Monthly Archives: July 2013

Using Oracle Essbase for Aggregate Persistence within Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE)

July 24, 2013

The purpose of this article is to not only to describe Aggregate Persistence functionality in general, but also to introduce the idea of using Essbase as an aggregate persistence source.

Before embarking on using Essbase as a source for Aggregate Persistence functionality, I highly recommend that you familiarize yourself with the general process by reading the documentation, which can be found in the Fusion Middleware Metadata Repository Builder’s Guide for Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition 11g (in Chapter 13, “Creating and Persisting Aggregates for Oracle BI Server Queries”).

The Aggregate Persistence general process includes running a wizard in the OBIEE Administration tool that generates a script that you can execute in the command line to generate a persisted store of aggregate information. Oracle recommends that you use such tools as Usage Tracking to understand user query behavior before creating these. If you are a practitioner of data warehousing techniques, there is a very good chance you have created a few aggregate tables in your data mart already. Also, if you are working from good requirements, you will already understand the reporting themes in your data.

In addition to being able to create and persist aggregate database sources, OBIEE can now do the equivalent with Essbase. You follow the same process as Aggregate Persistence, but select an Essbase connection pool that you setup versus a database. A script is then generated that you execute in the command line, and behind the scenes OBIEE will communicate with the Essbase Server and build your cube. What you may find frustrating is that the cube will only be representing one aspect of dimensionality along with your fact, and in that sense, this really is a major underutilization of Essbase itself. You would need to run the Aggregate Persistence utility several times to build out a multi-dimensional cube, and honestly I’m not sure it’s worth it.

As far as I’m concerned, the real value-add is setting up OBIEE to dynamically switch to use an aggregate source based on the user’s query definition. You will find this in the instructions for Aggregate Persistence, but the concept is very universal. You could manually create or leverage an existing Essbase cube to achieve the same results. While there have been many articles on federating Essbase, there has not been a great deal of attention paid to the idea of using Essbase in OBIEE as an aggregate source in combination with a database source, specifically for performance gains.

In general aggregates are sorely overlooked in data warehousing and can offer exponential gains in query performance especially in combination of using a tool like OBIEE to dynamically and intelligently toggle between those sources based on user behavior.

Author: John McGale, Performance Architects


© Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog, 2006 - present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog's author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What to Like in the New Oracle Exalytics X3-4

July 17, 2013

If you missed it, Oracle recently launched a revised Exalytics In-Memory Machine, versioned X3-4. This is a version to get excited about! “What’s the big deal,” you ask?

To recap, the X2 version was powered by four Intel Xeon E7-4800 series, providing a total of 40 cores, 1 TB of primary memory (also known as RAM), and 3.6 TB of hard disk space comprised of 6 SAS-2 600 GB 10,000 RPM drives. To allow all that data to move in and out of this beast quickly, Oracle threw in two 40 GB/s InfiniBand ports, four 10/100/1000 Base-T, and two 10 Gbps Ethernet ports. The InfiniBand ports allowed for a very high-speed channel for moving data between an Exalytics machine and an Exadata supporting machine (if available), allowing for scalability.

All of this hardware powered Oracle’s Business Intelligence Foundation Suite (BIF) of BI tools which was enhanced to take advantage of the large memory and disk capacity, as well as making the best of all those cores. Additionally, an Oracle TimesTen In-Memory Database instance provided a high-speed in-memory cache to facilitate analysis to go with the Oracle Essbase multi-dimensional database that comes with the BIF suite.

While these specifications are nothing to sneeze at, to keep pace with and ahead of the growing needs of its customers, Oracle decided it was time to up their game. The 64 sticks of 16 GB DDR3 RAM that powered X2-4 have been replaced with 64 sticks of 32 GB equivalents to provide a total capacity of 2 TB of RAM. This effectively doubles the capacity to run in-memory caches to speed up data retrieval. To provide a further boost, there are now six 400 GB PCIe-based Flash drives that provide 2.4 TB of high-speed disk space when you run out of all that primary memory. And those six SAS-2 magnetic disk drives? They have also gotten a size boost to 900 GB each, now providing a total of 5.4 TB of additional disk space.

Andy pic 3

On the software front, in addition to Oracle Business Intelligence Foundation Suite (BIF or BIFS) 11.1.1.7, Oracle Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) 11.1.2.3 is now certified for Exalytics. Yes, that means the latest version of Oracle EPM (Hyperion) is now officially integrated with Oracle BI. We covered this integration in an earlier blog post, “Oracle EPM (Hyperion) 11.1.2.3 and OBIEE 11.1.1.7 Integration Actually Works: Best in Class, Even Better Together.”

Oracle, however, did not get around to upgrading the processors on this machine. They still run the four Intel Xeon E7-4800 “Westmere-EX” (“EX” meaning “Extreme Edition”) series CPUs, with a total of 40 cores. While these are not under-powered by any yard-stick (SAP HANA “appliances” also run on similar cores), there are talks of switching to “Ivy Bridge-EX” based Xeon X7 in the fourth quarter. Such information ought to be taken with a grain of salt, as there has been no such announcement from Oracle, and Intel is expected to release the desktop-equivalents of these no earlier than September 2013. So for now, these chips are still among the best out there. Just what your applications need!

Author: Andy Tauro, Performance Architects


© Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog, 2006 - present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog's author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Limitations of Using Microsoft Active Directory as an Authentication Provider for OBIEE

July 1, 2013

Microsoft Active Directory (MSAD) is a popular choice as an Authentication Provider for the entire Oracle BI Foundation Suite (OBIEE) for a variety of reasons, including the fact that many companies use it for their network authentication system.

For those of you who are not familiar with how an authenticator is set up within BI Foundation Suite (BIF), here is a very brief summary. As you may already know, authentication is now brokered by WebLogic since the advent of OBIEE 11g (back in the old days, authentication was set up and brokered by the BI Server by doing what was call “Init Block Authentication”).

In OBIEE 11g, you log into the WebLogic administration console and set up a new “Provider,” specifically an Authentication provider, and then choose MSAD as the specific provider. Once this is done, you will need to enter all your specific Active Directory information such as the host name, the service account you’re using to access MSAD, and other specific parameters for filtering.
People often don’t understand that as OBIEE adds more and more capabilities, we OBIEE professionals have to become near-experts in these other tools as well such as WebLogic, Mapviewer, Essbase, etc. Therefore, I highly recommend that you buy an online book on MSAD and become especially familiar with writing queries in MSAD.

Just recently I was asked to troubleshoot a major production issue at a client site. Some of the major symptoms were stuck threads, slow login, and hung sessions. What was more interesting was that some users were perfectly fine, and others were in tough shape. Having gone through the MSAD configuration so many times, I knew right away the problem was with the MSAD Authentication Provider in WebLogic.

As it turned out, the culprit was a couple of MSAD servers in the cluster that were decommissioned over a maintenance weekend. It took a lot of work to trace this back, but the important lesson here was that the problem was 100% Active Directory. There were some good lessons learned that I would like to share:

First, ask your MSAD administrator what the “Size Limit” and “Page Size” is. Even up to OBIEE Version 11.1.1.7.1, there is a bug where OBIEE can only read users and groups from MSAD up to the Page Size limit. I raised this issue in an Oracle SR ticket with one particular client, and Oracle Support’s recommendation was to remove the limit from Active Directory. I’m not kidding!

The only way to work around this is to specifically set a filter in the User Filter field on the Provider Specific tab in the MSAD Weblogic Authenticator. Have your MSAD administrator write you something that only returns real OBIEE users. Also do the same thing for group filtering. More information is available here: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms180880(v=vs.80).aspx.

Next, ask your MSAD administrator how many levels deep your OBIEE groups are nested. You will need this to set a proper search depth in the MSAD WebLogic provider settings. Again, look on the Provider tab and you will see the search depth setting there. If you do not set the appropriate depth, there will be some users and groups that will never be found.

Finally, ask your MSAD administrator if you should use sAMAccountName. In many cases, this is the safest bet, but you should always check. Important note: sAMAccountName happens to hold not only user names, but also rooms, printers, etc. Remember, not just users are setup in MSAD! If you use sAMAccountName, you should make sure you filter your data to get humans!

Author: John McGale, Performance Architects


© Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog, 2006 - present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog's author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.