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28 June 2013

Kscope13, days 2, 3, and 4


Oh dear, I am rather afraid that the entire concept of live-blogging, or live-tweeting (see that box to the right of this text on my blog), has been a complete and utter failure this year.  Sorry.

What happened is that I, as I seem to do, managed to completely overcommit and then had to live up to the promises.  The end result was I had not time to:
  • Blog
  • Tweet
  • Floss my teeth (yuck, TMI, why?, really?, and just what is your dentist going to say about that?)

The first two I shall hope to correct below and the last, rather personal failure, is this blog’s fault.  Multiple times during this past week I sat down in my hotel room’s couch/davenport/settee to write this blog post and simply fell asleep.  I then would wake up a few hours later, realize the battery on the laptop had died again, plugged it in, brushed my teeth and fell into bed.  I shall hope that extra attention to dental hygiene in future will correct my slackness.  So far, no cavities.

So what did I do, and what did I see?

Monday, 12:30 – Top Six Advanced Planning Tips

Jessica Cordova and I lied to ODTUG (well, we did actually clear this with them first, but this is our doing, not ODTUG’s) and only presented three advanced Planning tips.  This is not because we hate Planning, or ODTUG, or our audience but because when we combined our work we knew we had far more than 50-odd minutes of content.  So we timed everything (Jessica and I come from the rehearse-it-to-death school of presenting), figured out what would fit, and only presented that at Kscope13.  Look in this space and an ODTUG email about our webinar in August where we do the balance (or maybe all) of the tips.  What we presented was still Good Stuff and we got to cover it at the length and scope that it deserved.

Tuesday, 8:30 – Exalytics – An Apples to Apples Comparison

This was the group project to end all group projects.  We (John Booth, Tim German, Dan Pressman, and yr. obdnt. srvnt.), thanks to the rather incredible generosity of Mark Rittman, were able to benchmark a generic Linux box against Exalytics to see which was faster, and why.

The presentation itself was more of a journey in how we set up a benchmark (I think real benchmarkers would laugh at our methodology but we had never done this before) and what choices we made, and why, although there were some results.  

The benchmarking result re which is faster, btw, is the classic Essbase result – it all depends on what you are doing and why.  I will also note that from a storage perspective we really didn’t do a good job setting up like to like comparisons but this was a hobby project (and for all of us, just one of many) and we did our best.  Suffice to say that now we know how to benchmark much, much better.  Hopefully the audience didn’t feel cheated by that.  

Tuesday, 10:45 – Practical SQL for EPM Practitioners

This was the session I was most excited about presenting as I have recently been doing rather a lot with SQL in my EPM projects.  

The presentation was given from a beginner’s perspective (this is easy for me because from as far as SQL is concerned, I too am a beginner) and covered some of the techniques that I have found useful.  

Everyone who does EPM needs to get on the SQL train (and yes, I was one of those Essbase geeks who until quite recently could only write “SELECT * FROM …” so thank you not-really-my-big-brother-but-oh-how-I-wish-you-were Glenn Schwartzberg for helping me (or maybe like completely doing my job) with HFM Extended Analytics; thanks also to Dan Pressman with other SQL content in the presentation.  I stand on the shoulders of giants.

The reason you, gentle reader, need to be more au courant with SQL is because it empowers you in your organization and with your systems.  It honestly isn’t that hard and I hope that this presentation helps you along the way to SQL mastery.

Tuesday, 12:45 Hyperion Apps Lunch n’ Learn

Thanks to the generosity of the OTN program, every year ODTUG presents multiple Lunch n’ Learn sessions across the tracks.  I have been in the Hyperion Apps one as I seem to do that for a living.

I was the Masters of Ceremony aka Microphone Monkey as the original MC/MM, John Booth, was unable to attend because of a family emergency.  I actually think John asked me to do this but I completely forgot (as you may notice, I have a few things going on at this conference and also my memory stinks) so this was a bit of a surprise.  I think the audience participation and the board’s ability to answer was pretty good – fell ACE Director Tracy McMullen and ACE Chris Barbieri did a great job as usual.

I am quite pleased that Lunch n’ Learns have hit their stride.  I MC’d/MM’d one in, I think, 2010, and it was just painful eliciting questions from the audience.  That was not at all the case at Kscope13.  

Thanks again, OTN.

Wednesday, 8:30 Experts Panel:  Essbase BSO Optimization

This was supposed to be moderated by John Booth but as I explained above he had a family emergency and so regretfully was not available.

Glenn Schwartzberg stepped in to moderate and Edward Roske, Tim German, Mike Nader, Steve Liebermensch, and yr. obdnt. srvnt. all sat in.  It was a pretty freewheeling discussion and I learnt something new about Essbase Report Scripts and data extraction.  Will my former boss (Edward) be proven right yet again?  It may pain me, immensely, if so, but Watch This Space for a new data extract post in the next few weeks.

Wednesday, 10:45 – A BSO Developer’s Introduction to ASO Essbase

This was for me, a BSO developer, a bit of a stretch.  It was difficult to write because so very much of it was theoretical, rather than practical application of theory; if you notice this blog, I tend to fall on the practical side of things.  OTOH, if one wants to do ASO right, one must also understand how ASO Essbase works.  Dan Pressman wrote the book (okay, the chapter) on this subject but I always thought his work, while incredibly important, was too hard for many of us to really understand.  Maybe we (or maybe I mean me) are dumb, maybe it is just a really complex subject.

In any case, I used this session as an opportunity to use BSO constructs and descriptions to sort of, kind of, describe how the ASO kernel works (yes, this was a little dangerous and yes, I was very careful to note when the analogies completely broke down) and then apply that understanding to MVFEDITWWW aka Sample.Basic converted to ASO.  It’s really a case of using terms and concepts we BSO types are familiar with and then applying it to ASO.  In my many, many, many conversations with Dan over ASO, that’s the approach that finally led to the “Ah-ha!” moment and I hope that slant plus the conversion of Sample.Basic via two different techniques was the theory made concrete for the audience.

I hasten to add that this presentation was really just a small part of Dan’s work and I am not suggesting that downloading my deck is the same as reading (and rereading and rereading and rereading) his chapter.  If you haven’t yet understood the key to ASO’s internal design (and given that there were about 80 people in the session, I’d say not everyone has), I encourage you to read my presentation as an introduction and then tackle his work.

Thanks again, Dan, for putting up with what must have been a record number of calls.  Now I think I finally understand ASO.

Wednesday, the rest of the afternoon

I am officially Not Allowed To Talk About It (I must keep some mystery in my life), but I’ll just note that I had Yet Another Presentation.

Thursday, the rest of the conference

Alas, I missed all of the sessions on Thursday as I slept in (I sort of had a busy past few days) and so missed Steve Liebermensch’s Essbase Exalytics session, and then had a meeting with my Australian Sister-Across-The-Waters (aka fellow board member and Oracle ACE Bambi Price) about ODTUG’s relentless path to world domination (we talked about Seriously Practical conferences in Asia with Frank Chow, one of my “lucky” EPM buddies).

And that, for me, was the end of the conference.

The end of What Cameron Did This Kscope

I haven’t even begun to cover all of the other things that went on at Kscope13, all the cool things that I could have done and wished I did, how amazingly fast it all went by, or how incredibly tired I am.

Suffice to say, it was an AMAZING conference and proof, if proof be needed, that no other organization throws an Oracle conference/party the way ODTUG does.  Thanks goes to Oracle, fellow presenters, fellow attendees, YCC, the Kscope conference committee(s), my fellow board of directors, and the many, many, many volunteers who make this conference possible.  It is, without exaggeration, the professional peak of my year and I simply could not do my job without ODTUG and Kscope.  I am indebted to you all.

Be seeing you next year in Seattle, Washington, for Kscope14.  I can hardly wait.

25 June 2013

Kscope13, day 1


Monday is the first “real” day of the conference.  All very, very cool and for the first three sessions I am also room ambassador.  Alas, this does not mean that I shall be henceforth be referred to as “Your Excellency” although I am totally okay with that form of address in future.  You decide.

And the content is…

I was the ambassador for the first three sessions.  That means I passed out evaluation slips, was a microphone monkey, and got cool pins I get to attach to my conference lanyard.

Essbase and Planning Calculation Basics

What’s worse than having an 8:30 session?  Why it’s having Oracle Essbase development kibitz on your session and offer improvements to your content.  But it was all in spirit of helpfulness and John Booth was able to recover.

Essbase New and Upcoming Features

Super cool stuff.  You really, really, really should have been there.  Maybe I will update with details if allowed to.  Watch this space.  

Btw, if I am not allowed to, then all I can tell you is that Gabby Rubin, Essbase Product Manager, talked about some really interesting futures for Essbase.  And oh yeah, you should have been there.

Introducing the Outline Extractor NG (Next Generation)

I was on the beta for Tim’s latest and greatest version tool and was very possibly the worst beta participant although I did at least find one bug.  It was very exciting to see the tool actually on display for the world to see.

The Outline Extractor that Applied OLAP has maintained throughout the years has been incredibly useful.  I understand that the single largest downloader, based on domain name is none other than Oracle, so it was perhaps no surprise to see Oracle development staff in the room.  

Top Six Advanced Planning Tips

This is a session Jessica Cordova and I gave – she was the senior and I the junior.  And of course we lied – we didn’t actually do six tips, but instead three, which is sort of not what was promised.  We lied (well, we did, didn’t we?) because we had so much awesome stuff that we couldn’t possibly do all of it in a single session and instead have pinky promised to do the balance in an ODTUG webinar.  It took a lot of pressure off and we still had good content.  

Advanced Essbase Studio Tips and Tricks

This is a session given by my not-actually-related-in-any-way-and-in-fact-he-denies-the-whole-thing older brother Glenn Schwartzberg.  Glenn always does quality work and I wish oh wish oh wish I could have been there but unfortunately I got pulled away by other things.  Sorry big bro, but I’m sure I’m the worse off for not being there.


This was really quite good.  Doc Hendley, of the Wine Into Water foundation, did a fantastic job.  A very inspiring and humble man who is determined to do good in this all too imperfect world.

ODTUG also announced that Kscope14 will be in Seattle, Washington.  My parents lived there back in the early 1960s in a basement apartment that had constantly moldy walls, no matter what my mother did to clean them.  My mother, who hasn’t returned to Seattle since 1961, also said, “It was a nice little town.”  I wonder if it has grown any since then.  :)


As always, Kscope is great, Kscope is exhausting, Kscope is the place you ought to be if you care at all about your overall knowledge and of course a chance to meet and great all of your fellow Oracle geeks.

Be seeing you in New Orleans.

24 June 2013

Kscope13, day 0


Sundays at Kscope are always Symposium day.  I understand that there are multiple other Symposiums, one for each track.  Of course, being an Essbase geek, the only thing I care about is EPM, and here I am, sitting in the EPM Symposium, listening to Oracle management talk about the latest and greatest in the EPM space.

And the content is…

Sorry, can’t tell you.  That’s the deal – come to the symposium, do NOT blog about what you hear.  Safe harbor statements abound (so they’re going to tell us the future, but reserve the right to change their collective Oracle mind) as well as requests to NOT take photographs, NOT blog about what we learn.  Those are the rules.

So that means if you aren’t at Kscope13, you don’t know what is coming in the EPM space.  And I’m not (I cannot) tell you.  Stinks, doesn’t it?  The way to solve this is to come to Kscope14, and every year thereafter.  That’s my plan for career futures.  :)

What I can tell you is there is some very interesting news about Essbase.  It’s stuff we have all wanted for a long time.  Again, sorry if you are not at Kscope but we attendees are not allowed to tell you more about it per Oracle’s request.  So yes, a big, big tease.

And some very interesting news about Planning.  I have wanted this functionality for approximately forever, or at least since 2002 (ah, Planning 1.5, or maybe 1.1 – I no longer remember but oh my goodness you were buggy).  Alas, I again cannot tell you much of anything.  In fact nothing.


Are you gathering that Kscope gives you information that you cannot get anywhere else?  This is important stuff that defines the future of what we do and no other user conference delivers this information.

The brutal sadist in me sort of enjoys telling you that there is all sorts of cool stuff on offer at the Sunday symposium.  The caring nurturing inner Cameron wishes you were here.  Square the circle, bind the wound, cut the Gordian knot, for goodness’ sakes stop me from tortured metaphors and just make sure you are here next year at Kscope14 so I don’t have to keep on telling you about all the cool things I (and everyone else at Kscope13) know, and you don’t.  See, I really am the caring, nurturing sort.

Be seeing you at Kscope13 (oh, we happy few) and Kscope14.

22 June 2013

Kscope13, day -1


For the last two years at Kscope I have live-blogged during the conference; Kscope13 will be no different.  This is both a fun and difficult task/duty.  Sometimes I am really, really, really busy and cannot blog during the day – I will do my best, but no promises.  And with that slightly deflating disclaimer, off we go.

Where oh where am I?

Why on the 31st floor of the Sheraton New Orleans.  Yes, that’s the Mississippi.  The view is pretty spectacular at night.

Volunteer day kickoff
The EPM (Essbase only, actually) started its relationship with ODTUG at Kaleidoscope 2008.  2008 was also the first volunteer event at the then Kaleidoscope and was in fact in a school.  We were back at a school, this time the Charles Easton Charter High School, in the Mid City/Bayou St. John districts of New Orleans.  

We did the usual back breaking (but welcome) work:  moving, painting, sanding, cleaning, etc.  Here we are in the cafeteria about to split up to our respective tasks.

Like a fool (I think I mentioned this in my last post), and yes, with me that is redundancy, I “knew” that indoors was hot, and outdoors was…less hot.  Hmm, I did not count on the working airconditioning but as I ignored my way out of the work I should have done and instead went to the outdoors work, you can guess it was hot, really hot.  And what did I do?  Sanded wood to make it available for picnic tables and benches.  Here’s William Booth hard at work.  Hot work, indeed.

Here’s a view of the painting.  We were busy, busy, busy.

You can see the lumber pile to the right – it’s just a fraction of what we sanded by hand.  

There was a bit of a spanner thrown into the works because of a rainstorm that happened in the middle of the outdoors work but we simply covered up and jumped back outside the moment the rain stopped.

The payoff and a warning

The school was really very nice about thanking we ODTUGers (not the official name but one I like) for the hard work we did.  It really is a pleasure and one of the things that differentiates Kscope from every other conference.

Back at the hotel, as I made my way up to my room, wet, smelly, and utterly wringed out, two women asked, “What’s an Od-Tug”.  I explained that we are an Oracle software conference (I passed by the whole the user conference marketing moment although perhaps I shouldn’t have) and that we always kick off with a volunteer day.  They were pretty surprised and said that it was really awesome we gave back to whatever town hosts our conference.  

It is really awesome and as I wrote, it makes Kscope unlike any other conference.

And now the warning

Hey, when the NOPD tells you not to bring a gun onto school property, they really mean it.  Hey, it’s only up to five years of hard labor in a chain gang; think how well you’ll be able to hone your Cool Hand Luke impersonation.  Happily I was only armed with my rapier wit.

There’s still the Welcome Reception to come later tonight.  

I hope to be seeing you all at Kscope13.

20 June 2013

What Kscope13 sessions am I looking forward to, Cameron edition


In my five previous posts I’ve covered the Essbase, Planning, EPM Foundations and Data Management, EPM Reporting, and Everything Else sessions I am looking forward to (and admitting that I am somewhat unlikely to attend as I would need to be Cameron * 5 to do so and that is a scary prospect, even to me).

But what about my sessions?  Am I ever going to give you at least a hint as to what they are all about?  Am I, indeed.  I like to think, in my humble (ahem) way, that I in fact have some slightly useful information to impart.  You may not agree but after all you are reading this blog.  If you think my presentations stink and yet you’re still here you must at least admit you are somewhat confused.  OTOH, if you think my presentations aren’t half bad (and if they aren’t better than that I have wasted hundreds of hours on them, which I suppose is possible), you may be interested in the following sessions.

Top Six Advanced Planning Tips

When: Jun 24, 2013, Session 4, 1:45 pm - 2:45 pm
I am copresenting this with Jessica Cordova and it’s a chance for the two of us to impart some of the lessons learnt and techniques we’ve picked up over the years in Hyperion Planning-land.  Jessica is the primary, and me the junior on this one and you’ll understand what that means in a moment.

A bit of a side note

Actually “Six” in the title is something of a misnomer because in fact we are only going to present three sessions.  Ah, I hear you (and I do, really, in my mind, which is confusing because of course one hears with one’s ears) exclaim, “Wot?  ‘e said six an’ now he says three.  ‘e’s barmy ‘e is.”  Writing dialect is tough, especially when your inner Cockney only extends as far as really liking the Lambeth Walk.  I lay blame at the feet of my love for British war movies which, just like American ones, always have a mix of men from civvy street and there’s always someone from south of the Thames.    Also, their RSM’s have great script writers.  Wow, quite an excursion into the Weird Entertainment Cameron Likes.  

And we now return to our regular programming

Anyway, Jessica and I wrote our sections, rehearsed them via GoToMeeting, and realized that we had quite a bit (a lot) more than 50 odd minutes worth of content.  So our choice was to either cut sections out entirely or skim through our topics.  As the whole point was to do advanced topics we were in a bit of a bind until I realized that we could put up what sections we are doing up to a vote and do the balance at an ODTUG webinar after Kscope.  We are going to pinky promise on this and we all know that means that is a promise unto death.  Also, this will be an opportunity for you the audience to decide exactly what you want from us – it will be Kscope session democracy in action.  I hope you’re willing to indulge this slightly off beat approach as I think what we have to say is pretty good.

Monday Night Madness/Hyperion EPM Open Mic Night

When:  8:00pm to 10:00 pm
There is an Open Mic Night at Monday’s after-session fun.  Like a fool, I have volunteered to be one of the speakers in case there is a dearth of volunteers.  Also like a fool, and quite true to form (so I am repeating myself) I didn’t realize that one is not required, nay, is not allowed to write a presentation for this.  I wrote one.  Good thing I’ve got a really cool demo to go with it.  

We’ll see if I do this but if I do, I have got a really awesome twist on focused aggregations in Calculation Manager/Planning except this time the products are  Calc Scripts/Dodeca.  All I’ll say is that I have a way round the big problem with focused aggregations in Calculation Manager.  It is fast, fast, fast, fast.

Exalytics - An Apples to Apples Comparison

When:  Jun 25, 2013, Session 6, 8:30 am - 9:30 am
I think this has to be the Kscope group project to end all group projects.  By that I mean that John Booth, Tim German, Dan Pressman, and I all got together on the Mother and Father of all benchmarking tests.

Thanks to the generosity and quite possibly world record patience of Mark Rittman of the eponymously named Rittman-Mead, we have access to an Exalytics box.  What oh what oh what to do with it?  Why benchmark it against a really fast generic Linux box (that John bought with his own money – we are committed, or nuts) of course.  I also love that these severs are named Asgard and Zeus.  Naming the servers after mythological figures was coincidental and I think indicative of their speed.  Both environments are fast and put to shame anything I have ever seen at a client.  This project encouraged me to buy a mega laptop (well, mega as of summer 2013 – 32 gigs of RAM, 8 CPUs, and a SSD); I shall never buy one with a physical drive again.

What are our results?  As is usual, we are testing this down to the very last minute (some, like me, would argue that we are testing this beyond the last minute), so I honestly cannot say.  I will bet that whatever box you’ve got, we’ve got our hands on a faster one.  :)

Practical SQL for EPM Practitioners

When:  Jun 25, 2013, Session 8, 11:15 am - 12:15 pm
I’m terribly excited about this because I have found that I spend more and more of my time in projects using SQL to do all sorts of interesting and unusual (at least for an EPM geek) things.  It’s really opened my horizons wrt the roles I can play on a project and I find writing SQL code to be oddly therapeutic.  Yeah, I’m weird.

I’m going to use practical examples that I have used in the real world to show a bunch of techniques and approaches that I’ve found useful.  Of course, just like the Planning presentation I have more, much more, than I can possibly fit into a single session but I can temper that deficiency by blogging about it here.

As I was not all that long ago firmly in the “SQL means SELECT * FROM …” camp it’s been quite a transformation in skills for me and a valuable one to boot.  If you do EPM, and I don’t just mean Essbase and Planning, and yet are not at a SQL hacker like me I encourage you to attend.  

Lunch n’ Learn

When:  25 June, 12:45 pm to 1:45 pm
I’m sharing the dais with my much-admired former boss, Tracy McMullen (I have no idea what her title is now other than Mrs. Awesome but when I worked at interRel, she was Director of Consulting) and Chris Barbieri (Chris, I admire you too, even if you hate Essbase for reasons of technological jealously (Mr. HFM)  or maybe just sheer perverse bloody mindedness); John Booth moderates.  These are always free-wheeling and open ended.  I do get quite hungry.  This time I’m bring an energy bar.

A BSO Developer's Introduction to ASO Essbase

When:  Jun 26, 2013, Session 13, 11:15 am - 12:15
I actually didn’t sign up to do this presentation but was instead asked to do it.  I’m not an ASO wizard by any means but that actually was a good thing for this presentation because the topic is in fact how to approach ASO when one is a BSO geek.  

Yes, this has been done to death at Kscope but I think I bring two unique approaches to this subject.
  1. I use Sample.Basic, the BSO database that just about everyone knows, as the subject for my conversion.  It is both harder and easier to convert than you think.  As everyone (hopefully) knows what Sample.Basic is all about wrt calcs, dimensionality, etc., I can use the familiar constructs of that database to explain a plethora of ASO topics.  Although ASO and BSO are very different technologies one can use many BSO constructs to understand ASO.
  2. I used Dan Pressman’s standout ASO chapter in Developing Essbase Applications to dive deeply into the ASO kernel and understand how to design ASO databases for performance.  This was really exciting for two reasons:
    1. I need to understand how tools work.  IOW, “I gots to know”.  Hopefully in a less cinematically violent way than Dirty Harry but I at least share that innate curiosity about How Things Work.  Have you ever seen a bitmap index?  You will, and it won’t make your head explode.  I now know how ASO works, or at least as well as anyone who doesn’t have an @oracle.com email address does.
    2. I thought that Dan’s chapter was simply amazing, but also very, very dense.  I don’t mean that as a criticism in any way – it is a difficult and highly technical subject and a complete explanation of it is therefore obliged to be just as difficult and highly technical.  I read the chapter six times from beginning to end in an effort to understand it as well as multiple phone calls with Dan.  I am happy to announce that I think I have made more accessible what I consider to be the most important work on Essbase extant.  Do I cover all of what he wrote about or even delve into it at the same depth?  No, that simply isn’t possible within the 50-odd minutes (that time thing keeps on popping up, doesn’t it?) allotted to me but I think if you’ve read Dan’s chapter and did a big “whaaaa?” you should come to my session.  With its lessons under your belt you’ll be able to tackle Dan’s work again and again.  Btw, Dan is reprising his session from last year (quite unusual in Kscope but such is the import of his work) on 25 June from 2 to 3.  Even if you go to Dan’s session I encourage you to come to mine – the bitmap, the bitmap, the bitmap is difficult to understand at first but it is the essence of ASO performance and I cover it from a beginner’s perspective.  Did I mention I was excited?  :)

Fwiw, this was a very difficult presentation for me to write because so much of it is theory – I tend to think of myself as more the engineer type who takes theory and applies it as opposed to a physicist who strictly stays on the theoretical side of things.  So a bit of a stretch but if you are a BSO developer or someone, like me, who has seen some real dogs of ASO applications and guessed that BSO design principles may not apply, come to this session.

Conclusion or my ODTUG cup runneth over

I’ve figured out that in addition to the above two full presentations, plus the Planning copresentation, plus the benchmarking presentation, plus the open mic presentation, plus two private presentations for ODTUG/Oracle, I am somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 ½ to 5 presentations this year.  As I write all of my presentations from scratch (I do not exactly have an army of minions who do this for me) that is an incredible amount of work.  I would guess somewhere around 300 to 400 hours and it came at the expense of just about everything that wasn’t work related; there are others (hello, Dan) on these projects who have put in even more unpaid time.  Yes, I love Kscope, but maybe I can love Kscope14 a little more by trying just a wee bit less.  We’ll see if that actually comes true.  

In any case, I think I’ve got some great things in store for the next week and I will be live blogging starting Saturday with the volunteer event.  

Be seeing you round Kscope13.