My Top 10 Favorite Drillbridge Features

Drillbridge is a tool with an ostensibly narrow focus – drill from Essbase/Hyperion data to somewhere else. Typically that “somewhere else” is the relational data that has been summarized to load into the cube. While the concept of drill-through is very simple in principle, Drillbridge has been extensively engineered to make take this simple process and augment it with dozens of features that enhance its usefulness.

That said, in no particular order, I thought it might be fun to point out my ten favorite Drillbridge features. Continue Reading…

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.

Continue Reading…

Drillbridge Update: Officially Announcing Drillbridge Plus

It has been awhile since an official post on Drillbridge, so today I am happy to say that there has been a lot going on with Drillbridge behind the scenes!

For those of you not familiar, Drillbridge is an innovative software application that runs as a service and makes it very easy to implement drill-through on Essbase cubes from Smart View, Hyperion Planning (including PBCS, including drilling from upper level members!), and Hyperion Financial Reporting. It accomplishes this by offering a robust and flexible way to translate a given cell’s point of view into a SQL query that it then executes and presents to the user. I have blogged about it extensively and presented on it at multiple conferences. In fact, during both of my Kscope presentations on Drillbridge I did a live demo starting with literally nothing but an Essbase server and relational table and then proceeded to download the zip file containing Drillbridge, install it, configure it, and use it to perform an actual drill-through request from Smart View in less than 15 minutes.

Over the past few years, Drillbridge has been a really great solution for many companies because it’s non-invasive (keep your existing cube and automation), flexible (drill to bottom, drill between columns, automatic hyperlinks, formatting, and more), offers an “insanely fast development time”, and works with most relational database technologies. The number of companies that have installed and deployed Drillbridge is absolutely staggering to me. I get emails almost every week from people about how easy it is to use. Many of the emails mention that they downloaded Drillbridge earlier in the day and go it working in a very short period of time. I never get tired of hearing that.

Versions:  Drillbridge Community Edition & Drillbridge Plus

Drillbridge started off life as a totally free piece of software, and to this day there it is still available in a free form. This edition is now called Drillbridge Community Edition and it can be downloaded from the Applied OLAP website. Later on, a licensed version of Drillbridge was offered for companies that wanted additional features, and usually more importantly, came with official software support/maintenance. This version was called Drillbridge Enterprise; this version has been renamed to Drillbridge Plus. Besides being officially supported by Applied OLAP, Drillbridge Plus has numerous features that the free version doesn’t have. This includes advanced paging/caching options, automation integration, PBCS support, custom plugins, and more. It’s a really great piece of software with some really powerful capabilities.

Future of Drillbridge

Drillbridge has an exciting roadmap (that I’m looking forward to blogging about more in the future) along with its sibling software applications at Applied OLAP, including the Dodeca Spreadsheet Management System, Dodeca Excel Add-In for Essbase, and the venerable, completely free Essbase Outline Extractor. We are dedicated to making Essbase (and the lives of people in the greater Essbase community) better. Please do not hesitate to contact us for additional information.

Simple Drill-through in Dodeca

Dodeca has robust support for drill-through. You can drill from Essbase data to relational data, from Essbase to Essbase, and SQL to SQL. You can have multiple drill-through definitions in a single view, so that a user can choose one of many drill destinations. Today I want to look at the simplest form of drill-through in Dodeca, which is to simply enable a couple of the Data Drillthrough options on a source view, tell it what the target view is, and be done with it. I call this the “simple” version of drill-through because it just gives us the ability to double click on a data cell and drill from it.

The less simple, or rather, more elaborate, version of drill-through can be configured with custom context menus, multiple drill targets, and more configuration options than you can shake a stick at. I’ll be looking at an example of that in an upcoming article. But for now, here’s how “simple” drill-through can be quickly and easily configured in Dodeca.

The example I’m going to look at today is one where we’ll let the user drill from one Essbase-based view to another. While many people think of Essbase drill-through in terms of going from OLAP/Essbase/consolidated data back to the original source OLTP/relational/transactional data, drill-through between Essbase views is an incredibly useful feature as well. It gives us the ability for a user to pull up data they are interested in, such as by time period and location, then very quickly jump to a different or expanded view of data based on those same intersections. Given the fluidity and seamlessness we can achieve in terms of going between different views with any data on them, drill-through becomes even more powerful. Instead of swimming upstream to more granular data, we can think of drill-through more as “intelligent navigation” – and drilling to details is just one type.

Continue Reading…

Drillbridge Community Edition 1.5.5 available

Hot on the heels of the announcement that Applied OLAP has acquired Drillbridge, there is a small update to the latest free edition of Drillbridge. Drillbridge 1.5.4 has been bumped up to version 1.5.5 and includes the following three very specific updates:

  1. Applied OLAP software license
  2. Fix for sporadic report deletion issue
  3. Change to default temp/working directory

To go into further detail, the license shipping with the previous version of Drillbridge has been changed to a standard Applied OLAP license that is more or less the same as that used for the free Outline Extractor. The switch to this license serves mostly to give uniformity and consistency to Applied OLAP software offerings rather than materially affect the usage of the software.

Second, there is a sporadic issue with respect to the ability to delete reports that has been fixed. How this would manifest is that the Delete button would just literally not show up sometimes to delete a report, thereby preventing the user from being able to delete it. The workaround was/is to go into the Drillbridge repository and manually delete the report entry.

Lastly, the default working directory has been changed. Some versions and combinations of Java 1.7, 1.8, and Windows Server 2008/2012, and various group/security policies would have problems launching Drillbridge. This was generally due to an issue where the temporary file directory to be used by Java would not be writable by the service running Drillbridge. So by default, the temp folder will try to be located inside of the Drillbridge installation folder itself, which should prevent most issues of this type from happening. This location can be changed via a config file as always, if needed.

As a bit of an aside, Drillbridge Enterprise 3.0 is still under development with a release planned for later this year. This Community Edition release of Drillbridge is currently slated to the last release in the 1.5.x series (unless further issues are discovered). Future versions will likely be based off of the 3.0 codebase.

Please let me know if you have any questions! As usual, Drillbridge can be downloaded from the Saxifrage Systems LLC downloads section. Note that in the hopefully not too distant future, this will be migrated over to the Applied OLAP downloads section but will remain where it is for now.

Custom Drillbridge Reports feature

I have been waiting to write about this feature for over a year – and I finally can.

The newest version of Drillbridge – Drillbridge Enterprise 2.0 – contains an amazing capability that is incredibly powerful. Drillbridge Enterprise now includes the ability to plug in custom reports.

What are custom reports? Custom reports are new report types that can be plugged in to Drillbridge by developers, just like a calc script or a CDF is added to Essbase. Think of the most common Drillbridge report type: Drillbridge users know this as just a “Report” but under the hood, it’s actually a specific type of report – one that receives the POV from Smart View, Planning, or Financial Reporting and then executes a specially crafted Drillbridge query against a database and displays the results to the user.

What if we could stand on Drillbridge’s shoulders for help with interpreting the point of view, opening a database connection, pulling members from an Essbase outline, and more, but then completely customize what is shown to the user – all using just a little bit of custom code?

This is where custom report modules come in: a custom report module gets to leverage all of the power and flexibility of Drillbridge and its framework, but then completely take over what is shown to the user. Don’t just customize a column in a table: customize the entire display!

There are several compelling use cases I can think of off the top of my head that are well-served by custom modules:

  • Show images/thumbnails in the drill-through results with links to full-size copies
  • Call a web-service to pull data to display to the user
  • Generate custom page layouts

As an aside, for the past year I have been somewhat regularly been getting asked the question, “Can I get the results directly in Excel?” To which I have said, “No, but it’s just one click away – and I don’t think you want to do that anyway.” What I didn’t say (but had in mind) was custom reports, where we could easily drop in a  module that would show us images, a custom layout, or anything we could dream up – but more importantly, generate something that just does not fit into our spreadsheet world. So not only is data just one click away from Excel (as always) but we can now display absolutely anything we want to the user.

Sweet.

Do you remember Linked Reporting Objects (LROs?). This is them on steroids – and more. Any intersection in your cube is up for grabs to drill into something interesting – user drilling on Actuals? Let’s show them PDFs of the original invoices. User drilling on dynamic calc YTD members under Budget in an ASO database? Let’s generate a link to our internal website with budget info – whatever. How about we search Twitter for a certain hashtag related to one of our products… why not? The possibilities are literally endless. Not only are they endless – they are within reach.

One last thing, the custom report modules also open the door for another oft-requested feature: generating custom links. It is now trivially easy to take the POV from a user, use the Drillbridge expression language to transform it into a URL (such as drilling to an internal site, an OBIEE page, or whatever), and forward the user to it.

Custom report modules (including the link forwarding report I just mentioned) are available right now in Drillbridge Enterprise 2.0. While Drillbridge Enterprise has a list of compelling features, this one is my absolute favorite.

If you’re feeling adventurous (and you’re a Java aficionado), you might check out a bare-bones custom report example on the Drillbridge wiki – and I’ll be posting some interesting examples in the near future.

Introducing Drillbridge Enterprise

I am very pleased to officially announce the launch of Drillbridge Enterprise. This new software offering represents the 2.0 version of Drillbridge and complements the existing free edition of Drillbridge.

The existing or “plain” version of Drillbridge continues to exist as a free product. This allows organizations to continue downloading and using Drillbridge to enhance the value of their investment in Essbase.

Drillbridge Enterprise is a paid and licensed version of Drillbridge that comes with enhanced features and capabilities and is intended for organizations that have advanced integration needs as well as need software support. These advanced features include such things as automation integration tools, enhanced security, custom report modules, a Java SDK, RESTful API, and more. It’s a really great release that is available immediately and is licensed through Saxifrage Systems LLC.

Moving forward, development will be focused on Drillbridge Enterprise, while the free version of Drillbridge (also known as just Drillbridge or as Drillbridge Community Edition) will see updates mostly focused on addressing one-off issues as needed.

Drillbridge Enterprise is built from the same solid code base as Drillbridge that has proven so robust, flexible, and easy to configure. In just the week alone after Kscope15 (where Drillbridge had a well-attended session), at least three different people independently downloaded, installed, and setup Drillbridge at their companies.

Clearly, people are hungry to enhance the value of their existing systems in a simple, non-invasive, and incremental way. I am absolutely astounded at the number of times that I get emails from people saying “It just works!”. It brings a smile to my face.

That said, there are some truly incredible features available right now in Drillbridge Enterprise 2.0, it is competitively priced, and I can’t wait to get it into the hands of Essbase users around the globe. Please check out the Drillbridge website for more information, and as always, don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions.

Advanced Drillbridge tokens: Protecting against unexpected members

Here’s another quick tip for setting up Drillbridge tokens. I recently created a Drillbridge report that needs to map a member from the Cost Centers dimension over to multiple columns in a relational database table. For example, a cost center may have the format 111-222-333-44, and the code 222 corresponds to a column in a table, 333 corresponds to a column in a table, and 44 corresponds to a column in a table (these are all in the same table, by the way).

Because the incoming member on the POV comes across as a Java string, we can perform normal Java string operations on it. In this case we can easily extract the “222” by doing the following (assuming the cost center dimension is named “Cost Centers”:

#Cost_Centers.substring(4, 7)

Recall that in Java, string character offsets start at 0, and that the substring we extract does not include the character at the ending offset (this is all spelled out nicely in the Java String documentation). So effectively, in the above function we are saying “give me the substring of the #Cost_Centers variable from characters 4 through 7 (but not including 7).

A problem with this approach is that members with fewer characters could potentially cause a StringIndexOutOfBounds Java exception. For example, a level one member or parent to our cost center might be “Other”. Therefore when the substring method is called on “Other”, we are asking Java to give us characters that do not exist, and an exception is thrown.

I thought for awhile on what the best way to handle this is. There are a lot of ways I could go in terms of the code, but I decided that the best approach is one that won’t really affect the Drillbridge code much at all right now.

The decision to use a full-fledged expression language as the basis of Drillbridge token expressions has turned out to be quite fortuitous, and one of the things it affords us inside of Drillbridge expressions is the ability to write complex scripts that can handle this situation for us. One such way to guard against member names that are too short is to use the ternary operator.

Many programming languages support the ternary operator. It’s a compact way of representing an “if-else” construct. For example, consider this simple code:

if (stopped) {
    return "Red";
} else {
    return "Green";
}

In this case, the “stopped” variable is a boolean variable that is always one of either true or false. If the variable is true, our function returns the text “Red” and if the variable is false, our function returns the value “Green” (assume that the if block is contained within a function that returns a String value.

This construct is so prevalent in computer programming that many languages support a way to compactly write this, using the ternary operator:

String colorText = stopped ? "Red" : "Green";

In the above example, the variable stopped gets evaluated and if true, the whole expression will evaluate to “Red” and if false, it’s “Green”. Then the String variable named colorText will get the value.

We can use this exact same construct inside of a Drillbridge token expression, thanks to the powerful expression language being used. Now consider this enhanced query example:

SELECT * FROM TRANSACTIONS
WHERE
    SEGMENT2 = '{{
        "name":"Cost Centers", "expression" : "#Cost_Centers.length() >= 13 ? #Cost_Centers.substring(4, 7) : '~~ Cost Center name not long enough to parse ~~'", "sampleValue":"111-222-333-44"
    }}'

Now we are checking the value of an expression first – checking the length of the incoming cost center. If it is at least 13 characters, then the return value of of the expression is safe to be figured out using the substring method. If the member fails the length test, then we return an arbitrary string, which in this case we have determined cannot match anything at all in the database, and therefore return nothing.

This little trick can be used in situations where we need to parse out sub-strings from member names but might have some members that don’t fit the format we need. Also, thanks to Drillbridge’s inventive handling processing of multiple members with the drill-to-bottom feature, we can also use this to effectively filter out members from a list of members, such that we keep the ones we want and discard any others that we don’t need (for example, it’s not uncommon to have “non-conforming” member names for input members).

Drillbridge White Paper now available

I am excited to say that the official Drillbridge white paper is now generally available. It is titled “Drillbridge: Easy Hyperion Drill-through with No Redevelopment”. In my first official white paper, I have hoped to concisely capture the essence of this useful software tool that is now amazingly  approaching 20 production deployments.

In other news, the next version of Drillbridge is still in progress, slowly but surely. The focus continues to be on polish, performance, and incremental feature additions. I have a few small but exciting tidbits that I will hopefully have a chance to post later this week.