In the previous posts, Star Finance Command Center (SFCC) was introduced as an alternative to scripting and manual processes. In this post we discuss the automation of Essbase Tasks.
Since the early 1990s, Essbase has been the market leading multidimensional database solution for planning, reporting, and analysis. Despite its popularity, and strategic importance in serving the needs of large user communities, the product relies heavily on scripting and custom coding to work in non-trivial customer environments. The lack of better tools to orchestrate, automate, and monitor the Essbase environment creates a significant cost for the initial implementation, and ongoing maintenance of the system.
A bit of history…Back in 1992, initial Essbase customers asked for some way to automate the loading and updating of Essbase cubes. At that time, the Essbase roadmap was full of more important features to improve usability, scalability, etc. However, lurking in a back-cubicle of Arbor Software, the Essbase QA Manager, Ron Cho, had built his own Essbase command line interface using the Essbase API; he called it ESSCMD. Despite the fact that it was built for internal QA use, the utility was put in a few customer’s hands, and it did the trick. As the early Essbase installed base quickly grew, more customers ended up with the utility in hand, so basic documentation was provided.
Fast forward to 1999, the Essbase install base was large, and despite its many shortcomings, ESSCMD had become part of the product family. As the demands for more enterprise class deployability continued to grow, it was clear that ESSCMD was not up to the challenge. MaxL was born to provide a more programmatic language based interface that could be more easily used with Perl, Python, or other scripting languages.
The basic idea however, was still to provide the rudimentary command line interface, and let the more technically oriented administrators fend for themselves with scripting languages and scheduling tools. While the Essbase command line interfaces make automation possible, they were never designed to or actually perform the automation of tasks. That is where SFCC comes into the picture. Over the past 18 months the product has been used by a number of long time, and not so long time, Essbase shops to automate and interconnect their ESSCMD and MaxL processes with a whole ecosystem of applications that surround Essbase.
Interestingly enough, one of the frequent requests that we receive from Essbase customers is for pre-defined Tasks in SFCC to perform all the update and maintenance operations on Essbase; without having to resort to ESSCMD or MaxL. Many of them would rather eliminate their scripts, and other code, altogether with out-of-the-box features that are provided by SFCC.
In response to our Essbase customer demand, a library of over 20 Essbase specific tasks is now available for SFCC. Samples of how this works are explored in this PDF file: http://staranalytics.com/blog/blogfiles/Automating_Essbase_Tasks_with_Star_Finance_Command_Center.pdf