In the past year, we have all watched the explosive growth in cloud offerings from Oracle – starting with Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (PBCS) and most recently with the release of Enterprise Performance Reporting Cloud Service (EPRC). These are attractive offerings for organizations looking to reduce infrastructure costs, simplify the technology stack, and provide users with robust performance management tools.
At Performance Architects, I’ve participated in a few of these implementations, primarily providing support on the data integration side. Data integration during these projects generally means moving financial data, dimensions, and metrics back and forth from the cloud. This is either done manually by an administrator – or, in an ideal state, automatically via automation routines.
In an on-premise environment, this would be par for the course. I would typically create a series of routines that automatically pull financial data and dimensions from a source system, transform it if required, and then load it directly to the target enterprise performance management (EPM) system. We might accomplish this using ETL/ELT tools such as Informatica, Oracle Data Integrator (ODI), or Financial Data Management Enterprise Edition (FDMEE). In other cases, we might use PL/SQL to manage the data transformation before the final load to EPM.
In all of these examples, we can provide not only direct integration between source and target, but also advanced logging, email notifications, and finally clear visibility into the process for administrators and users. I consider this to be a requirement for any enterprise system – and a clear measure of success. Is financial data delivered in a timely fashion? Is the transformation process clearly understood by the business? Do the users have a reliable process that provides them with clear insight into the process?
With these new cloud offerings data integration is a little different. We don’t have direct access to the target EPM environment, as we would on premises – and there are no “cloud adapters” for ODI and Informatica. Instead the migration of financial data, and management of metadata is accomplished using a basic command line utility, called EPM Automate. This utility allows administrators to move components back and forth using flat files (!), and to launch processes within PBCS. This is a bit of a deviation from traditional on-premise solutions as we’ve lost that direct injection into EPM, and now have to manage the creation, size, and transfer of files from local environment to cloud.
All is not lost however, as the EPM Automate utility does come packed with core functionality that helps to provide some of the features needed to develop a proper data integration solution. EPM Automate first and foremost helps with the movement of data files from local environment up to the cloud. Without this, administrators would be forced to manually upload a data file through the front end. With the files uploaded, EPM Automate can then launch off FDMEE rules in the cloud, to assist with data transformation and a load to the target application. EPM Automate can also launch the Planning business rules to perform data calculations. After each step, EPM Automate provides a basic success/failure status, so scripts can be written to evaluate this before proceeding to the next step. Let’s take a look at an example of what a routine might play out like using EPM Automate:
- The locally hosted automation script first calls an email utility to send a notification that the routine has started.
- EPM Automate then collects a text file that had previously been dropped off by Oracle Data Integrator (or Informatica). EPM Automate uploads this file to the Cloud Inbox.
- EPM Automate launches a FDMEE data rule that picks the file up from the inbox, performs data transformation, and then loads the data to PBCS.
- EPM Automate receives a success status, and then proceeds to launch a business rule that performs an aggregation of data and performs a required allocation calc.
- EPM Automate receives a success status, and subsequently fires off a closure email to the administrators that the job completed successfully.
This routine moves data accordingly from source to target and provides visibility into the status of the job. EPM Automate provides us with the functionality we need to build our end-to-end process, though we do give up that direct injection we find in on-premise solutions.
I could continue to cover this in far more detail, but I’ll reserve that for another blog post. If you interested in hearing more about the differences between on-premise and cloud solutions, and want to hear about what the cloud does best, then please join my upcoming webinar “When Oracle Cloud EPM and BI Solutions are the Answer”.