What does Noetix mean by upgrade protection?

QUESTION:  What does Noetix mean by upgrade protection?

ANSWER:  Both NoetixViews and Noetix Analytics provide a level of insulation from database structural changes inherent with Oracle EBS upgrades. Because of that insulation, reports, queries, and ETL maps that are based on NoetixViews and Noetix Analytics are protected – they’ll continue to work even after you’ve gone through that application upgrade.

How does that work? It’s a little bit different for NoetixViews and Noetix Analytics, so let’s look at each separately.

In NoetixViews, each view joins together a collection of EBS tables. Users build reports and queries using those views. If Oracle changes the database schema, moving the data to new EBS tables, Noetix provides views that join together the new EBS tables, so those reports and queries continue to work. For example, in Release 12, Oracle moved information about Suppliers, Supplier Sites, and Contacts out of Purchasing tables into tables used by Trading Community Architecture (TCA). Consequently, several Noetix views, spanning Purchasing, Assets, and HR, were enhanced to work with the new version of Oracle, using these new tables so that the database schema changes were invisible to users who had built reports on Noetix views.

In Noetix Analytics, upgrade protection is provided in two forms. The ETL architecture maps that extract data from the EBS database use a layer of database views to access that data. These views shield the ETL maps from changes in the database tables introduced by new EBS releases. The extraction views can also be modified to include additional columns from Oracle EBS base tables via metadata. These customizations are also protected during upgrades. If you modify the Noetix ETL maps (or write your own), you can use that same layer of database views. When you upgrade to a new version of EBS, Noetix Analytics provides a version of those database views to match the new EBS database schema. The views will “look the same” to the ETL maps, so those ETL maps will continue to work.

The second form of upgrade protection with Noetix Analytics involves the data models of the Noetix Analytics data warehouse. Noetix commits that those data models – both for the Operational Data Store and the star schema Data Marts – will remain consistent across upgrades. Noetix may add facts, dimensions, attributes, and relationship sets to the model, but won’t change the ones that are already there. As a result, reports, queries, and dashboards that you build with Noetix Analytics will continue to work after you upgrade.

Why does all of this matter? Noetix makes your EBS upgrade easier, because it protects your Oracle reporting environment. You save time, you save money, and you reduce the risk of errors.

Submit a question to Noetix and check back for the answer in an upcoming blog post!

 

What does the statement, “NoetixViews automatically matches my ‘unique configuration’ of Oracle E-Business Suite,” really mean?

QUESTION:  What does the statement, “NoetixViews automatically matches my ‘unique configuration’ of Oracle E-Business Suite,” really mean?

ANSWER:  NoetixViews software creates database views that are automatically generated by patented technology called Noetix MetaBuilder. This technology scans through the setup details of an Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) installation, discovers how EBS has been configured, and uses that information to create custom views that match the configuration.

The most common (and most obvious) setup details that Noetix MetaBuilder detects are Key Flexfields (KFFs) and Descriptive Flexfields (DFFs). All of the structures that have been defined for your KFFs and the segments and qualifiers that are defined for each structure are detected and used to expose those KFF segments as columns in the views that are generated. In a similar manner, the attributes you’ve defined in your DFFs become columns in the generated views. Noetix MetaBuilder even recognizes context-sensitive DFFs and maps them appropriately into the views it creates.

Beyond flexfields, there are many other configuration details that Noetix MetaBuilder detects and uses to modify the views that it generates. Here are a few of the most common examples:

  • Multiple Currencies – If multiple currencies are enabled, NoetixViews will show monetary amounts in both transaction currency and base currency.
  • Credit Card Information – In different versions of EBS R12 (12.1, 12.1.1, 12.1.2), Oracle has changed the way credit card information is stored. NoetixViews automatically detects the current version and automatically retrieves the credit card details so that they are displayed properly.
  • Trading Community Architecture – Oracle Trading Community Architecture (TCA) is a data model for managing complex information about customers, including organizations, locations, and the network of hierarchical relationships among them. TCA was first used in Oracle Accounts Receivable v 11.5, and has been broadly expanded in R12. NoetixViews automatically detects the version of EBS and incorporates TCA appropriately throughout its views.

There are many other setup details detected. NoetixViews includes literally hundreds of “profile options” – configuration settings that control the behavior of Noetix MetaBuilder so that it generates views that match your configuration of EBS. The value to you is clear – you can be confident that the views that are generated for you will return data correctly because they match the way your installation of Oracle EBS is storing that data.

Submit a question to Noetix and check back for the answer in an upcoming blog post!

 

What is a star schema?

QUESTION: What is a star schema?

ANSWER: A star schema is a database structure in which data is organized into one or more fact tables that are linked to one or more dimension tables. A fact table contains data that you want to measure (usually numeric information) and can often grow very large, containing millions of rows of data. Examples could include sales volumes, order details, or salaries. Dimension tables contain attributes that describe the facts (and are usually much smaller). Common examples are time (year, quarter, month), geography (country, state, city), or product. Dimensions are frequently organized into hierarchies, as with the time and geography examples above.

A “star schema” is so named, because, if you draw the connections between tables, with the fact table in the middle, it resembles a star, as in the attached diagram.

Organizing data into star schemas provides advantages for reporting. Queries can be designed very simply – they typically connect a single fact table directly to one or more dimension tables. In our example above, we could easily analyze our sales “by state, for each quarter” or “by product, for each country”.

There are also other benefits to this structure. Fact tables can be aggregated, allowing for calculation to be done in advance, so queries perform optimally. In addition, fact tables can contain snapshots, providing the ability to analyze historical trends.

Submit a question to Noetix and check back for the answer in an upcoming blog post!

 

My BI platform comes with a set of administrative tools that enable me to build the model. Why would I want to further invest in a product like Noetix Generator to assist with this process?

QUESTION: My BI platform comes with a set of administrative tools that enable me to build the model. Why would I want to further invest in a product like Noetix Generator to assist with this process?

ANSWER: You’re absolutely correct – each BI platform comes with a tool for building the model (or semantic layer) for that tool. Before tackling your question, let me first provide a bit of background on this technology.

Every major BI platform includes a “metadata model” or “semantic layer” or “abstraction layer”. The model provides a “map” to the data for the tool to follow and, more importantly, hides the details of the underlying complex data structures from the business user. The model allows the presentation tool to use standard business terminology that makes sense to those users.

In Oracle Discoverer, that model is called an End User Layer (EUL). Business Objects calls it a Universe. Cognos uses Framework Manager packages. Oracle BI EE uses the BI Repository (which is often referred to as an RPD file, after the file extension used for the file that contains the model). They all serve a similar purpose – providing a friendly presentation to the user, while hiding the complexity of the underlying data sources.

Now, getting back to the question. Noetix provides a family of Noetix Generator products – there is one for SAP BusinessObjects, IBM Cognos BI, Oracle Discoverer, and Oracle BI. Each Noetix Generator builds the model for that BI platform automatically, using details from NoetixViews or Noetix Analytics (or both). So, what’s the value? What does the Generator do beyond what you get out of the box from the native administration tools in the BI platform?

The answer is, a lot!

  • Creates joins between objects
    One of the trickiest things to do in building a model is to define the joins between tables and views. I won’t go into all the details here, because each tool is different. You need to plan your “logical model” and then figure out how to fit your existing tables and views into that model. This is especially complicated in OBI EE, because that platform has very rigid (and poorly documented) rules on how to do this. Noetix Generator automatically defines the joins between related tables and views for you.
  • Manages complex join relationships
    Defining those joins gets even more difficult when you have a lot of inter-related objects. If your data source is NoetixViews (or any other set of views and tables that isn’t designed as a star schema), you’re going to have some trouble getting this right. Even with Noetix Analytics, getting all of the joins correct can be very complicated. Again, OBI EE wins the prize as “most difficult platform” for this kind of modeling and Noetix Generator can greatly simplify the management of this process.
  • Links to “Lists of Values”
    When your users build reports, they’ll want to create prompts for parameters, which show a list of allowable values for those parameters. In most cases, you’ll want to provide a fast way to retrieve and display those lists of values. Noetix Generator sets up those lists automatically, saving you the tedium of doing it yourself.
  • Populates descriptive text for views, tables, and columns
    Your model will be much easier to use if you add in detailed descriptions of each view, table, and column in the model. Unfortunately, this is a painfully monotonous task (because much of the descriptive detail isn’t imported automatically by the administrative tools). Noetix Generator automatically populates the descriptions with the details from NoetixViews and Noetix Analytics.
  • Specifies column attributes
    In each BI platform, you need to specify (for each column) the data type, the aggregation rule (i.e. whether it’s a numeric column that can be summed up or whether it’s something to be counted or some other rule), how the data should be formatted, and a number of other properties. Again, Noetix Generator defines this information automatically, saving you the repetitive task of doing it yourself.
  • Creates hierarchies
    Much of the data in NoetixViews and Noetix Analytics exists in hierarchies (including every Key Flexfield structure). Noetix Generator automatically creates dimensional hierarchies in each BI platform. This enables the automatic drilling features of those platforms to be enabled, which allows business users to create rich interactive reports that support “drill to detail” with no additional effort.

All of these tasks can, of course, be done using the administration tool that came with the BI platform, but the work is typically slow, tedious, and error-prone. Modeling tasks that would take (literally) weeks of effort by a highly skilled administrator can be done automatically, in minutes, by Noetix Generator. In addition, Noetix Generator integrates seamlessly with those tools. As a result, if you do additional modeling within your administrative tool, the work you’ve done isn’t lost. It remains in the model and is preserved each time you re-run Noetix Generator.

In the end, you get the best of both worlds. The repetitive work is done automatically by Noetix Generator. That leaves you free to do other more important tasks like integrating additional data sources or adding other modeling details required by your business.

Submit a question to Noetix and check back for the answer in an upcoming blog post!

 

We just completed a major Oracle E-Business Suite implementation and now my company needs a reporting solution. Where do I begin?

QUESTION: We just completed a major Oracle E-Business Suite implementation and now my company needs a reporting solution. Where do I begin? Read more