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17 March 2017

Head in the Essbase Cloud No. 1 -- The Blessed Event

Nine months to gestation

No, Yr. Hmbl., Fthl., & Obt. Svt. has not suddenly changed sex and really and truly had one of life’s miracles bestowed upon him but instead something almost as great has happened:  Essbase Cloud has launched.  

And nine months isn’t really the date from conception to birth but instead is roughly the time from Kscope16 where Tim German and I first gave the first non-Oracle demo of the product to today’s GA launch.  We (and a host of others*) have been diligently poking and prodding at the product.  And now the happy day is here.

I should note that Essbase Cloud is sort of the world’s worst kept secret:  you’ve seen it at Kscope and OOW, I’ve blogged about it as have others, Oracle sales reps have been showing it to customers, and partners have had limited previews.  So, a surprise it is not but regardless for the wider world, this is new stuff.

And of course it’s now Generally Available aka you, oh Oracle customer or partner, can actually go out and buy this thing.

*The Host of Others

If you want to learn more about OAC, check out the blog hop participant posts below! What is a blog hop? A blog hop is a group of bloggers who all get together to blog on a particular topic. We share each others blog posts in an attempt to share a lot of great information in one place. Enjoy!

Opal Alapat, interRel Consulting
Stewart Bryson, RedPill Analytics
Brian Dandeneau, interRel Consulting
Tim German, Qubix
Cameron Lackpour, ARC EPM Consulting
Matt Milella, Oracle
Glenn Schwartzberg, interRel Consulting
Summer Watson, interRel Consulting
Sarah Zumbrum, Oracle

Special thanks must go to Opal – she conceived, organized, and cajoled us all – although I don’t that that last bit was all that hard – into contributing to today’s Essbase Cloud very first birthday.

What you see is maybe not entirely what you get

The web gui screenshots are from the day (night really) before GA.  That means that what you’ll see is what Essbase Cloud looked like before GA.  It’s going to change from the writing of this post or at least that’s what I’ve been told.  Maybe.  Maybe it already has.  Maybe.  Look for an additional post when (if) that happens and when (if) I get access to the real thing.

Think of this as my version of that Oracle Safe Harbor statement you see at the beginning of every one of their conference presentations.  While I do my best to give you the latest and greatest information, it isn’t fair if you come to me with statements like, “It isn’t what I thought it would be” or “The details keep shifting” or “You know bugger all about Essbase Cloud”.  The first two complaints should be directed at Oracle although the latter one is all mine.  In any case, yelling never solved problems although Essbase databases can.

Not that I am an Oracle employee, but here’s Oracle’s standard Safe Harbor statement.  Please note that I don’t speak for them but the pertinent bits (information only, no contract, no commitment, etc., etc., etc.) could just as much for me as for them.  Enjoy the ride but don’t cry if things aren’t as I describe them when you get your hands on the product.

The following is intended to outline our general product direction. It is intended for information purposes only, and may not be incorporated into any contract. It is not a commitment to deliver any material, code, or functionality, and should not be relied upon in making purchasing decisions. The development, release, and timing of any features or functionality described for Oracle’s products remains at the sole discretion of Oracle.

You Have Been Warned.

Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral

Essbase Cloud (are you digging the new, slightly longer name?  EssCS is so 2015.  And 2016.  And part of 2017.  Well, at least that’s what I’ve seen it called till quite recently.) is part of a package called Oracle Analytic Cloud Service (OAC).  It’s even there in the front screen:
Just what is OAC?  Depending on bundle it’s either:

In case you didn’t notice, Essbase Cloud is quite firmly part of the BI world.  Yes, it’s still there in EPM but there is a difference in ownership and platform.

To use Essbase Cloud in addition to buying DVCS and BICS, for a full implementation you’re going to need:  Oracle Database Cloud Service (DbaaS) as well as Oracle Compute Cloud Service (OCCS) as well as Oracle Storage Cloud Service (OSCS) as well as Oracle Database Backup Service (ODBS).  I think I have all of those names right.  This isn’t all that surprising as if you think about how an on-premises Essbase environment works, CPUs, disk storage, a relational database, and some kind (we hope) Essbase backup process are all part and parcel of an Essbase environment.

Price?  Contact your friendly neighborhood Oracle sales representative or go to the Oracle BI global price list.

Note that these tools are not Software as a Service (SaaS) tools like the EPM cloud suite but run the gamut from Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) to Platform as a Service (PaaS).  PBCS, for example, is SaaS and as such is a neatly contained application.  Essbase Cloud is more flexible but is a bit more complicated.  Of course Essbase Cloud isn’t a single application as PBCS is but instead is just like your on-premises Essbase environment of many applications and databases.

What isn’t Essbase Cloud

Essbase is part the Oracle Analytics Cloud Suite along with Data Visualization Cloud as well as Analytics Cloud.  I simply don’t have the time to review what those products do because I have neither the time (I am writing this the night before the launch) nor the experience.  There is no cure for the former except for maybe a TARDIS.  For the latter, I suggest you read the other blogs in this blog hop.

What does  it look like?

In many ways, not all that different from what I first showed world+dog at 2015’s OOW product launch or what Tim German and I presented at Kscope16.

There are two paths:  the cloud GUI (This is the cloud – did you expect something else?) and, intriguingly, Excel.  Excel means SmartView and something more that I’m going to force you to wait on till later in the post (You jumped down find it, didn’t you.  Perhaps the previous sentence was self-defeating or perhaps it was part of a Cunning Plan.)

Let’s explore the web UI

Given the possibly-but-maybe-not changing UI, I’m going to take the 30,000 foot view (9,144 meters for those of you from countries that have not been to the moon) and list what I see as the high points.  Look to the other blogs and (hopefully) many more posts from me as each function is examined in detail.

Pretty, isn’t it?  Oracle has a modern design language.  It shows up particularly well when compared to EPM’s Workspace.

Logging in gives us the (I daresay soon to be changed – maybe) home page.  There’s nothing too surprising here – all of the things (and a bit more) are there.

Once a database has been selected, in order, from left to right, top to bottom we have:-


Yup, it’s an outline editor, nope, it isn’t anything really like EAS.

There are some very intriguing things here.  Solve order in BSO?  Yes Essbase geek, there is solve order in BSO.

At the dimension level

At the member level

We can now break the dense/sparse/dimension type/TWOPASS paradigm.  Huzzah!


As of today, there’s no getting into the OS and running MaxL.  Think of jobs as administrative actions, just as they are in PBCS.  The Jobs console shows the state and completion status of jobs like data loads.


Calc scripts (in BSO). Know them.  Love them.  Be kind of glad we’re not using Calc Mgr but be sad, sad, sad that the many useful CDFs that the Planning team brings to Essbase aren’t available.


Locked objects as well as Substitution Variables


At the application and database level, this means filters and provisioning.

At the server level, this is usernames and cloud service (this is different than traditional Essbase) roles.  EPMers, remember that there is no longer Shared Services.  Rejoice or weep as is your wont.


It’s not yet possible (and maybe never – remember, this is all pre GA) to get to the OS.  This is the next best thing and actually not half bad.


Think of it as clicking on the Properties tab in EAS’ outline editor view.


Scenario management, e.g. I own a member set combination, I give you access to it, you submit data, I approve or disapprove it.  It’s very Planning like.  This example database doesn’t have it enabled but it’s just a button to turn it on.  I’ll write more about this in another post.


These are the binaries you download to your desktop/server.

Again, this is a subject I’ll cover later but briefly:
  • Export Utility – Extracting Essbase Cloud databases to Excel and text files.
  • SmartView – Need I elaborate?
  • Lifecycle Management – Bring ‘em down and push ‘em up.
  • Command Line Tool – This is sort of, kind of Essbase Cloud’s version of EPM’s epmautomate.  Again, I’ll cover this in another post.


Predefined databases from Oracle.  At some point (actually, it may be now), you’ll be able to upload your own Excel workbooks (that is how the databases are defined) to the Templates section.  I think.


Documentation with a twist.  I’d show you what this looks like but again, as of prerelease, there’s nothing to see but a 404 error.

Cube Designer

Thus far, I’ve reviewed what’s in the pre GA release of Essbase Cloud’s web ui.  If you attended Kscope16, you saw Tim and I demo a cruder but fundamentally the same product.  What about Excel?  This is where the developer effort has been spent over the last nine months.

Cube Designer is a SmartView extension.  Once downloaded (you will need to be connected via SmartView to an Essbase Cloud server to get this, at least as of the writing of this post), it appears as another ribbon in Excel.  It’s here in Excel 2016 but I’ve used it in 2010 without issue, just like SmartView itself.

Again, let’s take a lightning tour and then do a wee bit of a use case before I call it a night.

That lightning tour

Man oh man oh man I’m going to blow through here.  Check out the other blogs in the blog hop or stay tuned to Yr. Hmbl., Fthl., & Obt. Svt.’s blog next week and quite a bit hereafter for more information.


The connections you make in ad hoc SmartView query sheets don’t apply here.  To do Cube Designer actions, connect in through the ribbon.

Actually, I take that back.  If you are connected to an Essbase Cloud instance through a valid SmartView query, logging in through Connections is not required.


If you remember the Templates feature in the web UI, it’s roughly analogous to Gallery.  I’m going to have to poke around a bit more to understand why they contain different content as logically they should be the same.  Stay tuned.


I find this to be oddly named.  Would it be better to call it “File” or “Object” or something like that?  It’s essentially Windows (no Mac OS as no Mac SmartView) file open and save as well as extracting an existing database to an Excel metadata (and data) workbook.

Open and Save I will leave for your fertile imagination.

Export Cube is quite a bit more interesting.

Export Cube

Briefly, instead of using the web ui, developers can create, manage, and deploy Essbase databases from within Excel.  Modification of the Essbase database itself (dimensions, members, formulas, even data) can all be done offline.  Shades of Arbor’s Application Manager for those who have been around for a while.  

Having said that, because it is Excel, it’s without rules, i.e. there is no syntax checker, no guarantee that you’ve built a dimension build file correctly, etc.

Click on Export, and you’ll get a simple dialog box asking for application and database name.

Once complete, a completion message box appears.  This can take a while given the size of the database as metadata for all dimensions, calcs, etc. are downloaded.

NB – Data is not part of this download.  Data is part of the web ui’s database export.  I have to assume this is either a prerelease issue or a bug that will be fixed soon.  In any case, the data is available through the web.

Alas and alack, I don’t have time or space to dive into this but it’s a brilliant manifestation of all of those dialog boxes in EAS that we know and hatelove in Excel.  

Here’s the database definition tab:

That gives us appname/dbname, dimensions, dimension type, outline order, etc.    

Cube Settings defines what kind of cube and high level settings.

Cube.Generations is self-explanatory.

Dimensions are parent/child views.  This is both data and a load rule all at the same time.  Want to modify metadata with all sorts of functions, may I daresay Excel formulas (surely some kind of Essbase geek Holy Grail)?  It’s all there and supported on the upload.

Load Rules support formulas as shown below.  Formulas can be typed in by hand or via the Formula Editor.  There is no check that forces a formula into a given cell or column – that’s up to you to get right.

Cube Designer’s Cube Designer

This is an entire blog post all in itself which isn’t the one you’re reading.  For the time being, know that this is huge and is the way to interactively build the metadata sheets and modify their content.

Formula Editor

It’s obviously early days on this.  Once syntax checking is there, I’ll be as happy as the proverbial pig in the mud.  In the meantime, it’s a chance to see if I’m as good or as bad as writing calc scripts/MDX as I think I am.

View Hierarchy

The dimension editor in the web ui is a bit clunky.  This isn’t and as noted, can be used when disconnected from Essbase Cloud.  I suppose in this day of ubiquitous connectivity that isn’t as much of an issue as it once was, but think of wanting to prototype a dimension without impacting a real database – do it in Excel and see it in Excel.  Nice.

Build Cube

This pushes the database Excel workbook up to Essbase Cloud.  I’m going to add BegBalance to Year because I am a long time Planning developer.

I’m going to update the database without getting rid of anything:

I pop over to the View Jobs button and see the jobs that have been submitted through Cube Designer.  Again, the web ui provides more information.  I expect this function to improve in Cube Designer quite quickly or at least I fervently hope so.

Did it work?  The Job Console says yes.

As does the web ui:

Load Data

Load data with or without a load rule.  Said load rule, btw, is created on initial load into the database.  It can be modified web ui.  Again, more on that in a later post.



This both creates a new sheet for ad hoc querying as well as predefined query sheets used for data validation.

Transform Data

Load tabular data to Essbase without load rules, dimension definitions (sort of as they’re in the column headers), etc.  For the umpteenth time, more later, but not now.  

Admin Tasks

Delete an app or database.

Cube Designer Server

I’ve been hiding connection information all along for OPSEC purposes.  Here’s a redacted view of my connection.

Cube Designer in a nutshell

Putting aside the incompleteness of this review and the rush job (I only learnt of this blog hop on Wednesday which was a day ago), I think the promise and power of Cube Designer is evident.

Is it perfect?  Nope.  There are things like syntax checking, less wonky connections of Cube Designer’s Cube Designer (how can it be so hard?), and inconsistent to the web ui application extracts that I really wish Oracle had fixed before shipping.

However, I’ve also been wishing that Oracle would release Esbsase Cloud and they have.  We have in our metaphorical hands a 1.0 release.  Be patient (not the easiest thing in the world for me) and it will get better.

As will the rest of Essbase Cloud

The product is in its early days.  More people will kick the tires, more customers will buy it, inevitably more bugs will be found, more “Can it do X” enhancement requests will follow, more buzz about the tool at the various conferences and in blogs and in the Twittersphere will follow.

Despite its imperfections, I’m a huge fan of the product.  The future of computing is cloud.  Essbase simply must be in that space.  It now is.

Be seeing you.


Bryan said...

OK, I'll say it. This all has the feeling of 1994 when I was building cubes in Keenan Acumate with Excel and csv files. Back to the future?

Instead of re-inventing the wheel, wouldn't it have been easier to port an EAS instance to the cloud then allow the "fat" EAS client to access it? That would also provide a great gateway for SmartView interactions, Maxl, etc... but noooooo, Oracle has to reinvent the wheel. (again)

Cubes "on demand"? Right, we've heard that one before but what client would want to do that. What about integration with non-Oracle datasources (SQL server, SAP anyone?). I'm assuming partitioning options are down the road as well or do we scale now via "brute force" (turning up the "cloud power" dial)?

Future post maybe about DRM? I see a lot of manual process here but where's the automation piece?

If in a future blog post, apologies for jumping ahead. On to the next step in the blog stream!


Unknown said...

One last comment (I promise--I trust you won't publish all three). My co-worker says you should re-try the Academy link for the docs now that our doc library is "live." I think people who have not purchased the product can still view the docs here: http://docs.oracle.com/cloud/latest/analytics-cloud/analytics-cloud-docs.html. Thanks!

Omar Shubeilat said...

Awesome, thanks Cameron!