Drillbridge vs. Essbase Studio

I get asked a lot about implementing drill-through with Drillbridge versus implementing with Essbase Studio. First of all, this question itself is kind of interesting to me – because many people look at Studio as a means to an end simply for achieving drill-through. Drill-through is one of the aspects of Essbase Studio, but certainly not the whole story.

Essbase Studio is a good tool. It’s the successor to Essbase Integration Services, which I was a huge fan of, and my blog articles from yesteryear continue to get a lot of web traffic, owing at least partly to their being very few EIS articles on the web.

In terms of implementing solutions with Essbase Studio, the most common scenario I see at organizations is that they want drill-through, and this alone drives the decision to use Essbase Studio. So the developer starts going through development: creating fact tables, dimension tables, foundational Essbase Studio elements, cube models, and deploying a cube.

Let’s take things a step further and think about the pieces involved with automating and managing the cube: some MaxL to deploy it via automation, ETL processes to load and update the dimension/fact tables, creating the drill-through reports with custom SQL, writing calc scripts, and more.

The point of all this isn’t to make Studio seem like a lot of work. It’s a reasonable amount of work if Essbase Studio solutions fit into your organization (more on that in a moment). I think it’s an unreasonable amount of work if you only want drill-through.

Implementing a solution with Studio just to get drill-through is what I sometimes call “backdoor drill-through” – basically overlaying an existing solution with Studio drill-through just so you can get drill-through, but not otherwise leveraging much of anything that Essbase Studio brings to the table.

That said, I think if your organization has a “strong” relational database model (e.g., a well-designed database designed for some system that has proper primary/foreign keys, constraints, and so on), plus some other unit of the business takes care of updating it on a regular basis, I think that’s a really good use-case for building out a cube with Essbase Studio. But why?

Again, it seems like most solutions built with Essbase Studio are built from tables and data specifically created for Studio – in other words, someone has to endeavor to design ETL processes to load tables from wherever that are specifically formatted for Studio and the cube to be built with it. One of the problems with this approach, however, is that many of us are cube experts and not necessarily relational database experts. You don’t have to be a relational database expert to make use of Studio, but it won’t hurt – in fact, it can help quite a bit.

So again, I think Essbase Studio can be a great choice to spin up multiple cubes when you are tapping in to an existing relational model. Not as much if you have to create that model yourself. Essbase Studio solutions should feel “natural” – you should be able to get away with the default data load code and stock drill-through code if you have designed everything correctly. All too often there is a custom data load and completely custom drill-through (which is often a sign that the data model is incorrectly built).

All this is why Drillbridge really shines in terms of drill-through ROI: You can keep your existing cube, automation, administration, and everything. Your relational data can come from anywhere. You can build completely custom web reports, drill from drill reports to other reports, and more. Drill-through on those dynamic calc YTD members in your alternate Time hierarchy are super easy to support. There is no 1,000 item limit on Oracle drill-to-bottom queries, and more.

But best of all: fewer moving parts, rapid deployment, and keep your processes exactly the same. I think this really resonates with organizations around the world. The free edition of Drillbridge is now in production at over 30 companies around the world (probably more), and there is a growing list of happy Drillbridge Enterprise customers. Even better: I get emails every single day from people that love Drillbridge and are enhancing the value of their Essbase solutions for their users.