Thursday, December 17, 2009

Kaleidoscope 2010 - Hyperion agenda publshed

I am very pleased to announce that the Hyperion SIG board has finalized the 2010 Kaliedoscope Hyperion schedule. (Please click the link to view) Keep in mind some minor changes could be made in the cases where speakers are unable to attend and stuff like that.

This schedule is one of the best we have had and shows that Kaliedoscope is THE national conference for Hyperion users and developers.

Please check out the schedule and consider making plans to attend.

I would like to thank the entire board for there efforts in putting together such an awesome schedule and thanks to ODTUG for providing us with the forum to host such an event. Special thanks to Edward Roske for being the content coordinator.

although we are taking a short break for the holidays, the board will be reconvening in January to continue our planning sessions to ensure this year's conference exceeds attendee's expectations. Looking forward to seeing all of you there.

Please check out ODTUG Kaliedoscope for more information on the conference.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

IsAncestor explanation

Recently I answered a post on the user forum regarding a way to test if a member is a Descendent of another member using MDX member formula's in an ASO database. It took me a little while to figure it out. I think it's a little hard for Essbase people to understand because of the way we used to do it in BSO using the function @ISDESC. Below was my response and I thought it was worth posting on the blog.

--In calc script language you are saying @ISDESC("C009") meaning you want hierarchical members below "C2009". Now in Calc script we also have @ISANCEST and if we said @ISANCEST("C009") we would be looking for all members that are hierarchically above "C2009". MDX does not have ISDESC, MDX only has IsAncestor. The parameters are member1 and member2. Now depending on which way you ask the question, you get a different answer.
IsAncestor([C009], [Dimension].CurrentMember) is really saying "Is "C009" an ancestor of the current member"? The answer is only true for descendants of "C009". Now, if you were to say IsAncestor([Dimension].CurrentMember, [C009]) you would be asking "is the current member an ancestor of "C009""? The answer is only true for ancestors of C009.

Book Review: Oracle Essbase 9 Implementation Guide

A while back, I was asked to do a book review for Oracle Essbase 9 Implementation Guide by Sarma Anantapantula and Joseph Gomez by the publisher, Packt Publishing. Despite terrible flashbacks of grade school book reports, I agreed and was shipped a copy of the book. When I first heard this book existed, I rolled my eyes and thought, “this probably won’t be very good”. Then I thought about it a bit, gave some thought to what goes into writing a book, and realized I was being unfair to prejudge. Despite the fact there has historically been very little published content on Essbase, maybe these people got it right and as an active member of the Essbase community, I should embrace the idea of our little world getting more notoriety. It was with this open mind that I began reading the book and hoped to write a positive review.

As I began reading the book, I was encouraged by what I saw. Aside from some minor misstatements in the preface (things like products called ‘Essbase Planning’ and ‘Hyperion Smart Office’) the opening was very good. The authors had an excellent segment defining a data warehouse, frankly, it was one of the best explanations I’ve read on a term that is extremely over used by people to describe many things that are not in fact data warehouses. After reading the preface, I thought to myself “this book is on the right track”. I even made a point of commenting early on that I thought it was a “pretty good book” on a user forum post on Network54. Unfortunately, as I continued to read, I became less and less impressed with the book and about half way through started to feel the book was not what I thought and hoped it would be.

I’m not one of those developers who has a book memory, when working with Essbase I always have a copy of the technical reference and database administrators guide close by, so I’m not going to dive into the technical inaccuracies in the book, although I believe there were many. For the most part, I was not comfortable with the way the book was written. The authors tended to speak very authoritatively about topics that are not absolute. “Essbase is more art than science” is a term repeated ad nauseam in the book, yet the authors took the position in many instances to speak in definitive statements without clarifying what they were saying. Statements like “While the dynamically calculated member occupies a place in the database outline, it does not affect the block size in the database, therefore, it does not affect performance”. They do not clarify what kind of performance they are talking about. Dynamically calculated members with member formulas referencing sparse member sets, most definitely have a performance impact. Referencing dynamically calculated members within a calculation script can also impact performance by engaging the dynamic calculator cache. I realize the book is for beginners and maybe these topics are not appropriate early on in the book, but they needed to be careful making such declarative statements, which they did quite often.

Much of the material in the book can be found in the database administrators’ guide, which has a more thorough explanation. I can accept that in a book of this nature because you would expect the product’s documentation would have all the technical content. What you are looking for in a book like this is the author’s particular point of view and words of wisdom to help understand the technical content. Often I felt the author’s viewpoints were very specific to their own experiences and the book seemed narrow. It was clear that industry experts had not proof read any of the chapters. At the end of the day, you have a book written by a couple of guys who have used Essbase for a while and decided to write a book about it. I don’t say that to take anything away from the effort they put into it, only that it doesn’t have the breadth of experience needed to make it useful to individuals learning how to use this product. The authors often created their own terminology and expressed it as accepted industry jargon. They presented concepts that many would not consider best practices, such as using aliases as the permanent name for a member and codes as the alias. The example given was something along the lines of having a member name as “Hood Esscar Best Dealers” and using an alias for the dealer ID ‘03030-USA’ They then state how you could change the member name and still load to the dealer ID because it is the alias. While this is technically correct, best practice in my experience would be to have the dealer ID as the member name and the name as the description (i.e. Alias). This is an example where I think, in their experience this is the way things are done, but it is not really the best practice.

There are many other examples of things I found to be inaccurate or misleading at best. I won’t get into all of them. Overall, the book was just not written very well, there are many cases when the context of a section will shift direction and it is not clear why, at times, I felt as if someone had accidently cut a paragraph out of the book. This leads me to my primary criticism of the book. The feeling I get was that the book was rushed. The quality was not good and in many cases, it affected the message the authors were trying to get across. This seemed very strange to me that the book would feel rushed because initially I thought it was odd that the book was based on Essbase 9, when Essbase 11 was already general release. I didn’t take this too much to heart because I knew from the Kaleidoscope conference that a large number of users were still on version 9. What I realized as I read was that while technically it was based on 9, often things the authors claimed were based on early releases of version 9, particularly the section on ASO, which was extremely disappointing. It was clear the author’s experience was almost entirely block storage and the feeling I got was that the bulk of what they talked about was relevant in version 6, not so much the newer functionality we have today, with the exception of their discussions on EAS.

Overall, I was not left with a good impression of the book. I would caution new users reading the book to be careful applying what they have learned at face value. While there are some good parts to the book, I found more about it I didn’t like.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Leaving Monterey - So long Kaleidoscope; see ya next year

So I'm leaving on a jet plane, don't know when I'll be back again (that sounds familiar). Anyway, KScope (that's what the cool kids call it) was excellent this year, a worthy follow up to last year's conference and a great inspiration for next year's conference. I wanted to say thanks to the people who voted me back onto the board of directors, I will be sure to work with the rest of the board to pack as much great content into next year as we can. Of course that is partly based on what all of you send us, so please come up with some interesting abstracts for presentations and submit them when we make the call. I'm also hoping to get more hands on labs next year. there is no teaching experience like when you actually get to do it and the labs were a big success this year.
Have to run to the airport so I'll have to try and post some more at a later time after I settle back in and go through all the presentations. Speaking of hands on labs I am working with Mike Nader to get all his content posted on the ODTUG site, hopefully by early next week.

To all my fellow villagers I say "see ya next year"


Always a villager - Gary

Monday, June 22, 2009

ODTUG Kaliedoscope 2009

So I finally have a chance to get in a little blog time.

I rolled into Monterey for Kaleidoscope on Saturday, overall not a terrible trip although they did "misplace" my luggage. you'd think if United Airlines was going to charge me extra to check a bag, they might do a better job of not losing it, perhaps I'm asking too much. At least my bags showed up later that evening, so not too bad.

K-Scope is at the Hyatt Regency in Monterey CA this year. The hotel is pretty nice. My first room was a little weird, very clean and nice, but it was at the farthest end of the property and outside my door was a highway. The door had a gap under it that a small animal could sneak in and you could see people's feet as they walked by. Then on Sunday morning I had a visitor. I'm not going to say it was definitely a black Widow spider in the bathroom, because I didn't get close enough to check, but I'm told there in this area and it sure looked like one, at least it did before I killed it. Taking all that into consideration I stayed in the room, it wasn't until today when the wireless internet wasn't working for the third day I asked them to change my room. I think there is something wrong with me if I am willing to put up with potentially poisonous spiders, but draw the line at no internet, but hey, I needed to get on Facebook.

So new room is a lot nicer and "better" internet connection. You'd think if you were going to host a group of developers at a technology conference, you would ensure your network could handle all the traffic, apparently the Hyatt can't. We've brought their network to a halt and no one is thrilled about it. Weather has been holding out pretty well and the food has been decent, but not as good as last year. To be fair though, I didn't expect Monterey to compare with New Orleans when it came to food. I'm heading into town this evening to the Chart House with Interel consulting. If the Chart house is as good out here as the others I've been to, it should be good.

So enough about the hotel and me complaining, let's talk content.

This year the content has again been extremely good so far, the Symposium for Oracle EPM (Essbase) talked about some good stuff coming down the line, most notably procedural scripts for MDX in ASO cubes (ie calc scripts for ASO) also the ability to run MDX against Essbase via PL/SQL. Some people have said they were not as impressed this year with the symposium as last year, but to be fair I think that is more about the fact that last year there was just more really cool new stuff for them to talk about. This year the Essbase updates just weren't as "knock you off your seat" as they were last year when we learned about slowly changing attribute dimensions and storing text values in a cube.

The Smartview session went really well and I think Oracle walked away with a lot of good information to take back with them. Some of the OBIEE stuff looks like it is just about where it needs to be for companies to start looking at it as a serious option.

The welcome reception was very nice last night. The exibitor hall is small when compared with the old Solutions conference, but bigger and better than last year. Interel has Rock Band set up at their booth and you can't walk by without seeing a "group" rocking out.

This morning I gave my first presentation on Calc Scripts with Ed Roske. Overall we got some good feedback. It was a "base" level presentation, but I think we had some good dialog going on with the audience and answered some good questions. I'm hoping we finally solved the myth of "If on Dense/Fix on Sparse".

Later I sat through Matt Millela's CDF presentation which was pretty awesome. He has some great code available on his blog essbaselabs.blogspot.com. Who knew you could have your Essbase database tweet you with updates.

I'm about to head out to an Essbase Studio hands on class with one of my favorite Essbase guys Mike Nader. I have a lot of respect for Mike, especially since he taught me Essbase back when he was a trainer on the east coast. I'm also co-presenting an MDX presentation with him tomorrow. That one is in between my two other sessions "I knew how to do it in BSO now how do I do it in ASO" and my social experiment "Politics of Hyperion". The politics one is going to be either a big hit or a total bust. It's a non-technical presentation focusing on some history of Hyperion and how Essbase has evolved from a "finance" tool to an Enterprise class database system. The interesting thing about the presentation is the angle I am approaching it from. While I have always had Finance and IT positions, my education is actually in Organizational Behavior and so I'm approaching the topic from that kind of academic angle. We'll see how that goes!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Some tips for Kaleidoscope 2009

I'm not going to post a whole lot about the content being delivered this year at the ODTUG Kaleidoscope conference June 21-25 in Monterey, CA (http://www.odtugkaleidoscope.com/), my fellow Oracle Ace's, Ed Roske, Tim Tow, and Glenn Schwartzberg have each devoted a substantial amount of time on their respective blogs to what is going to be presented at this years conference. Simply put, there is no other conference this year that will match the quality and quantity of content being presented. Check out the blogs and the Kaleidoscope website to get an idea.

Instead, I have decided to post something I believe a lot of people need help with this year in order to attend the conference, which is justifying the cost to their employers. I am hearing a lot of people say they doubt they will be able to get the funds to go this year due to the economy. Therefore, I thought I would put together a list of items you should talk about with your manager/employer to help you build your case why you should go.

1. First and foremost, I think it is important to frame this conference in its proper context. Unlike some other conferences where you spend your day wandering around a conference center from one exhibitor's booth to another collecting as many tee shirts, pens, and squishy things as you can find, or a conference where you go from one session to the next looking at marketing slides, Kaleidoscope is a developer's training conference. This is an important distinction and one you should really drive home with your manager. This is a hard core, "deep dive", hands on week of training. Dollar for dollar you cannot get a better deal on this much training. Even if your company has cut back on Travel and Entertainment expenses, they may still have money put aside for training and you should fight to get that money if you can. Getting your employer to break up your expenses for the trip between T&E and Training could help you get your trip approved.

2. Down play the location. With a name like Hyatt Regency Monterey Resort & Spa your boss will imagine you sitting by the pool, getting massages, and playing golf all week. Show them the schedule, last year I hardly saw the light of day. The sessions run from early in the morning to late in the day. This is not a “put your feet up and relax” conference. Make sure you get the point across.

3. Point out that breakfast and lunch are part of your conference pass. This means your daily cost for meals will be substantially lower than a regular trip where you expense three meals per day. There is also at least one scheduled evening event where food will be served. Sure, we all like to have a good time when we travel, but times are tough, so commit to your manager that you will be extremely reasonable on the nights when you have to buy your own meals.

4. Transportation (This is a big one)

Air - There's not too much you can do about your flights. If you have airline points saved up, this would be a good time to use them. I know you were planning to use them for vacation this year, but what's more important your career growth or flying to someplace you probably shouldn't be spending so much money on anyway? Do what I'm doing, take the family camping this year and use those points to offset the cost of your flight. Your manager will be impressed at your commitment.
If you don't have points, then normally the rule of thumb is buy tickets early to get the best rate, but these days there's no telling with fuel costs whether prices are going to go up or down. I recommend purchasing sooner rather than later. Shop around, use some different websites and find the best deal. Also consider layovers; yes, it is inconvenient but sometimes you can get a lower fare than a direct flight. The weather should be good, so you have less likelihood of having trouble making your connecting flights.

Ground transportation - Make arrangements to have someone drop you off and pick you up at the airport, and save on taxi or parking fees. Last year this was my biggest expense; my company paid more for me to get to and from the airport than my flight. That won't happen this year. On the other end, I confirmed with the Hyatt Regency Monterey Resort & Spa that they have an airport shuttle and get this there's no charge. So skip the taxi fare to and from the hotel. (I should probably mention I posted this on my blog to give them a heads up)

5. If all else fails, consider self-funding the trip. I know that's a tough pill to swallow; believe me I know because last year that's exactly what I did. I also know some people just can't swing it. Nevertheless, if you can manage it, you should. Remember that this is your career and no one is going to look out for you as much as you will so put a pencil to it and see if you can make it happen. As I said, last year I funded my trip to Kaleidoscope because I had already burned up my annual funds on Collaborate (that was a big mistake). I'm really glad I went to Kaleidoscope. The content was unbelievable and I learned more in that week than I had at all other conferences and user group meetings I had ever attended. I am not exaggerating. Therefore, if you can do it you should, using some of my tips above the cost shouldn't hit you too hard and you should be able to write off your trip as a business expense at the end of the year.

So those are my tips, feel free to comment if you have any other tips I might have missed. I hope to see you at the conference this year. I will be giving a few presentations along with a number of other professionals and experts. Remember that it’s the quality of the attendees, which really makes this a great conference. Attendee participation is very high at this conference and there is a wealth of knowledge in these rooms to be tapped. I hope to see you there.