Oracle BI Cloud Service, Part V: Managing the Service

.

How Oracle BI Cloud Service is managed

Parts II, III and IV of our BICS series were dedicated to the basic functionalities of the service. In this post, the last one in the series, we will explain how the BI Cloud Service is managed.

As in the on-premise version of OBI, security of the BI cloud service is managed with users, roles and application roles. All the cloud services you buy will be assigned a unique identity domain that will allow you to manage what users and roles can access to which service associated with that identity domain. Application roles allow you to set permissions to users and roles within each cloud service.

You can manage users and roles from the My Services page of Oracle Cloud with the Identity Domain Administrator credentials.

 

image

Figure 1: Oracle Cloud My Services webpage

Application roles are managed from the BI Cloud Service Console with BI Service Administrator credentials.

bics 2

 Figure 2: Managing users and roles

From the Service Console you can easily add users, roles and application roles as members to one or multiple application roles, manage pre-defined application roles, and create your own application roles.

 

bics 3

Figure 3: Oracle BI Cloud Service - Service Console

A useful feature included in BI Cloud Service is Snapshot: you can capture with one click the state of the service at a point in time including data model, catalog and application roles (but not database elements which should be backed-up separately). You can then save the snapshot in the cloud (maximum 10 snapshots) or download it to a file system, and upload a saved snapshot to restore the service to a previous state. Each snapshot import is total in that it overwrites everything that was in the instance beforehand. Apart from backups, snapshots are useful for moving data from the pre-prod to the prod environment.

Image 3

Figure 4: Taking system snapshots

Other common administration tasks of OBIEE are also available in the BI Cloud Service, such as monitoring users currently signed in, analyze or test SQL queries, and monitor usage and other metrics.

 

Conclusion

The Oracle BI Cloud Service is a good option for small and medium companies looking for an easy-to-use BI framework with a fast deployment cycle and minimum capital and operating expenditures. The agility and availability of the system allows companies to start reporting against their business data in a couple of hours. We are still missing some features to consider it as an option for large projects, but it is still useful for any company requiring their BI contents to be available in the cloud and in any mobile device.

So what are your thoughts on the Oracle BI Cloud Service? Would you consider deploying your BI fully in the cloud using the service? Contact us at info@clearpeaks.com or using our web form if you would like more information about the Oracle BI Cloud Service, or leave your comments below!

Oracle BI Cloud Service, Part IV: Creating analyses, reports and dashboards

.

In Parts II and III of the BICS series, we covered how to upload data to the cloud and build the repository. In this post, we will be covering the basics of analyses, reports, and dashboards in the BI Cloud Service.

The OBI Cloud Service has almost the same report capabilities of OBIEE. You can create analyses combining different views and dashboards, limit the results using filters, prompt for values and create dynamic reports using named and inline actions just as you would do in the on-premise version of OBI.

image 1

Figure 1: Creating reports, visualizations and dashboards
from the Oracle BI Cloud Service & Data Discovery Webinar
from Oracle Deutschland B.V. & Co. KG

All the results of analyses can be exported to the usual formats such as Excel or PDF, and you can also make use of variables: session, repository, presentation, request, and the recently added global variables are supported. There is the possibility to report against a mash-up of model data and external sources in the PROD environment.

A new presentation feature recently added to the BI Cloud Service (and that will be available in the on-premise version 12c of OBIEE) is Visual Analyzer, a web-based tool accessible from the BICS homepage that allows you to explore analytics data visually and on an individual basis in just a few clicks.

image 2

Figure 2: Accessing the Visual Analyzer tool
from blog Sixty-Analytics

Visual Analyzer simplifies the process of finding the right information and creating rich and powerful visualizations with that data. You can search the entire repository for dimension and measure attributes and drag and drop them to build graphs and charts in a Tableau-type single pane, allowing you to find correlations, discover patterns, and see trends in your content.

image 3

Figure 3: Creating reports in Visual Analyzer
from Oracle

image 4

Figure 4: Creating compound visualizations in Visual Analyzer
from Oracle

On the downside, there are still some presentation services lacking in the cloud version of OBI. Scorecards, a useful view for KPIs in OBIEE, are still not supported in the cloud version. Agents, alerts and BI Publisher are also not presently supported, although we will probably see these services supported in future releases within the next 12 months.

Be sure to check out the last part of our BICS post series explaining how the service is managed and our overall conclusion.

Oracle BI Cloud Service Part III: Modeling Data

.

Data Modeler tool

In the last post of this BICS series, we reviewed how data can be loaded into the cloud. Once you have all your data loaded and ready, it is time to build the business model, or in other words, create the repository. For that purpose, a browser-based tool called Data Modeler is accessible from the home page of the BI Cloud Service.

OBI Cloud Service

Figure 1: Accessing the Data Modeler tool
from Blog Sixty Analytics

 

Data Modeler is the equivalent to the Administration Tool of the on-premise OBI, although much simplified and with a reduced set of its capabilities, considering that the main premise of the cloud version of OBI is precisely that is should be simple and with a fast deployment cycle. Still, the Data Modeler tool allows you to build a repository from your source tables with all the basic features of OBIEE Admin Tool, and all from your web browser.

The application is divided into panes, with the left pane listing database objects, data model objects, variables, and users & roles, and the right pane listing in detail the fact tables, dimension tables, and joins in your data model.

OBI Cloud Service

Figure 2: Data Modeler
From Blog Sixty Analytics

 

Since we are in a cloud environment, there has to be a way to ensure that multiple users can modify the model concurrently. Data Modeler uses a Lock & Edit system for this, so that users must lock the data model before making any changes to the model and database views (note that the lock only affects the Data Modeler tool and does not prevent other users from changing database views using other tools such as SQL Developer). Only one user at a time can have the lock, with the possibility to override locks and discard changes made by other users if you have administrative privileges.

After every change, the data model has to be validated (equivalent to a consistency check in OBIEE Admin Tool), and any validation error will appear at the bottom of the right pane. All the changes made to the model need to be published in order to to save them permanently and make them available to other users. There is the possibility to retain the lock after publishing the changes, discard the changes and release the lock, and discard the changes reverting to the previous published state.

Data should be refreshed frequently to ensure that it reflects the most up-to-date information. You can refresh the source objects, the data model, and synchronize with the database to automatically detect new columns, obsolete objects, and other discrepancies. It is advisable to clear the cache after loading new data as well, to ensure that the most recent data is displayed in analyses.

Data Modeler also offers users the possibility to create source views, i.e., saved data queries in the database. Source views are useful when using a single table as a source for more than one table, when creating a dimension table based on multiple source tables, and when performing pre-aggregation calculations. In general source views facilitate the handling of model objects and should be used as a base when subsequent changes in these objects might be needed.

You can partition a single source table into fact tables and dimension tables, or create fact and dimension tables from single source tables.

 

OBI Service Cloud

Figure 3: Adding fact and dimension tables to the model
From the article:  Using Oracle BI Cloud Service

Joins are automatically created between fact and dimension tables if the join reference exists in the source tables, and of course you can create manually other joins in Data Modeler. Hierarchies and levels can be added to dimension tables joined to fact tables, and aggregation levels can be set for measures. As in OBIEE Admin Tool, you can make use of variables (static / dynamic repository variables and session variables supported). You can also secure the model, setting permissions to tables, columns, and even records using filters.

A recently added feature of Data Modeler is the possibility to upload a full repository to the cloud service, so if you had already modeled your business data with OBIEE you don’t need to start from scratch in the cloud. This also allows a single model to be used both on-premise and in the cloud. Something to bear in mind however is that repositories uploaded from on-premises OBIEE cannot be edited through the BICS Data Modeler, so changes should be done in OBIEE Admin Tool and then uploaded again (after the consistency check).

So once you have your data and repository in the cloud, you are ready to start reporting against it.

Check out our next post of the BICS series to learn about analyses, reports, and dashboards in the BI Cloud Service.

 

Oracle BI Cloud Service Part II: Loading Data

.

In the first post of the Oracle BI Cloud Service (BICS) series we reviewed some of its key features. In the following posts, we will explain how the service actually works, starting with the data provisioning.

All the data used in the BI Cloud Service has to be stored in the Database Schema Service or Database as a Service, so uploading your data to the cloud is the first step towards a cloud OBI. There are several ways to do it, depending on your specific requirements:

Data Loader.

The default method of uploading your data to the cloud is by using the built-in Data Loader accessible from the BICS homepage.

BICS_II 1

Figure 1: Accessing the Data Loader tool (from Oracle BI Cloud Service - A First look )

 

Data Loader is an easy-to-use browser-based application that allows you to upload data from files (txt, csv, xsl, xlsx) with a maximum of 500,000 rows and formatted as number, date, or character (for the moment only UTF-8 encoding is supported). There is also the possibility to perform simple transformations such as Uppercase, Lowercase, Trim Spaces, and Format as a Number.

You can use Data Loader to perform full manual refresh, incremental data loadings, upsert (update/insert), add data to the model, view the load history and correct errors.

SQL Developer

Those who have worked with other Oracle Database products will already know SQL Developer. Now the application features a new cloud connection that you can configure to load data from files (with no row limit) and relational sources to your cloud service. It runs on your local machine, so you need to download it from the OTN downloads webpage and install it locally. Once configured, SQL Developer connects to the cloud service through a set of RESTful web service calls and can be used to load data using SFTP (SQL*Loader utility). You can also create “carts” with multiple objects to be uploaded, and schedule incremental loads.

 

BICS_II 2

Figure 2: Loading carts (from Loading Relational Tables Using SQL Developer)

BI Cloud Service (BICS) Data Sync

Data Sync is another application for loading your data to the cloud service and available for download on the OTN downloads webpage. It is a wizard-driven tool supporting the load of data from CSV files and relational sources into the Database Schema Service. It also supports the load and merge of data from different sources: DB2, SQL Server, MySQL, Teradata, and TimesTen, apart from Oracle relational sources.

Use BICS Data Sync to perform incremental data loads, rolling deletes, and loads according to appended load strategies. You can also schedule and monitor data loads (called “jobs”).

Be aware however that Data Sync is not officially released and Oracle does not support it and does not guarantee that it will be supported in future releases (future upgrades are not guaranteed either), so care should be taken when using it.

BICS_II 3

Figure 3: BICS Data Sync (from Loading On-Premises Relational Sources and Files to the Cloud Using Oracle BI Cloud Service Data Sync)

BICS & Database Schema Service REST APIs

You can also use the BI Cloud Service and Database Schema Service REST APIs to define a customized API and programmatically load data into the Database Schema Service. With the BICS REST API, you can update statistics, drop or create indices on tables, insert, update, upsert, and delete records. You can also combine the API with any other application and script in any programming language, offering endless possibilities such as invoking applications and scripts with an on-premises scheduler of integrating the load process with ETL tools.

Similarly, with the Database Schema REST API you can call out SQL queries to read data and return results, call PL/SQL scripts to read, write, modify or delete data, and define your own customized API to be invoked from your on-premises environment. Moreover, using the APEX_WEB_SERVICE package within a PL/SQL block, you can invoke any REST/SOAP API supported by cloud applications, and retrieve data from external systems.

PL/SQL Scripts

Finally, you can use PL/SQL scripts to load data from external, generic web services. Scripts can be created using SQL Workshop, a robust browser-based tool part of APEX that allows you to create and execute SQL queries and database procedures against objects in the Database Schema Service.

 

Check out part III of the BICS series in which we will cover how you can model your data in the cloud according to your business requirements.

 

Oracle BI Cloud Service Part I: Introduction & Key Features

.

Last year Oracle released the Business Intelligence Cloud Service (BICS) as part of its Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering, and it has been releasing upgrades regularly since then, some with important new features. In this BICS post series we will be giving an overview of the BI cloud service and walking you through some of its key features and functions:

  • Part I: Introduction & Key Features
  • Part II: Loading Data
  • Part III: Modeling Data
  • Part IV: Creating analyses, reports and dashboards
  • Part V: Managing the Service & Conclusion

Cloud technologies are not something from the future anymore but a reality, with some operating systems like Google Chrome OS relying almost completely on cloud applications. Trends indicate that the shift towards cloud environments will accelerate even more in the next years, so companies are rushing to release cloud versions of all their software solutions. Oracle has been releasing many of its software platforms into the cloud over the past years, and last year was the turn of OBI with the Business Intelligence Cloud Service.

Captura 1

Figure 1: Business Intelligence Cloud Service Web Page

 

 

Below are some of its key features.

The service is 100% cloud-based, with almost no local installs needed (some data loading tools might be required locally), and it comes bundled with the Oracle Database Schema Service, as BICS can only report against data stored in the cloud. With the Database Schema Service you get 1 schema on Oracle Database 11g with 50GB of storage, full PL/SQL support, multiple tools for loading the data, Oracle Exadata hardware running in the background, RESTful web services, and Oracle Application Express (APEX), but no SQL*Net access. Since the last release, there is also the possibility to connect the BI service to a Database as a Service (DBaaS), which includes a dedicated virtual machine running Oracle Database 11g or 12c with full SQL*Net access and all the storage capacity we may need.

One of the most interesting features of the service is that it is 100% mobile ready: all the content you create in the cloud will be immediately available in any iOS or Android device downloading the Oracle BI Mobile App from the App Store or Google Play and with no extra programming required (touch gestures such as zoom or swipe are already built in).

Capture 2

Figure2: 100% mobile ready. 

(From the Oracle BI Cloud Service & Data Discovery Webinar from Oracle Deutschland B.V. & Co. KG,

available at http://oracle.arrowecs.de/fileadmin/arrowecs/Redaktion/pdf/hersteller/Oracle_Hardware)

 The service comes with two instances: PROD and pre-PROD for developing and testing, and provides automatic full system backup & restore, role based grain security, and simple self-administration. All the patching and system maintenance is handled by Oracle so you don’t have to worry.

So what are the benefits of the BI Cloud Service compared to the traditional on-premise OBI? The first benefit we can think of is the huge cost reduction: you only have to pay a monthly subscription of $250 per month and per named user (10 users minimum) for the BI Cloud Service plus $1000 per month for the 50GB of cloud storage in the Database Schema Service, so a minimum of $3500 per month, which is much cheaper than an OBIEE license. Not having to purchase annual licenses and being able to pay just for the storage capacity you require are big bonuses too. Moreover, working in the cloud means working with a standardised and consolidated infrastructure (there is no need for servers, storage, or any other network components). Therefore, you get to dramatically reduce your capital and operation expenditures compared to the expenditures you would incur with on-premises OBI.

As you need fewer database elements and you get standardised operating systems, servers, database versions and configurations, the administrative burden is also dramatically reduced. Also given that the system maintenance is fully managed by Oracle, you get guaranteed system availability. This means that overall the environment will be more reliable and manageable, resulting in lower risks for the user.

Finally, another key benefit of using the BI Cloud Service is agility. The rapid deployment of environments for development and production and the shorter upgrade cycle make the system highly agile, and thanks to the Oracle Real Application Clusters (RAC) you get adaptive cloud databases for workload volumes.

Be sure to check out the rest of our BICS series posts for more detailed information on the basic features of the service.

 

privacy policy - Copyright © 2000-2010 ClearPeaks

topnav