Jazz Up Those Static Dodeca Views With Advanced Essbase Features

Oftentimes when I am demonstrating or teaching aspects of Dodeca to people, they are amazed at the sheer number of options and configurations that are available on a view. Fortunately, I am able to tell them that yes, there are many, many options – and they are there if you need or want them, but they won’t get in your way. The defaults are very sensible and getting a basic Essbase-based Dodeca view running is incredibly easy.

Another thing to keep in mind is that for the most part, the extreme amount of options and flexibility we have on a single view is often available to us in lieu of code. So, tasks that typically required some non-trivial amount of VBA code are now completely code free. When we need some advanced functionality that isn’t available out of the box, we can use Workbook Scripts, which is an event-driven scripting technology that is particularly well suited to working with spreadsheets and the data contained in them.

That all said, today I want to walk through a bit of a cross-functional example that starts with a very typical Dodeca view based on an Essbase retrieve range, then enhance it to give our users the ability to zoom in on the different time periods in the view without having to rebuild the view. So we’re going to blur the line a bit between static and dynamic reports, and our users are going to enjoy some additional flexibility and convenience with regard to their reporting (and keeping users happy is always a good thing, right?).

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JDBC and JNDI connections compared (with a Dodeca example)

Have you ever wondered what the difference between a JDBC and a JNDI connection is? If you’re familiar with at least one of these, it’s likely that you’re familiar with JDBC (but probably not JNDI).

JDBC connections come up often in the Oracle world (for good reason). It’s a standard model/framework for designing drivers that interact with relational databases. As it pertains to us in the Hyperion, Dodeca (and even Drillbridge!) world is that we often define connections in terms of specifying JDBC parameters. This typically means a driver class name (like com.mysql.jdbc.Driver for a MySQL driver), a JDBC URL (a URL specifying a server and optionally a database/schema and other parameters), and credentials (username/password). So if you’ve poked around in your infrastructure much at all, there’s a good chance that you’ve come across a JDBC connection.

You may have even come across something called JNDI and even vaguely known it was sort of an alternate way to configure a connection but never really had to bother with it. I’ll spare you the acronym details, but think of JNDI as a way of organizing database connections (and other objects actually, but we don’t need to worry about that at the moment) such that instead of our app/system having to know the server name and credentials, it just asks “Hello, can I have the resource that was defined for me with name XYZ?”

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Hacking the Essbase Java API to run Application Calcs

This post might alternately be titled, “So you’re really stubborn and wasted a couple of hours messing with the Essbase Java API”, or something. I was in a discussion the other day and asked about the ability to run an application-level calc script.

Well, back up, actually. Did you know that calc scripts can exist at the application level in Essbase? For a very long time, Essbase has had this notion of applications and databases (with databases often just being called cubes), such that there is usually one database/cube inside of an application, but there can technically be more (at least in the case of BSO). It’s almost always the best practice to have just one cube to an application. This is largely for technical reasons.

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Showing off the power of Drillbridge query translation

Lately I have been working on new materials and demo ware to help show off the power, flexibility, and sophistication of both the Dodeca Spreadsheet Management System and Drillbridge/Drillbridge Plus. I came across a really great Drillbridge mapping example today that I hadn’t specifically solved before, but with a little creativity I was able to write the proper Drillbridge query and get exactly what I wanted.

Consider an Essbase cube with the following dimensions:

  • Years: FY15, FY16, etc
  • Periods: Periods/Quarters/Months
  • Scenario: Actual, Budget
  • Departments: balanced hierarchy with four levels
  • Location: Total/Division/Store
  • Measures: Ragged hierarchy with accounts at level-0

For this post I am going to design a Drillbridge query that maps from this cube back to its related relational data, with the additional wrinkle that we want upper-level drill in several dimensions, including one where the dimension in the cube is represented by two different columns in the source data.

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Deleting multiple files from PBCS using PBJ client

Earlier in the week, my archnemesis colleague Cameron Lackpour hosted a guest blog article by Chris Rothermel with a trick for deleting multiple files from PBCS using the epmautomate tool. The basic idea is that you can use the listfiles command to export the list of files to a temporary file, then use some batch scripting to iterate over every line in that file, then call epmautomate to delete the specific file. It’s a good example that will undoubtedly come in useful for many people.

Upon reading the article I thought it would interesting to do the same thing, but using the PBJ library. The PBJ library is an open source, 100% Java library for interacting with PBCS via its REST API. It can easily be dropped in to enterprise Java projects by including its dependency in your Maven configuration file (if you’re so inclined). The PBJ library is also used in at least one major piece of software: it’s the library that allows Drillbridge to perform upper level drill from PBCS to a relational database.

That all said, one of the nice things about having a domain specific library in a high-level language such as Java is that it is sometimes very easy and straightforward to implement functionality that doesn’t come out of the box. This doesn’t make it better than the batch scripting technique, just different.

Here’s the whole code file:

package com.jasonwjones.pbcs.misc;

import com.jasonwjones.pbcs.PbcsClient;
import com.jasonwjones.pbcs.PbcsClientFactory;
import com.jasonwjones.pbcs.TestHarness;
import com.jasonwjones.pbcs.interop.impl.ApplicationSnapshot;

public class DeleteAllFiles extends TestHarness {

	public static void main(String[] args) {
		PbcsClient client = new PbcsClientFactory().createClient(createConnection());
		
		for (ApplicationSnapshot snapshot : client.listFiles()) {
			client.deleteFile(snapshot.getName());
		}
	}

}

Most of this is pretty standard boilerplate Java. You can that after we setup a PbcsClient instance, we can very easily get a list of files (using listFiles()), and then iterate over those. To delete a file, we can use the deleteFile(String filename) method and pass in the actual file name from the “snapshot” object (which also contains a little bit of other information).

That all said, as I’ve written before, the best tool for the job is the one that fits in to your environment the best and is easiest to maintain. If you’re doing much in the way of batch scripting, then epmautomate is probably going to fit into your environment the best. If you’re writing an enterprise app in Java, you’re going to absolutely want to use the PBJ library rather than try and execute shell commands.

Hyperion Parent Inferrer Updated (after four years!)

I had a need for the Hyperion Parent Inferrer functionality for an internal project I am working on. It didn’t quite do what I needed out of the box so I updated things a bit. As quick background, the Hyperion Parent Inferrer is a simple one-off Java program/library I developed (apparently four years ago, wow) to parse indented data into an explicit parent/child file.

There are a few (apparently rare) cases where this is useful. In my case, I was modeling some hierarchical data and I find the indented format to be much easier on the eyes. Like so:

Time
 Q1
  January
  February
  March
 Q2
  April
  May
  June
 Q3
  July
  August
  September
 Q4
  October
  November
  December

But when it comes time to load in to Essbase, clearly we need something more explicit. The Hyperion Parent Inferrer takes that preceding as input and then outputs something like the following:

,Time
Time,Q1
Q1,January
Q1,February
Q1,March
Time,Q2
Q2,April
Q2,May
Q2,June
Time,Q3
Q3,July
Q3,August
Q3,September
Time,Q4
Q4,October
Q4,November
Q4,December

The program has been enhanced to allow for a custom indentation character (such as tabs), to be able to specify the text rendered when there is no parent (instead of null), and a couple other little cleanups.

Hyperion Parent Inferrer is free, open source (Apache Software License version 2), and can be run as a standalone command-line Java program or as a Java library that can be incorporated into a typical Java program. The updated code is available at the Hyperion Parent Inferrer GitHub page.

Essbase Renegade Members Revisited

For some reason the other day I was thinking “Whatever happened to that renegade members feature?” So I did some digging.

Renegade members, by the way, refers to this concept where instead of a data record being rejected, you can map it to some other member. Other names for this feature might have been “shovel members”, but renegade members sounds cooler. That said, it’s a feature with a cool name but an apparently terrible publicist.

Renegade members were blogged about as early as a few years ago, such as on Cameron’s blog (during the 2013 OpenWorld), in Russian (apparently), and even over at Rittman Mead’s blog (before Mark spent his days trying to get tea kettles to work with the internet, but I digress).

But there’s a a curious lack of information on renegade members since then. There is, however, just enough information on the internet to piece this together. There’s a little documentation about renegade members over on the official documentation. Just as important (for my purposes), there are two methods relating to renegade members that are in the Essbase JAPI Javadoc.

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Dodeca Technique: Multiple Essbase Data Sources in View

When I’m talking about Dodeca features, one that very often comes up is that Dodeca views have great support for multiple data sources. I’ve seen customers and clients use this to give them a cutting edge in terms of developing reports that tie together information from disparate data sources in a flexible way that was previously very cumbersome or impossible with the tools at hand. Among other instances, this feature comes into play when it would be beneficial for a user to view data that happens to reside in multiple databases, but for the sake of the user experience, we don’t want them to have to run multiple reports.

So today I want to look at a very simple Dodeca view that taps into multiple sources. There are a couple of nuances to consider for this development scenario. Consider that a typical view with a single data source will just have its connection specified explicitly as a property on the view, and the selectors on the view (if any) will assume that they are to be populated based on that connection as well. For example, let’s say we have a view based on the Sample/Basic database, and we have two selectors that are dynamically generated: Time and Product. When Dodeca goes to generate the list of Products to display to the user to make their selection(s), it knows to use the Sample/Basic database. However, if we want to have multiple selectors and have their contents be based on a particular cube’s outline, then we need to simply associate the proper connection with the selector.

For today’s example, I’m going to build a simple view that has one tab based on Sample/Basic and another tab based on Demo/Basic (as a brief aside, Demo/Basic is Sample/Basic’s less popular, less-talked about sibling that is eagerly awaiting its day in the spotlight). Note that while this example will have multiple Essbase connections and multiple selectors (one on each database), this isn’t necessarily how a view will always need to be configured. If you have a selector whose contents aren’t dependent on a particular database, then you wouldn’t need to worry about the connection specification for that selector.

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Top Posts of the Year 2016

Well, 2016 is almost behind us. I haven’t done this before but given that I’ve been doing a fair bit of blogging this year, I wanted to point out the “top posts of the year” on ye olde Jason’s Hyperion Blog. The subjects are diverse (as far as a Hyperion blog goes I suppose) and I think are an interesting reflection of what things people are interested in. Starting with the most popular:

Running MDX queries through a JDBC driver (for fun?): I got a lot of feedback on the MDX over JDBC franken-driver in JDBC. In retrospect, I think this goes to show how rich, diverse, and challenging the world of data integration around Essbase can be. People – developers, consultants, users, whoever – are constantly spending time, energy, and money getting data in and out of their EPM systems. The Thriller MDX-over-JDBC driver hit a real chord with some people that see it as a way to bridge the gap between EPM and other systems.

Drillbridge acquired by Applied OLAP: Probably the biggest news for me this year. Applied OLAP acquired all of Drillbridge (as well as myself) and added it to their portfolio of products, including the Dodeca Spreadsheet Management System, Dodeca Excel Add-In for Essbase, and the Next Generation Outline Extractor. Recently I announced that the enterprise/supported version of Drillbridge was officially named Drillbridge Plus and offers many compelling features, such as upper-level drill support from PBCS.

Kscope16 sessions I’m looking forward to: Interestingly, people were very curious as to what sessions I planned on attending at Kscope16. I’ll be sure to post thoughts on Kscope17 sessions when the time is right. I’ll have a single presentation at Kscope17, which will focus on “demystifying the PBCS REST API”. I hope it’s a crowd-pleaser that people will find useful.

Dependent Selectors in Dodeca: I blogged extensively about Dodeca this year, and apparently this was one the most popular article. Dependent selectors are a great feature in Dodeca that allow for narrowing down or otherwise dynamically generating the selection values for a user. For example, choosing a state could cause another selector to narrow its list of cities to just those in the given state. I’m both surprised and not surprised that this is the most popular Dodeca article. I think it’s cool because this is the type of feature that really enhances the user experience by respecting their time and making a system easier to use.

Data Input with Dodeca, part 1: Dodeca is great for providing a structured way to input data into a cube that is incredibly more robust than “we do lock and sends”. This was the first part in my data input series (six articles!) that covered inputting to Essbase, relational datasources, both at the same time, commentary, and more.

Camshaft MDX tool updated and available: Again with the MDX/data integration theme, people were very curious to find out more about a command-line tool that helps convert MDX queries to useable data files.

Essbasepy updated for Python 3: Surprisingly (to me), people the article on the Essbasepy library caught a lot of people’s attention. A lot of people are using Python to do integration/automation, and Essbase is definitely a part of the picture.

TBC Files for Bankruptcy: My tongue-in-cheek look at the woeful situation at everyone’s favorite beverage company!

Drillable Columns in Drillbridge: Lastly (but not least), one of my favorite features in Drillbridge and I think one of the standout features that you get when it comes to drilling into a web browser instead of a tab in your workbook: the ability to drill from a drill. With drillable columns, you can specify a subsequent view to drill to and the POV of the row (the global POV plus the key/values from that row) will be used to execute it. Many organizations are using this to drill into further/related journal detail, PDF files of invoices, and more. It’s a great feature!

Well, that’s the highlights from 2016. I’ll be looking forward to another productive blogging year with all sorts of exciting things regarding Dodeca, Drillbridge, the Next Generation Outline Extractor, Kscope17, and even a few secret projects I have been working on. Happy new year!

 

Guest Posts Welcome

I’ve talked with a fair number of you lately about various Oracle/Essbase/Hyperion topics and there are a lot of you out there with great ideas, news, or things to talk about but you don’t have your own blog. I just wanted to reiterate that if you want to write about something and get it out to folks, I’m happy to post it here. Just reach out to me and we’ll figure it out!