BACKGROUND: Founded in 1986, Symmetry Corporation is a leading OLAP consulting firm with headquarters in San Rafael, California. Symmetry provides a full range of consulting services, including vendor evaluation and selection criteria, project management, database design and complete system implementation for finance, marketing and sales OLAP applications.

PLATFORMS: HIS, Hyperion Essbase OLAP Server and Oracle RDBMS ­ all running on Sun Solaris 2.5.1 with the HIS client running on Windows 95.

PROBLEM SOLVED: One of Symmetry's corporate clients sought an enterprise solution to provide 400 users with improved enterprise decision support capabilities for a marketing funds performance management system. The source data was in an Oracle RDBMS and the client's OLAP platform of choice was Hyperion Essbase OLAP Server. HIS, a suite of graphical tools and scalable data integration services, was a logical choice for integrating the relational data with Hyperion Essbase, making it easy to create, deploy and manage the client's analytic applications. Since the relational tables were complex and fairly normalized, we first created a simplified star schema. Through HIS, the star schema was mapped to a meta model which, in turn, was mapped to a meta outline. From the meta outline, HIS created the Hyperion Essbase outline, loaded the data and executed a calculation script. Using HIS, we were able to perform quick test loads of different outline structures and make high-level member name changes effortlessly. A special requirement of the client's system was that the Hyperion Essbase cube needed to be recreated nightly. Each night, HIS handled the deletion of all members in the outline and then rebuilt the outline.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: HIS provided functionality that made moving the system from development to production easy. HIS's OLAP Command Interface made it simple to run the system without human intervention during production. HIS was started during system initialization and ran continuously, without intervention, until the system was shut down.

STRENGTHS: HIS contains five major components: Hyperion Integration Server, OLAP Architect, OLAP Builder, the OLAP Metadata Catalog, and the OLAP Command Interface. The meta model and predefined hierarchies are created through the architect. Once in builder, the meta outline's hierarchies can either be inherited from a predefined hierarchy or created from scratch to form a new custom hierarchy. The builder component of HIS makes dimension build and data load rules maintenance a breeze. During the development of training materials for the client, a key user group requested dimension and upper-level member name changes. With the HIS builder tool, these changes were quick and easy to make: we were able to generate new OLAP outlines for users in under 10 minutes. The member filtering function provided a way to restrict the data loaded in the cube. This allowed us to load small samples of data until we were ready to perform a complete data load. For the client's hands-off production environment, the scriptable operations using the OLAP Command Interface were a big plus.

WEAKNESSES: While not a production problem, during development several users launched HIS cube and data loads during overlapping time windows. The resulting complexity made the log file difficult to interpret. In order to migrate changes between the development and production environments, we needed to transport HIS meta catalog tables manually becuase the Oracle instance used in the development stage was different than the one used during production.

SELECTION CRITERIA: The client anticipates deploying many relationally fed Hyperion Essbase OLAP applications. Thus, HIS was the logical choice for managing the data loads. While other tools provide ways of managing data loads, HIS answered the client's needs sufficiently and minimized the complexity of the application itself.

DELIVERABLES: HIS supplied key functionality for the client's Marketing Funds Performance Management system by allowing the client easy access to the Oracle relational database.

VENDOR SUPPORT: After experiencing core dumps during the development process for our client, Hyperion volunteered to replicate the client's environment. Through this process, Hyperion was able to help stabilize the client's environment. A subsequent upgrade eliminated the issue and delivered a very stable product.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is complete and understandable.

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