OOW BI Imp Panel Questions #1: Is Essbase Mandatory?
At this year’s Oracle Open World in San Francisco, I sat on a BI Implementation Panel with three other experienced Data Warehouse and BI experts. Stewart Bryson moderated the hour long session with Mark Rittman, Jon Mead and Kevin McGinley on a variety of topics. I wanted to use this post to discuss a few of the questions in more detail. Stewart threw some provocative, crowd pleasing questions out there, and phrased them in a very aggressive manner where a few of them quite frankly got me upset! But that’s all good – I know Stewart and he wanted an exciting panel!
Question #1: With the tighter integration of Essbase into the OBI11g stack, should Essbase be considered mandatory on OBIEE implementations?
Short answer: Useful on some? Yes. Mandatory? Not even close.
Long Answer: Like any implementation of any software project, the technology and techniques at your disposal come down to how well they meet your requirements. Does what you already have adequately meet those requirements? Then you don’t need a new tool or solution like Essbase.
What functionality does Essbase bring to the table? Its two key features are an ability to do MOLAP style analysis and performance that typically substantially exceeds traditional ROLAP queries generated by OBI. As for the first feature, OBI11g brings this functionality to Answers and Dashboards, effectively eliminating that as a sole reason to deploy Essabase. Note: This is a general statement, and as I haven’t used the feature yet I can’t assess how well it achieves this goal – I’m sure it’s nowhere near as powerful as the mature Essbase is.
The second is performance. You’ll need to first asses if your system can benefit from the type of performance it can bring to the table. Do you need the extra performance? How about the data sets you need to analyze? Do your queries and use cases demand Essbase like performance? For example, a more static reporting environment won’t realize any benefit. What other techniques/technologies are available to solve your performance needs? Is Essbase easier/faster/better? If the answer to any of these is no, then Essbase is not a good candidate.
Weigh the Costs and Priorities
I think technology guys tend to have a pie-in-the-sky attitude towards technology; I urge you to put a project manager’s hat on for a moment. Consider a more realistic assessment which includes the added effort required to bring an additional tool/layer into your deployments: additional design, development, QA, team skill sets, deployment and support needs all factor in. They all translate into additional budget, and judged against other priorities, that budget may be better spent elsewhere.
So let me summarize by saying that like any tool, Essbase’s benefits and costs should be matched to system needs and requirements, and weighed against other options, priorities, budgets and timelines. This is as true with Essbase as it is with Materialized views or a new aggregate table. Be careful of thinking every project is a nail looking to be hammererd by a particular technology or tool.