Examining the ongoing challenges of delivering high-quality, value-added ERP services in Higher Education.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Oracle VirtualBox and OBIEE

Where have you been my whole life, Oracle VM VirtualBox and the OBIEE image? Lurking in plain sight, probably advertised on Oracle corporate and partner Twitter posts just outside the latest 50 each time I pulled out my iPhone between meetings, in elevators, or waiting on line at SBUX. We went through so much trouble configuring a demo machine (with Windows Server 64-bit… ouch) when all we needed to do was hook up to a fat pipe, download you, and turn the key to start.

I learned about the VirtualBox Image last week at #OOW11 in San Francisco, in a throw-away comment from the product manager for OBI Scorecards and Strategy. Flew home and checked the specs – 4 GB RAM? I’ve got that on my home laptop. Fat pipe, not so much. It took nearly 12 hours to download the install packages from ftp.oracle.com but only another hour to get OBIEE up and running.

Other than 4 GB of RAM, what does one need for this install? 7zip (http://www.7-zip.org/) and an FTP client (FileZilla - http://filezilla-project.org/). And Oracle VirtualBox, which you can download from here: http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/server-storage/virtualbox/downloads/index.html

The real heavy lifting (for you network, anyhow) comes with the SampleApp V107 Image. As you can see at this link the download is roughly 25GB. This took forever over my slow Wifi on my slow at-home Comcast connection. The installation guide steps through all the (rather straight-forward) installation steps from that point forward; it also contains all the passwords one needs to get the party started.

Once connected, the “General Index” provides a learning map – literally hundreds of dashboard pages devoted to individual concepts and terminology in OBIEE. For example, dig into Section 0.2 to learn about the security set-up in the Sample App as well as key features in OBIEE such as the “Act As” proxy option. Or navigate to 3.20 to see various options for formatting your Answers reports. Or visit 8.7 to see how OBIEE allows fidelity of interactivity between both relational and flat-file data sources. After traipsing through each dashboard and drilling down to “Edit” with the objective of sorting out the underlying configuration, the power and flexibility of the technology become obvious—and far more tangible than literature, conference presentations, or canned demos.

More later this week after my hands are a little dirtier…

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

OOW Day Two

New words / phrases that have entered my vocabulary this week so far:

  • Hadoop
  • Exadata
  • Exalogic
  • Exalytics
  • InfiniBand
  • NoSQL
  • Big Data
  • Parallel Everything (vs congruent term Share Nothing)

The day started with keynote address from EMC and Oracle. Interesting session because EMC pitched their hardware solution, including the option of end-user self-service server provisioning, and then Oracle basically said "you don't need those guys [EMC] if you buy our engineered solutions."

No matter what session I attended -- EBS Roadmap, EBS Financials Vision and Strategy, Higher Education Solutions Roadmap, or BI Strategy -- at least 15 minutes was spent on the power and speed of buying packaged HW/SW components from Oracle. This Exa-thing is clearly the focus of this conference, and making applications people talk cores and DRAM seems to be the prime mission. I am a little fatigued.

That said, the conversations about "unstructured data" and Big Data are pretty interesting. EMC demoed a dummy auto insurance app that crunched social media data as an input into pricing -- lots of pictures of drinking on FB and your premium could go up. The technology on display was intellectually compelling; the Big Brother possibilities less so. In our world of admin computing, we generally have the luxury of well-structured data, but the potential tools out there today -- Hadoop is open-source but Oracle is packaging a version -- could have important applications in the academic and research computing arenas.

I wish I could say I learned some things at the EBS and Higher Ed roadmap discussions, but not much has changed since OAUG and HEUG in the spring. 12.2 is "not imminent" and they strongly recommend upgrading soon... PeopleSoft remains the strategic platform for higher ed... Essbase will be the reporting platform for Oracle Fusion GL... Buy Exadata.

The most interesting session of the day was surprising -- who would have suspected that two geeks from the development organization would do the best job so far explaining how all the Exa stuff fits together?

I spent a little quality time on the vendor floor. There was an actual sumo wrestler in diaper, but I didn't get a photo with him. I can't believe I'm going to say this, but the conference doesn't give enough dedicated time for the vendor exhibit hall. Or lunch. Looking forward to Day Three.

Monday, October 3, 2011

OOW Day One

Sunday is for SIGs – Special Interest Groups oriented around geographic regions, products, or business processes. These groups, associated with the Oracle Applications User Group (OAUG), typically meet twice each year – at OAUG Collaborate and Open World. In between, most of the SIGs have e-mail discussion boards, educational webinars, etc. For more info start here: OAUG SIGs

SIGs are a great way to meet people and hear from Oracle. Unfortunately, they’re also held on Sunday before the conference has officially kicked off, so they can be a little sparse. Yesterday, I missed the Upgrade (R12) SIG and E-Business Suite SIG but made it to the Moscone Center in time for the Hyperion SIG. In that session, I learned that Oracle would be announcing later that evening the release of “Exalytics” – an optimized “parallel-everything” pre-built server for analytics, with Essbase at the core. I knew that a major focus for this conference was going to be the Exadata (purpose-built appliance for Oracle Database) and Exalogic (purpose-built appliance for Oracle Middleware) but this was interesting news indeed. Unfortunately, I would have rather found out the release date for the next major Hyperion EPM version, but was told merely “2012” which is not particularly helpful.

The Higher Education User Group (HEUG) is an unusual SIG in that rather than focusing on geography or technology, the HEUG focuses on an industry. We have long been involved in the HEUG, with two current members (Ryan and Tom) of Product Advisory Groups (PAGs) that interface directly with Oracle development to lobby for higher education interests. There was a strong turn-out (at least 50) for this session and they held a reception immediately afterwards at a nearby restaurant to allow for more networking time. Since we use a small piece of pretty much every Oracle product except JDE, we have a little something in common with everyone there. The most interesting dialogue I had was with Lone Star College, which implemented 44 modules (!) of PeopleSoft Enterprise and Campus Solutions in 18 months, with a total of 40 (!!!) customizations platform-wide. Ouch. Makes me feel just a little better about our current slate of upgrade projects…

After rubbing elbows and trading business cards for an hour, we returned to the Moscone Center for the main event – Larry Ellison’s keynote speech. It was a strange one. The San Francisco Giants gave Mr. Ellison a world series ring for his years of support. Partner and CIO of-the-year awards were presented. And then Mr. Ellison began his presentation. For one hour, he talked about hardware. Data compression. Infiniband. DRAM. Parallel everything. Lots of math. Some talk of customer case studies, with the final punchline each time the performance gains. 60x, 18x, 23x, 40x. All very impressive, but a little boring for those of us with application software on the mind. Exalytics was announced with ten minutes to go, and Ellison showed some ugly stats that looked eerily like our own Hyperion Planning performance, and then what would happen if we had Exalyctics. Very exciting, though all talk of pricing was omitted from the slides…

I hope to learn enough this week about Exa- this and Exa- that to put a more layman’s definition together, but my head is spinning far too fast. Off to see Exalytics in action at the 8am keynote; will report back tomorrow!

Labels: , ,

Sunday, October 2, 2011

T-Minus-One to OOW

First things, first: this blog has very little project management or enterprise systems. But I'm on the road for work, so I’ll be using that fact as an excuse to blog some more esoteric thoughts.

Let us start with Virgin America. Never mind that I was fortunate enough to snag one of two rows on the whole plane with an empty middle seat... Or that I devoured the final book in The Hunger Games (start to finish, no joke) and Episode 2 from Season 1 of "Luther" (which might be my new favorite show). Or that you can borrow a Google Chrome netbook for the flight (if so inclined; I wasn’t). Instead, let's talk price (<$350 RT BOS-SFO) and leg room (ample) and overhead space (not an issue) and entertainment system (back of every seat) and that in-flight food and beverage order system (service for snacks -twice- less than 5 min!) I have a new favorite airline. Sorry, AA…

San Francisco is beautiful, but more crowded that I remember. I bought a 7-day Muni pass, thinking it would prove profitable if I could avoid two taxi trips my whole time here. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of trekking thru Chinatown on market day (I have never seen so many Yu Choy greens on a city bus) and don't get me started on the disaster of trying to take the cable car back across town.

Posted to Facebook that I will never complain about the Boston MBTA again after today’s ordeal. The first decision on where to spend my afternoon came from an unexpected rationale -- I left my collar stays at home, and with a presentation ahead of me, a trip to Thomas Pink was in order. I bought the collar "bones" for $25; wish I could afford the shirts... Is there an outlet somewhere? The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) was right around the corner from Pink (and the Moscone Center—see below). I hadn't done my research and literally had no idea what to expect. Although I have a quarrel with some modern art no matter the venue, I was overwhelmingly pleased. I can never see too many exhibits of photography in Paris, and I thoroughly enjoyed the special exhibit of furniture and electronics designed by Dieter Rams (from Braun). His ten design principles are worthy advice for any IT professional. The current rotation from the permanent collection was solid, too; I especially liked a triptych of Lichtenstein paintings that emulated Monet’s Rouen Cathedral series.

After touring the galleries and sipping an Anchor Steam at the café, I walked two blocks to the Moscone Center. 2 minutes to get my badge, and nearly 5 to secure the NASCAR-like sponsor-emblazoned messenger bag and other materials. I will share my observations on the schedule and other materials in another blog tomorrow. Before leaving the convention center, I took advantage of the emptiness to marvel at Larry's boat. That thing is huge.

Near the hotel, a restaurant called Pescatore called out to me because the wicker chairs outside made me thing of Paris (even though Pescatore it is an Italian restaurant); I make a walk by reservation, hit the hotel for a quick refresh, and head back for a solid dinner of mixed greens w gorgonzola balsamic and a fantastic cod with potatoes, rapini, and caper butter. Their artisan Manhattan ain't half bad.

Which brings me to the lobby (free Internet) and the iPad, to blog meandering thoughts from the day. Have I mentioned lately how much I love this thing?