Recently, our own Chris Rothermel had an opportunity to interview Jason Jones about his latest creation, Drillbridge. Unique to ODTUG members, Jason’s demo recording is available for replay as well as a white paper for download. Jason will be presenting on this topic at Kscope15.
CR: What is Drillbridge?
JJ: Drillbridge is a turnkey solution for quickly and easily implementing drill-through to relational database data from Smart View, Hyperion Planning, and Financial Reporting.
CR: So if I have Oracle Hyperion Planning or Essbase I’d be interested in this?
JJ: Yes, if you are using Smart View (sorry classic add-in users!) and are using Essbase, Planning, or Financial Reporting, then you’d be interested in this.
CR: What motivated you create this product?
JJ: I implemented drill-through for a client and for various reasons, we absolutely had to use EPMA to manage dimensionality and also use Essbase Studio to implement drill-through. Unfortunately, there can be somewhat of a mismatch between these two technologies (at least in terms of implementing drill-through). We wound up extracting data out of the cube so we could build up a model in Essbase Studio, then use that to deploy a cube with drill-through. During the research and development of this solution, I came across the notion of drill-through definitions that have been around in Essbase since the early version 11 releases. These definitions allow us to implement custom drill-through providers to handle drill-through requests from users. Armed with this knowledge and experience developing web-based applications, I created a prototype that would allow me to specify any database I wanted, and flexibly map information from an Essbase cube over to a relational database. And thus, Drillbridge was born.
CR: Where do you see the most interest from clients — from those who are exploring relational drill-through for their Essbase/Planning environments for the first time or from those already using drill-through?
JJ: Drillbridge is getting interest and use from several different angles. Its flexible nature and simple deployment make a compelling use case in various ways. Drillbridge is getting particular interest from clients who are exploring relational drill-through for the first time, simply because it doesn’t require changes to the existing architecture: it’s a non-invasive add-on that wonderfully augments an existing cube. In so many cases, cubes are already being loaded from tables that contain the transactional detail that users want, so it’s a simple matter of creating the right mapping, deploying it, and enjoying drill-through. Many organizations I have worked with over the years have wanted drill-through and have the data for it ready to go, but haven’t been able to swallow the steep cost of implementing it. Implementing drill-through isn’t inherently expensive, mind you, but if you and your organization need to license additional technology and hire someone to implement it properly for you, the dollars add up pretty quickly.
Drillbridge is also getting interest from organizations that used EIS (Essbase Integration Services) to implement drill-through but don’t quite want or can’t make the jump to Essbase Studio. Many times I have seen EIS deployed in “overlay” mode, where it is being used simply to add drill-through to an existing cube that is otherwise managed with EAS or other processes. With EIS having reached its official end of life, organizations are looking around at what makes the most sense to replace this functionality for their users. In these cases, Drillbridge has been a very quick win to replace EIS without much hassle. Lastly, because Drillbridge implements drill-through for Essbase, Planning, and Financial Reporting, it is even being used to augment drill-through that is otherwise provided by Essbase Studio.
CR: What is the ideal customer situation for your product?
JJ: The absolute ideal customer situation for this product is that a customer has an Essbase cube (and/or Planning) and a relational database with the transactional detail for that data (oftentimes in the same database but usually available somewhere), and the organization is using Smart View. That’s it! Drillbridge has modest memory requirements, so it can usually go right on one of the servers used for Hyperion infrastructure (of course, spinning up a lightweight VM to host Drillbridge works great, too). Typically the data in an upstream transactional data source is both consolidated and transformed to fit it into an Essbase cube. This includes the typical Essbase transformations we are familiar with: add a prefix, add a suffix, add underscores, remove spaces, whatever. Drillbridge’s innovative expression language easily handles reversing these mappings so the member names in the cube can be precisely tied back to their original values. In fact, Drillbridge even provides some incredibly powerful functions that can map back months to numeric values, reconstitute split Time/Years dimensions into a transaction’s timestamp, and more.
CR: I was on your webinar a few months ago and enjoyed the demo. Where can I see the replay?
JJ: ODTUG archives webinars and has them available on its site, although past webinars can only be viewed by full ODTUG members. So if you are a full member, you can find the webinar here. And if you aren’t a full member, get on it!
CR: The installation seemed too easy and too good to be true. What’s the catch?
JJ: No catch, honest! My design philosophy for software is one of fine craftsmanship – software should be refined, polished, robust, intuitive, and just work. To that end, every aspect of the Drillbridge experience — whether for an administrator or a user — has been diligently thought through to try to achieve the best experience possible. I’m sure the installation seemed too good to be true, but I assure you that there was nothing accidental about that. There’s no separate database to set up, the software installs with a single command, and as you also saw, the actual configuration itself can be quite straightforward. For people that didn’t see the webinar, I challenged myself to download, install, configure, and deploy drill-through in 10 minutes or less. This must sound absolutely crazy to people who are used to long processes fraught with installation glitches, configuration settings, and more. Not only did I accomplish all of that in less than 10 minutes, I did it all in five – and used the spare time to implement drill-to-bottom functionality in the Time dimension so users could drill on “Quarter 1," for example, and pull all of the transactional detail for January, February, and March (I like to refer to this as the Jawdropper demo!)
CR: What is your design philosophy?
JJ: As I mentioned in the previous question, my design philosophy is intricately related to thinking of software (and solutions in general) as a craft to be treated with a high degree of artisanship. Of course, one has to be practical as well. But every incremental release of Drillbridge to this point has tried include a balanced blend of new features, fixing bugs (inevitable in the world of software!), and enhancing the user/admin experience in some way. For example, I just added a new and seemingly small feature to the latest version of Drillbridge that is in development right now. In Drillbridge, you need to create a Connection before you can make a report. Before, you could go straight to the Reports page and try to create a report, and the system wouldn’t stop you. As a small enhancement to the current version, if you now try to create a report and there aren’t any connections currently set up, Drillbridge will politely tell you that a connection needs to be set up first, and provide you a quick link to the proper page. It’s small stuff like this that I think is exciting to pay attention to.
Come see Jason Jones present Drillbridge at Kscope15:
Drillbridge White Paper: www.jasonwjones.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Drillbridge-Whitepaper.pdf