Book review: Oracle Essbase 11 Development Cookbook

I was recently given the opportunity to review another Essbase book from Packt: Oracle Essbase 11 Development Cookbook by Jose Ruiz. Overall I would say I am pleased with the book. It covers a lot of ground and a lot of disparate tools, many of which are scantily documented elsewhere.

Before I really get into the review, I must say that I have never been a big fan of the approach that technology cookbooks take. I’m also not a huge fan of having a book for a specific version of software. Of course, in order for the cookbook approach to work you don’t have a choice but to tie to a version of software. This is because the recipes are sequential and very explicit — as with cooking  a recipe in real life — and rely on the exact version of the software in order for the detailed steps of the recipe to work. I’ve grown up with software, and am a cross between a visual and a kinesthetic learner, so my preference is to have concepts and goals explained to me, then to go exploring on my own. To this end, I find technology/recipe books to be tedious as they laboriously lay out the steps: click this, then click that, enter this text in, and 15 steps later you have a result.

So, my personal preference for book styles aside, this book largely succeeds for what it is: specific, methodical ways to perform a certain task. You won’t get a lot of explanation on why you might do something a certain way. In this regard, the book is useful as a complement to your Essbase literature rather that the place you would go to understand why you might want to accomplish some task.

Okay, now that I have beat up on that horse enough.

As I said, I enjoyed the breadth of content in the book. There are detailed recipes for setting up your relational data store to load a cube with EIS and Essbase Studio, building load rules and loading data to BSO/ASO cubes, writing calc scripts, working with Star Analytics, using EAS, HFR, writing MaxL scripts, and provisioning security. It even covers working with the revered Outline Extractor tool.

All of this content was really nice to see in book form. One of the upsides to the recipe format book is that it won’t spend a lot of time laboring over what a cube is and your first steps retrieving data with Excel. In fact, the book even says it’s not for beginners. It just jumps right in. I think this book can be a very handy reference for someone that needs something a little more guided than the technical reference (and less heavy).

On my arbitrary rating system, I would give this book a four out of five star rating. And again, that’s me trying to be fair to the book even though I’m not in love with this format, but it largely accomplishes what it sets out to do. I’d say it’s a great addition to the pragmatic Essbase developer’s library, but certainly not the only book in it.