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Oracle Analytics Cloud: Essbase and Many Other Interesting Things

A couple weeks ago, Oracle released Oracle Analytics Cloud (OAC). But there was already Oracle Cloud offerings for BI, mainly Business Intelligence Cloud Service (BICS) and Data Visualization Cloud Service (DVCS), so why is this new? And how is it different?

Simply, OAC doesn’t abolish its predecessor Cloud BI services, but it makes them more complete.

I would like to point out that OAC is listed as a Platform as a Service (PaaS). Even though it includes Essbase (and I will elaborate on that in a bit), it doesn’t follow suit as the other Oracle EPM products that made it to the Cloud in the form of Software as a Service (SaaS). This is because Essbase is an analytics engine, and in a similar way to how Oracle’s on-premises BI platform, OBIEE, has an Essbase engine tightly integrated within for BI purposes, so does its counterpart Cloud offering now. Essbase Cloud has actually been in the waiting for quite some time, and has finally made it, not as a standalone platform, but packaged with other Cloud services in the form of OAC.

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So what is OAC exactly?

OAC is offered in one of 2 packages:

  1. OAC Standard: This is adequate for departmental data visualization and analytics and includes the following services:
    – Data Visualization Cloud Service (DVCS)
    – Data Visualization Desktop (DVD)
    – Essbase Cloud Standard
  2. OAC Enterprise: This is more suitable for enterprise wide reporting, data visualization and business modeling where you have reporting data models across different functions (ERP, HR, Sales, Marketing, Service, etc.). OAC Enterprise includes all what you get with OAC Standard, plus the following:
    – Business Intelligence Cloud Service (BICS)
    – Essbase Cloud Enterprise
    – Day by Day Mobile App

Though I am¬†talking about Cloud services here, that doesn’t mean there are no pre-requisites. These packages require a database layer and the infrastructure layer to be available. And yes, these require their own licenses if you don’t already have some. I am tempted to talk about sizing and the pricing model for OAC, but I will leave that for another blog and keep this post focused on the exciting new things that OAC offers.

Here is what’s new:

  • DVCS
    Until now there has been quite some differences between the desktop version of Oracle Data Visualization (DVD) and the Cloud version (DVCS). The DVD features that were missing from DVCS are now available with OAC. Some of these are:
    – Advanced analytics functions such as Clustering, Outlier Detection and Forecasting.
    – Data source adapters for loading data from various sources (such as Salesforce, Oracle Service Cloud, Amazon Redshift, IBM Informix, MongoDB, PostgreSQL, Sybase, and Big Data technologies like Greenplum, Hive & Impala, etc.)
    – Adapter to connect directly to Essbase Cloud Service (EssCS) cubes or Essbase on-prem cubes.
    – Data Flows: Think of these as ETL-like mappings from one or more sources into target structures that are optimized for reporting. So Data Flows can include joins between multiple source tables/files, filters and aggregations. I think Data Flows offer business users the power to do things that were limited to IT. I am looking forward to one day seeing Data Flows support more advanced capabilities for AI and ML so we can do all that without leaving the browser.
    – Visual Summary of Data: This is a canvas that is automatically generated to visualize data and allows quick identifications of anomalies. It’s a similar method to what is typically done when dealing with Big Data Visualization.
  • Day by Day mobile app:
    When it comes to Oracle BI on mobile, there are already different options: Oracle BI HD App for dashboards and offline viewing, Synopsis App for direct analytics on spreadsheets, and mobile browser against DVCS. Day by Day, however, is a mobile app that includes features not available in any of the other apps. The Day by Day app integrates with BICS and learns based on your usage patterns. For instance, it provides analytics in context specific to your contacts or based on your location. For example, if you are managing store operations and enter one of the stores, Day by Day shows analytics specific to that store. It also has speech recognition so you can ask simple questions to get answers. Information can also be pushed out to your phone as alerts.
  • More administrative control and server access: With BICS and DVCS services, Oracle really had to control all what happens on the servers of these services. With OAC, subscribers are granted more access. So a subscriber to OAC can choose when to apply updates and patches. You can also monitor the services and reallocate server resources, for example, by beefing up resources for Essbase and reducing system resources for DVCS, depending on your own user needs. SSH connection to modify config files is also possible. In addition, the resources allocated to your servers are elastic in that you may choose to increase CPU/RAM resources available to your users temporarily if you will be requiring more power during month end processes for example. And you get charged additional, only for the hours/months were you go over the pre-planned capacity allocated to your OAC.
  • Essbase Cloud: While the new Cloud Essbase seems a little different from the on-premises Essbase, it is a step in the right direction in that it has become easier to create and manage Essbase cubes. With the Cube Designer Excel add-in (in addition to SmartView), and OAC Excel Workbook templates, users can create cubes faster now. There is no need to go through the multi-step process of separately creating an application, cube, and load rules. The Excel template contains everything including data. So while SmartView allows reporting on cubes, the Cube Designer add-in allows creating and maintaining Cloud cubes. In addition to defining cubes in Excel, OAC also has a browser UI to do that without Excel. Another nice feature is to quickly create a cube out of a data sheet. Essbase Cloud automatically defines the cube dimensions and other metadata based on a data file and loads the data into the cube.
    Migrating on-premises cubes to Essbase Cloud is possible with an export utility that generates a populated Excel cube definition template that you can then import into Essbase Cloud as a cube. There is also a utility to export on-prem calc scripts to be used with Essbase Cloud.
    That being said, Essbase Cloud still has some missing capabilities if you compare it to Essbase on-prem. It doesn’t have EAS for example as cube creation and management now follow new techniques. Moreover, load rules cannot be explicitly defined in a UI. The load rules are setup based on how you define the cube, in the Excel template for instance. In addition, loading data is only possible from flat files, and SQL connectivity to databases is not currently available with this initial release of OAC.
  • Support for VPN Security: Prior to OAC, BICS supported a hybrid Cloud BI platform against on-premises databases. However, that required Remote Data Connector (RDC) to be configured with an on-premises WebLogic server and was limited to Oracle, SQL Server and Terradata. OAC, however, offers another approach, in addition to RDC, which is by configuring access from your OAC to your network via VPN configuration. This is a great improvement that facilitates the implementation of hybrid architectures that require direct connectivity to on-premises data sources.

OAC has a very different pricing model from BICS and DVCS in that it is processor-based, not user-based. Basically you get unlimited users, but of course you want to keep an eye on usage and concurrency so you don’t overload the system. In my next post, I will explain how the different packages are licensed and what is required to be ready with OAC.

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Mazen Manasseh, Director of Business Analytics

Mazen is a Director of Business Analytics at Perficient and an accomplished professional services leader with 20 years of being a customer advocate. An analytics solutions delivery expert in functional domains covering Supply Chain, Financials, HCM, Projects and Customer Experience. Being a thought leader in the business analytics space, he conducted numerous business training sessions and spoke at technology conferences around analytics and machine learning.

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