A REST API Primer for EPM Users & Developers

There’s a lot of excitement in the EPM world these days when it comes to REST APIs – and rightfully so. As a developer heavily invested in the EPM space I am excited about some of the possibilities these new APIs offer – and what they will offer in the future. But all of this great new REST API stuff can be quite daunting – how does it work, why should you care, where does it fit in with your overall architecture, and so on. And with ODTUG‘s Kscope18 just around the corner I thought it might be useful to write a primer – or a crash course of sorts – for the EPM professional on what all this REST API business is about. Also be sure to check out one of my presentations at Kscope this year as I will be discussing the OAC Essbase REST API, how to use it, what it does, and more. Continue Reading…

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.

PBCS Scripting with Groovy using the PBJ REST API Library

I was talking to a colleague the other day that wants to do some scripting with PBCS using Groovy. Of course, since PBCS has a REST API, we can do scripting with pretty much any modern language. There are even some excellent examples of scripting with PBCS using Groovy out there.

However, since Groovy runs on the JVM (Java Virtual Machine), we can actually leverage any existing Java library that we want to – including the already existing PBJ library that provides a super clean domain specific language for working with PBCS via its REST API. To make things nice and simple, PBJ can even be packaged as an “uber jar” – a self-contained JAR that contains all of its dependency JARs. This can make things a little simpler to manage, especially in cases where PBJ is used in places like ODI.

For this example I’m going to take the PBJ library uber jar, add it to a new Groovy project (in the IntelliJ IDE), then write some code to connect, fetch the list of applications, then iterate over those and print out the list of jobs in each application.

Continue Reading…

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…

Milestone for PBJ (PBCS REST API Java Client) Project: first outside contribution

Just a quick note on a fun milestone for the PBJ project: the first code contribution from an outside developer has been merged into the codebase. This is one of the things I love about open source. The PBJ project has a very flexible license (Apache Software License 2.0) and as such it is quite business friendly.

Sometimes when an open source project doesn’t do what you need it to do at a given point in time you have to roll up your sleeves and add some code yourself. And that’s exactly what one of the users of the library needed when they added some new methods to download large files from PBCS. So there are a couple of new methods for handling that use-case – and now everyone gets to benefit from it. This is exactly what I had envisioned when I created this project: a high-quality codebase with complete documentation, unit tests, and support for some of the exciting REST APIs being provided by modern Oracle technologies, and a chance to enjoy living one of my favorite quotes: a rising tide lifts all boats.

PBCS has a REST API, now what?

Note: this article was originally written for an ODTUG publication, but it never wound up getting published. So I thought I would just post it here instead.

Oracle’s Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service – PBCS – is the first Hyperion product to get the full cloud treatment. In addition to Planning’s move to the cloud, it has picked up a couple of new tricks. One of these new features is a REST API. This article will give a quick background on REST APIs, some integration opportunities now available to PBCS users, and information on how the PBCS REST API can be easily used from Java.

For those that aren’t familiar, a REST API typically means a few things to developers. First of all, an API is an application programming interface. From a developer standpoint, an API gives us the ability to write programs that interact with another system in a specific way. In the case of PBCS, the API provides access to functionality such as refreshing a cube, launching a business rule, uploading files, getting member information, and more.

Continue Reading…

New Drillbridge Plus feature: fetch attributes!

Drillbridge Plus has recently gained a new feature at the request of a customer. This one is kind of interesting and required a bit of deep thinking in terms of the best way to architect it. Here’s the deal: Smart View will let you drill-through on a data value where your grid is using attribute dimensions, but it won’t pass the attribute associations as part of the request. And as it turns out, there are instances where it’d be useful to have that attribute member so you can use it to dial in the SQL query that Drillbridge creates and executes.

What to do? Ask Drillbridge to go fetch those attribute member values for you anyway! In this post I’m going to walk through a use-case showing off the new feature, how to set it up, and I’m also going to show off some recent debugging enhancements that are really useful and have been around for awhile.

Let’s start. First, consider a normal Drillbridge report definition with a simple query:

A normal Drillbridge report definition (before adding attributes)

Continue Reading…

Small update to essbasepy

Thanks to a fix contributed by a power-user, the essbasepy library (Python MaxL wrapper for Essbase) has been enhanced slightly to include a fix for previous versions of Essbase. There were cases when the library would work out of the box for 11.1.2.4 but some functions didn’t work as expected with earlier versions due to the way a data structure was changed.