Tag Archives: Hyperion Smart View

Rittman Mead / ODTUG India BI Masterclass Tour Roundup

Over the past week Venkat, myself and the Rittman Mead India team have been running a series of BI Masterclasses at locations in India, in conjunction with ODTUG, the Oracle Development Tools User Group. Starting off in Bangalore, then traveling to Hyderabad and Mumbai, we presented on topics ranging from OBIEE through Exalytics through to EPM Suite and BI Applications, and with networking events at the end of each day.


Around 50 attended at Bangalore, 30 in Hyderbad and 40 in Mumbai, at at the last event we were joined by Harsh Bhogle from the local Oracle office, who presented on Oracle’s high-level strategy around business analytics. Thanks to everyone who attended, thanks to ODTUG for sponsoring the networking events, and thanks especially to Vijay and Pavan from Rittman Mead India who organised everything behind the scenes. If you’re interested, here’s a Flickr set of photos from all three events (plus a few at the start where I visited our offices in Bangalore.)

For anyone who couldn’t attend the events, or if you were there and you’d like copies of the slides, the links below are for the PDF versions of the sessions we presented at various points over the week.

So I’m writing this in my hotel room in Mumbai on Sunday morning, waiting for the airport transfer and then flying back to the UK around lunchtime. It’s been a great week but my only regret was missing the UKOUG Apps’13 conference last week, where I was also supposed to be speaking but managed to double-book myself with the event in India.

In the end, Mike Vickers from Rittman Mead in the UK gamely took my place and presented my session, which was put together as a joint effort with Minesh Patel, another of the team in the UK and one of our BI Apps specialists. Entitled “Oracle BI Apps – Giving the Users the Reports they *Really* Want”, it’s a presentation around the common front-end customisations that we typically carry out for customers who want to move beyond the standard, generic dashboards and reports provided by the BI Apps, and again if you missed the session or you’d like to see the slides, they’re linked-to below:

That’s it for now – and I’ll definitely be at Tech’13 in a few weeks’ time, if only because I’ve just realised I’m delivering the BI Masterclass sessions on the Sunday, including a session on OBIEE/ODI and Hadoop integration - I’ve been saying to myself I’d like to get these two tools working with Impala as an alternative to Hive, so that gives me something to start looking at on the flight back later today.

SmartView as the Replacement for BI Office with OBIEE

Apart from system-wide improvements to Essbase integration across OBIEE, the other Essbase-related improvement that came with this latest release was the (re-)introduction of SmartView as the replacement for Oracle BI Add-in for Microsoft Office (“BI Office”), OBIEE’s previous MS Office solution. As a reminder, BI Office appeared with OBIEE back in 2007/8 and supported integration with Microsoft Excel and Powerpoint, allowing you to download analysis views from the BI Catalog and then view them within Excel and Powerpoint. 


What you couldn’t do with BI Office though was use it to create new analyses, or upload what you’d created back to the BI Catalog. There was also no integration with Microsoft Word or Outlook, which meant it was a feature meant more for viewing and copying analyses into Excel and Powerpoint rather than as a “first class” report authoring environment.

Then when OBIEE was released, a number of EPM Suite products were integrated with OBIEE, including Workspace (now resurrected with OBIEE, SmartSpace (where did that go?) and SmartView, the long-term replacement for Essbase’s somewhat minimalist Excel Add-in. This was all good stuff except that, in terms of OBIEE support, this version of SmartView was essentially unusable, rendering OBIEE data in an Essbase-like way that made little sense for an OBIEE user.


“The UI takes a bit of getting used to” was my comment at the time, which in retrospect was a bit of an understatement and this version of SmartView had little to no take-up within the OBIEE world, with BI Office carrying on until now as the only viable MS Office integration approach. Now though, the new improved version of SmartView is with us, so how well does it work with OBIEE data?

SmartView can be download from the BI Presentation Services homepage, but note that this is the 32-bit version and you’ll need to go to My Oracle Support for the 64-bit version, available using patch ID 16238382 (at the time of writing, for SmartView version Once its installed, select SmartView > Options > Advanced and enter your general EPM Suite Smartview Provider Services URL into the Shared Connections URL setting (in the format http://[machine_name:port}/workspace/SmartViewProviders), like this:

Sshot 5

This setting only covers SmartView connecting to Essbase and Financial Reporting, so to connect to OBIEE's Presentation Services Catalog you'll need to create what's called a Private Connection (or define a shared connection for OBIEE within an XML file, as detailed in the SmartView docs), by pressing the Panel button in the menu ribbon, selecting Private Connections from the Smart View menu, then clicking on the Create new connection button.


Then, when prompted for the SmartView connection type, select Oracle BI EE, then type in the OBIEE SmartView URL in the format http://[machine_name:port]/analytics/jbips, and press Finish to complete this part of the process.


Then, when prompted enter the username and password for your OBIEE system, and then save the connection as a private connection to your workstation.


Now you should be able to browse the BI Catalog and select a SmartView report, for example, to view within Excel.


Or you can select any view from a regular analysis, and add that to Excel just as you did with BI Office.

Sshot 14

More importantly though, the View Designer feature allows you to create a new report from scratch, selecting from any subject area in the BI Catalog and creating a report from right within Excel.

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This report can then be manipulated either as an Excel pivot table (pictured below) or an OBIEE pivot table, giving you an OBIEE-within-Excel experience far more intuitive and usable than the earlier incarnation of SmartView.

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Additional calculated fields can be added, in what is arguably a more obvious way than you’d do so in the Analysis Editor…

Sshot 17… and charts can be developed as well, using a similar set of of chart types to the ones provided by the Analysis Editor.

Sshot 18

Then, once you’re done, you can either save the Excel (or Word, or Powerpoint, or whatever) document to your workstation’s filesystem, or you can upload to the BI Presentation Catalog using the Publish View button…


… and then – get this – open the report in the Analysis Editor, just like any other analysis in the catalog. Impressive stuff (although the calculation defined in Excel didn’t make it through to OBIEE, and the upload feature only seems to bring a single view at a time, but this is version 1.0)


There’s tons more to Smartview and in reality, presumably some of the new OBIEE stuff won’t work properly in this first release, but it’s a huge improvement over the old OBIEE MS Office plug-in, and it’s also useful being able to use the same MS Office plugin for all Oracle’s BI & EPM tools, with full 32 and 64-bit support for all the modern MS Office versions.

Essbase and EPM Integration Improvements in OBIEE

One of the major new feature areas in OBIEE, but which has so far got very little attention, is the significant improvement in integration between Essbase, the Hyperion EPM Suite, and OBIEE 11g. The integration between EPM Workspace and OBIEE’s Presentation Services which disappeared when 11g came along is now back, along with installation and security integration, a new version of SmartView that (properly) supports OBIEE as a data source, and the ability to spin-off aggregates from the RPD into Essbase ASO cubes.

Now some of these features of course made an appearance in the earlier, BP1 release, and integration between OBIEE 11g and EPM Suite has been happening on-and-off right back from the OBIEE 10g days, but where we’re at now with OBIEE is the delivery of a number of things that customers have long been asking for, including:

  • The ability to run OBIEE from within EPM Workspace, with single sign-on between the two
  • Shared security provisioning and organisation between Essbase and OBIEE, through application roles and policies
  • The ability to install Essbase and the other EPM tools into the same WebLogic domain as OBIEE, using a single installer
  • A proper Excel (and Word, Powerpoint, Outlook) add-in for OBIEE, with the ability to author reports as well as run existing Answers-authored ones

This is actually one of a number of new feature areas that came with that have had little publicity; as well as better Essbase integration, there’s actually now support for multi-tenancy in the RPD and catalog, Hadoop integration (which we covered in a blog post last week), the View Suggestion Engine, the inevitable changes to MUD, and quite a few others, some of which I’ll try and cover in the next few days and weeks, but for now let’s look at these new Essbase/EPM integration improvements, starting with installation of Essbase and its related tools into the OBIEE WebLogic domain.

As I mentioned back in my OBIEE New Features posting a few weeks ago, the OBIEE product installer now offers Essbase as an installation option alongside OBIEE, Real-Time Decisions (RTD) and BI Publisher. As with RTD, Essbase isn’t included in the base OBIEE+ license, but it is included in Oracle BI Foundation Suite, the product package that Oracle encourage new customers to take out an includes OBIEE, Scorecard & Strategy Management, Essbase and BI Mobile. Selecting Essbase during the install process installs it, and the other EPM Suite tools, in the same WebLogic domain as OBIEE, and you can see Essbase within Fusion Middleware Control as a product – separate from OBIEE – that you can manage and monitor.


Essbase Server, and Essbase Studio (the client/server tool used to design and build Essbase cubes) are also now controlled and monitored through OPMN, something that’s been a feature of EPM Suite for several releases now but which is, of course, new for OBIEE.

[oracle@obiee11117 ~]$ cd /home/oracle/obiee/instances/instance1/bin
[oracle@obiee11117 bin]$ ./opmnctl status

Processes in Instance: instance1
ias-component | process-type | pid | status
essbasestudio1 | EssbaseStudio | 12682 | Alive
essbaseserver1 | Essbase | 12685 | Alive
coreapplication_obiccs1 | OracleBIClusterCo~ | 12686 | Alive
coreapplication_obisch1 | OracleBIScheduler~ | 12687 | Alive
coreapplication_obijh1 | OracleBIJavaHostC~ | 12683 | Alive
coreapplication_obips1 | OracleBIPresentat~ | 12684 | Alive
coreapplication_obis1 | OracleBIServerCom~ | 12689 | Alive

[oracle@obiee11117 bin]$

So something that’s been an issue for EPM customers upgrading from OBIEE 10g to 11g was the removal, at the time, of the ability to integrate OBIEE’s Presentation Services within EPM Workspace, and the SSO link between the two products. Back with OBIEE there was an admittedly complicated but supported and working process to integrate the two products together, allowing EPM Workspace customers to “skin” OBIEE to look like Workspace and run the two products together, albeit with separate report catalogs, security models and so forth.


This, coupled with the removal of OBIEE’s Hyperion custom authenticator for the RPD left many EPM Suite customers upgrading to OBIEE 11g in the lurch, leading to workarounds such as this one that we put together recently for one of our customers. Well this integration (mostly…) is back with OBIEE, so let’s see what it does, and what functionality is still missing compared to OBIEE 10g.

First off, Essbase and EPM Suite as installed as part of an OBIEE installation isn’t quite the same as EPM Suite installed standalone; most importantly, Essbase in this OBIEE incarnation has a different security model than “standalone” EPM Suite, in that it uses the same system of application roles and policies that the Fusion Middleware 11g-centric OBIEE 11g does, rather than the Shared Services and groups that standalone EPM Suite does. Also, the OBIEE install installs just the following EPM Suite products:

  • Essbase Server, including Essbase Agent, Essbase Studio, Essbase Administration Services, Provider Services
  • Financial Reporting
  • Calculation Manager

Therefore you don’t get Planning, Web Analysis and so forth, and you can’t subsequently install them into the domain and Fusion Middleware Control afterwards – so think of Essbase and the EPM Suite tools in this context as an add-on and complement to OBIEE, not a full installation of EPM Suite in their own right. Moreover, the majority of Essbase administration tasks which for standalone EPM Suite installs are performed through MaxL, Shared Services and EAS are performed through Fusion Middleware Control, and Essbase high-availability and clustering works different within this context, for example. The standard product architecture diagram for OBIEE and Essbase combined within the release therefore gets updated, with a number of products added to the Java components, and System components part of the diagram, like this:


Now, when installed as part of OBIEE′s WebLogic domain, EPM Workspace is available at http://[machine_name:port]/workspace, and when you launch it you’re presented with a view into the BI Catalog, and menu options to administer the various EPM and BI tools from one place. 

Sshot 1

Within this catalog are both OBIEE objects such as analyses, dashboards and agents, and EPM objects such as Financial Reporting and SmartView reports.

Sshot 2

There are limits to this EPM/BI Catalog integration though – FR reports, for example, can only be opened using the File > Open dialog in EPM Workspace, with an error message showing if you just click on the report itself in the BI Catalog view within EPM Workspace. But SSO between Workspace and OBIEE seems to work (as in, you don’t need to re-enter your BI password when clicking on an analysis in the Workspace Catalog view) as both OBIEE and EPM are working off of the same Fusion Middleware security model, which (the lack of) explains why the feature disappeared for so long after OBIEE 11g was introduced.

Now that OBIEE and Essbase share the same security, the need for the old HSS Custom Authenticator has now gone away, though of course this will only be of use if a customer has moved their Essbase installation into the OBIEE domain, with standalone EPM Suite installations still needing the security workaround mentioned earlier in this article. There’s no upgrade path from standalone EPM Suite installations to this integrated arrangement, so most probably any users of Essbase within this new context will be installing it “net-new”, with the main objective being to enhance their existing BI setup rather than merging their separate BI and EPM platforms into one. 

As you’ve probably picked-up by now, much of this new integration ability is down to security harmonised across both Essbase and OBIEE, or more accurately Essbase now having an option to use Fusion Middleware 11g security rather than Hyperion Shared Services. So what does Essbase and FMW11g security look like in practice? Let’s head over to Fusion Middleware Control, in particular the Application Policies administration screen, to take a look.

Sshot 3

The big difference when Essbase runs as part of an Oracle BI domain is that authentication, and authorization for Essbase use Fusion MIddleware security rather than Shared Services or Native Essbase security. Although Essbase Administration Services ships with OBIEE, you should use Fusion Middleware Control to enable access to particular Essbase databases, and give permission to access tools such as Financial Reporting or Administration Services; the only security role for EAS and MaxL in this setup is to create the Essbase data and metadata filters; these filters are then assigned to users through FMW security resource permissions and application policies, which then are then granted to application roles and thereby to users.

Whilst this probably seems like an over-complicated nightmare to traditional Essbase users, it does have the major advantage that one set of application roles granted to users within a Fusion Middleware system can cover both OBIEE and Essbase permissions, and there’s no need to link to Shared Services or support Native Essbase security. We’ll cover the implications of this more in some future blog posts, but this is the enabling technology that makes the rest of this integration make sense.

With Essbase integrated into the OBIEE BI Domain, you can also now use Essbase as an aggregate persistence target, though this feature comes with the same (slightly strange) approach and limitations that we first encountered when it was first introduced with OBIEE BP1; although there’s not the same requirement for the Essbase server only to be used for aggregate persistence, you still have to name the Essbase database in a particular way, it’s ASO-only, and the Aggregate Persistence Wizard still creates a separate ASO database for each aggregation (similar to Oracle Database materialised views) rather than one single cube covering all aggregations. In practical terms – I’m not sure how much you’d use this vs. creating your own Essbase cube in Studio against the whole RPD business area – but it might be useful for OBIEE developers who otherwise don’t know Essbase.

So finally, the other major Essbase-related new feature in OBIEE is SmartView, the successor to Oracle BI Office. But that’s a topic in itself, so I’ll cover that this in the next posting.

EPM – Planning New Features

As mentioned in my previous post here, EPM has introduced a bevy of new features that customers have been asking for a while. Also, theoretically is the actual Fusion release as all components now use ADF UI natively. In today’s post we shall cover the new features introduced in Planning

UI Enhancements:

ADF branding is a lot more apparent with the release. For example, all forms now use the native ADF based prompts, POVs and selectors. Also, the UI has been enhanced to give “Concertina” style menus so that it is easier to access related & relevant objects




Adhoc Grids use more of ADF features like swapping columns from rows to columns, pages to columns etc. Adhoc grids are more like BI EE 11g in UI.


Cell Data History:

This is one feature that planners and people who are part of the approval chain will really like i.e. showcase who has modified what data. Generally when plans are submitted for approval, the approver has to go through all the cells and find out what has changed manually. But with this feature its a lot easier to find out who has modified what cells. This can result in faster approvals and reduced effort spent.

For this to work Auditing at Cell Data level needs to be turned on.



Charts in Planning Forms:

Another key feature is in the ability to display the forms as charts in a Composite form. This way planners can immediately visualize the change in data.


More important drills are available on graphs as well – Now we need this capability in BI EE i.e. here the drills are all native Essbase drills (unlike in BI EE where we have to go through the RPD).


Grid Diagnostics:

Another significant new feature is the ability to find out poorly performing/designed forms by using the Grid Diagnostics feature. This will let us know the page load times, number of row retrieved, suppressed etc. Pretty handy tool especially for Administrators



Substitution Variables Management from Planning:

Another excellent & long-pending feature is the ability to manage & update the substitution variables used per plan type directly from Planning App. There is no more dependency on Essbase/EAS (of course they still reside there but no need to create there first in EAS) to create the variables


Predictive Planning & Crystal Ball:

Another very interesting new feature is the ability to predict future plan values using Crystal Ball (or called as Predictive Planning now). It is natively integrated into Smart View. By just clicking on a cell within a form, one can start predicting what will be the plan values. Crystal Ball provides a comprehensive set of statistics as well while providing a recommended value (on what basis the recommendation was done).





In addition there are other small enhancements like Group Based Approvals, Rolling Forecasts (Setup at form level), Multiple cell document attachments, De-support of Business rules etc. Also, from an architecture standpoint we can now have multiple Planning Managed Servers in a cluster thereby making it truly Highly Available. In the next post, we shall see the new features in HFM

Hyperion Planning – New Smart view OracleSV protocol – Integration into smart view and other desktop applications – Part 1

In the last few blog entries, i have been covering some of the new features of the EPM 11 release. Continuing on the same line, lets look at another new feature that was introduced for integrating smart view with Hyperion Planning. The most common way of integrating multiple web based applications/reporting tools is by passing parameters through the url. These parameters can be passed either using the get or the post methods and most applications support both the methods. I have covered URL based integration between Hyperion Financial Reporting and Oracle BI EE here and here. But if you are a Hyperion planning user then the most common requirement is to open up the smart view automatically from within the Hyperion Planning. Not only should the smart view open up automatically, it should automatically login using SSO and also should open up the form for editing purposes. In the same way, one might want to integrate Smart view with BI EE and other applications as well. In order to achieve that a new protocol called OracleSV protocol has been introduced in the EPM 11 release(i believe the integration was there to an extent in 9.3 release. But the protocol was introduced in EPM 11 for the SSO integration).

So what is OracleSV protocol. It is a protocol which is similar to the mailto protocol. For example, in most cases we might have a requirement to open up a local email client with a given email address. In such cases, we would be using mailto: venkat@rittmanmead.com in the url bar of the browser(or in any html code).


This will automatically open up the local email client. Along similar lines, one can use the oraclesv protocol to open the Smartview excel client directly from the browser. The syntax for using this is

oraclesv: <parameter list>


This protocol implementation has been done at the EPM layer. One can find the code for this implementation in the {HYPERION_HOME}\products\Essbase\SmartView\Bin\chrome\content directory.


One of the important points to note is the fact that the same approach can be used to implement custom integration between EPM 11 products, BI EE etc with any desktop gadgets. In the older releases of various browsers like IE and Firefox, this was considered a security risk. But now with the latest releases, i believe this is no more an issue. Also, one has to be aware that this protocol is browser specific. In my case, it worked only for IE and Firefox. For firefox one would have to enable it from about:config screen. And also, one would have to ensure that the smartview client add-on is installed for firefox.

The other aspect of this protocol is the fact that it provides a SSO from Hyperion Planning to Smartview.


In the coming blog entries i would cover what parameters this protocol can take and how one can call this directly from BI EE.