Monday, May 24, 2010

BI Forum - consolidated geekness awards

According to Daan Bakboord over here, Robin and me reached ultimate twitter geekness when I watched Daan tweeting, took a pic of him and tweeted it and Robin took a pic of me taking a pic of Daan tweeting...

Well agreed it was kinda geeky in a web 2.0orhea kind of way. Still, I vote for this pic as the winner of the generic geek award, category t-shirt:

So after this, here's all the pics I took:

BI Brighton Forum

Sunday, May 23, 2010

BI Forum Brighton 2010

Hi all,

well what can I say...the BI forum at the Brighton Marina was a blast. Almost the whole european blogger community was there and we had a real good time and extremely good discussions. Plus as of Friday we even had goo weather!

Last things first, at the end we voted for the best speaker of the event and Robin Moffatt won this year. Especially cool for him since we popped his speaker-cherry at this event ;-) So congrats Robin.

The first day of the event was a masterclass on OBIEE with Kurt Wolff. I'm sure you all know him, but to re-iterate: he was part of the original nQuire team and is - as he says - responsible for some of the things which confuse people today.
It's amazing to see how much of concepts and design decisions which were made by people like Kurt or Ed Suen back in 1998 are still the basis of what we do almost unaltered form. @lex has a nice write-up over here and all I want to add to this is: thanks for your excellent presentation, Kurt. Brilliant explanantions and insights!

At night before the dinner we had Phil Bates rocking up together with Mike Durran and Adam Bloom to give a keynote speech for this event on the topic of "a future version of one of their products that they're working on in the labs". So you might guess that he could have meant 11g but we can't be sure since the Oracle guys continued to use that phrase throughout the next 2 days ;-)
Phil had some nice slides and we finally saw most of them demoed on a obviously no screenshots from there.

Day 2 started off with Mike Durran again who seems to be getting the early-bird sessions every time. At least this time he got Wednesday so no real danger of too much impact from the "entertainment committee" aka "Ragnar and Borkur" (more on that later).
Mike showed us the future architecture and systems management features of 11g. So obviously he had hard time finishing a single topic without questions and everyone was volunteering his speaker time to stay on subject (equally obviously that didn't happen). That first in-depth presentation clearly showed us all several things: first of all the learning curve won't be linear...not even will be logarithmic. Can't really say much more but be prepared to be astonished. Unfortunately I was so concentrated on the topic that I didn't take a picture :-S (neither Kurt the day before actually...).

Next up was speaker-award winner Robin Moffatt on "Performance Testing OBIEE". I think his example was the most thorough, well-structured and thought-through performance testing strategy I have seen at any clients side in the last 5 years. There's huge misconceptions on this topic out there and Robins presentation is a good guideline which covers the most important questions you have to ask yourself before going off to test your solution for performance. And here he is in action:

Next up was Elio Idema on "Complex Modelling with OBIEE". It was funny to see him more or less hitting similar topics as Kurt had the day before since it really enforced the main theme of this whole forum and the single most important recurring point in OBIEE projects: data modelling. He had some excellent points on how to procede in transforming entity-relationship data models into analysis-oriented star schemas in the physical layer and I would really suggest to anyone attempting such a feat to check out his slides and follow his main points. (I'll try and get him to blog on this as well).
I only caught him on camera afterwards so here he is (on the right):

After lunch there was Emial van Bockel who hit the same spot with "The art of modelling with OBIEE". Like last year he had some interesting slides on the way his company models information, what concepts lie beneath these models and how they evolve. Quite obviously he spawned a lively debate; here we have John Minkjan (left hand, turned), Robin Moffatt, Sukesh and Michal Zima: then we have Justin Townsend, Peter Scott and Michael Krantz.

Next up we pestered Adam Bloom...i.e. he had his presentation and we constantly asked for more since his topic was "BI in and on the Business Process – New Innovations between BI 11g and BPM 11g". Adam is the Oracle Product Manager for the whole action framework so you can imagine that we took the liberty of going down to the nitty-gritty. The scope of the whole topic is so vast though that time ran out way too early.
Here he is as he was most of the time: hacking away at a "future product that's in the lab":

After that we had a debate on "What should drive your modelling strategy from ELT to front end?" presented by Emial and myself. Obviously no pic I've taken, but good ol' @lex took one and I'm sure you agree we had THE opening slide ;-)))

With this we ended day 2 and after a short round of drinks in the bar, headed out for dinner. But this is a geek blog, so fast-forward to day 3.

In order to slow him down and not have him win speaker-of-the-event by default, Antony Heljula got the morning session this time and in the audience you could see some victims of Ragnar-and-Borkurs "entertainment blitzkrieg". Well some you couldn't see because of follow-up negotionions with their pillows, but I disgress...

Tony talked about "BI EE Architectures and Sizing" with several key hints and helps for sizing your architecture. Like Robins the day before, this presentation covers a topic which should be one of the core topics for each project but often "falls through the cracks" and results in either badly set up environments, hugely overpowered ones or awfully undersized ones.

As a little intermezzo from my side: those three days in Brighton would have been a boon to any project out there and if you have 5 minutes, then get over to, get the contact details, get the presentations wherever possible, read them and learn from them.
I don't think we re-invented the wheel or anything, but most of the topis covered simply can't be ignored in any project and were presented in a exquisitly researched form. Again, kudos to all of you guys. That's why I more or less booked my place for 2011 already.

Next up we had a real celebrity. Mr. "Oracles Person of the year"...Mark Rittman! Here he is scratching his nose ;-)
Ok jokes aside not all of you may know the person-of-the-year story, so here's what Mark has to say but of course we knew before that it's oraclenerds fault.
Mark covered "Inside the Oracle BI Server" which was clearly one of the most nerdy tech topics. (Loved it and obviously voted for it). If you were ever wondering what a level 5 log file actually contains, what it means and how you influence which part of it...that's your presentation to look out for. I had done a fair share of log file archeology but Mark had some really cool new stuff in his presentation and thanks to the presence of "the godfather" Kurt Wolff we even got some additional informations which took this one presentation really to the next level.

"ODI 11g: The New Generation of Data Integration" was then presented by Craig Craig!
He reminded us first that 11g ODI was still not out there but we got the feeling that it's closer to us than another future-product-that's-still-in-the-lab. All in all I have to say that ODI grew quite a bit and contains neat new knowledge modules. Coming more from an OBIA background that plain ETL/ELT I obviously tried to get more information out of him regarding the next OBIA releases and ODIs importance within them but to no avail :-( Still it was very nice to see in which direction ODI is evolving.

The arrival of John Minkjan on the stage as the next presenter heralded a hugely funny intro to his presentation "OBIEE Customizations: When you are in the kitchen, learn to cook." Plus he looked quite neat as the only guy presenting in a suit

John gave us a good beating on the different aspects of GUI design for dashboards. He has some major points I have to say. We all have seen the horror of gradients, 3D charts, animations all over the place and eye-cancer-inducing colour palettes. I agree with John; you really should read up on analysis- and interface-design if you want to present your information in a digestible format.

Last but not least there was Venkat with his "Fusion Middleware 11g - ADF Business Intelligence Components" presentation. As one of the few things that's widely known and also officially confirmed by Oracle, ADF will become the new graphical layer of OBIEE in its next incarnation just as it has in other parts of the Oracle product stack already. This will definitely be an area where all of us will need to get more experience and dive into its depths since it really seems that for so many of the things we faked or tricked today in order to accommodate user requests for GUI behaviour or specific analysis types, ADF will be the answer.
And here's Venkat gesturing while he explains a dogfight during the Battle of Britain:

(obviously not but that's the first things that came to my mind when reviewing my pictures).

His session wrapped up the forum for 2010. If at all possible it was even better than 2009. We had Kurt Wolff over who gave us a history brush-up on OBIEE nee Siebel Analytics nee nQuire and showed us through his in-depth explanations just how well thought-out the concepts were which they defined 12 years ago and which still form the basis of our daily work.
The speakers were high-class, the presentations to the point and on intriguing topics. No sales bladibla or "we are the best" company presentations.
The discussions were very lively and people participated from A to Z with much vigor. That's just the thing that distinguishes this BI forum from others...we're not there to sell; we're not there to "steal" either by just sitting there, not opening our mouth since sharing our project experience is losing competitive advantage or something (you might get who I'm bashing here...). It's just industry-wide recognized cracks sharing, exchanging, learining and discovering together with a healthy portion of networking and most of!

Thanks again to Mark, Jon and the whole RittmanMead crew for making this forum a possibility and to al of you other guys for participating.

Hope to see you all again next year. It was awesome.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

OBIA Performance Recommendations

Thanks to rnm1978 for alerting me to the availability of this rather juicy document on MOS:

And the really cool part?

Oracle positions Exadata solution as fast and efficient hardware for addressing I/O bottlenecks in large volume environments. The internal benchmarks for running Oracle BI Applications on Exadata will be published soon.


Monday, February 22, 2010

OBIEE - Maps integration

I recently was asked about the different options of visualizing data in OBIEE on maps. Since many of the usual suspects (you'll see form the link-list below) have already blogged about this, it is easiest to provide a list with all good and informative articles rather than writing a completely new post. Here goes:

Google Maps:


Oracle Mapviewer / Oracle Spatial:


Lapp, Conrad & Sharma (OOW 2008):
Abhinav (OOW 2008):

Maarten (RittmanMead Forum 2009):

If you have any other good links - preferably with examples and code snippets - post a comment and I will update the list. Maybe we will get this into a sticky thread on OTN.

See ya!

Monday, February 1, 2010

OBIEE 10g presentation server cache directory parameter

A while back our oraclenerd had a question about presentation server cache settings which he sent out through twitter.

rnm1978 and me answered to his distress call (emails not included. twitter's quite useless for sending instanceconfig.xml subsets ;-)).

However, I wanted to make it clear through this post, what part of the presentation server cache is actually managed by which parameter since there's a little gotcha in there.
So basically we there are four parameter which exist for the presentation servers instanceconfig.xml (see also Johns pdf extract). By default they're not explicitly noted in the file so you need to specify them in order to change them. Here's a little sample with already modified paths:

Now normally the cache files for the presentation server reside in the \tmp directory within the respective subdirectories sawcharts, sawrptcache and sawvc; with the xml cache files lying in the \tmp folder itself. Note that I cleaned out all files in the directory for in the screenshot below to have a clean testing baseline:

Restarting the presentation server with the additional XML above gives me the following results:

Chart cache:

Report cache:

State pool cache:

XML cache:

XML cache empty? Aha, seems there's an issue. Let's check the original path:

The XML cache files are still here. Not really what we wanted. So the XMLCacheDefault CacheDirectory seems to be useless. At this point I actually created an SR on MyOracleSupport to confirm a hunch I had. Result:
"With regards the parameter , I have researched this and have not found any documentation on it, internally or published. Infact through my research it appears that it has never been the case that this parameter is used to determine the path of the nqsxxxx temp files.
Previous versions of OBI i.e. Siebel Analytics document that the temp files generated by the Analytics Web server could be redirected by using the parameter 'TempDir' in Instance config or as a registry variable, in conjunction with the work directory path."

So off to the NQSConfig.ini and change the WORK_DIRECTORY_PATHS:

#WORK_DIRECTORY_PATHS = "C:\Oracle\OracleBIData\tmp";
WORK_DIRECTORY_PATHS = "C:\DataSources\Cache\tmp";

After that, restart all the services and check again where the cache files went.

Ok now we know how to make the rest of the cache files elsewhere.


OBIEE/Essbase: how to handle missing facts

A question which I never covered in my blog yet since it was too basic and should normally work at all times when you import an Essbase cube:
How do I get a fact to display in the BMM layer after importing a cube?

The question came up here and basically has its origin in a bizarre cube outline. Correctly defined cubes will never face this (and hence no one covered it yet, though I already spoke about changing the measure hierarchy).

Let's look at an import without a working "fact" (in OBIEE terms...).

No fact columns...but why? Let's open the properties of the physical cube table and check the properties of the hierarchy "Account" (my measure hierarchy).

Now that's just wrong. The "fact" must be the measure hierarchy. Let's change that.

Better. Now we're still missing the actual fact columns (i.e. the members of the measure hierarchy in the Essbase outline.). In my case that should be Costs, Gross Sales, Net Sales, Returns and Sales.

Repeat that for the other four.

Now drag-and-drop the whole thing to your BMM layer.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Issues when using Firefox 3.6 on MyOracleSupport (flash version)

During the day I realized that MOS was acting strangely since I upgraded to FireFox 3.6 and @rnm1978 confirmed my findings just now:
You can't directly read MOS knowledge items with Firefox 3.6

Opening a knowledge items as usual (left-click - which should display the content on the right hand side of the screen) just pulls up a blank display:

You have to right-click the item and choose "Open Item in New Window" to see its content.

Not very comfortable but there's always as a fallback scenario.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

OBIEE / Essbase 9.3.1: UDML for cube outline changes - Part 2

First of all a little disclaimer: No, I haven't died in the meantime. Other topics took precedence over writing blog posts.

Back on track, I recently received a question from Jeff Tam who also works on a hybrid OBIEE-Essbase solution. Funny enough, jsut this morning there was another question on this on the OTN OBIEE forum here. Basically being a follow up on my post here botg JEff and the poster on OTN wanted to know the detailed steps which are to be taken to manually extend dimensional hierarchies of already imported Essbase outlines in the RPD. Oracle has their own MOS Note on this issue here.

"The workaround that the customer is using now is to copy this into a notepad, correct and paste it back." is a bit too minimalistic for my taste, so I'll take the concept in my previous post more into detail here.

We'll start off with a 5 generation product hierarchy within an Essbase cube that's already in the RPD.

In Essbase, the outline for the product hierarchy has grown from 5 levels to 6. In order to represent this, we repeat the steps outlined earlier and

a) create the new physical cube column "Gen6,Product"
b) add the new physical level "Gen6,Product" to the existing "Product" hierarchy object

Now that we have the structure built in the RPD, off to correcting the external level number (which isn't possible through the Administration Tool!). For this we save the RPD and close the Admin Tool.

Open a command window and navigate to your \server\bin folder. Then we run the UDML command line to create a txt representation of the RPD in question (paths and filenames need to be adjusted to your needs of course):

C:\Oracle\OracleBI\server\Bin>nqudmlgen.exe -u Administrator -p Administrator -r "C:\Oracle\OracleBI\server\Repository\Showcase_002.rpd" -o "C:\Oracle\OracleBI\server\Repository\UDML\Showcase_002.txt" -8 -N

Open the resulting txt file in your trusty notepad and search for DECLARE PHYSICAL LEVEL "Sample Accounts"."LOGIC_A".."LOGIC"."Product"."Gen6,Product"

Modify the the "LEVEL NUMBER EXTERNAL" line to reference the correct external level. WARNING: counting starts at 0! So Gen6,Product is


Save the txt file. Switch back to you command window and run the nqudmlexec command to recreate the RPD from the modified definitions:

C:\Oracle\OracleBI\server\Bin>nqudmlexec.exe -u Administrator -p Administrator -I "C:\Oracle\OracleBI\server\Repository\UDML\Showcase_002.txt" -O "C:\Oracle\OracleBI\server\Repository\Showcase_003.rpd" -8

After that you're done and the dimensional level can now be accomodated normally in your BMM and presentation layers.