Why I created a blog

Its been four years since I first created this blog. It has remained true to Essbase and related information over those years. Hopefully it has answered questions and given you insight over those years. I will continue to provide my observations and comments on the ever changing world of EPM. Don't be surprised if the scope of the blog changes and brings in other Hyperion topics.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Book Review - Oracle Essbase & Oracle OLAP The guide to Oracle’s Multidimensional Solution

First my typical disclaimer.
1. I am an Essbase developer and know little about Oracle Olap
2. I work for interRel Consulting which has a competing book out on Essbase (Well not really as you will read)
3. I am a pessimist by nature.
4. I have irritable bowel syndrome (Not really, but it was a fun thing to say)

OK now with those thoughts in mind, on to the review.

Mid December I got a package in the mail. Oh Boy, another Chanukah gift and In a way it was. I opened the package to find my copy of the book “Oracle Essbase & Oracle OLAP The guide to Oracle’s Multidimensional Solution” that was promised to me for review. This book was written by Michael Schrader, Dan Vlamis, Mike Nadar, Dave Collins and a host of others. I will refer to them collectively in the review as the Authors. Being the holiday season, I sat down and quickly put the book aside to look at later. I have finally gotten around to reading it (I spend too much time on planes and this gave me a lot of reading time). I can say, this is a good, worthwhile book.

I am brutally honest in my reviews and hated the last book I read. This one is very good. I will say it is not the detailed walk you through everything you need to know book, but it a good overview. The discussions of similarities and differences between Oracle OLAP and Essbase are good. The book discusses Oracle Olap and Essbase compares the two and contrasts them pretty well. I don’t agree with everything the authors say, but we are entitled to differing opinions. I even learned a little about Oracle OLAP so they must have done something right.

First I will talk about the good, and there was a lot of good about this book.

The book is well thought out and put together. It flows in a logical and concise manner. The discussions are well thought out. Even if you know nothing about Oracle OLAP and Essbase, you would walk away with a general understanding of the products.

I liked the first couple of chapters which discussed OLAP in general, the strengths of each product, The product suites and more.

I really like the section on reporting. It walks through considerations when determining a reporting solution and is a must read for any reporting development project even if Essbase and/or Oracle OLAP are not part of the solution. It covers the basics of what one should consider when designing a reporting solution then delves into product specific solutions to meet those requirements. I thought interesting (and brave) for the authors to include non-Oracle solutions in the discussion. For example, For Essbase reporting and analysis, they discussed Dodeca from Applied Olap which I believe is one of the finest reporting tools available!

While I think the Authors cheated (See my rants below), I did like the approach for Essbase of showing how to build a cube using Essbase studio. This tool is the direction Oracle is heading for all administrative aspects of Essbase. While the chapter concentrates on Studio, The authors do tell you there are some things you still have to do in EAS and walk through some of them. I’m sure for a long while it will still be necessary to know EAS, knowing how to do things in Studio will help you a lot, especially if you plan to use OBIEE as a data source for Essbase cubes.

Unlike the last book I read, this book had no real misinformation. Remember I’m an Essbase developer, so if they lied to me about Oracle Olap, I would not know. For Essbase, I say no real misinformation because I don’t agree with a few things said. I would call them differences of option instead . The examples were good and easy to follow. The screen shots and illustrations were applicable and added value to the text.

Now for the bad about the book, (remember my disclaimer – point 3 to be exact). I find it easier to find fault and complain about things than I do to relate the good. For the record, I don’t think I can really call the items below bad just personal observations.

I think the authors cheated a little as pretty much two of the main chapters were lifted from existing work (at least a good percentage). The chapters that demo building Oracle OLAP and Essbase cubes are from existing documents. I know a good part of the Essbase demo build is taken from the “Dare to Olap” series and The Oracle OLAP references where the tables and additional documentation can be found. I would guess the Authors originally helped put these modules together so I don’t think there is anything wrong. I also think most of the readers of this book will never have seen these demos before so it is probably not a real bad thing.

The book was very redundant. I would read about something only to have parts repeated in the next paragraph or in the next chanpter. Did I say the book was redundant? well it is.

The third thing I did not like is the way the pigeonholed the products. IT supported implementations should use Oracle OLAP, User supported applications use Essbase. While in general (and historically) this might be true. I have seen a great many projects where The Essbase has been initiated and supported by IT ( I can’t speak for Oracle Olap, but would imagine that they would all be IT supported). Now that Essbase is owned by Oracle, IT has gained a respect for what Essbase can do and is embracing it. I think a better generalization would be “If all your data is in Oracle, use Oracle Olap, if you have multiple sources or need complex calculations use Essbase”. Of course if you want the additional functionality like Planning or write-back, use Essbase as well. Damn, I guess even my generalizations are bad as I can think of a number of exceptions to my statement.

Finally, this is a VERY dry read. Yes it provides all the information you need, but with my A.D.D., I really had to concentrate to get through it.


While I don’t think you could become a developer from just reading the book, I do believe it is a good read for an understanding of both products, their ancillary products and the various use cases for the products. I think after reading the book, you would still need a class on the
product(s) to be even somewhat proficient, but I don’t think the authors’ intent was to create a how to book. In order to do either product justice and cover the topics in detail would require a book that the airlines would charge me overweight fees on. I would suggest, reading this book as an overview and then if you are developing for Essbase read the Look Smarter than you are with Essbase 11 book to give you more details (I would make the same statement even if I did not work for interRel). I don’t have the knowledge to recommend an Oracle OLAP centric book as a follow up. Of course it would be even better to take a course to get the expertise of the instructors.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the authors for spending the time and energy to put together this book for us. I know the amount of energy, blood, sweat, tears, late nights, drunken fits and blood curdling screams that go into writing a book like this. This was a great job. I know I don't have the skill, time or patience to write a book like thig. To all the authors, Thank you from the OLAP community for sharing your expertise with us.

4 comments:

leo.josbe@gmail.com said...

Hey Glenn,

Let me thank you for your time and effort in reviewing all Hyperion Books.
I am seriously looking out for a book on Hyperion Planning Administration and too heard that there is a book on its way from Interrel which was planned to be on 2010.Is it so and if then please do give me the updates.

Thanks,
Leo Jose.

www.oracledba.in said...

i like this

Dan Vlamis said...

Glenn, it's been a while since you wrote this review, but I just ran across this with a Google search. Thanks so much for the review. As one of the authors, I really appreciate it. Take care!

Dan Vlamis

Dave Collins said...

Like Dan, I too just found this review and I'd like to thank you for what I think are very fair observations. And you are correct about the comparisons to Dare to OLAP and your hypothesis that we authored both. Mike Nader and I wrote D2O as a workshop to inform our newly adopted Oracle brethren about Essbase. That germ of an idea, certainly influenced the writing found in this book. I had the pleasure of writing the Essbase side of the first few chapters. I suppose I heard the echoes of D2O in my head whilst doing so. LoL

Cheers,
Dave Collins