Oracle Analytics Cloud Workshop FAQ

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to present the Rittman Mead Oracle Analytics Cloud workshop in Oracle's head office in London. The aim of the workshop was to educate potential OAC customers and give them the tools and knowledge to decide whether or not OAC was the right solution for them. We had a great cross section of multiple industries (although telecoms were over represented!) and OBIEE familiarity. Together we came up with a series of questions that needed to be answered to help in the decision making process. In the coming workshops we will add more FAQ style posts to the blog to help flesh out the features of the product.

If you are interested in coming along to one of the workshops to get some hands on time with OAC, send an email to training@rittmanmead.com and we can give you the details.

Do Oracle provide a feature comparison list between OBIEE on premise and OAC?

Oracle do not provide a feature comparison between on-premise and OAC. However, Rittman Mead have done an initial comparison between OAC and traditional on-premise OBIEE 12c installations:

High Level

  • Enterprise Analytics is identical to 12c Analytics
  • Only two Actions available in OAC: Navigate to BI content, Navigate to Web page
  • BI Publisher is identical in 12c and OAC
  • Data Visualiser has additional features and a slightly different UI in OAC compared to 12c

BI Developer Client Tool for OAC

  • Looks exactly the same as the OBIEE client
  • Available only for Windows, straightforward installation
  • OAC IP address and BI Server port must be provided to create an ODBC data source
  • Allows to open and edit online the OAC model
  • Allows offline development. Snapshots interface used to upload it to OAC (it will completely replace existing model)

Data Modeler

  • Alternative tool to create and manage metadata models
  • Very easy to use, but limited compared to the BI Developer Client.

Catalog

  • It's possible to archive/unarchive catalog folders from on-premise to OAC.

BAR file

  • It's possible to create OAC bar files
  • It's possible to migrate OAC bar files to OBIEE 12c

Can you ever be charged by network usage, for example connection to an on premise data source using RDC?

Oracle will not charge you for network usage as things stand. Your charges come from the following:

  • Which version of OAC you have (Standard, Data Lake or Enterprise)
  • Whether you are using Pay-as-you-go or Monthly Commitments
  • The amount of disk space you have specified during provisioning
  • The combination of OCPU and RAM currently in use (size).
  • The up-time of your environment.

So for example an environment that has 1 OCPU with 7.5 GB RAM will cost less than an environment with 24 OCPUs with 180 GB RAM if they are up for the same amount of time, everything else being equal. This being said, there is an additional charge to the analytics license as a cloud database is required to configure and launch an analytics instance which should be taken into consideration when choosing Oracle Analytics Cloud.

Do you need to restart the OAC environment when you change the RAM and OCPU settings?

Configuring the number of OCPUs and associated RAM is done from the Analytics Service Console. This can be done during up time without a service restart, however the analytics service will be unavailable:

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PaaS Service Manager Command Line Interface (PSM Cli), which Francesco covered here, will allow this to be scripted and scheduled. An interesting use case for this would be to allow an increase in resources during month end processing where your concurrent users are at its highest, whilst in the quieter parts of the month you can scale back down.

This is done using the 'scale' command, this command takes a json file as a parameter which contains information about what the environment should look like. You will notice in the example below that the json file refers to an object called 'shape'; this is the combination of OCPU and RAM that you want the instance to scale to. Some examples of shapes are:

  • oc3 — 1 OCPU with 7.5 GB RAM
  • oc4 — 2 OCPUs with 15 GB RAM
  • oc5 — 4 OCPUs with 30 GB RAM
  • oc6 — 8 OCPUs with 60 GB RAM
  • oc7 — 16 OCPUs with 120 GB RAM
  • oc8 — 24 OCPUs with 180 GB RAM
  • oc9 — 32 OCPUs with 240 GB RAM

For example:

The following example scales the rittmanmead-analytics-prod service to the oc9 shape.

$ psm analytics scale -s rittmanmead-analytics-prod -c ~/oac-obiee/scale-to-monthend.json where the JSON file contains the following:

{ "components" : { "BI" : "shape" : "oc9", "hosts":["rittmanmead-prod-1"] } } }

Oracle supply documentation for the commands required here: https://docs.oracle.com/en/cloud/paas/java-cloud/pscli/analytics-scale2.html .

How is high availability provisioned in Oracle Analytics Cloud?

Building a high available infrastructure in the cloud needs to take into consideration three main areas:

Server Failure: Oracle Analytics Cloud can be clustered, additional nodes (up to 10) can be added dynamically in the Cloud 'My Services' console should they need to be:

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It is also possible to provision a load balancer, as you can see from the screenshot below: 

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Zone Failure: Sometimes it more than just a single server that causes the failure. Cloud architecture is built in server farms, which themselves can be network issues, power failures and weather anomalies. Oracle Analytics Cloud allows you to create an instance in a region, much like Amazons "availability zone". A sensible precaution would be to create a disaster recover environment in different region to your main prod environment, to help reduce costs this can be provisioned on the Pay-as-you-go license model and therefore only be chargeable when its being used.

Cloud Failure: Although rare, sometimes the cloud platform can fail. For example both your data centres that you have chosen to counter the previous point could be victim to a weather anomaly. Oracle Analytics Cloud allows you to take regular backups of your reports, dashboards and metadata which can be downloaded and stored off-cloud and re implemented in another 12c Environment. 

In addition to these points, its advisable to automate and test everything. Oracle supply a very handy set of scripts and API called PaaS Service Manager Command Line Interface (PSM Cli) which can be used to achieve this. For example it can be used to automate backups, set up monitoring and alerting and finally and arguably most importantly it can be used to test your DR and HA infrastructure.

Can you push the user credentials down to the database?

At this point in time there is no way to configure database authentication providers in a similar way to Weblogic providors of the past. However, Oracle IDCS does have a REST API that could be used to simulate this functionality, documentation can be found here: https://docs.oracle.com/en/cloud/paas/identity-cloud/rest-api/OATOAuthClientWebApp.html

You can store user group memberships in a database and for your service’s authentication provider to access this information when authenticating a user's identity. You can use the script configure_bi_sql_group_provider to set up the provider and create the tables that you need (GROUPS and GROUPMEMBERS). After you run the script, you must populate the tables with your group and group member (user) information.

Group memberships that you derive from the SQL provider don't show up in the Users and Roles page in Oracle Analytics Cloud Console as you might expect but the member assignments work correctly.

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These tables are in the Oracle Database Cloud Service you configured for Oracle Analytics Cloud and in the schema created for your service. Unlike the on-premises equivalent functionality, you can’t change the location of these tables or the SQL that retrieves the results.
The script to achieve this is stored on the analytics server itself, and can be accessed using SSH (using the user 'opc') and the private keys that you created during the instance provisioning process. They are stored in: /bi/app/public/bin/configurebisqlgroupprovider

Can you implement SSL certificates in Oracle Analytics Cloud?

The short answer is yes.

When Oracle Analytics Cloud instances are created, similarly to on-premise OBIEE instances, a a self-signed certificate is generated. The self-signed certificate is intended to be temporary and you must replace it with a new private key and a certificate signed by a certification authority. Doc ID 2334800.1 on support.oracle.com has the full details on how to implement this, but the high level steps (take from the document itself) are:

  • Associate a custom domain name against the public ip of your OAC instance
  • Get the custom SSL certificate from a Certificate Authority
  • Specify the DNS registered host name that you want to secure with SSL in servername.conf
  • Install Intermediate certificateRun the script to Register the new private key and server certificate

Can you implement Single Sign On (SSO) in Oracle Analytics Cloud?

Oracle Identity Cloud Service (IDCS) allows administrators to create security providors for OAC, much like the providors in on premise OBIEE weblogic providors. These can be created/edited to include single sign on URLs,Certificates etc, as shown in the screenshot below:

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Oracle support Doc ID 2399789.1 covers this in detail between Microsoft Azure AD and OAC, and is well worth the read.

Are RPD files (BAR files) backwards compatible?

This would depend what has changed between the releases. The different version numbers of OAC doesn't necessarily include changes to the OBIEE components themselves (e.g. it could just be an improvement to the 'My Services' UI). However, if there have been changes to the way the XML is formed in reports for example, these wont be compatible with different previous versions of the catalog. This all being said, the environments look like they can be upgraded at any time so you should be able to take a snapshot of your environment and upgrade it to match the newer version and then redeploy/refresh from your snapshot

How do you connect securely to AWS?

There doesn't seem to be any documentation on how exactly Visual Analyzer connects to Amazon Redshift using the 'Create Connection' wizard. However, there is an option to create an SSL ODBC connection to the Redshift database that can then be used to connect using the Visual Analyzer ODBC connection wizard:

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Can you still edit instanceconfig and nqsconfig files?

Yes you can, you need to use your ssh keys to sign into the box (using the user 'opc'). They are contained in the following locations:

/bi/domain/fmw/user_projects/domains/bi/config/fmwconfig/biconfig/OBIPS/instanceconfig.xml

/bi/domain/fmw/user_projects/domains/bi/config/fmwconfig/biconfig/OBIS/NQSConfig.INI

Its also worth mentioning that there is a guide here which explains where the responsibility lies should anything break during customisations of the platform.

Who is responsible for what regarding support?

Guide to Customer vs Oracle Management Responsibilities in Oracle Infrastructure and Platform Cloud Services (Doc ID 2309936.1)

Guide to Customer vs Oracle Management Responsibilities in Oracle Infrastructure and Platform Cloud Services

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