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22 January 2010

Kaleidoscope for the money and time challenged

Are you skint, broke, busted, busy, unappreciated but still want to go to ODTUG Kaleidoscope?

The question

Can’t experience the full ODTUG Kaleidoscope experience because your company has no budget/that big project tragically coincides with the Conference of the Year/your boss doesn’t appreciate your super genius and won’t cough up the dough?

The answer

For those short of time, budget, or both, you can now attend the ODTUG Hyperion symposium.  What is it?  Tsk, didn’t you read my last blog post?  Of course you did, because you are a super genius, just like me.  


Returning to what you actually care about, Sunday 26 June 2010’s Hyperion symposium is the day where big Oracle acts like a tiny little startup and you’re the Venture Capitalist.  Oh yes, the power feels so good.


What do I mean?  That Sunday will be where Oracle gives we lucky attendees (and that can now include you for c-h-e-e-p, just keep on reading) a preview of where Oracle EPM is going, and if the magic repeats from last year, an opportunity for you to share your Essbase/SmartView/FDM/whatever opinion directly with the people who manage the products.  Perhaps I’m overemphasizing the point, but Sunday may be an unparalleled opportunity for you to talk directly to the product staff.  Speak now or forever hold your peace.  And your office isn’t even on Sand Hill Road.

Setting expectations

Just a bit of a disclaimer – not every product presentation last year was this kind of freewheeling session, but I am hoping to gently nudge all of them into this position through the awesome reader base that this blog commands.  So that would be my mother and Glenn.  And I have to ask her.  I know Glenn just does it for the chance to heckle me and tell me that I’m overly verbose.  Which is true.


Continuing down the may-not-happen-so-don’t-hold-me-to-it theme, Oracle will state in these presentations that they are committed to nothing they present and that whatever they do present is subject to change.  I like that – it’s honest and realistic.  Product futures aren’t written in stone and besides, if Oracle is asking you questions, the whole point is that the direction will change.  Regardless, the peek into the future makes it all worthwhile.

So, what’s your excuse?

Even Scrooge had to give Sunday’s off, and I appreciate that dipping into your pocket hurts (I know people who took vacation or unpaid time off, paid their own way, and shared rooms just to attend last year.  This conference inspires sacrafice.) ,  but look at it this way, you’re getting access that only the largest and most important customers/partners get for the mere pittance of $325 if you sign up before 24 March 2010.  And you don’t even have to miss a single day of that unbounded joy we call work.  I hope to see you there.

15 January 2010

More cool stuff at Kaleidoscope 2010

Give back and get from Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope 2010 is coming (which reminds me, I need to write my presentation, but soon, gulp) and there are two awesome prequels to the conference itself, which is no slouch when it comes to awesomeness.

Schooldays

Every Kaleidoscope I’ve ever attended – a grand total of two, but give me time –kicks off with a volunteer day.  I wasn’t able to attend last year because of work pressures, but my bosses’ bosses’ boss was kind enough to take my place (thanks, Edward) so the very worthy alien plant eradication could take place.

These days are really a lot of fun (I did the one in New Orleans, so this isn’t mere puffery) because in addition to donating muscle to a worthy cause, you get to meet people you wont be seeing during the conference proper as you obsessively shuffle between all of the cool Hyperion content here and here.  You won’t be?  Tsk.  I will.  But that’s my neurosis, so perhaps you should be grateful you don’t share it.  It is a heavy burden.

Yes, Oracle seems to own other products

As hard as it is to believe, it is my understanding that there are actually other technology tracks on offer at Kaleidoscope, although why anyone would leave the warm and cozy world of Oracle EPM is beyond my comprehension.

If you are similarly narrowly focused in your love for all things formerly owned by Arbor Software, this might be your only chance to meet the great people that use those other, obscure, products like PL/SQL…I wonder what it does.

And oh yes, give freely of your time.  See, virtue is its own reward, just like your parents told you.

A Descartesian Three

Nope, this isn’t the Wrong Kind of Join (see, I am not completely ignorant of the black art called CeeKewEl), instead you have three choices, all good.

Unleash your Inner Librarian on the Dewey Decimal System

Oddly, at my dear alma mater, Wossamotta U, the IT degree program was offered in the school formerly known as Library Science.  I am trying to imagine a major that would be less likely to get you a date on Friday night than the double whammy of geek + librarian but I am coming up short.  Of course I can be smug because I got my obsolete degree in MCIS in the business college.  And because I have been told many times that I am the living embodiment of Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, and William Holden rolled into one alpha geekAt least I think that’s what they mean when I get called Walter Mitty.

In atonement for giving librarians (they are so going to revoke my library card and *all* library privileges, forever) and fellow geeks the raspberry, I will likely be that geek librarian and help them sort their books.  So now you know which task to avoid.

Tending to their garden

In keeping with the theme of great Frenchmen of the Enlightenment, perhaps instead I’ll help beautify the grounds at Ronald H. Brown Middle School.

My favorite part of the schoolday, recess

Or relearn hopscotch (in my case, learn it for the first time) and help paint on the blacktop the games of our halcyon youth.

You won’t regret it

It’s a great way to give back, ODTUG makes the transport easy, gives you eats, and you get to rub shoulders with people in very different parts of the technical world.  What’s not to love?

And now the amazing stuff

Would you like to know where Oracle is taking the EPM stack?  See the latest products and not suffer the pain of a beta?  Get product managers to ask for your opinion?  I can think of two ways to do this:
1)    Get a job at Oracle.  Get promoted at a pace so meteoric that the phrase “meteoric pace” is inadequate.  Take John Kopcke’s job.  Now you know all.  Can you do that in one day?
2)    Returning from Cloud Cuckooland, you could instead come to Sunday’s Oracle Hyperion EPM and BI Symposium and have it handed to you on a platter.  No, no thanks are required, this blog is here to help.

Oracle > Hyperion

Yes, Oracle is many, many times bigger than dear old HYSL ever was.  Yet somewhat unbelievably, they act like a small company, at least at Kaleidoscope.

I don’t know if it’s because Big Red really is a warm and fuzzy group of people, or that ODTUG is awfully good at getting to the right people at Oracle, or if it’s just the right alignment of stars, but the mix of altruism, self-interest, and personalities comingles into magic.  By that I mean Oracle comes to show you where they’re going in the near future, where they want to go in the mid to far future, and oh by the way, what do you Kaleidoscope attendees think about it?

We (or at least I) are not worthy

Think about that – Oracle is this enormous company that is asking you what you think of their product plan.  I’m not saying that they will do your every bidding, but it’s pretty astounding to me that they ask and act on comments from the hoi polloi of EPM geekdom.  That’s awesome.  Yes SmartView product team, I’m talking about you.  Thanks again for last year’s freewheeling session.  If I could just think of a word that was awesome * 2 and then apply it to last year’s symposium, I would.

Solutions != Kaleidoscope

I went to (and paid for) every Solutions conference there ever was.  I can’t remember anyone from Hyperion asking me for my opinion on a product.  Ever.  I know that much of the product development staff is the same so I’m going to attribute this welcome change to Oracle’s culture and Kaleidoscope’s awesomeness (there’s that word again).

It doesn’t stop on Sunday

And of course Oracle’s involvement doesn’t end there – they’ll be in sessions all through the conference.  About 1/3 of the presentations are given by Oracle employees.

You are going to be there, yes?

This is *the* conference to go to – amazing content from Oracle, partners, and customers, all those great (ahem) Werewolf games at night, and the chance to give back to the DC public schools.  You can’t miss it.

10 January 2010

EPMA weirdness and the kindness of strangers

Why I don’t do installations for a living

Oracle’s Enterprise Performance Management Architect has been giving me pain, agony, and general agita because I just couldn’t get the darn thing to work.  Nope, not what you think – it wasn’t what it did to a Planning database, I couldn’t even get it running enough to whine about its bugs.

Brief history – I needed to install the Oracle EPM stack – Shared Services, Workspace, Essbase, Studio, EIS, EAS, Planning, Calculation Manager, HFM, Financial Reports, and Web Analysis on my Windows 2003 Server VM.  No big deal, right?  Installations are much easier in 11.x, right?  Even an idiot (like yr. obdnt. srvnt.) could do it, right? 

Did I read Tim Tow’s blog post on how to install 11.x?  Oh, yes.

Did I read the instructions?  Oh, yes.

Did I bug people I know and respect deeply?  Oh, yes.

Did their combined wisdom help?  Oh, yes.

Did I need to zap my VMWare instance about 10 or 12 times, despite reading these documents and generally annoying people to no end with questions?  Oh, yes.

Some call it success

But after zapping 10 or 12 installations (oh, thank you, VMWare for not making me reinstall the OS on bare metal) I finally got the extraction order right for everything I need.  Hallelujah, praise be, & c.

Except for EPMA. 

Just for the record, this is one of those simple-stupid installations where I took the absolute default on everything.  That means:  SQL Server Express, install all of the Oracle EPM stack into a single SQL Server database, use admin/password and sa/password (yes, I know, stupid from a security perspective, remember, I used that adjective before), let the configurator do its work however it wishes.  Did I mention that several prayers were sent up to the Oracle at Delphi (that’s Greek mythology, not a mix of technologies) that all would work correctly?

I suspect it was one of those a-million-monkeys-type-for-a-million-years-and-come-up-with-Shakespeare moments, but somehow, everything worked but EPMA Process Manager.

What was EPMA’s problem?

As the Great Stoneface would have said, had he talked, “Damfino”.

Here’s a screenshot of the Event Viewer error message for the Process Manager’s failed service start:



 What on earth does this mean other than the @#$%^&*()_+! service doesn’t work?  Damfino.  Did I mention that I don’t do installs for a living? 

However even I can guess that there’s something wrong with SQL Server – it’s right there in the message.

People were anxious to help

I post from time to time on OTN (this is a joke, by the way, my obsession with OTN/Network54 almost matches my coffee addiction), and the Great and Good John Goodwin took time out to try to answer my question on OTN to no avail.  And I hijacked a thread on Network54 to try to get some help.  And that help happened.

And here’s where that help happened

Henceforth I am going to have to refer to John Booth as the Great and Good John Booth.  So, that would be the Great and Good Johns?

Somewhat incredibly, he took 30 minutes out of his Saturday (today, to be precise) to set up a GoToMeeting web session and fix my problem.

I’m amazed and humbled by his generous help – as you’ll see in a moment, I wouldn’t have figured this one out in, oh, eight or nine million years.  He went above and beyond and I really, really appreciate it.

Gentle readers (all three or four of you, and “Hi, Mum”), think about this for a second – a total stranger – someone I’ve only bumped up against a few times on the web, helped, a lot.  I think I may no longer be able to be a Card Carrying Cynic.  Sniff.

So, again, John, thank you so much.

The fix

Part of me is embarrassed, the answer is so simple.  But of course it’s simple when you know how to do it.  In case you haven’t deduced this by now, I think Mr. Booth knows what he’s doing.

So simple a developer could do it

Tim Tow mentioned it, sort of, in the Network54 thread.  Or maybe he did provide the answer, and I was too dense to understand. 

The fix I was shown was – go to SQL Server Configuration Manager, open up the SQL Server 205 Network Configuration, and then right click on TC/IP.

But before you get the fix, see why Jason Jones is not the world’s greatest fan of SQL Server Express.  And neither am I.

And here we come to a difference between SQL Server and SQL Server Express

By default, SQL Server Express uses a dynamic TCP port.  By default, at least on my VM, the TCP ports were set to 0, which means dynamic.  This is (I guess) good, because SQL Server Express can then go against any port that is open.  I’m no SQL Server dba, so I’ll leave it to one of those explain why this is good.

SQL Server Express 2005

Here’s the TCP setting on my SSE install:



See the yellow highlighted lines?  These are the culprits. 

SQL Server 2005

I have a real copy SQL Server, not SQL Server Express, on my laptop (not the VM, but the laptop all of this madness runs on), and guess what?



Note the difference on the TCP ports – these are already set to 1433, SQL Server’s default port.  And the dynamic ports are turned off.

That’s all there is to it

Yup, here it is in all its glory.  Set the TCP Port to 1433, click OK, and restart the SQL Server Express service.



Launching EPMA Process Manager

John then told me to try starting EPMA Process Manager.  The VM whirred and clicked and ground away and..ta da, it ran, and brought up the Job Manager, Event Manager, and Engine Manager services as well!  I believe my mouth was hanging open in disbelief.

Magic


He also recommended that I restart Workspace.  After I did that, we went into Workspace, navigated to the Dimension Library – and there it was, in all of its completely unused glory.  It was almost, but not quite, anticlimactic.

The conclusion

Thanks again, John

So to John Booth for taking a half hour out of his weekend – thank you so much.  You’re going to see links to this blog in both the Network54 thread and on Essbase OTN giving you full credit which of course you deserve 100%.  I hope to see you at Kaleidoscope 2010 and buy you the beverage of your choice.

The very least all can do in the meantime is check out his latest post on how to install the 11.x Essbase add-in without the multi-gigabyte nonsense that EPM installer puts you through.  Now that is a cool hack.

But no thanks to you, whoever you are

To some unnamed programmer(s) at Hyperion or Oracle – why on earth did you make EPMA communicate differently with SQL Server from the rest of Oracle EPM?  Nothing else required this setting change.  Once made everything worked, but why?  Maybe you wanted to drive sales of the real SQL Server?  Or drive Essbase hackers crazy?

The end of this post

So, hacking Essbase per the title of this blog?  Not exactly, more like hacking SQL Server, but diving into this stuff is always interesting, and when you have someone who is a hacker in his own right it’s always fun.

And gratifying when it all comes together.