF;

SET RUNTIMESUBVARS
{
POVPer = "";
};

FIX(&POVPer, "Sales", "California")

CLEARDATA Actual;

ENDFIX

Notice the use of RUNTIMESUBVARS for my POVPer variable. By defining these in our calculation script, FDMEE will be able to pick up the variable and pass a value when it runs the calc script.

To set up these calculations, we need to be on the Setup tab of FDMEE and have the Target Applications window up. If we switch to the Calculation Scripts tab, we can add our scripts.

EsbCalcs1

We need to click the Add button to set up our clear script. I have entered in the “fdmClear” name for the script and clicked on the pencil icon to add my calc script parameter. In the “Set Calculation Script Parameters” window, I clicked the magnifying glass icon. This forces FDMEE to look back at the calc script and pick up the POVPer variable.

EsbCalcs2

Now we have a choice as to what value to assign to our POVPer variable.  In our simple use case, we will use the POV Period option and click OK.

EsbCalcs3

Next, we can select the appropriate scope for the calculation. For instance, if we have a clear for this application and it only affects a particular slice of data, we would want to use a more granular scope like data rule or location. Script scopes with higher granularity override those with lower granularity. So, if we have multiple scripts with different scopes, the most granular one will take effect (data rule scope overrides a location scope, location scope overrides category scope, and category overrides application).

EsbCalcs4

For any selections other than Application, a Scope Entity box will appear and allow you to specify what rule, location, or category to use. I chose Location and selected my Loc1 sample location.

The next choice is to decide when to execute the calculation: before the data load, after the data load, before the check process or after the check process.  In my case, I selected Before Data Load.

EsbCalcs5

Finally, if we end up with multiple calculations with the same script scope, scope entity, and event, we can specify a Sequence value to order the calculations appropriately. I only have one calculation, so this is left null.

Calculation Script Parameters

I was curious if a regular substitution variable would work, so I created a Market subvar (mkt) on the Sample.Basic application and a Measures subvar (acct) as a global variable to test.

EsbCalcs6

EsbCalcs7

No dice. When we attempt to add our substitution variables in the parameter names window, FDMEE is only able to retrieve the RUNTIMESUBVARS defined within the script.

EsbCalcs8

WebLogic vulnerability in Oracle EPM and BI: Security Alert CVE-2015-4852

Oracle customers are beginning to get a rare vulnerability notification outside of the quarterly Critical Patch Update.  This update refers to a security vulnerability for Oracle WebLogic, IBM WebSphere and other Java web servers, which affects EPM and BI products as well as many other applications built on Oracle’s Fusion Middleware.

The vulnerability allows remote execution of code on the web server without a login ID or password.  Basically, a Java application can be written to exploit this vulnerability allowing a hacker to force WebLogic to run a command on the server. Obviously, this could be very bad for your WebLogic server.

Due to the high Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) score of 7.5, Oracle is informing its customers of mitigation instructions while patches for this vulnerability are being worked on.  My Oracle Support document 2076338.1 lists mitigation options for WebLogic.  Oracle has another MOS article (2075927.1) that lists the patches and minimum releases that will be fixed by those patches.  It’s very important to note that we will likely need to first patch our WebLogic to the minimum release and then apply the security patch to fix this vulnerability.

At this time, the options are limited to either blocking all T3 traffic from reaching your WebLogic server (like RMI through an HTTP server (like Oracle HTTP Server or Apache) or by blocking undesirable T3 traffic on WebLogic using Network Connection Filters to refuse any connections from undesirable IPs.

While this vulnerability is a little scary, most EPM and BI environments are internal applications and are not facing the internet where the possibility of malicious attack is much more likely.  For those environments that are internet-facing, your security team is likely already on top of this vulnerability once it was confirmed last Friday by FoxGlove Security.  The sad part is that the vulnerability was brought to the public in January at AppSecCali and hadn’t been addressed at all.  If you really want to geek out, check out the links for full details.

I don’t pretend to be cool enough to understand exactly how the vulnerability works in Java, but I do know that some malicious code could really ruin your day.  Stay tuned to the My Oracle Support documents listed above as more details come and patches for WebLogic are eventually released.

Oracle Critical Patch Update – July 2015

Last week on July 14, Oracle released it’s quarterly Critical Patch Update.  The following Hyperion and BI products are affected by security vulnerabilities:

  • Hyperion Essbase
  • Hyperion Shared Services
  • Hyperion EPMA
  • OBIEE

Hyperion Essbase

There are patches available to fix the vulnerabilities in Essbase for the 11.1.2.2 and 11.1.2.3 versions. The patch for version 11.1.2.3 are the 11.1.2.3.506 Patch Set Update (PSU) for the Essbase Server and Essbase Client (patch numbers 20184072 and 20184082, respectively).  The vulnerability fix for Essbase version 11.1.2.2 is “Upgrade to Hyperion Essbase 11.1.2.3, then apply the patches listed above”.  If you are on an older version of Essbase than 11.1.2.3, it is time to upgrade.

Hyperion Shared Services

The CPU document calls this “Hyperion Common Security,” but they are talking about Shared Services. The vulnerability is listed as affecting versions 11.1.2.4, 11.1.2.3, and 11.1.2.2.  The patch for version 11.1.2.4 is listed as patch number 20876722. This one is interesting because if you search, that patch doesn’t bring anything up on the My Oracle Support site. I also searched for Shared Services patches under 11.1.2.4, but there isn’t even an 11.1.2.4 version available to choose yet.  Edit 7/22/15 – The Shared Services 11.1.2.4.001 patch (number 20876722) came out on 7/21 and is available on My Oracle Support. The 11.1.2.3 patch is the Shared Services 11.1.2.3.700 PSU (number 20675028). That PSU requires patching nearly every EPM product in your environment but gives the ability to run Internet Explorer 11 in its native mode – no more Enterprise Mode needed for 11.1.2.3.  The 11.1.2.2 patch is listed as number 21052487, but this is a bad patch number as well with no results when using their link.

Hyperion Enterprise Performance Management Architect

The EPMA vulnerabilities affect both versions 11.1.2.2 and 11.1.2.3.  In version 11.1.2.3, you have two different options to fix the vulnerabilities: EPMA PSU 11.1.2.3.501 (patch number 19466859) or EPMA PSU 11.1.2.3.700 (patch number 20929659).  If you are on version 11.1.2.2, a patch set update is available on request from Oracle.  I assume that you would need to submit an SR to get a PSU from Oracle Support for 11.1.2.2.

OBIEE

For version 11.1.1.9 of OBIEE, only a patch to Third Party BI software (patch number 21235195) is listed as a critical patch.

The following patches are listed to fix vulnerabilities in version 11.1.1.7:

Calc Manager 11.1.2.4 New Functions

EPM 11.1.2.4 has been out for a few weeks now and I have been heads-down diverting my “free time” to a different creative outlet besides blogging. Most EPM bloggers have already given details on the new features of their favorite applications, so I won’t belabor the point. I haven’t yet seen anyone report on the new functions in Calculation Manager 11.1.2.4, as these are not documented in the readme for Calc Manager or anywhere else, unfortunately.

As I researched the functions, it was clear that the EPM community is always looking for some type of documentation around these functions, so I wanted to make the latest information available for anyone out there on the cutting edge. All of the functions in Calc Manager 11.1.2.3.502 are still available in 11.1.2.4, so these are only the brand new functions. Also, the errors on the CDF definitions persist in 11.1.2.4, so the blog entry I did here is still relevant.  If you are going to use those functions, just edit the essfunc.xml file and you’re good to go.

New Functions in Calc Manager 11.1.2.4:

@CalcMgrGetFormattedDate (date, format) – Accepts a date and its format and will reformat it into YYYYMMDD format.

  • @CalcMgrGetFormattedDate (12302014, “mmddyyyy”) = 20141230
  • @CalcMgrGetFormattedDate (30122014, “ddmmyyyy”) = 20141230

 

@CalcMgrGetStringFormattedDate (dateString, format) – Accepts a string of numbers and its format and will reformat the string into YYYYMMDD format.

  • @CalcMgrGetFormattedDate (“12302014”, “mmddyyyy”) = 20141230

 

@CalcMgrGetDatePart (date, date_part_ex) – Returns the Year/Month/Week/DayofMonth/WeekofYear/WeekOfMonth/DayOfYear as a number from date which is in the YYYYMMDD format.

  • Options for the date_part_ex parameter are: Year, Month, Week, DayofMonth, WeekOfYear, WeekOfMonth, or DayOfYear.  These are Strings passed and the capitalization does not matter.
  • @CalcMgrGetDatePart (20141230, DayOfYEAR) = 364
  • @CalcMgrGetDatePart (20141230, yEAR) = 2014

 

@CalcMgrGetDayOfYear (date) – Returns the day of year (1-366) from date which is in the YYYYMMDD format.

  • Calls the same code as @CalcMgrGetDatePart (YYYYMMDD, DayOfYear).
  • @CalcMgrGetDayOfYear (20141230) = 364

 

@CalcMgrAddDatePart (date,date_part,amountToAdd) – Add specified number of years/months/days/weeks to the date which is in the YYYYMMDD format.

  • Options for the date_part parameter are: Year, Month, Day, or Week.
  • The amountToAdd may be positive or negative.
  • @CalcMgrAddDatePart (20141230,week,1) = 20150106

 

@CalcMgrRollDate (date,date_part,up) – Adds or subtracts (up or down) a single unit of time on the given date field without changing larger fields.

  • Options for the date_part parameter are: Year, Month, Day, or Week
  • The up parameter is a boolean (true or false) Java parameter.  Use @_true to add, and @_false to subtract.
  • @CalcMgrRollDate(19960131,”month”,@_true) = 19960229
  • @CalcMgrRollDate(19960131,”day”,@_true) = 19960101
    • Note that the DAY field was rolled over to 1, but the MONTH field remained at 01.
    • Use @CalcMgrAddDatePart to automatically increment months when rolling over days

 

@CalcMgrDateDiff (fromDate,toDate,datePart) – Returns the difference (number) between two input dates, in YYYYMMDD format, in terms of the specified date-parts, following a standard Gregorian calendar.

  • Options for the date_part parameter are: Year, Month, Day, or Week
  • Returns integers (no remainders or decimals) for the difference.

 

@CalcMgrYearsBetween (fromDate,toDate) – Returns the years between two dates which are in the YYYYMMDD format.

  • Calls the same code as @CalcMgrDateDiff (YYYYMMDD, YYYYMMDD, Year).
  • Returns integers (no remainders or decimals) for the difference.

 

@CalcMgrMonthsBetween (fromDate,toDate) – Returns the months between two dates which are in the YYYYMMDD format.

  • Calls the same code as @CalcMgrDateDiff (YYYYMMDD, YYYYMMDD, Month).
  • Returns integers (no remainders or decimals) for the difference.

 

I am humbled, thank you.

Last week on Thursday, this blog achieved a milestone.  Until then, the highest number of views was 114 in a day which was set last October.  That 114-view number stood for an entire year until it was broken last Thursday by 142 views.  Also on Thursday, this blog went over 20,000 views all-time.

Yesterday, that 142 number was eclipsed by 165 views.  We broke the record again, two business days after smashing a year-long record.

Granted, these are not huge numbers, but for a niche technology blog it feels pretty amazing that there are that many people out there wanting to get some information that many of us may take for granted.  I am humbled that so many have come here for information and I thank you for reading.

Oracle EPM 11.1.2.3 has been released

It appears that I’m a little behind the rest of the blogosphere, so please check out Edward Roske’s blog for new features in EPM 11.1.2.3:

Look Smarter Than You Are: All the Cool New Features in Oracle EPM 11.1.2.3.

 

Conventional wisdom dictates that you might not want to go live in production with this release right away.  To evaluate the release, it would be just fine for a development or sandbox system, though.  Typically, once the first round of Patch Set Updates (PSUs) have been released, then it is considered ok to roll into production.