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10 May 2009

This blog's introduction

History
I’ve worked with (and enjoyed, usually) Essbase since it was running on OS/2 on a Pentium 66 MHz Compaq underneath my desk with 256 MB RAM (the memory cost $25K, the same as the server) and connecting to it via my Macintosh Quadra 950 (yes, there was an Essbase add-in for the Mac which ran, amusingly enough, System 9 for Macintosh).

Essbase crashed a lot in those days if you looked at it sideways and I can painfully recall reinstalling OS/2 from floppies many, many times. When IBM released 2.1 on CD ROM I was thrilled – now it was only a three hour install instead of the whole day.

But I was hooked – this tool was amazing – it could do anything you could think of with a number and a few things I think surprised even the developers. The thing that was (and still is) so cool about a true OLAP database was that you didn’t have to know the question before you asked. That sounds odd, but think about a relational database -- it can only answer questions its creators anticipate. Essbase was so powerful it let the data speak. And, that power meant I didn’t have to write any more stupid canned reports. :)

As an IT developer I replaced a mainframe system with it, and as a consultant built multiple Excel add-ins (I cannot seem to rid myself of Excel VBA), built budgeting apps with ActiveOLAP (Essbase on the web – hot stuff in 1999), and made the transition to Planning, which is kind of a wet squib with that Essbase goodness behind the covers.

In short, Essbase has been my constant work companion since 1993, and in that time it has amazed me (ASO) and frustrated me beyond belief (Essbase 6.0.0, anyone?). And yes, I was on the beta for Essbase 6. Sorry about that.

That’s how I’ve managed to support myself since I was first told to by my then boss to “look at this client/server database.” It’s been quite a ride.

Explanation
What about the “hacking” in the name of this blog? Hacking can mean all sorts of bad things and that’s what villans do. Good hackers are more interested in taking an ordinary tool (but so cool) and doing out of the ordinary things in a geek chic way.

To that end, I’m going to try to share with you some of the dumb things I’ve done and how you don’t have to do them, how to make Essbase do things it “can’t” do, and generally make Essbase dance.

Lastly and most importantly, I’ll also share code/techniques/approaches. I welcome your comments (constructive please, I have an average ego and it is bruised when pummeled) and most of all your suggestions for improvements. I’ve never written a piece of code that hasn’t been improved through examination by a fresh set of eyes and as a consultant if I can’t fix where I wrote it, I’ll make it better next time.

And, despite the title of this web site, I won’t limit the scope of my postings to Essbase. I’ll include anything else that touches Essbase, from Planning to Dodeca, to who knows what.