Some Thoughts on Potential Exalytics Use-Cases

June 1st, 2012 by

Another question I’ve been asked by a few of our customers is around use-cases for Exalytics; many of them have already got a preferred hardware supplier for their BI platform, and they may only have OBIEE+ licensed rather than BI Foundation. What therefore are the most obvious use-cases for Exalytics, where customers would get a significant benefit out of migrating to this platform?

Again, part of the reason we bought an Exalytics box was to provide a proof of concept facility for customers, so we could try out first-hand their systems on a real Exalytics server and see if the benefits stacked up. But based on the hardware platform and features in the initial release of Exalytics versions of OBIEE, TimesTen and Essbase, I’d say the most obvious use-cases that would benefit from the platform would be:

  • Customers who have slow-running dashboards, no real aggregation strategy, and need to put one in-place to get their queries performing properly – in this case, the Summary Advisor plus the TimesTen for Exalytics in-memory database will take care of aggregates and caching for them, automatically
  • Customers with a good underlying database server (Exadata, or a high-end regular server) and good indexing/summarization strategy, who load data via ETL on a regular basis, but who still experience response-times for queries that vary from a few seconds to a minute or so depending on what’s requested. The in-memory cache layer with Exalytics, assuming caching in-general will benefit them, will make this response time consistently sub-second
  • Customers who are looking to create dense, highly-interactive dashboards typically with complex (multi-pass) analyses, where a lot of the processing ends-up being performed at the Presentation Server layer – the high numbers of CPUs and available RAM are going to help rendering of these dashboards and views
  • Customers looking to support more than 100 concurrent user sessions – the reason Oracle added 40 cores to the Exalytics server was to support lots of concurrent users, a scenario that often comes into play once the initial pilot dashboard gets deployed across the whole enterprise
  • Customers looking to consolidate multiple BI systems onto one server by merging multiple repositories (RPDs) and catalogs into a single, combined BI instance with common security and management across all applications
  • Customers running Hyperion Planning and Budgeting who want to reduce the planning time cycle, re-calculate data faster and generally do more in less time. Sales Analysis-type customers may also benefit but we’ll need to test out how much better Essbase ASO databases run on Exalytics before quantifying this
  • Customers (Oracle’s favourite ones..) who are moving to a single supplier, engineered-systems hardware strategy, using Exadata for their databases, Exalogic for their Java application hosting, and now Exalytics for their BI. Exalytics and Exadata connect together via InfiniBand and obviously will be an area of focus from Oracle in terms of joint-use benefits, but again we’ll need to do our own tests to see where the benefit lies in combining these two products

The other benefit of Oracle’s approach with Exalytics vs. those by vendors such as SAP with SAP Hana, is that you can port applications “as is” to the Exalytics platform without having to wait for new versions, new APIs and so forth. Those of us old enough to remember Oracle’s introduction of Oracle 9i OLAP as the replacement for Oracle Express will have fond memories of 9i OLAP not supporting SNAPI, thereby making it incompatible with Oracle Financial Analyzer, Oracle Sales Analyzer and Oracle Web Agent, instead asking customers to wait years for a replacement who instead all migrated to Hyperion’s products. If you were uncharitable, you could flip the argument on its head and say that Oracle are just recycling old BI products and there’s nothing new, but there’s a lot to be said for being able to use your existing applications on this new platform, and many existing BI Apps and Oracle EPM Suite customers will no doubt be considering moving to the new platform just to get everything to run faster on a simpler to support platform.

So we’ll finish-off this mini-series later today with a look at what demos, collateral and other resources are available for Exalytics. In the meantime if you’ve got any other Exalytics use-cases or you think any of these are wrong or unrealistic, add a comment to the post.

Comments

  1. Dpanet Says:

    As of this date, I still believe we have not yet seen the full potential of the Exalytics machine , I wish if Oracle share with it customers the road map of this version of the hardware.

    I don’t think OBIEE 11.1.1.6 is bringing the max out of this machine.

  2. Karan Chadha Says:

    Mark,
    Can you talk about some of the scenarios where Exalytics is not worth an investment? If I discount the cost factor, can there still be a situation where Exalytics isn’t a good fit?

    Regards,
    Karan

  3. Mark Rittman Says:

    @Karan,

    I guess there’s two scenarios where the Exalytics approach (as it currently is), in combination with OBIEE might not be such an obvious choice:

    1) Real-Time Data Warehouses with continuously updated data, fed either by micro-batch ETL or push-type technology – in this case, the caching and pre-aggregation approach used by Exalytics won’t really be useful, as they will be come stale (out of date) as soon as the DW dataset gets updated.

    2) Direct reporting against ERP datasets, such as E-Business Suite – again, the caching/pre-aggregation approach probably won’t be useful here, as the underlying ERP dataset gets updated through transactions. In addition, OBIEE through its use of a logical dimensional model may not be the most practical way to access the ERP dataset, which will be modeled as a third-normal form (hopefully) data set.

    For both of these scenarios though, Exalytics would be better than not having Exalytics, if you see what I mean, in that you’ll have a more powerful server that has more RAM available for BI Server/Presentation Server processing, more CPUs to support more concurrent users, and so on. But the central advantage to Exalytics (cached and pre-aggregated data in-memory) won’t really help source data updated in real-time, and straight reporting on ERP data from OBIEE through the BI Server Repository is generally not considered best practice, instead copying this data into a separate dimensional data warehouse layer through products such as Oracle’s BI Applications.

    Hope this helps

    Mark

  4. Kevin McGinley Says:

    “Exalytics doesn’t support multiple installs of OBIEE on the same server.” – Can you elaborate on this, Mark? You can technically do it, but I’m having a hard time finding Oracle documentation stating it either way. Where did you see/hear this?

  5. Mark Rittman Says:

    Kevin

    The article did say that originally, but I had a discussion with the product team afterwards and it’s not quite as black-and-white as I’d originally put it, hence altering the article afterwards to say instead:

    “Customers looking to consolidate multiple BI systems onto one server by merging multiple repositories (RPDs) and catalogs into a single, combined BI instance”

    i.e. remove mention of support and multiple installs. My take on the subsequent discussion was that (a) One of the main value-propositions with Exalytics is the 1TB of RAM available for TT and the Summary Advisor, so splitting this across multiple installs is going to affect that; also another benefit of the platform is a known configuration that Oracle are aware of an patches in a consistent way, which won’t be the case if you start installing multiple copies of OBIEE (+ TT, in most cases).

    But that doesn’t mean to say “this is not supported” – it’s still supported but in reality it’s a bit more complex (technically) than it would seem at first, and I think Oracle would rather customers hold-off from doing this, either (a) until they can issue a proper tech note on how to do it or (b) when they maybe introduce some sort of multi-tenancy in a future release, removing the need to do multiple installs.

    As usual – my interpretation, not the official Oracle line.

    Mark

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