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25 September 2010

11.1.2 zombies ate my brain, and how I got it back, part 2

There’s nowt as queer as folks

Some of you actually like doing installations. 

Well I don’t.  Perhaps that’s because I’m not particularly good at it, as anyone who has followed my blog/rants/ravings/self-flagellation know.  

As the song goes, “Every Man To His Own Profession”.  My profession (I like to pretend this is so) is implementation of Oracle EPM solutions (Essbase, Dodeca, Planning, ODI, scripting, etc.), not installing the software that makes ‘em run.  I find building a system hard enough without any added excitement up front, ta very much

There’s good news tonight

Well, the whinging can stop, because I’ve made the decision to outsource the whole mess

Angie, even though your non-reading of this blog is like having several 50-kilogram bags of delicious single estate coffee on my chest, pressing, pressing till I can’t breathe, I can’t thank you enough for your suggestion to try hosting a 11.1.2 instance.  I’ll just pop a nitro tablet and all will be well.  I hope.

My last post covered EPMCloud.com’s consultant install (everything’s there, but it’s not for production use and sits on a single server); this one will go with Full360.com’s offering.

Full360

In their own words:


We’re a global business intelligence hosting, consulting and outsourcing team. We want to help simplify the complexities of developing and managing an analytics platform for our customers. 

We'd Like to Help You:
  • Scale your Analytics Platform
  • Migrate to New Versions
  • Design insightful analytic reports
  • Develop End to End Reporting Systems
  • Reduce Consulting Expenses with remote support and outsourcing
  • Significantly Reduce Infrastructure Expenses with hosting services

It’s that last bullet point that I find so intriguing.  Time has not made me fonder of 11.1.2’s memory hogging.

The most important question and you-may-stop-reading-right-here-but-why-as-there’s-so-much-more?

How does the Full360 Oracle EPM 11.1.2 instance in the cloud work?  Flawlessly. 

So perfectly that I used a demo day on their system to take all of the notes and screen shots for a Calc Manager blog follow up to my “Why I hate (and love) Business Rules, parts 1 and 2” blog posts.  Beyond the utility of getting a new blog post on the latest release, I learned a lot about 11.1.2’s form creation and Calc Manager.  For this consultant, that is exactly why I need a cloud install of 11.1.2.

The instance was fast and rock solid.

You really could stop reading (some of you already likely have) here but for those brave souls who persevere, there’s good stuff ahead.

How is Full360’s product like EPMCloud’s?

Full360’s Oracle EPM instance in the cloud is similar to EPMCloud’s.  What does that mean?

Both company’s products share these attributes:
1.    Amazon Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) web service for virtual hardware
2.    An EC2 Amazon Machine Image (AMI) with :
    1. 64 bit Windows 2003 Server
    2. 64 bit SQL Server
    3. All of the loveliness that is Oracle EPM 11.1.2 installed for your computing pleasure, no configuration required
3.    Use Microsoft Terminal Services to connect to the remote desktop of your EPM server in the cloud.

How does Full360 differ?

The whole Amazon EC2 experience

Full360 customers are going to have at least a basic understanding of the way Amazon EC2 works.  This is not a bad thing, as you have extraordinary flexibility with what you do with native EC2.  Remember, I think that “infrastructure” is spelt with three zeds and a couple of numbers; even I was able to handle it.  As the saying goes, if an idiot like yr. very obt. srvnt. can do it, surely you can, too.

Regardless, there is more up front work with Full360’s AMI.  This background knowledge is probably the biggest difference between Full360 and EPMCloud although both companies use the same EC2 base.

Rohit Amarnath of Full360 is also available to help navigate the morass that is Amazon Web Services even to the extent of setting up the AWS account.  I like to think of my experience as character building.

For those of you who want to follow my masochistic path, see Paul Stamatiou's guide or Amazon’s own getting started tutorial.

Here’s a brief comparison of the steps we Sandbox users would follow for either product.

EPMCloud

EPMCloud’s model is simple:
  • One AMI – 17.1 GB of RAM, 2 CPUs, 55 GB of RAM, Windows 2003 R2 Datacenter Edition, SQL Server 2008
  • Email EPMCloud when you want your instance started up
  • Get an email from EPMCloud with an server name
  • Connect to the AMI using Windows Terminal Server
  • Do work
  • Shutdown the server when done
  • Get billed based at $25 for initial start, then $5 per restart, with a $1.15/hour charge rate.

Full360

Full360’s model is more complex, but as we’ll see in a minute, more flexible:
  • Sign up for Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Sign up for Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2)
  • Sign up for the Full360 instances at $99/month
  • Wait for Full360 to grant access to the Full360 AMI
  • Launch your instance through the AWS console
  • Pick the Full360 Windows 2003/SQL Server 2005 Oracle EPM 11.1.2 AMI
  • Be Top Cat
  • Get billed at whatever the AMI costs per hour (see below)
  • Switch to 9.3.1 or 11.1.1.3 AMIs if you want
  • Upgrade to an-OS-not-named-Windows  (Windows isn’t the only game in town.  Real geeks use Linux.)

EC2 Instance

That flexibility is evinced when you match the Full360 AMI against whatever 64 bit Windows and (Full360’s AMI uses SQL Server Express, so it’s just plain ol’ Windows) EC2 instance you want. 

Btw, I absolutely love these names – marketing genius.  No boring “regular,” or “normal,” or even “big” to be seen.  Perhaps the yet-to-be-released 128 GB 16 way box will be called “Nathan Explosion ?

Instance name
RAM in GB
CPUs
Disk in GB
Cost/hour
Extra Large Instance
15
4 virtual cores with 2 EC2 Compute Units each
1,690
96¢

High-Memory Extra Large
17.1
2 virtual cores with 3.25 EC2 Compute Units each
420
62¢

High-Memory Quadruple Extra Large Instance
68.4
8 virtual cores with 3.25 EC2 Compute Units each
1,690
$2.48

While the AMI would likely either be the Extra Large Instance or High-Memory Extra Large Instance for your consultant (train yourself, prototype, have a place to answer all of those OTN questions you obsessively go after) instance, surely you will at least once pair up the Full360 11.1.2 AMI up against the High-Memory Quadruple Extra Large Instance.  That last one sounds like the aft turret on HMS King George V.  Talk about not needing a bigger boat

What’s installed?

This is an Amazon EC2 Windows 2003 Server/SQL Server Express 2005 instance.  The rest is Full360’s install of the 11.1.2 stack.

Install
Config
Windows 2003 Server
Yes
Yes
Foundation Services
Yes
Yes
Workspace
Yes
Yes
Essbase
Yes
Yes
EPMA
Yes
Yes
Calc Manager
Yes
Yes
EAS
Yes
Yes
HPS
Yes
Yes
Planning
Yes
Yes
HFM
Yes
Work in progress
Financial Reports
Yes
Work in progress
Web Analysis
Yes
Yes
ODI
No
No
FDM
No
No
MS Office 2007
Yes
You must supply a valid key
SQL Server 2005
Yes
Part of the AMI
GhostScript
Yes
Yes
Essbase Studio
Yes
Yes
Smart View
Yes
Yes
Excel add-in
Yes
Yes

Remember, you are the Windows administrator on the AMI.  Need something you don’t see above?  Install away.

Logging on

We’re talking Windows and EC2 – it’s the same as EPMCould, so Windows Remote Desktop Connection to the server (I cleverly forgot to take a screenshot but I think we’re all familiar with this dialog box).

Ever so slightly scary

Btw, do not be alarmed by this rather ominous looking dialog box.  I got the same thing from EPMCloud:

See this EC2 security guide to calm your madly beating hearts.

Mundane?  Not a bit.

Just click on the Yes button and off we go to the unexciting-and-yet-exciting-all-at-the-same-time Windows desktop:

That shade of blue has been my boon companion since Windows NT 3.5.1 (geezers will know why that mini-VAX of an OS was far, far better than NT 4.0 and its descendants).  So not so much excitement, you might think, but that’s where you’re wrong.

The Start Menu

And this is why the ordinary isn’t ordinary.

I had not a single blessed thing to do with this.  Thankfully.

What kind of server?

Don’t be alarmed by the 7.5 GB of RAM – that’s just the EC2 instance Full360’s AMI ran on.  It could have just have easily said 17.1 GB.

Client Connections

As already noted, Microsoft Office 2007 is include on the server, so for Sandbox use, there’s really no need to connect in a client like Excel.  NB – You must have a valid Office key for this to work.

Performance

Despite being connected to a 7.5 GB server (well under the completely unofficial 12 GB threshold for 11.1.2) performance was more than adequate.

Wait, you say (you are paying attention, aren’t you?), what about your 8 GB laptop that couldn’t run 11.1.2 worth a tinker’s damn?  I have a feeling that Amazon’s hard drives/SAN/who knows what are faster than my 7,200 rpm laptop drives.  Or it could be that I can’t configure an 11.1.2 installation to save my life.  I don’t know which explanation I prefer.

I am semi-afraid to hook up the AMI to the High-Memory Quadruple Extra Large instance as I may never want to go back to the less than ½ price High-Memory Extra Large instance.

Price

Let me just get this out in the beginning -- Full360’s overall monthly price in the below usage model is cheaper than EPMCloud’s. 

Having said that, the product that is right for you and cheaper is going to depend on:
1)    How often you use it.  You must first go through $99 of EPMCloud’s on-demand usage per month to see savings from Full360.  In my usage model below, you could use the EPMCloud product till 14 September with 43 hours of server time for that amount of money. The equivalent usage pattern with Full360 would cost approximately $126.  Alternatively, by the end of the month Full360’s product is cheaper.
2)    How flexible do you need your 11.1.2 instance to be.  If you’re going to clone it, snapshot it, put it against different EC2 server instances, Full360 has more options because more of EC2 is exposed.
3)    How involved in the world of Amazon EC2 you want to be.  As I wrote, it isn’t hard, but it made me think a bit.  Geeks like this kind of challenge, sometimes, but often just working on the stack is what’s important.  Real life story -- I know of one consultant who recently emailed me after reading the EPMCloud post – I told him about Full360’s EC2 requirements and despite the lower price (again, assuming the usage model below), he went for EPMCloud because it was easier for him.

The above are not trivial considerations.  Think long and hard about how you are likely to use the products and then drop Full360 and EPMCloud an email and decide for yourself.

So how much does Full360 cost?

1)    There’s a $99/month AMI fee (see the ODTUG connection below).  That’s the ability to access Full360’s fully tested out Windows 2003 Oracle 11.1.2 EPM instance.
2)    There’s an hourly cost based on Amazon’s EC2 pricing.  If you went for the High-Memory Extra Large instance, the cost is 62¢/hour.

The ODTUG discount

You are a member of ODTUG, yes?  And you’re voting for the board of directors, yes?  And you’re voting for me, yes?  I will now go beyond shameless and highly recommend Tim Tow and Angie Wilcox as candidates.  If you don’t vote for me, at least vote for Angie and Tim.  Remember you have till 2 November 2010. 

Beyond the many existing reasons to be a member of ODTUG (Kaleidoscope, the best Hyperion conference ever, the beyond-invaluable Technical Resources, the technical journal) there’s yet another reason to join – Full360’s ODTUG discounts.  The monthly charge is half price for ODTUG members.  Instead of the normal $199/month, the price is instead $99.  The startup fee is $1 instead of $99.  Good grief, that’s a first year savings of $1,298.  Does that cover your $175 yearly ODTUG individual membership?

I am going to assume that you too can do the math, hence I will use the ODTUG special prices.

Cameron the consultant’s use case

Before we dive into that cost analysis, let’s again review how an 11.1.2 instance in the cloud is likely to be used by a mythical consultant named “CL” (who is this guy, anyway?).

My usage model will likely be broken into two types:
1)    Common, everyday
    1. An hour or two before work and at night (yes, I am sad)
    2. A few hours every weekend
2)    Extraordinary, short bursts
    1. Learning new stuff for a project, e.g., Calc Manager the right way
    2. Proof of concepts/prototypes


Startup
Hours
Cost @
62¢/hour
Why?
1-Sep
$99.00



2-Sep




3-Sep




4-Sep

4
$2.48
Tire kicking
5-Sep




6-Sep

2
$1.24
Training
7-Sep




8-Sep

1
$0.62
Training
9-Sep

8
$4.96
Prototype
10-Sep

8
$4.96
Prototype
11-Sep

4
$2.48
Prototype
12-Sep




13-Sep

8
$4.96
Demo to client
14-Sep

8
$4.96
Tweak prototype
15-Sep

2
$1.24
Demo to client
16-Sep




17-Sep




18-Sep

3
$1.86
Blog writing
19-Sep




20-Sep




21-Sep




22-Sep




23-Sep




24-Sep




25-Sep




26-Sep




27-Sep

8
$4.96
Prototype
28-Sep

8
$4.96
Prototype
29-Sep




30-Sep





$    99.00
        64.00
$39.68









$138.68


If this usage model even approaches reality for me, it would take me almost two years to make this as expensive as that IBM W510 or four years to match the cost of the Dell Precision 4500 that I lamented over in my last cloud post.

I think Full360 is cheaper than the hardware route, don’t you?  Remember, if 11.1.3 or 11.2.1 or whatever the next big release is (I have zero insight to this stuff so who knows what it will be called) and it now requires 20 GB of RAM to run, just move on up the EC2 instance scale.  Try that with a laptop.

Finally, I’ll be able to buy some sexy looking thin laptop next time around (my current brick weighs about seven pounds and reminds me of an aircraft carrier).  Maybe my back will stop hurting when I travel.  My wallet surely will.

Conclusion

So there you have it, yet again.  A complete 11.1.2 installation, tailor-made for consultants or clients who want/need to kick 11.1.2 tires.

It’s a shame that 11.1.2 is from beyond the dead, intent on nothing more than eating our computer’s brains.

But it’s fantastic that there are two great companies offering fully-vetted 11.1.2 instances that we can start learning from and building on.

I have to say that I never really understood the appeal of cloud computing before these two posts – now that I get the flexibility, power, and affordability, I’m likely boring everyone I meet with The Way.  You really, really owe it to yourself to check it out.

Now I can finally get back to hacking Essbase, instead of figuring out how to make it run.