Monday, 2 February 2015

Planning New Features

So much was promised for the release of planning but unfortunately some of the key new functionality missed out on the release and it looks like it will be delivered in a PSU.

The main new feature is the simplified interface even though it is not really new as it first appeared in and was aimed purely at accessing the interface through a tablet which I blogged about here.

You still got the same functionality if you accessed the interface through a desktop browser but now in the interface has been expanded to include more options and new functionality for administrators.

Basically the new functionality is a port of the PBCS .601 release, in fact some of the functionality that probably should not really be in release has been left it and the documentation is practically the same with references to PBCS which I will get on to this later.

Oracle has highlighted some key performance enhancements when using the simplified interface:
  • Because Planning forms now use the latest client-side scripting technologies in the new simplified user interface you’ll enjoy faster response times when you scroll, enter data.

  • Because most work is now done on the client side, server requests are greatly reduced. We estimate that servers can now handle 33 percent more load than before in the same response time.

  • Planning is, by default, configured to preload data when you open forms. To optimize performance, turn on compression by updating your web server or Load Balancer configuration. The Oracle HTTP Server instance that you install from the EPM System installer is configured to support compression. If you are using a different web server, see your web server or Load Balancer documentation for instructions to turn on compression.
Now I am not going to go through every screen in the simplified interface because you only need to search for details on PBCS .601 and you will find it has all been done before, I am going to concentrate on the areas that are different from and from an administrative perspective.

The good news is the interface will work on most browsers including chrome and bypasses the requirement of logging into workspace.

To access the simplified interface point your browser to either:


Once you log in you will be presented with the available planning applications.

An administrator can now mange data sources and create/ delete applications.

Once the application has been selected you will be presented with all the sections that can be accessed through the interface.

In there was a section called Forms this has now been renamed to Plans but basically they are the same.

It is worth pointing out that if you want users to view task/forms/rules then you will need to add them using tablet access which can be access from the standard and simplified interfaces.

One of the new features is the ability to create eye pleasing dashboards which include forms, charts, external link and commentary.

The other new area is console which is aimed at planning administrators.

The console area has many of the same features as the standard interface such as setting dense/sparse, dimension order, evaluation order, refresh planning etc

There is the functionality to import/export metadata and data but with this release there are additional options for the location of the import/export and the concept of jobs and scheduling.

The location options for exporting are Local, FTP and Planning Outbox.

Selecting Local will allow the metadata/data to be download in a compressed format to the local client machine.

The FTP option allows to import/export from an FTP site.

If it is an import then you also provide the file names of the import files.

When using the FTP option a job has to be created.

“Jobs are actions, such as exporting data or refreshing the database, which you can start right away or schedule to run at intervals. The Jobs console lets administrators manage jobs in the simplified interface.”

The following types of jobs can be managed in the console:

Rules, Import data, Import metadata, Export data, Export metadata, Refresh database, Plan type map.

Once the Job has been saved it can then be scheduled.

I have selected the Job to run immediately though are a number of different scheduling options available.

If you have multiple jobs created you can select the required one.

Once the job was executed I checked on the FTP server and all looked good.

A compressed file named the same as the Job is sent to the FTP site and contains each of the import/export metadata/data files.

It is worth understanding what is happening on the server side when an import/export takes place for housekeeping reasons.

In the EPM instance tmp directory there will be a file generated for each of the import/export metadata/data files and the compressed file.

These files are not deleted so over time if a lot of activity is taking place the size of this directory can mount up and should be added to housekeeping plans.

It is also possible to change the location of the temp directory by changing the option values for the Planning java web application.

There are also logs generated in the planning logs directory so if any issues are experienced then that is the place to check out.

So how about the third location option for import/exports which is the Planning inbox/outbox.

“The Planning Inbox/Outbox enables you to upload files to the server/inbox and download the files from the server to your local computer. It also lets you view the files that are in the inbox/outbox and then use the files to schedule import and export jobs.”

This time I will export data to the Planning outbox.

The slice definition is exactly the same as you will probably be used with the outline load utility or through the planning standard interface.

The process is the same as I went through previously, save the Job and then schedule it.

Once again I am going to run the job immediately.

So this time the data is exported to the Planning outbox which you can access through the console so you can download whenever you like.

The explorer also allows you to upload files.

You may be wondering where is the location of the inbox/outbox, well it is exactly the same location which has been defined as the LCM import/export directory which in many cases has been assigned to a share.

I am not aware that the location can be changed so you will need to be mindful of naming conventions to differentiate between LCM files and if the inbox/outbox is going to be heavily used there are going to many files sitting in the root import/export directory.

As with the metadata the temp directory will also be used as part of generating the files.

It looks like the export data is first created in the temp directory and then renamed and copied to the LCM directory.

If on windows the account running the planning service will no doubt need access to the LCM directory.

Once again there will also be logs generated for the export.

I am not sure what the 0KB file is all about in the temp and log director, maybe the log files should have been added to the zip.

What looked a little odd to me was the recent activity in the job console seemed to always be empty in the simplified interface.

The job console can be accessed through the standard interface under Tools > Job Console and correctly contained the job history.

It is also possible to view the import/export status through standard planning by going to Tools > Import Export status.

I have noticed something strange with LCM which I am assuming is a functionality change or a bug because it did not occur in

When you start up Shared Services you will see the following in the logs

Basically every time you restart foundation any of the zip files in the LCM import/export directory will be extracted which in my opinion can’t be correct but it seems that LCM now does not compress the LCM files into zip format by default which is a change from, I can’t see this documented anywhere though.

This is also causes problems related to the Planning inbox/outbox.

Currently I have the data export sitting in the outbox directory (LCM directory)

I restart foundation.

The zip is extracted and the zip is removed so you left with a folder and the extracted files.

If you go to the Planning Inbox/Outbox Explorer the file has now disappeared.

As it is now extracted if I go into Shared Services I can now see the folder under the file system.

If I zip it up again then it appears in the Planning inbox/outbox explorer.

I am sure this is going to cause confusion if the Planning inbox/outbox is going to be used.

While we are on the topic of confusion there is an option in the console called “Maintenance Time

This is for PBCS only and even the on-premise documentation is for PBCS

“By default, Planning automatically performs daily system maintenance starting at midnight local time. During the nightly maintenance window, the system performs backups, applies any patches, recycles the application, and so on. If you prefer, you can schedule daily maintenance to occur at another time.”

I am sure if an on-premise planning administrator reads the above statement they would start to get a little concerned.

Another new area in the simplified interface is the Navigator area, this provides access to administrative options and can links back to Shared Services (Application Management) and FDMEE by opening a new window while still maintaining the SSO.

Nothing really surprising in the navigator section but it shows that a lot of functionality is covered in the simplified interface, shame to see that the user statistics has still not progressed from the early days of planning and is still as bad as ever.

There is a new planning property called FUSE_MEMBERS_THRESHOLD

“If performance slows when you launch the Edit Member page in the simplified interface, Oracle recommends you add the FUSE_MEMBERS_THRESHOLD system parameter to limit the maximum number of members displayed during page member lookup. The default value is set to 500. If this property is defined, the maximum number of members displayed will not exceed the value defined for the FUSE_MEMBERS_THRESHOLD property.”

The property can be added through standard planning.

The forms accessed through simplified interface now include instant save.

“When planners work in simple data forms and they click or tap Save, their new or changed data is saved instantly—without a confirmation message—if the structure of the data form hasn't changed. For example, instant save works automatically unless any of these options is selected for the data form (because they change the structure of the data form):
  • Suppress missing data
  • Suppress missing blocks
  • A business rule is selected to launch on Save (other than the default Calculate Form and Calculate Currencies business rules).” 
There is also the option to set a property called Autosave in the grid properties of a form, this option is only for forms accessed through the simplified interface.

When planners move out of a cell, their changes are automatically saved, with no prompt or message. Cell values are aggregated to their parents, and the affected cells are displayed with a green background.

Planners can successively undo actions with Ctrl+Z.

Again this functionality does not work when suppress missing data or blocks is enabled.

“For optimal Autosave performance, you must have only dense dimensions on rows and columns. However, if you must put a sparse dimension on either a row or a column, for improved Autosave performance on block storage databases, enable hybrid aggregation with the Essbase configuration setting ASODYNAMICAGGINBSO.”

It’s worth mentioning that a new feature in Hybrid Essbase is that Time-balance tagged members and Dynamic Time Series members can be calculated so it is definitely worth investing time to see if Hybrid mode will work for your planning application.

If you are going to use both the simplified and standard planning then when moving from simplified to standard make sure you log out and clear the cookies or you could end up with formatting issues in standard planning.

Finally planning no longer supports the Classic user interface (that is, up to and including Planning Release so if you are upgrading there will be no option to use it anymore.


Jeff said...

Thanks for the great writeup on Planning, lots of good info there.

I'm also stymied that they haven't added better utilization statistics to the application by now.

This is simply unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

Hi John,

Thanks for an excellent blog!

Have you seen anything about the other, from Oracle previously announced, features? Such as valid combinations, sandbox, etc.


Hakim Farooqi said...

Good Improvements

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