All of the topics discussed here in this blog comes from my real life encounters. They serve as references for future research. All of the data, contents and information presented in my entries have been altered and edited to protect the confidentiality and privacy of the clients.

Various scenarios of designing RPD and data modeling

Find the easiest and most straightforward way of designing RPD and data models that are dynamic and robust

Countless examples of dashboard and report design cases

Making the dashboard truly interactive

The concept of Business Intelligence

The most important concept ever need to understand to implement any successful OBIEE projects

Making it easy for beginners and business users

The perfect place for beginners to learn and get educated with Oracle Business Intelligence

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

OBIEE11G: Basic Navigation On Presentation Service Interface


Last time I briefly went over some of the obvious difference between OBIEE 1OG and 11G in terms of working with the rpd using Admin Tool. This time let's take a general overview on what the front end presentation service looks like in 11G compare to what it used to be like in 10G.

For those who have quite a lot of experience with 10G but haven't had hands-on experience working with 11G, I hope this article will help you better relate the things you are already familiar in 10G to how it is now in 11G.

For the most parts, things aren't that different in 11G despite what it seems. However, there are many new features added in 11G and also there are changes being done. Whether we like it or not, it will take some getting used to. There are some changes in 11G that I don't quite like, but again, there is nothing we can do about but to get used to it. So let's start by taking a look at the initial UI upon logging in:

You see, I have divided the UI into 5 sections, each one is labelled with a letter. We will go over what each section does.

Section A: This section is named 'Create'. If you look closely, you will see a list of things underneath such as Analysis and Dashboard, Published Reporting, Actionable Intelligence, Performance Management and Marketing.

If you are familiar with 10G, you will know that in 11G they are calling 10G reports as 'Analysis' meanwhile BI Publisher Reports are called 'reports', Ibots are now 'Agents'. So this section is nothing but the place where you would start creating new objects. 11G allows us to create scorecards as a performance management measure, if you want to know how to do so, there is a good article out there that gives excellent details, you can find it here.

Section B: Although visually this section is the largest, it is nothing more than a display of what objects that have already been created and visited. In other words, this is the place for users to directly go back to the reports and analysis that they have recently created and visited.

Section C: Browse/Manage is where you can go in to search for the objects you want. It could be reports, analysis, scorecards, filters and so on. This is the closest to manage catalog that we used to do in 10G.

Section D: This is called 'get started' section. This is where you can find some of the documents with regard to 11G. So in other words, this is more of a resource place, we don't need it for any actual work in 11G.

Section E: This section is highlighted in Blue and labelled 'E' in red. This is the tool bar on upper right side of the UI screen. This section provides an easy and quick access to some of the places that Section A,B,C would take you too.

For Instance: clicking 'Catalog', it will take you to a list of objects under the webcatalog, similar to what Section C would take you too. Clicking 'Dashboards' will give you access to a list of dashboards that exist out there. Clicking 'New' allows you to create any new objects similar to Section A's functionality, clicking 'Open' is the same as what Section B is doing.

Now remember in 10G there is a place where we can do a list of administrative tasks such as monitoring queries, managing a list of object level security and so on? Here in 11G, this is accessed through 'Administration' in Section E. It will take you the similar UI that we are familiar with in 10G:

So now that you know where things are, let's move on from here. In 10G, we are so used to seeing a list of subject areas on the right pane and a list of saved reports and folders on the right side upon log in, but here it is different visually. So how do we get to the list of subject areas and start working?

Simple, just click on 'Analysis' either in Section A, or on the drop-down list under 'New' in Section E, then you will see a list of Subject areas like so:

Let's say I click on 'Financial - AP Transaction' subject area, it then takes us to the place where we are familiar with in 10G (well, maybe not the background color):

Notice a bottom that I have indicated in the screenshot? This is a new feature that allows us to add more subject areas on to our query list. So unlike in 10G, we are not limited to creating reports out of only 1 subject areas anymore. Pretty cool, isn't it?

Let's move on to checking out the dashboards by clicking 'Dashboard' in Section E and just pick one in the list:

Then we go to the dashboard page. Of course, you always see a bunch of errors in my dashboards :(

But guess what, it is still the same way as in 10G on how to access the dasboard content page via 'Edit Dashboard'

And here we are:

So, not bad at all. Although there are different dashboard objects that allows you to do different things with the dashboard, but most of the processes are still the same. So if you are familiar with how to create dashboards, it isn't so different here either..

So let's stop here then... My purpose is to help you take the element of fear of uncertainty out of the equation. I hope that now you see 11G isn't that different from 10G fundamentally, it should make your learning and getting used to much easier.

Go and play with it, let me know what are your likes and dislikes.

Until next time

Thursday, October 6, 2011

R.I.P Steve Jobs

I have never owned any of Steve's products. I always wanted to but i always came up with excuses to delay my purchase. Now that he is gone, it made me feel sad. Life goes fast and before i realized how many excuses I have made to myself not to do it, it is too late. RIP Mr Jobs... I am still using my old phone, old computer. The next product that I get will guarantee to be one of your greatest creation!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

OBIEE 1O1: An Absolute Beginner's Guide to shortcut the learning

Hello there again!

I have been getting a lot of feedback recently from people who are new to OBIEE. One of the most common thing that I am getting is that there are too much information out there for OBIEE and it is too difficult to make sense if you have no OBIEE hands-on experience prior. This is very true. The Internet is a great place to find knowledge and resource for whatever you want, but the amount of information you can find online can be overwhelming if you don't have any Insight experience of what you are learning, it is a place where people can get lost.

If you look at the subject of OBIEE, you know there is a lot for you to read. There is the Admin guide, user guide, installation guide and all kinds of other guides. Each talks about a different subject, sometimes they seem to be all related but more often they are not. If you haven't used the tools, haven't seen it, you will get lost just by reading these documents. Or it will take lots of time and hard work to get the knowledge. Therefore, I am trying to come up with an easier way for beginners to shortcut through the obstacles they might be facing in their learning. I am not saying not to read Oracle's document, but I am hoping that this article will help you make your understanding of those documents better and more effortlessly. This is an '101' for OBIEE, if you already know your way around the tool, you can still enjoy this article as it might give you a different perspective.

Anyways, my belief in doing what we do in life has to do with 3 aspects: What to do, how to do and why to do. For any people successful at what they do, they usually let 'why to do' to be the guide, which drives the rest of their actions. The same thing applies in understanding OBIEE. If you want to shortcut your learning curve, the best place to start with is to understand 'why we need OBIEE' or 'What is OBIEE trying to achieve?' To know the Why, you can read it here.

Let me just briefly explain what OBIEE is trying to achieve as an output from a technical perspective. You see, the predecessor of OBIEE is Siebel Analytic or NQuire even before. It was basically a tool that generates a SQL query to send to the relational Database and posts the query result at the UI where users can see it. OBIEE has taken this tool and added more features to it to do the job better and more flexibly. However, it doesn't change the fundamental of this application. Therefore, when you think of OBIEE, always remember that the output of your design and configuration is to produce an SQL Select statement, and the result of this output is the reports that you can publish on dashboard.

So having the above understanding, lets go look at 'how' OBIEE does it. Of course, as I am writing this article, I am assuming most of my readers have SQL knowledge and understands data modeling concepts. If you don't, then make this your first 'Why' to handle before you even think about learning OBIEE. Enough said here.

In order to produce the SQL select statement that meets the requirement, you have to know what you are selecting; from what tables or objects you are selecting from; where are the filtering conditions or joining conditions that applies to this statement. This is the basic elements that any select statements must have if selecting from multiple tables. Therefore, the way OBIEE does it is to use an application called 'Admin tool'. --- Now you can go read Oracle's Admin tool guide already knowing what it is here for, it will make your learning a lot more solid.

Anyways. the Admin tool upon entering looks like this (with explanation of each of the 3 layers):

If your client has purchased the OBIEE's pre-built model, such as BI Apps, Admin tool will look at the following upon login:

Now, you can go back to Oracle's Admin guide and read more about what you can do in each of the 3 layers in your design process.

For best practices, try to keep standard star-schema in your design. If you want to know more about the difference between joins in physical layer VS joins in BMM Layer, read this.

So, now that the design is finished as we have done our things from physical layer to BMM layer and rename the fields in business terms in presentation layer, we can save everything we have done in Admin tool. So all of the objects that we have saved are stored as an 'rpd' or repository. So if you ever come across the term Rpd file in any of the documents you read, you will know what they are talking about. Repository is a filed with '.rpd' at the end, it is saved in OBIEE's directory under 'repository folder'. The essence of 'production migration' is nothing but to copy the .rpd file from your design environment to the same folder within OBIEE directory on production environment. The 'how to do it' varies from company to company, but if you know the 'why', you can easily pick up the 'how'.

So moving on, we have done our design of data modeling, the next step is to create reports based on the design we have done in Admin Tool. This takes us to a different place: presentation service. Ok, in OBIEE 10g, we have one server (BI server) that controls the operation and connection between repository and the DB, and another server (presentation server and OC4J) that controls the operation of the UI of presentation service. 11G has changed the architecture by introducing weblogic. You can read more about the architecture of 10G vs 11G, Oracle has a few good documents and internet has some great articles about it too. I will skip that in this article.

Just to make it easier for beginners to understand, the way to get into the presentation service is by using a 'url link'. Every client has a different link, it is usually provided upon installation. Depending on the name of the server where OBIEE is installed, the url is different. For beginners, don't worry about those things. Just access the link that's provided by your admin and log on!

Of course the UI interface of 11g and 10 are very different. But it still work the same way. What you will see is a list of 'Subject Areas', which is the presentation folders you have designed in presentation layer. By clicking on the subject area, it takes you to a list of folders and columns that's within the subject area. All these are the exact same thing as your design in presentation layer. These are the objects users and report developers use to create their reports.

So upon knowing what it is and why we use presentation service/dashboard, go and read the Presentation service user guide for more details on how to create reports, how to use filters and prompts, how to customize fields and how to make reports and dashboard interactive.

This is good for now.. I hope this article gives you a good focus on where to start and where to follow at the beginning of your OBIEE learning journey. If you understands the BI concept and every thing that this article mentions, I will say you have built a pretty solid foundation. Of course, the best thing to do in order to get better is by practicing. Try it out in your testing environment, build some simple data schema and create some reports. Have fun with it.. Go back and ask yourself what if you want to see certain fancy stuffs, what if there is strange scenarios? What would you do? Use your imagination and creativity and keep exploring the answers!

Good luck!

Until next time

Sunday, October 2, 2011

OBIEE 11G: Basic Repository Navigation Compared to 10G


Just got 11G installed on my PC, it's time to check it out.

What I have is, which is the second version of the 11G. I wasn't a big fun of 11G when it first came out, partly because I was able to work around most of the issues using 10G, I simply wanted to wait for some time before going into 11G. It gave me a lot of time to hear feedback from other users who are already using 11G.

Now looks like 11G is going to be the trend and Oracle has released the second versions of it, therefore I decided to check it out. My current project uses OBIEE 11G with the BI Apps, since we are still focusing on the installation and infrastructure aspect of the project, I managed to get 11G's admin tool installed on my local PC while the Weblogic part is still pending. Therefore, I am just going to post a few key new features that I noticed navigating the Admin Tool.

If you are already an experienced 11G user, this article is going to be too basic for you. However, if you have only read about 11G's new feature but hasn't had hands-on experience, this article maybe interesting for you.

First of all, the architecture of OBIEE 11G is very different from 10G due to the introduction of Weblogic. We no longer have BI service, BI Presentation Service, OC4J, BI Scheduler Service under the window's service upon installation, these services that we used so frequently in 10G are either replaced or moved. There are a lot of helpful information out there that talks about the basic architecture of 11G. Since I haven't fully set up 11G on our platform, I have nothing to show in this article. (I am a big fun of showing screenshots) Therefore, let's just focus on the Admin Tool itself.

The good news is, the Admin Tool still works the same way as that of 10G. After all, it is still called 'OBIEE' right? It would make sense for Oracle to keep it the same or call it 'new product'. Anyhow, this is what it looks like upon logging in:

See, not bad at all! We still work through the 3 layers!

The following is the new join diagram with a few new buttons on the tool bar, pretty cool! It still work very much the same way as in 10G, but the graph is better, I have to admit that I like 11G better in this:

What we have below is the Logical Dimension view in BMM layer. As you can see, just as Oracle mentioned that they are going to take care of the ragged and Skipped level hierarchy that occurs every so often in multi-dimensional Data modeling world, there you have it. In the Logical Dimension view, it has the often of checking what type of hierarchy this is:

Here is the new expression builder windows:

Notice that 11G has introduced a few new functions that were absent in 11G.

Lookup Functions--- Dense Lookup and Sparse Lookup. The idea of lookup function is similar to the Lookup transformation used in Informatica. It looks up a value from a different table and then make decisions based on that. So in OBIEE11G, the way it works is that an established star schema or snow-flak schema can use lookup function for it's dimension table to obtain extra information by looking up values from a separated look up table without having to join that table into the schema. It is a good way of keeping the data model clean and simple while being able to reference data from outside of the schema. I will wait until I set up the Weblogic for a more detail demo on how it works.

Evaluate functions----Evaluate/Evaluate--Predicate/Evaluate--Aggr/Evaluate--Analytic. Well, we have Evaluate function in 10G, which is a way to let us execute database functions that are not included in OBIEE. I guess it is still the case here although I haven't researched what each specific evaluate function does. Nevertheless, it is cool that 11G has added extra evaluate functions.

Time Dimension ---- Ago/Todate/PeriodRolling. This is equivalent to the time series function in 10G except that it now has PeriodRolling function to handle the needs of 'rolling X period' reporting. I am sure I will no longer need to do the kind of workaround in 10G anymore by using this function. But again, can't demo it until I get 11G fully installed.

Last but not least is the security part, which is now called Identity manager and the previously known 'User group' has been replaced by 'Application Role'.

Oh, I forgot to include the ability of creating hierarchy at presentation layer as a new feature of 11G. However, I think it's better that I wait until I am able to provide a complete demo in my environment before getting too detail on it. Meanwhile, go ahead and read about presentation hierarchy, it is quite interesting.

Anyways, this is it for now. I will add more to it later but I think this is a good start for those experienced 10G or prior users to transition into using 11Gs..


Until next time!

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