A lot has changed with Essbase since the early days back in the 1990's. Essbase itself has grown and flourished into the world's leading OLAP analytic software and now includes all of the bells and whistles you'd expect and more.
The purpose of this article is to go over some exciting new additions to the Essbase family. No longer is it just Essbase, the multidimensional OLAP database. The future of Essbase, beginning with Essbase version 9.x, is now Essbase System 9.
Essbase System 9 is now a suite of analytical applications or components of which Essbase is the cornerstone. Some of the components enhance the overall abilities of the suite and some are targeted more to specific computing purposes.
Overview of System 9 components
When Oracle purchased Hyperion and several other companies, they set out to organize their product catalog and bring together a standardized naming convention as well as standardized software versioning. The Essbase suite of tools and applications is no exception as Essbase version 9.x has become Essbase System 9, and there never really was a commercially released Essbase version 8.x. Oracle now has plans to further integrate the Essbase suite of tools and components into their product catalog and we'll just need to wait and see how this plays out with version 11 and beyond.
What we are giving you in this article is a high level look at each new Essbase tool or component and also a slightly lower level look at the hot new additions to the Essbase family. Not to detract from any of the other Essbase family members, but the new Oracle Smart View, for one, is an awesome tool to have in your toolbox.
Essbase Analytic Services (Essbase agent)
The term Essbase analytic services, while commonly thought to refer to the Essbase suite of applications, actually refers to the common Essbase system structure that is built around the Essbase analytic database engine technology.
We know this sounds confusing, but here is how it works. In your Essbase toolbox, you can have many different tools. Some of them are optional and can be added at an additional expense and some of them must be included from the beginning for proper system installation. No matter what tools you want to add to your Essbase toolbox, the Essbase agent or Essbase analytic services must be included and it is the cornerstone of the Essbase suite of applications.
The Essbase agent is what you install on your server in order to make it an Essbase analytic server. The Essbase agent is what you use to build, deploy, and maintain your Essbase databases.
In a nutshell, Essbase Analytic Services is the heart and soul of your Essbase system.
Also known as Hyperion Planning or even Oracle Planning, Essbase Planning is a centralized Microsoft Excel and web-based planning and forecasting tool that combines data from various internal business activities such as finance, marketing, and so on, into one integrated tool. Planning uses the data to provide a closer look at the company's overall business operations and helps improve the forecast predictability accuracy.
Planning makes use of Essbase in an ingenious way. The data for each business activity is stored in its own custom Essbase database or cube. Several business activities can share the same cube and have their own set of dimensions and members. Therefore, Essbase must be started and running in the background so Planning can access the cubes. The various Planning functions are then supported by Planning's seamless accessing of the data from the Essbase cubes and by using the stored business rule feature to apply the customer defined business rules to the data for planning and analysis purposes.
The storing of complex business rules to facilitate proper analysis of the data is a huge benefit of Oracle Planning and is accomplished within the module by utilizing a small space on a relational database such as an Oracle or SQL server database.
With the aid of pre-packaged process modules, Essbase Planning can also greatly shorten the length of time typically required for budget and forecast cycles, thus lowering the total cost of ownership for this product.
It's funny, but the word analytics is being tossed about rather often these days.Pretty much anything you do with OLAP or multidimensional database tools,can be termed analytics.
In Essbase however, Essbase analytics, to some, usually refers to Essbase's other database engine, the ASO database engine. The reason given for this is that the typical Essbase ASO database is primarily used for presentation, analysis, and reporting which are all analytic functions. The Essbase BSO database, while analytic itself, can also be considered transactional as well.
The Essbase analytics nickname dates back to the advent of the ASO database architecture when all you had was the BSO architecture. The new ASO architecture was the analytic tool.
Yes, it's funny how Essbase is an analytical package and inside that package is an analytic piece but that's just how it is.
Try not to get hung up on the terminology here though. When considering your options, you need to look at all of the same things you have always looked at. How large will the system be? What are the business customer's requirements? What type of system am I building here?
When you answer these questions, it will matter less what you call what you are doing than choosing the right tools.
Hyperion Application Link/Oracle Application Link
The name pretty much says it all. Hyperion Application Link is a suite of ETL tools that allows the user or programmer to integrate Oracle products, like Essbase, with other third party software packages, especially transactional database packages.
Hyperion Application Link (HAL) can integrate all of your data loading and ETL functions into one place and offer improved performance.
When gathering data for your Essbase application, you may encounter data from many different sources. HAL allows you to set up a link to your favorite Oracle database using an ODBC connection.HAL will also allow you to load data from conveniently delivered flat files too. In fact, you can usually accomplish just about all of your data loading needs for your Essbase System 9 installation by using HAL.
Oracle Business Rules
This tool can be a tremendous time saver. The Oracle Business Rules tool allows the programmer to create, store, execute, and manage complex business rules as specified by the business customer and as it relates to thebusiness process and the data. All of this is accomplished by using an easy to understand user interface with graphical depictions of the various elements that go into a rule.
Imagine a business process that dictates the values for next month's sales commitments as follows:
This is just one example of a business rule being automatically executed against the data for the users of the system. There are endless possibilities on how to make good use of this tool.
The advantages of the Oracle Business Rules tool are clear, especially in today's fast-paced business world where static structures in data load and calculation scripts need almost continual modifying.With the Hyperion Business Rules tool, the dynamic nature of the business can more effectively be supported with the creation of minimal maintenance dynamic rules.
Oracle Reports is a powerful new tool for creating reports that presents complex financial analytic data in an easy to read, professional looking, graphical format. The reports you create can contain many elements such as colorful charts, graphs, and even text box objects.
Creating reports is quick and easy and objects embedded in one report can be linked to appear in another report.
Essbase Shared Services
Essbase Shared Services or Shared Services is a component of Oracle's Essbase Foundation Services. Shared Services is a standardized infrastructure framework that facilitates the deployment of other Essbase System 9 components and also simplifies the ongoing system maintenance of those components.
Shared Services provides a central framework for creating and maintaining users. It can also be used for managing user security across all Oracle Essbase modules, including external authentication.
One nice feature of Shared Services is that you can build your applications for easy user ID set up and maintenance. If you are able to use external authentication or network authentication, where Essbase allows the network to authenticate the user ID, your password maintenance is all but eliminated and a user who has access to the network can also access any Essbase application that you have given him or her access to. If you plan to use Essbase authentication, the user ID is authenticated by the Essbase analytic server at login time.
Finally, Essbase Shared Services provides the capability of managing the migration of components from your test environments to your production environments.You perform the development and testing in the Dev environment and then use the Shared Services tool to copy the objects to the Prod environment.
Oracle Essbase Provider Services
Oracle Essbase Provider Services is a middle tier data source provider between an Essbase Server and Smart view, XMLA, and/or Java API. The following figure shows the Provider Services architecture:
As you can see, Provider Services is a three-tiered architecture. One of the other special features is that you can configure Oracle Provider Services from the EAS tool. When you are working with Smart View for Microsoft Office, you will have the option of selecting Oracle Provider Services to connect to the Essbase analytic server.
Essbase Smart Office
Essbase Smart Office or more commonly known as Essbase Smart Space, is a unique new tool in the world of real-time analytic analysis and reporting.
The most amazing feature of Essbase Smart Office is that it offers the first gadget-based user interface. Smart Office consists of a set of configurable gadgets that run on the business customer's PC desktop and provide continuous access to financial, operational, and performance related data. Additionally, Smart Office contains a toolkit that can be used for creating additional gadgets and data services that constantly keep the ser up to date.
The following screenshot says it all for this tool. Can you imagine how happy your customers will be with this scene on their desktop? You will probably have many new co-workers which will call you friend.
Here comes the awesome part. Smart Office can also act like a sort of desktop instant messenger tool or collaboration tool, where users can notify one another on the fly of changes in business processes, task completions, or anything else that can affect their performance.
Oracle Essbase Financial Reporting
This tool can be easily compared to a conductor in an orchestra. With it's easy to use, user friendly graphical user interface, Oracle Essbase Financial Reporting gets high grades on its usability factor.
While advanced users will enjoy the intuitive, quick and easy, drag-and-drop method for creating impressive reports, even the most computer illiterate users can produce high level, executive quality reports with just a little practice.
Take a look at the following screenshot to see an example of how easy and intuitive using Oracle Essbase Financial Reporting really is:
On top of the reporting capabilities, Oracle Financial Reporting also has functionality that allows the user to schedule batch report generation, distribute reports, and divert reports to a holding area. Then, to complete the process, Oracle Financial Reporting can be used to send notifications to specified recipients when their reports are ready.
Smart View for Microsoft Office
As you know, Oracle Essbase comes with an Add-in tool designed to be used in Microsoft Excel. It is this add-in that is one of Essbase's biggest strengths and also makes all of the various data analysts very happy.
Oracle, being the industry leader that they are, did not stop with the Essbase Add-in for Microsoft Excel.Oracle realized that in addition to making the data analysts very happy, it would probably be a good idea to make the flashy sales people and the big shot executives very happy as well.
With Essbase version 9.x and higher, Oracle has introduced a new product called Smart View. Oracle Essbase Smart View, simply put, is like an Essbase Add-In for the entire Microsoft Office suite of applications.
In today's world of on demand this and real time that, just imagine a tool that allows you to go into a meeting with your beautifully prepared Microsoft PowerPoint presentation that itself is now directly connected to the Essbase database. Your presentation will always have up-to-the-second and accurate data. Also, imagine that you need to send a quick email to your team alerting them to some data condition that needs immediate attention. Well, your email can also connect directly to the database and will contain up-to-the-second data.
In the following screenshot, you can see how Smart View will dynamically update values in a Microsoft Excel object embedded in a Microsoft Word document. You can do this with PowerPoint and Outlook email as well.
Wait, there's more. No more trying to hastily update Microsoft Word documents in a pinch either. You guessed it, embedded into your document is a dynamic connection to your Essbase database.
Oracle Smart View also works effortlessly with Microsoft Excel.
We have covered the components of Oracle Essbase System 9 in this article.
As you can see, the Oracle Essbase family is about as complete as one could possibly want or need it to be. It seems that if there is ever a need that is unfulfilled in the Business Intelligence arena, Oracle will fill it and fill it better than anyone else.
One stop shopping has never been more true than it is with Oracle. Whatever your Business Intelligence, OLAP, or Analytic computing needs, there is an Oracle Essbase product that will satisfy your requirements better than any other product. When multiple products are used together as part of the Essbase System, they are truly unbeatable.
Just remember, it all started with Essbase and Essbase is still the OLAP, Business Intelligence, and Analytic foundation today.