Drillbridge Plus 3.3.0 Release & Features

Drillbridge Plus (the licensed/supported version of Drillbridge) is officially released. This release introduces some great new features, enhancements, and bug fixes, including the following:

  • User Parameters
  • Download File Name
  • Analytic Provider Services support
  • Various drill report changes/enhancements
  • UI/bug fixes/enhancements

User Parameters

The headline feature in this release of Drillbridge is support for the new “User Parameters” feature. This feature is configured on a per-report basis and provides a mechanism to prompt the drill-through user for additional input before executing the report. The values that the user provides are accessible as with any other variable in the final Drillbridge query syntax (in addition to their original drill-through POV). The user parameters feature is useful when you want your query to use additional detail/parameters that aren’t present in the dimensionality of the source system being drilled from.

A report can have an arbitrary number of user parameters associated with it. Each parameter has the following options available to configure:

  • Name – defines the name of the parameter. This is shown to the user on the user parameter input page next to the input area.
  • Description – description of the parameter. Shown to the user as the “help text” below the user parameter input area.
  • Variable name – the variable that will be tied to the user’s input in the Drillbridge query. For example, if prompting the user for a particular account, the variable name might be “Account”, and usable in your Drillbridge expressions as the #Account variable.
  • Input type – choose from a textbox input type or a drop-down selector. Another option is “textbox with auto-complete” which is a normal textbox input with auto-complete enabled, which will use the text or SQL query in the “possible values” definition.
  • Preset value – a value to pre-fill or pre-select for the user, depending on the input type. Textboxes will be pre-filled with this value and drop-downs will pre-select it.
  • Optional – whether the parameter is optional or not. If using textbox input, the user will not be required to enter a value. If using a drop-down, then one of the valid options for the user will be “nothing”.
  • Default value – if the user parameter is optional and no value is specified, you may specify a default value (you may also elect to just handle null/empty values in your SQL/query, which should be more or less the same).
  • Secure input – if using a textbox to input parameters, its input will be masked (as with a password input box).
  • Possible values/query definition – You may define a list of values to place into the drop-down or to serve as auto-complete suggestions. You may also define a Drillbridge query that returns values to be used.
  • Connection – If the “possible values” specification is a Drillbridge query, then you must set the SQL connection to use here, otherwise, leave it blank.

Analytic Provider Services support

Support for connecting to Essbase via Analytic Provider Services is now provided. On the Servers editor, define an APS server name or leave it blank to use the default embedded mode.

Download File Name

You can now use a Drillbridge query expression to define the name to use when a user downloads their drill-through results as an Excel or CSV file. By default, the name of the Drillbridge report itself with any spaces replaced by underscores is used as the download file name (appended with .xlsx or .csv as the case may be).
The Download File Name option allows for defining a normal Drillbridge expression that can be used to customize the file name to include tokens.

For example, the download file name for a Drillbridge report named “Transaction Detail” may have been Transaction_Detail.xlsx, but using the download file name feature in conjunction with tokens from the drill-through POV may now result in a download file name such as Transaction_Details_Jan_2017.xlsx.

Various drill report changes/enhancements

  • Query row limit and query timeout options have moved to the general options page.
  • You can now edit the internal description of a report
  • You may now specify http:// or https:// as part of the server name when deploying a report. Previously, https:// was assumed and orgnanizations using Drillbridge over HTTPS had to manually edit the drill-through definition
  • Enhancements to drillable columns. There is a new rendering type for drillable columns that renders with an arrow instead of a link. This is useful for reports with drillable columns where there are multiple drillable column definitions in the same column
  • New Inline CSV file download. New option to turn on “inline” CSV downloads such that CSV output is shown directly in browser instead of being a download
  • Autosum rows: new option to automatically sum all or some of the columns in the drill-through report

UI/bug fixes/enhancements

  • You can sort connections/servers/reports by various columns, such as name, connection, and description
  • Enhanced descriptions on various text fields in UI
  • Fixes when deleting a server entry

There are no changes to the community edition of Drillbridge at this time. If you’d like a Drillbridge Plus demo or more information on how Drillbridge can help your organization, please don’t hesitate to contact Applied OLAP.

Evolution of Essbase: new URL-based drill-through showed up in 11.1.1.3

Continuing on with the idea of getting insight into the Essbase feature set over time, as viewed through the lens of its Essbase Java API evolution, you can quite clearly see that the open/URL-style drill-through (as opposed to classic LRO-based drill-through) showed up in version 11.1.1.3, which in fact is pretty much the only thing that seemed to get added to this particular release, Java API-wise, along with some ancillary drill-through methods/functionality in some related classes.

More near to my heart: this is the exact functionality that paved the way for Drillbridge! Although it wasn’t available as a feature on day 1, subsequent versions of Drillbridge gained the ability to automatically deploy drill-through definitions to a given cube, and it uses exactly these API methods to accomplish it.

Drillbridge as drill-through solution with CSV data and replacing Access

An interesting use-case has come up with Drillbridge recently where drill-through is currently being “handled” with an Access database. I put the quotes around handled because the current solution requires the user to look at the current POV and then go fetch the corresponding data from an Access database. You might be thinking that this setup is horribly sub-optimal, but I wouldn’t characterize it as such. In my career on all sides of Hyperion – a developer, a consultant, and software developer – I have seen this pattern (particularly those involving Access) pop up again and again.

Access is often (perhaps all too often) the glue that binds finance solutions together, particularly in cases like this involving drill-through. It’s cheap, you can use it on the network simply by dropping the file onto a share drive, it gives you a quick and dirty GUI, and more. Many EPM projects I have been on involve many deliverables, often including drill-through. And all too often those projects had to cut it due to budget and time constraints. And if it gets cut, sure, finance might have to do the “quick and dirty” option like this with Access.

Now, the request du jour: use Drillbridge to quickly implement true drill-through, where the data currently resides in an Access database? A couple of options come to mind:

  • JDBC to ODBC data bridge to access current Access database
  • Export Access data to relational database
  • Export to CSV and access via JDBC CSV reader
  • Read CSV dynamically using Drillbridge’s embedded database

I won’t bore you with an exhaustive discussion of the pros and cons of these options, but I will say that the JDBC/ODBC bridge was a non-starter from the get-go (for me), mostly because I looked into it for another project years ago and the general consensus from Sun/Oracle was a) don’t do that [anymore] and b) performance is not too great. Regarding exporting Access to a relational database, yes that is more towards the ideal configuration, but if that were an easy/quick option in this case, we probably wouldn’t be on Access already (i.e., for whatever reason, finance didn’t have the time/patience to have the IT department stand up and manage a relational database, to say nothing of maintenance, ETL, and other things). Next, while there are a handful of JDBC CSV readers, they seem to have their quirks and various unsupported features, and hey, as it turns out, Drillbridge’s embedded database actually ships with a pretty capable CSV reading capability that let’s us essentially treat CSV files as tables, so that sounds perfect, and bonus: no additional JDBC drivers to ship. So let’s focus on that option and how to set it up! Continue Reading…

Configuring Drillbridge with Financial Reporting Web Studio

Drillbridge works perfectly with Financial Reporting Web Studio – the successor to the desktop-based version of Financial Reporting (also commonly called HFR, FR). FR was stuck with a very archaic client (let’s just say it’s from around the Clinton administration), but it has revamped for the future, with a completely web-based interface now. In retrospect, and based on my interactions with the interface, I think this product overall can be thought of as gap coverage for FR users. It’s not necessarily the place you want to do new development, especially given some of the other shifts/developments in the reporting ecosystem lately. My colleague Opal Alapat has posted some really great thoughts on FR and its place in this ever-changing world, which I encourage you to read.

In the meantime, there are countless current installs of FR that organizations need to support and perhaps transition to this newer incarnation of FR. As with before, Drillbridge works seamlessly to give you and your users advanced drill-through capabilities in Smart View, Hyperion Planning/PBCS, FR, and now FR web. I found that the UI had a few quirks to it, but I’ll walk through a simple example and try to point those out along the way.

Continue Reading…

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.