Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Essbase licensing: no fee for additional Essbase servers, really?

This is the greatest news I can remember about licensing for Hyperion since Oracle started giving away Integration Server and the Essbase API. It turns out that one of my current customers was able to add another production Essbase server without paying any additional licensing fees to Oracle. So it finally looks like there is a benefit to the licensing model that years ago took away concurrent user pricing. It looks like Oracle is satisfied with charging a per user fee so they no longer will charge for additional production servers and development servers. Do you remember the day's in which a development Essbase server costed in excess of 10k? Now we are just waiting for Financial Reporting studio to output directly to Excel workbooks.....

Check with your Oracle sales rep. The details / paperwork is a little fuzzy as to which customers can add as many Essbase servers as they want for free. Chances are if you've recently purchased / upgraded your Essbase / Hyperion, this is now an option. So if you're currently running version 11 this is likely to be the case.

Rumor has it that Oracle EPM 11.1.2 is coming out very soon....


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

As a Hyperion administrator what skills should I be learning....

In working with Hyperion for the past 15+ years, I've seen a lot of clients and a lot of system administrators. I've even spent significant time trying to backfill my administrator role at various clients as well. You might be surprised at how many folks are out there that say they can run Essbase but they have never written a calc script. There is a great difference between maintaining a Hyperion system and developing a Hyperion system from scratch. In order to make yourself more valuable you need to really understand what's going on under the covers. I've even advised a few business analysts that focusing their efforts on really understanding and learning Essbase would result in a bigger bang for the buck than starting the process of gaining an MBA. In both cases they were able to double their salary in the course of 3 years by learning Hyperion and switching employers without incurring +10,000 in student debt. Usually folks involved in Hyperion at a client don't have any time to goto night school anyway. The right move I believe is for a company to figure out a way to keep this talent. So much business knowledge is learned from creating these systems that it is a real shame for it to go out the door.

Anyway, some things that you should do to make yourself more valuable in the Hyperion arena include:
-fully document your Hyperion Systems and identify / train your backup resource. Go download the outline extractor and export all your outlines to audit all the member formulas in your databases. Many administrators out there have a really tough time taking vacation and an even tougher time taking time off for training as the system seems to stop running when "Bob" is not here.
-devise an issues log to help track all the fires you are putting out. When it comes time for yourself appraisal, you need to have proof of the amount of work your are performing. Saying you are just solving the needs ("keeping them happy") of finance is not tangible. Despite your best efforts it's not possible to keep users happy. By keeping a log you can better explain the amount of work you are performing and this can also give you credibility when you come to the realization that you need to get another head hired to help you out. Logs also help you prioritize and keep track of all the issues. "Prioritize" - the secret that allows IT folks to go home at 5:00pm every night when business folks are always getting stuck working late. It seems on the IT side that resources are always limited while on the business side there is no cap on how hard people work to complete deadlines.....
-learn Essbase VBA to figure out how to automate bulk loading of spreadsheets into Essbase and to streamline other business admin tasks
-see what else VBA can help out with. You can easily create a menu based interface in Excel for report generation.
-understand when web based reports should be used instead of Excel for reporting creation and distribution
-recreating your applications from scratch in development. In so doing, understand the decisions that were made for your application and challenge yourself on how to improve the model.
-reviewing your cube update process and automating every step possible (stop touching the outline by hand when there are more than 1 to update, make a dim build file and run it through batch dimension builds)
-review your data loading process and try to load your data from a relational data store (instead of loading from files, get these files loaded to some kind of sql data store) and perform your etl (scrubbing of your file, adding prefixes, concatenations, etc) in the sql and not the load rule (load rules are disposable and sometimes get corrupted when upgrading. These also are not self documenting).
-learn what esscommand and maxl are (command line based scripting used for automating Essbase administration)
-learn how to perform allocations with calc scripts (spread a value stored at the top of 3 dimensions down to level 0 based on a populated account)
-if you have any calc scripts running, make sure you have validation workbooks to audit every calc that takes place in your models
-review your scripts (might be Essbase only, not sure about HFM) and review the benefits of inserting substitution variables to make your scripts more dynamic
-if you have not created an aggregate storage database do so. If you don't know what an aggregate storage database is then read up on it.
-if using Hyperion Planning review your business rules and web forms to ensure the user experience is as streamlined as possible (not a list of 12 steps of business rules that must be run in order). A user should not need to know how to run more than 1 or 2 business rules. These should all be attached to web forms that run upon save without requiring the end users launching these in the tools->business rules menu.
-also, if you're using Hyperion Planning, go through the effort of configurating and using the application copy utility in System 9 or learn how to use the life cycle management tool of system 11.
-get 2 virtual machines setup, one for windows xp (easy one) and another for windows server 2003. A virtual machine allows you to run different versions of software on your desktop. These are like mini machines that run on your desktop. You can now switch between running Essbase 6.5, 7.x, 9.3.3, and 11.1.3 on your pc. You'll actually need to "fire up" (a vm takes up about 10gig of space on your hard drive and takes a few minutes to start) your vm and probably not run them concurrently. But, VM's can be very valuable in testing compatibility of Hyperion with different versions of IE and Excel.
-install hyperion software on these vm's. There is plenty of help out there on the internet how to install system 9 and more recently system 11. You can install Essbase System 9 on a Windows XP client vm (shared services, essbase, bi+ (workspace).
-learn ODI as this is the replacement for HAL. While this will be a necessity for Planning, ODI can also come in handy for working with Essbase.

ps. If you think you're ready to branch out into the traveling consultant role let me know. I know some pretty good consulting firms to work for. If you think you would rather go independent drop me a line and I'll try to talk you out of it. Some folks have a hard time saving their acorns for the winter months.