Oracle Ace Corner: Introducing Oracle Planning in the Cloud – Is It Right for You?

What is Planning in the Cloud?
At last year’s OpenWorld, Oracle top product managers made it clear that the immediate internal vision is to make all Oracle software available on the cloud as well as on-premise. The latest addition is Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (PBCS). Oracle’s cloud is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, allowing users to essentially rent software over time instead of purchasing it outright.

What’s the motivation? The main driver is that 35% of large companies and as much as 65% of mid-size companies are still using spreadsheets or legacy apps to meet their core management processes (Gartner). Moving to an in-house enterprise best-practice approach for planning, budgeting, and forecasting for small to mid-size companies is difficult due to large upfront costs for licensing, hardware, ongoing maintenance, etc. SaaS models are a perfect solution for those wanting to make the initial jump into Oracle EPM but are very price-sensitive.

The theme of the PBCS is “rapid deployment.” It is intended to be a way to get up and running quickly with no IT investment or hassle – and it’s up and running as quickly as you can enter a credit card number.

What’s on It?
The basic Hyperion Planning software that you would expect is available on the cloud – the Workspace portal, Planning, Shared Services, Financial Reporting, Smart View Provider, and Essbase.

Capabilities
The version on the cloud is not the same version as the on-premise software available to download. The basic capabilities are the same, however with a few caveats:

  • You get ONE Planning application only. If you need another application, you need to create another cloud instance.
  • Up to four plan types (ASO or BSO)
  • No Planning modules (CAPEX, Workforce, Project Financial Planning, Public Sector, etc.)
  • No EPMA; classic only
  • No other EPM-based products such as HFM, FDM, DRM, etc.; only Planning
  • No corporate directory (i.e. MSAD) authentication
  • All data needs to be uploaded via flat files either manually though the web or automated using a DOS file transfer utility that needs to be downloaded from the cloud site.

Patches
Patches can be scheduled, but they are mandatory. Oracle will only support the last release and the release prior. You will not be able to back out patches.

Backups
Essbase data is backed up once per day.

Training
Tutorials start from the basics of Planning and multidimensionality to advanced administration. There are also videos that are more geared for end users to get them familiar with the system. The landing page has a Cloud Documentation Center with other various documentation. Guided demo applications are available, complete with task templates to get started.

Diagnostics
There are built-in application diagnostics that assist you with your applications. It will have advice and guidance that identify design flaws such as outline structure, ordering, block sizes, etc. There are also built-in run-time governors that will warn you if you reach a frowned-upon threshold.

Scalability
Built-in automatic scaling as you add users and increase usage

High Availability
Built-in fault tolerance and redundancy

Other Administration
Administration functionality added to Excel. Also, Essbase administration is in now inside the Calculation Manager. Essbase Administration Services is not available in Oracle’s cloud.

Target Markets
So who is the cloud for? I see this being a viable option for the following:

New Accounts:

  • Mid-market companies that are not able to buy full licenses and/or maintain IT infrastructure. A great way to get mid-market companies out of spreadsheet mode into a feature-rich robust planning solution that larger companies use.

Existing Accounts:

  • Businesses that want to expand additional business units where the current hardware or budget is restrictive
  • Existing non-planning EPM customers that want to expand into planning where the current hardware or budget is restrictive of that expansion
  • Customers on 11.1.1.4 with only one classic planning application (no modules or EPMA) that want a quicker way to upgrade or test latest features
  • A sandbox: customers who want a place to test something out in a non-prod environment or have a place for development without the need for an IT overhead, or a temporary place to start development while on-premise hardware is acquired

When the Cloud May Not Be a Good Option
When Oracle’s cloud is a fit, it’s a great fit and a no-brainer option for some organizations.  Others may want to rethink the cloud if using:

  • Multiple planning applications or EPMA
  • Other Hyperion products that are not on the cloud yet, such as Financial Management
  • Any of the Planning modules

Remember, this is a SaaS model – there is no server access, just a URL. The cloud initially is not intended to simply replace on-premise implementations. Therefore, for those organizations that are looking simply to reduce or eliminate their on-premise IT infrastructure and already own the software, there are some good third-party Hyperion hosting solutions available that may be a better fit.

How Do You Get on the Cloud?
PBCS is in beta testing at the time of this writing and should be released in mid-February. Once available, users can log into cloud.oracle.com to get set up.

Initial rumblings are estimating a price of about $120 per user, with a ten-user minimum and a one-year minimum. Not bad. Just remember at the end of that year, you still do not own the software, so thinking strategically will be the key. Having an Oracle Certified Partner help in assessing all your deployment options is recommended.

For more information on Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service, see http://www.oracle.com/us/solutions/cloud/planning-budgeting/overview/index.html

About Oracle ACE Director Eric Helmer
Oracle ACE Director Eric Helmer is one of the nation’s consulting leaders in Oracle Hyperion Business Intelligence Infrastructure. He is a recognized expert in the area of world-class Hyperion Windows and Unix implementations and a champion for the free exchange of information on best IT practices around Oracle solutions. He is well-known in conference-attendance circles (Solutions, Collaborate, Kscope, etc.) as well as in many Oracle user groups around the nation. He has participated in Hyperion beta code validation, is a certified graduate of Oracle University (DBA), and is a familiar face within corporate finance offices of the Fortune 200 nationwide. He has been dedicated to Oracle solutions for over eight years, specializing in SQL, Database Administration, Oracle RAC, Hyperion, Oracle Data Integrator, WebLogic, and Oracle Application Server. Eric is the domain lead for the Oracle Applications Users Group’s (OAUG) Hyperion Special Interest Group (SIG) and the Oracle Developer Tools User Group (ODTUG) Hyperion SIG. He will be speaking at this year’s upcoming ODTUG Kscope in June and the OAUG Collaborate in April.

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