KPI Partners Blog

Beware What You Read On The Web About OBIEE

Posted by KPI Partners News Team on Thu, Dec 27, 2012 @ 04:45 PM

by Kurt Wolff

It may be strange to be writing this with the intention of posting to a blog, but I thought someone should step back a minute and issue a few words of warning about information that can be found on the web about Oracle BI EE.

Some of it is downright wrong and will lead you into trouble. Some of it is incomplete and/or not very clear and you will find yourself working hours to figure out how to get the “advice” to actually work. From my experience, the farther away the advice leads you from the “out of the box” product functionality, the more likely either of these outcomes is to occur.

One of the least well-understood aspects of an OBIEE production environment is maintaining web catalogs, particularly merging “development” web cat elements with the production web catalog. Yes, there is an OBIEE utility for doing this, the Catalog Manager. This utility is the “Fredo” of the OBIEE tools. It no doubt does work in certain situations (nothing is impossible), but my experience is that more often than not it does not work – and betrays you, to boot.

The cursory documentation, lack of practical examples, and confusing terminology (what does “archive” do and how does it differ – and it does! – from the “archive” menu choice in the web catalog manager), plus the fact that catalog manager is highly version sensitive (to the third decimal) means using it is either going to work perfectly or it is not going to work at all. There is not much middle ground.

That being the case, it is tempting to believe advice that you don’t need it at all, that “you can copy individual requests, dashboards or whole folders using filesystem copies” as one blogger wrote. In fact, this is the last thing you should do, as you risk corrupting the web catalog permanently. Insidiously, it may not be corruption that will show up immediately – in fact, things may look OK after you do it. However, signs of rot may soon appear: permissions that are wrong and cannot be corrected; catalog manager functionality that no longer works; catalog manager complaints about web cat corruption; the Set Privileges page of the web admin ceases to work. By this time, you may have invested more work in the ailing web catalog, and if there’s a way to recover from this situation, Oracle has not published it. The inner structure of a web catalog remains quite undocumented.

There’s another flavor of this. You may have wished for some functionality in the product which wasn’t there and suddenly one day you read that it actually is via a clever workaround, and it sounds so tempting to try it.

So you settle down to follow someone’s blog about, say, navigating in place, which is feature that many wished that Oracle BI EE had. Yes, once you figure it out (reading the blog makes it seem quite complex -- partly because the blog introduces complexity into the method that really isn’t necessary) and try it, you discover several limitations the blogger forgot to mention (or hadn’t discovered himself). The technique involves creating a narrative view that dynamically constructs a Go URL within an iFrame on the dashboard page. Navigation from this analysis then happens within the iFrame – i.e. on the same dashboard page.  However, there are limitations. If the dashboard employs a non-default style, the results in the iFrame will not match the dashboard. If you use the Style parameter in the URL to change the style to the dashboard style, it will match but then navigation stops working (you are presented with the logon screen during navigation). Passing a parameter from a dashboard prompt works – as long as the parameter does not contain a space. If navigation does work, there’s no way (besides the browser back button) to return. And to get this far, you have to battle the blog’s text itself – which, for example, does not give you the complete text of the URL used in its own example. In the end, you may, like me, decide that the technique is not really ready for prime time.

Another example somewhat in the same vein is advice on constructing dynamic column headers from presentation variables. Again, this is functionality that it would be nice to have. However, when you read the blog, you discover that there are more cautions and limitations than there are side effects listed on your favorite prescription medicine.

Workarounds and functional compromise are part a consultant’s life. Just be careful about what you read on the web. Even very good blogs can give you impractical, wrong, time-draining advice that has not been adequately tested.

Tags: OBIEE, Mobile BI, Oracle, Kurt Wolff, Oracle BI, Oracle BI Applications, Jeff McQuigg, Blog

Subscribe to the KPI Blog