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.


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:

    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.

Drillbridge Token Parameter Overview

Tokens in Drillbridge are a large part of the secret sauce that makes everything work so well. They are simple, flexible, and powerful. If you haven’t noticed, they are essentially JSON strings that have a range of allowable values. The most common of these are “name” and “expression”, but there are actually a handful of other keys that are less well known but incredibly useful. I’m going to cover the current state of Drillbridge tokens in this post.

As of the current version of Drillbridge (version 1.5.2), the following parameters on tokens are recognized:

  • name
  • expression
  • drillToBottom
  • sampleValue
  • quoteMembers
  • suppressParentheses
  • overflow
  • overflowAt
  • flags

Parameter: name

The name parameter has been around since day one. It identifies which dimension the token is replacing text for. For example, if the expression for the token will be generating the names of members in the Time dimension, then the value of name would be Time. The name here should exactly match the dimension, even including spaces. For example, if the dimension is named “Time Periods” then the value for this token should be “Time Periods” and NOT “Time_Periods”. This is a common issue that pops up (I’m guilty of it myself).

Parameter: expression

The expression parameter is where most of the magic happens. A lot has been written about expressions in Drillbridge on the Drillbridge Wiki so I will save some examples of expressions for a future article.

Parameter: drillToBottom

Possible values for this parameter are either “true” or “false” and nothing else. The default for this token value is false, so if you aren’t drilling to the bottom then you don’t even need to include this. This option is used to indicate that the incoming member should have its level-0 descendants pulled from the outline, then have transformation in the expression applied to them. For example, if you drill on Qtr1, the values that get processed by Drillbridge from the outline are Jan, Feb, and Mar, and if you have the #monthToDigit function as part of your expression, these will be converted to 1, 2, and 3. Note that when using this setting, you almost always need to have an associated Essbase cube on your report (so it knows which cube outline to search).

Parameter: sampleValue

Used purely to help testing. Putting a value here will simply pre-populate the text box on the report test screen so that you don’t have to keep putting values in by hand. It is really, really, handy.

Parameter: quoteMembers

By default, this is set to true. On queries where multiple values are pulled from the outline, you will typically use an IN SQL clause. For example, the generated SQL might be something like “WHERE Time IN (‘1’, ‘2’, ‘3’)”. This happens if Drillbridge generated the values of 1, 2, and 3. As you can see, each of these values has a single quote before and after it – Drillbridge put that in automatically. There are some cases where you won’t want Drillbridge to automatically put quotes in, such as advanced queries where you need to define the structure a little differently (such as for performance reasons). Possible values for this parameter are true or false. If false then the generated code in this example would be like this: “WHERE Time IN (1, 2, 3)”.

Parameter: suppressParentheses

Similar to the previous example, when Drillbridge generates a list of members, it will automatically enclose it within parentheses. For example, the parentheses surrounding 1/2/3 here: “WHERE Time IN (‘1’, ‘2’, ‘3’)”. Most SQL dialects seem to enclose their lists with parentheses, but for ones that don’t or where you need more control over the generated code, you can set suppressParentheses to true, and Drillbridge will not add in the parentheses for you. If you need to get creative with how you write your query (again, probably for performance reasons) then you might find yourself using this parameter.

Parameter: overflow

The overflow parameter is a relatively new addition. Some SQL languages and versions have a limit to the number of things you can put in the IN clause. For many versions of Oracle, this is 1,000. The normal way of programming around this (and what most versions of Drillbridge do) is just clip anything over 1,000, so that your query won’t fail. But what if you just absolutely need those 1,500 things or 10,000 or whatever it is? Modern Drillbridge versions have your back. The overflow parameter let’s you specify an additional template to append to the query, then replace it with additional members from the list of generated members.

Here’s an example: let’s say that there are an arbitrary number of accounts in the Account dimension, named Account 0000001 through Account 1000000. Let’s also say that drillToBottom is set to true and that the member that the user drills on would result in some 5,000 members being queried. Again, the normal behavior to handle this would be to clip the member list to 1,000 or whatever the default setting is (it can be configured in Drillbridge to whatever you want), then fire off the query. So the relevant portion of the query would look something like this:

WHERE Account IN ('Account 0000001', 'Account 0000002', ... , 'Account 0001000')

Using the overflow parameter, you could specify an overflow value of the following:

overflow: " OR Account IN %%OVERFLOW%%"

What Drillbridge will do is use the first 1,000 entries as it normally would, then cycle through the rest, generating subsequent lists that are placed into the %%OVERFLOW%% text inside the overflow token, then the whole thing is appended to the whole token replacement. This let’s us sidestep the natural 1,000 or whatever item limit on many RDBMS.

Parameter: overflowAt

This token expects a numerical value and it just specifies how big the groups should be that members are broken up into for the overflow parameter. The default is 1,000 but depending on your needs you may wish to set it lower or higher.

Parameters: flags

Flags is meant to be a sort of catchall bucket for various configuration settings that might be specific to the underlying technology without having to create official parameters. It is a comma-delimited list of flags. The only recognized flag at the moment is “~”, such that your flags parameter would look like this:

"flags": "~"

This is a special flag that comes into play on a Essbase Member Resolver. For tokens using drillToBottom, this tells the Essbase routine that fetch the descendants of the drilled member to ignore any members that have a consolidation operator of ~.

Drillbridge handling dimensions with spaces

Drillbridge’s powerful mapping abilities handle most common transformations with ease – stripping a prefix, converting a month into digits, or letting you use the Java language itself to parse a string however you need. Every dimension that gets drilled from is represented as a variable that a Drillbridge administrator can use to build their own expression. For example, if there is a dimension called Years in the cube, and the user drills on a member named FY15, then on the report side of things, there will be a variable referenced as #Years that will have the value of “FY15”. From here it would be typical to use the #removeStarting function to strip off the FY, and perhaps prepend the string “20”, then use that in a database query.

Something interesting happens, however, when the dimension has spaces in it. Let’s say that the dimension name is “Time Periods”. For perhaps obvious reasons, Drillbridge can’t create a variable with a space in it, because it’d look like a variable followed by a string (like #Time Periods). Instead, Drillbridge will replace spaces with underscores for purposes of creating a variable. In this case the variable would be #Time_Periods.

So #Time_Periods is the variable that is used inside the token expression, but what about the name of a token? The name of a token should still be the name of the dimension, using spaces, not underscores.

Consider the following tokenized query:

FROM Transactions
"name" : "Time Periods",
"expression": "#monthAbbreviationToDigit(#Time_Periods)",
"drillToBottom": "true", "quoteMembers": "false"

As you can see, the name parameter has the space, but the expression uses the underscored version of the variable name. In this case we’re also using the very handy #monthAbbreviationToDigit built-in function that can convert month names like Jan, Feb, and so on to 1, 2, or the proper month number.

Drillbridge 1.5.0 available!

It took a little longer than anticipated (I took some genuine time off over the holiday break), but I am very happy to make Drillbridge version 1.5.0 available to download.

A lot of work has gone into this release. For example:

  • You can now drill from columns (!)
  • Use your own custom mappings to resolve member names (this is a super cool feature I wrote about earlier and it knocks the pants off of Essbase Studio (as far as I know) by allowing you to write in mappings for your own members that might not have children (for example, a YTD member in the Time dimension)
  • Streaming output performance enhanced
  • Now generates XLSX files with much better output (not everything is treated as a String – if the column type is DATE or TIME or TIMESTAMP, it gets treated and formatted accordingly)
  • Now run Drillbridge from Linux!
  • All files included that should allow for running on Windows, Linux, AIX, Solaris, and even Mac OS X
  • Java 7 or newer is required! I know this might be an inconvenience but I pretty much had to, and it’s good to get current with Java. Java 1.8/8 should work just fine as well in case you want to go all out

I have done my absolute best to test this version and make sure it doesn’t have any showstopper bugs but there are bound to be issues. There are a few things I know need to be worked on for the inevitable 1.5.1 release. So if you upgrade, please be sure to make backups so you can flip back to 1.3.3 or 1.3.4 or whatever your current version is, in case there’s something broken that you need.

If you have any questions about the new features and how to use them, don’t hesitate to hit up the forums or email. In the coming days I will be adding on to the Drillbridge Wiki with some info about how to set things up in terms of new features. There was recently a lot of spam activity on the wiki that I’m trying to sort out but for now it looks okay.

That all being said, this is the best release of Drillbridge ever and it now contains every feature I originally set out to put in, and then some. There will undoubtedly be some quirks but I look forward to a few point releases to stamp them out. Many or most of the features are from direct user requests, feedback, and ideas, so thanks to everyone.

Happy Drilling.

Drillbridge 1.4.0 Feature Preview: Custom Mappings

Drillbridge 1.4.0 is coming out later this month and it contains some really cool features. Today I am going to go over one of them. This feature is called “Custom Mappings” and while it’s ostensibly simple, it is a huge win for drill-through and cube design.

Consider the scenario where you are drilling from a member in the Time dimension. Drilling from January (Jan), February (Feb), and so on are straightforward (especially with Drillbridge’s convenience methods for mapping these to 01, 02 and such). Even drilling from upper-level members is a snap – Drillbridge gets handed the member Qtr1, for example, then opens the outline to get the three children, then applies the mappings to those and plugging it into the query (so the relevant query fragment might be WHERE Period IN ('01', '02', '03') or something.

Everything is great, right? Well, what about those YTD members you often see in ASO cubes as an alternate hierarchy? Something like this:

  • YTD (~)
    • YTD_Jan (~) Formula: [Jan]
    • YTD_Feb (~) Formula: [Jan] + [Feb]
    • YTD_Mar (~) Formula: [Jan] + [Feb] + [Mar]
    • etc.

The problem with these members is that they are dynamic calcs with no children. So if you try to drill on this, then Drillbridge would literally be querying the database for a period member named “YTD_Feb”, for example.

I have sort of worked around this before in Studio by instead putting shared members under these. Under YTD_Jan you have a shared member Jan, under YTD_Feb you have shared members Jan and Feb, and so on. This works, although it’s a bit cumbersome and feels a little clunky.

Custom Mappings to the Rescue!

Custom Mappings is a new Drillbridge feature that allows you to specify a list of member names to use when drilling on certain member names. If a Custom Mapping is added to a report, Drillbridge will consult that first for child member names. If a mapping isn’t found then Drillbridge will just use the normal provider of mappings (e.g. it’ll open the cube outline and use that).

All that’s needed to create custom mappings is to put them in a file. Here’s an example:













With this Custom Mapping in place on a report, drill-to-bottom can be provided on a cube’s Time dimension YTD members. You get all of this functionality without having to tweak the outline, add a bunch of shared members, or anything. And what’s even better – you’ll even save a whole trip to the outline. If there is some member that is problematic to resolve, for some reason, or you just wanted to override the member resolution process, you could also stick it in the custom mapping.

Just for completeness, let’s take a look at the admin screens for editing and updating Custom Mappings. Here’s an overview of all of the different Custom Mappings that have been created:

Drillbridge Custom Mappings List

Here’s a look at editing a Custom Mapping:

Drillbridge Edit Custom MappingAnd here’s previewing the list of individual mappings available for a given mapping (that have been uploaded by importing a text file):

Drillbridge View Entries in a Custom MappingThere you have it. As I mentioned, this feature will be available in upcoming release version 1.4.0, which should be out later this month. This feature is really, really cool, and there are a few more things this release adds that I will be talking about over the next week up to the release.

Drillbridge with Teradata & Netezza?

The ODTUG webinar for Drillbridge yesterday seemed to go pretty well (more to come soon!) but one of the questions that came up is if Drillbridge works with Teradata and/or Netezza for implementing Hyperion drill-through to relational. My answer: it should, but I don’t know for sure. Drillbridge supports Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, and MySQL out of the box. Drillbridge also allows you to put your own JDBC driver into it’s /lib folder and you should be able to use any other flavor of database that you can write SQL for: be it Informix, DB2, Teradata, Netezza, or whatever.

So that being said, if you are interested in implementing Drillbridge and using one of these backend relational databases, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if I can help with it. I’d love to be able to confirm compatibility rather than to just say “I suspect it will work, JDBC is awesome, right?”