Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) Cloud Nightly Application Maintenance - Part 1: Nightly Maintenance Explained

Published April 22 2020 by Ross Martin
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As I work with my clients to move their financial systems and applications to Oracle’s Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) Cloud, increasingly common questions I get  include how to keep applications operating efficiently and how to protect applications in the event of a disaster. This 2-part series will discuss maintenance practices to help keep the applications running efficiently, as well as some processes to ensure your applications are properly backed up and accessible, should the need arise.

Oracle EPM Cloud applications, considered software-as-a-service (SaaS), run on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) within one of many data centers across the world. This means that Oracle has the ability, and often reserves exclusivity, to perform certain maintenance activities and manage underlying settings behind how applications operate. This is a stark difference when comparing Cloud to On-Premises offerings.

One of the strongest selling points of Oracle EPM Cloud is the minimal downtime and effort needed for maintenance, backups, and patching. With each cloud environment (each unique URL), Oracle requires a one-hour window each day or night for what it calls the Automated Maintenance Window (AMW) to perform these activities. The exact timeframe of the AMW is open for definition by system administrators based on environment needs such as user availability and data requirements. During this timeframe, expectations should be set that the application is inaccessible for users and administrators. Depending on the step in the process, the application may seem accessible and available. However, it is recommended to communicate that the application will be unavailable for the duration of the one-hour maintenance window to avoid conflicts or issues.

Let’s discuss exactly what happens during the AMW.

Application Restart

Restarting the application is one component of the daily AMW. This accommodates items like refreshing caches, killing errant jobs, and activating or reverting settings that may have been changed since the last restart. One example could be a change in the underlying configuration file, such as a buffer or cache sizing update. The configuration file behind Essbase is no longer controllable by system administrators, so change requests must funnel through Oracle Support and may or may not be granted. Oracle defaults cloud applications to “standardized” settings that are gathered from analyzing the fleet of cloud applications. The AMW ensures optimal performance and activation of setting updates through restarting the application regularly.

Backups

The most important part of the AMW is the creation of a daily backup, or formally referred to in Oracle EPM Cloud as a “snapshot.” This is a full backup, including all application-tier objects (in Planning, think forms, task lists, rules, data management, security, etc.) as well as underlying Essbase data. The default name of the snapshot created by the AMW is “Artifact Snapshot,” and it is stored in the “Migration” section/screen of an environment.

Any time data is included, within the snapshot definition, the application will be made unavailable to users for the duration it takes to back up the data component. Backing up application-tier items such as forms and rules does not displace users. To say this another way, if the entire backup takes 60 minutes, application-tier items may take 15 minutes while data may take 45 minutes. Users are only displaced during the 45-minute data backup, during which, no one can add, or query data in the application. This may present an error that the system was unable to obtain a connection to Essbase.

Performing the backups within the nightly AMW minimizes the impact on users. Oracle overwrites the “Artifact Snapshot” each night with a new snapshot. It is best practice to download the nightly snapshot and maintain a copy for as long as your organization’s retention policy or disaster recovery strategy dictates.

The download process can be automated and is a practice that Alithya encourages and implements regularly in all cloud environments at our clients. Alithya recommends a 3-2-1 backup framework:

  • 3: copies of your application backup each day
  • 2: locations where you store the backups
  • 1: location outside of the Oracle Cloud to store a copy of the backup

Patching

Monthly patching is one of the most value-add benefits of the Oracle EPM Cloud offerings. New features, functionality, bug fixes, and security updates are regularly deployed by Oracle according to the following guidelines:

  • Non-Production environments (those with “-test” in the URL): 1st Friday of each month
  • Production environments (those without “-test” in the URL): 3rd Friday of each month.

After the patch/update is available, the first scheduled AMW will apply that patch to the environment. In advance of each patch release, Oracle distributes information on what is changing to all System Administrators. Feel free to read up on Oracle’s Cloud Readiness site.

Summary

The Automated Maintenance Window featured in Oracle’s EPM Cloud fosters application performance, applies setting updates, performs daily backups, and publishes new functionality to each cloud environment in a regularly scheduled manner. While all of these activities happen daily with no added effort, some other activities  should be considered and incorporated into an overall maintenance routine to ensure the optimal performance of your cloud application(s) and maintenance cadence. Follow along for my next blog post on how you can tune and optimize your maintenance routines.

If you seek assistance defining a data retention policy, creating a disaster recovery strategy, or our Cloud Backups-as-a-Service, please contact infosolutions@alithya.com!

For comments, questions, or suggestions for future topics, please reach out to us at infosolutions@alithya.com.  Visit our blog regularly for new posts about Cloud updates and other Oracle Cloud Services such as Planning and Budgeting, Financial Consolidation, Account Reconciliation, and Enterprise Data Management.  Follow Alithya on social media for the latest information about EPM, ERP, and Analytics solutions to meet your business needs.

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