Oracle Essbase 21C: 5 Things to Know

Published January 12 2021
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Oracle Releases Essbase 21c on premises

Oracle chose to brighten up the last few days of 2020 with an exciting new release of Essbase.   The initial release of Essbase 21c will be limited to on-premises deployments. This fills a need for clients that are not completely prepared to transition to Oracle Cloud. There are plans to release a cloud version of Essbase 21c in the next few quarters.

Essbase 21c is a significant release. It will include nearly all on-premises and cloud features from the last 5 years in one version. The latest release also includes a more powerful and flexible version of Hybrid storage not found in any prior version. Additional special new features such as Shadow Cubes and a new slice merge setting have been introduced to increase application uptime, simplify administration, and improve overall user experience.

1. Configuration & Security

Essbase 21c on-premises is available for Linux as of December 2020 with Windows support to follow in the coming months.  Unlike Essbase 19c on Marketplace, the on-premises version of 21c will feature Foundation and Hyperion Shared Services to support application security and external authentication.   Essbase 19c and 21c cloud offerings will continue to leverage IDCS for their security model.

Of special note to existing EPM Application customers that would choose to deploy Essbase 21c, Essbase 21c on-premises requires a separate instance of Foundation and Shared Services to be configured and deployed. An example logical configuration would be as follows according to Oracle:


2. Shadow Cubes

Oracle’s new Shadow Cube feature is meant to keep Essbase Applications up and running year- round. This exciting feature replaces custom-built solutions with a formalized approach to limiting Essbase Application downtime while dimensions are loaded, outlines are restructured, and data is loaded and processed.   Oracle demonstrations show larger cubes being swapped in the shadow process in seconds and sub-seconds.   This feature comes out of the box as part of Oracle’s powerful REST API commands.

The Shadow Cube feature works by creating a “shadow” copy, or snapshot, of the live cube. The shadow copy is refreshed with data and metadata before it finally it is promoted to become the production copy. These operations are logged in the job console as they occur.   All the while, users continue to access the live cube until the shadow copy is promoted in its place.   The shadow copy does not persist after it is converted to the production cube. However, like similar legacy solutions, it requires two times more data storage for any cube that will leverage it.   A special option of the feature is the capability to make the shadow copy visible or hidden whilst it is in service.

3. Hybrid 2.0 & Hybrid Optimization Tools

Oracle has upgraded Essbase’s Hybrid option in the 21c release.   As a result, the default build type for Essbase is no longer BSO.  The latest Hybrid generation supports complex top-down, context-dependent formulas.   Hybrid “2.0” also goes a step further and introduces the data- driven calculations we have in block storage. For instance, it is possible to create a “BSO like” conditional statement that checks for a number against a parameter and then executes an equation if that number meets the parameter specified.

Smart View Cube Designer also offers a new tool to mitigate slow running Hybrid Queries.   The “Optimize Cube” tool from the Admin Tasks menu in Cube Designer is the starting point to open a wizard that gives developers and administrators the leverage to quickly address problem areas in large cubes.

Using this tool assumes the Essbase Application is created using Smart View Cube Designer.   Clicking on “Create a Baseline”, as shown below, builds a cube, loads a chosen data file, and performs queries and calculations.   After those processes complete, a baseline for the build, load, calculations, and queries is reported back to the administrator in an easy-to-read Excel worksheet. For all intents and purposes, the Optimize Cube button is self-documenting regression testing on changes. In legacy Essbase, we’d have to run similar tests as one off’s and manually record logs or create a MaxL job with logging and summarize the results in a workbook. Oracle’s “Create Baseline” is the equivalent of our new “Easy Button” for these tasks.

The Optimize Cube tool in Cube designer is also helpful to baseline variances and identify variances between cubes where performance may change from one environment to the next.

4. EAS Lite

While the Essbase Web UI is easy to use and intuitive, Oracle understands it can take some time to get used to new ways to work.   Even though the Web UI is replacing the legacy Java-based Essbase Administration Services, Essbase 21c comes with the option to deploy a “Lite” version of EAS.   EAS Lite will support varying attributes as well as offer a familiar interface with Essbase 21c effectively making the cutover to Essbase 21c as seamless as possible from a training perspective. Essbase Studio is no longer offered in 21c.

EAS deployments are now one to one with Essbase Service deployments. EAS Lite will not connect to multiple Essbase instances to facilitate migrations and artifact copies from Dev to UAT to Prod. In truth, LCM should be used for migrations as it properly documents migrations for change management purposes and reminds Admins to take back-ups prior to migrations.

Activities in EAS Lite are limited to managing outlines. Other administration will be performed in the Web UI. Applications are managed by the web or EAS Lite on a case basis.   “Managed by Essbase Administration” must be selected from the Web UI as shown below. Once this is selected, the application will appear in EAS.

EAS is a configuration option during Essbase 21c installation. It is not necessary to deploy EAS or support it if your organization desires to transition to the latest Web UI.

5. Web UI Enhancements

Oracle has closed the loop on several of the Web Interface’s idiosyncrasies.   The latest interface changes put the Web UI at parity with legacy Essbase Administration Services. When taking into consideration 21c administration tools versus legacy EAS, the aggregate of Cube Designer features and the Web UI improvements deliver more than what EAS has offered. Cube Designer enables Admins to quickly use the power of Excel to update cubes, a feature set that was only partially possible in Essbase 6.X with the legacy desktop client. We also have the ability to use CLI in addition to Maxl 2.0 and REST API for automation with Essbase 21c.

A notable Web UI change is the ability to add custom properties to the Name column of the outline editor.   Choosing from the selection below, allows key properties to be aggregated into the Name column for easy-to-access informational purposes.

Before “Show in Name” is applied, only Member Names appeared in the Name Column of the Web Outline Editor:

After “Show in Name” is applied the Active Alias and Member Name are easy to see merged into the Name column:

Within the Outline Editor, Oracle also enabled users to resize property columns and choose which columns are displayed.   This lets admins make the most of screen real estate and essentially ignore properties that do not apply to applications. More importantly, Administrators may verify outlines and member formulas within the member and outline edit modes in the Web UI. This saves time by allowing instant feedback for any errors in code, much like EAS has always done.

From the Web UI in Essbase 21c, it is possible to execute calc scripts and report scripts from the development mode. The output of report scripts can also be downloaded to the user’s desktop.   Substitution variables by Environment, Application, and Database are also displayed in a single unified view within the Web UI. The ability to load multiple data files via a single job in the UI has been added. Oracle also brought back member selection to the partition builder and support for currency conversion applications. In sum, Oracle improved most Web UI functionality to parity or better than legacy Essbase and EAS.

There are more updates and features available with Essbase 21c on-premises than discussed in this blog. Please stay tuned to Alithya’s blogs for more to come on these topics.

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