Infosys’ blog on industry solutions, trends, business process transformation and global implementation in Oracle.

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November 28, 2011

Exalytics - BI and Big Data Tuned to Perfection

Analytics as we know is all about gaining insights from data to aid effective decision making. However, the vision of delivering fast, interactive, insightful analytics has eluded most of large Enterprises.

Time pressures, ever changing requirements, business funding have traditionally been bottlenecks in this vision, however the major challenges come from fact that most of the analytical solutions require different vendor hardware, software, storage and networking integrations. The ever increasing data volumes, the types of information assets and the channels in today's enterprises are posing serious challenges for Databases and Business Intelligence systems to handle. While this is a reality, another key aspect is the business user's increasing demand to have analysis, insights into this large volume almost instantaneously. The problem can't only be addressed by adding faster microprocessor chips, hardware as the challenge lies in the data storage, its retrieval & processing.

 

Oracle Open World Conference, on Oct 2nd will be marked as a key date in history as Oracle put up it's strong foot on the Big Data and In-Memory solution space to take up SAP's HANA, and other smaller players in the Big Data space. This day Larry Ellision unveiled Oracle's Exalytics Intelligence machine. The launch was preceeded by an overview of the series of Oracle's line of systems that combine hardware, software, networking and storage stacks.

 

First in the Exa-family came the Exadata a finely tuned Database appliance machine to ensure your Database is synchronized with hardware and tuned for perfection. Next in line was to onboard the applications and remove the performance bottlenecks with applications, and there came the Exalogic (Weblogic platform for hosting the applications) again fine tuned for performance of applications with the hardware bundling. The key to this entire series is a strategy to have highest performance for the lowest cost, as Ellison puts quoted "For a given task, it will cost you less on an Exadata than it would on a plain old commodity server." And the brain behind this strategy was to "Parallel Everything". According to Ellision "These machines should never fail, ever fail. Hardware breaks, software breaks too, but having a parallel architectures your should be tolrent to those failures". With Exalogic the Java based applications are 10-times faster, and allows for serving more users at the same time.

 

Finally the 3rd addition in Exa-family was to have an Analytical solution that handles both Big data challanges and in-Memory to provide "Speed of Thought" analytical responses. And here we are with a power packed solution having following:
1. 4x10 Core Intel Xiom CPUs (40 Core Processors)
2. 1 TB of DRAM, additionally can hold 5-10TB of data in memory due to compression techniques
3. Advanced Visualization and Exploration, BI foundation with additional capabilities for Mobile BI enablement
4. Optimized Infiniband connectivity to Exadata and Exalogic - to leverage your investments in Exadata and Exalogic
5. Columnar compression techniques - allows for storing more data in memory, with no network latency and disk I/O
6. Provides fastest performance for relational and MOLAP business intelligence applications, EPM and large scale mobile BI applications
7. Oracle's TimesTen in-memory database optimized for BI

Two keywords sum up the Exalytics solution "Speed of Thought Analytics" and "Desktop-like Experience".

What lies in future on those lines - Potentially a "Big Data Appliance" that may include Hadoop for large scale processing and No-SQL database from Oracle.

One things sure that this is a bold step in Oracle stamping it's authority in the new Database world, and taking to next level for Big Data, in-Memory and Analytics.The promises made by this release are to be realized, and certainly will be amazing to see some of advanced visualization capabilities being showcased by Larry Ellision on Exalytics.

November 25, 2011

The last mile in financial reporting - The next big thing

Guest post by
Anand Balakrishnan, Principal Consultant, Infosys

 

ERP system have been adopted by over 90% of the global fortune 100 companies and 75% of fortune 500 corporates to handle the various facets of their operations. In the financial accounting space, while these companies have focused on the back office processing of records and generation of preliminary financials (P&L and Balance Sheets) a very small number of companies have any sort of automation in the last mile, namely generating the quarterly and annual financial statements that need to be submitted to varied set of external agencies including regulators, lenders and the street.

The upfront processing of financial records including generation of the consolidated financial statements use a high degree of automation and are tightly integrated with upstream transactional systems. The automation, integration and inherent checks and balances in ERP and financial consolidation systems provide a higher degree of confidence on the accuracy of financial information and helps reduce the time to close.

But on a quarterly and annual basis, the close process entails a number of additional activities not limited to

  • reconciling key accounts,
  • collaboration on generation of disclosures,
  • incorporating commentaries and observations,
  • incorporating non-financial indicators,
  • repurposing financials based on the needs of the stakeholders, and finally
  • generating and delivering information to each of the external agencies

These additional activities that are performed after the consolidated financials are generated but prior to them being reported to the outside world is often termed as "the last mile".

The current challenges in the last mile have resulted in a high cost of compliance to companies with a number of companies employing between 5 to 10 FTEs for 15 to 45 days to complete the various activities associated with generating quarterly and annual reports.

From the early 2000s, two separate but closely related trends have emerged to help make financial reporting more consistent across the globe. The emergence and adoption of IFRS that seeks to bring about consistencies in accounting treatment; and XBRL reporting which has slowly been gaining acceptance as a new standard for digitized reporting incorporates taxonomies that aim to standardize how financial information is reported. The primary benefit that XBRL seeks to bring is to simplify reporting and standardize reading and analyzing of electronic financial information by other systems.

In 2009 the SEC in the US, prescribed a timetable for entities to report financials as per XBRL. While XBRL has been gaining more global adoption, there is still a lot that remains to be done.

The focus on the last mile is the next big thing in financial reporting. The challenges that need to be addressed in the last mile can be broadly categorized into

  1. Integrating the various last mile activities
  2. Integrating the activities performed in the last mile with the upstream activities.

The future of external financial reporting entails a number of integration touch points... we are excited to see how this develops.

November 18, 2011

Bridging Two Islands: A curious case of Oracle AIA

Guest post by
Vinod Kumar, Consultant, Infosys

 

Telecom sector has been chronically plagued by revenue leakage problems and often seen to be spending the maximum energy and budget on areas around how to not let it happen or in other words having in place an effective Revenue Assurance mechanism. Making it one of the most published area in the industry are the solutions around it yet the clients, be it the newcomers or the old-timers, are often marred by this problem. Not that there are no solution around it but it's the understanding of the solution/product offering and the judicious implementation which makes a solution stand out.

Recently I got a chance to work with a client hailing from telecom domain which was undergoing this classical problem of revenue leakage even though there were plenty of resources available to not to let this happen. The problem statement that client gave us was "We don't know what is my total customers and are we billing all of them?" This leads to two possible mistakes:

  • Not billing a customer to whom service was sold
  • Billing a customer who has requested for a cancellation

Digging deeper into the problem gave us an idea that root cause behind this problem was disparate source systems or multiple touch points for the order entry and lack of proper integration of Order Management (Siebel) and Billing (Oracle BRM) system.

OBIEE had already been chosen to answer the problem statement mentioned above, in other words, we had a challenge to bring in the accurate information from different systems to our warehouse which was not happening currently. Orders which were getting created in Siebel system were not flowing to BRM for billing purpose without errors and numerous person hours were being spent on after every load to back track before billing a customer.

Oracle AIA came as a handy remedy for us to deal with this problem and client already had it in place but that was not one of the best or the optimum utilization of this tool. During our data modeling exercise we put in use the canned views which we used to join the account and product information from Siebel and Oracle BRM which was existing in two separate compartments till now.  These views offer unique IDs to join the account and product dimensions helped us define single version of truth for client's account and product information.  Though we had to go for a rigorous testing whether we have got the right flow but that was one time and solved the problem for once and all.

We had to put in a great tool to right use and that re-affirmed my faith in "Think inside the Box" thing.

November 4, 2011

Why Oracle Fusion Procurement? How does it add value?

Guest post by
Suchitha Prabakaran, Consultant, Infosys

 

In the current global business environment, efficient Procurement techniques, methodologies and processes play a vital role in providing a competitive edge- both operationally and financially for any organization irrespective of the size, nature of business, products dealt with, area of operations etc. Corporates now have realized the importance of streamlining and strategizing procurement processes as it makes a huge difference to the revenue and profitability of the organization.

Oracle Fusion Procurement which is a part of the Oracle Fusion Applications suite provides a fair set of advantages in facilitating advanced supply management:

  • The application is designed to set a disciplined procurement environment providing relevant insight and operational rights to procurement users at different levels in the Procurement chain and various levels in the organizational hierarchy.
  • Well defined workflow across the Oracle Fusion Procurement suite provides right access to necessary users with required rights to perform specific actions during the life cycle of the Procurement process. This would avoid compliance gaps, help track user actions, identify user mistakes and bring in accountability to every action of any user across the chain.
  • User friendly and personalized role based dashboards along with user worklists and watch lists allows procurement users and management to identify and monitor areas that require immediate attention and also capitalize on opportunities that would yield more business.
  • Embedded analytics focusing on business intelligence provide vital information to the management, daily users and suppliers. It provides for understanding of consumer spending behavior, procurement expenses and supplier timeliness and performance. Reports generated through state-of-the-art analytics on procurement information help the organization in designing strategies and aligning them to the business goals, identifying opportunities and monitoring trends.
  • This application provides for inbuilt universally followed contract standards with the required flexibility to make business operations simpler while operating in a global economy.
  • Integrating Sourcing capabilities of Oracle Fusion Procurement applications helps discover opportunities for savings, prioritize procurement actions and negotiate contracts and agreements ensuring collaboration with internal and external systems and parties and compliance with locally and internationally accepted standards.

Another key aspect to note is the Oracle Fusion Procurement Applications facilitate end user self service to a great extent. The user interface being easy to understand and adopt - increases efficiency in operations, enhances consumer shopping experience, promotes supplier enablement and end user satisfaction. The interface delivers user friendly features such as search options, favorites, recent transaction history, tagging and embedded learning that makes it easy to use the application with minimum training. This allows for key procurement professionals to get rid of the routine and mundane activities. Rather provides them an opportunity to concentrate on strategic procurement areas, designing the processes based on the latest trends and business needs, identifying and focusing on areas that require special attention/improvement across the procurement life cycle and its operations.

There are a number of aspects to be considered before a decision is made to implement a new Procurement application. Along with urge to expand, compete, and increase revenues and margins using optimum resources, it should be borne in mind that compliance related enforcements, impact of sudden changes to technology and business processes, controls and approval processes and short term and long term business objectives have been considered while taking decisions related to implementing new applications in the Procurement Domain. Oracle Fusion Procurement Applications have been built keeping these considerations in mind thereby ensuring business interests have been met.

Oracle Fusion Procurement applications being open and standard based can be easily integrated into Service-oriented architecture.  Being designed as a suite of modular applications, the Fusion Procurement applications can be deployed to work along with existing Oracle applications by investing minimum implementation effort with minimum disruption of business operations. The applications are built in such a way that organizations can choose to implement the entire suite of applications or one product family or one/more modules at one go or in a phased manner providing flexibility to the customers in bringing about a technology enhancement to suit the financial considerations, business needs and long term organization goals.

November 1, 2011

Oracle Utilities NMS 1.11, How Is It In Java?

Oracle Utilities NMS 1.11 has been generally available for a few months now.  Since then, I have had an opportunity to work with it.   In this new version, older technology (X-Motif) is retired and the NMS is a Java based product.  When using the new NMS, it is important to not expect it to look exactly like it used to.  Now that it is in Java, it will not.  Gone is the Environment Manager (Eman) as a separate tool.  There is now a toolbar that is used to start NMS tools.  The buttons on the toolbar all have details display when you hover them that clarify their purpose.  When first using the new NMS version, it will take some time to find the new button to access the features desired, but as time goes, familiarity increases.  All the main functionalities are there, it may just take some time to learn the new button locations.  Once familiar, it is just as fast to work with if not faster. 

 

Yes, there are some minor functionalities that are gone.  For example, the SqlX tool no longer exists.  This is not a problem for a couple reasons.  Firstly, this is a tool used only by system administrative users, and is not for dispatcher use.  Secondly, tools such as TOAD and Oracle SQL Developer always were superior tools to use instead.  Other functionalities may work mostly the same, but not 100%.  An example of this would be Hide/Display.  Hide/Display functionality still exists for the viewer, but the Java version has some limitations the X-Motif version did not.  The loss of this minor function is made up for with gains elsewhere.  For example, the Java environment allows users to hover over icons/buttons and see explanation of the button.   The Java environment allows users to have multiple Work Agenda tools running so that 2 separate filters can be loaded concurrently.  There is also an outage summary on the top of the product Work Agenda.  The summary shows counts of numbers out, calls, and other information.    Another significant gain is the new 'help' pages that are available from each tool.

For the most part, administration of the NMS has gotten easier.  Since X-Motif is deprecated, it is no longer necessary to maintain and synchronize 2 sets of configurations.  There is only the one set (Java).   Also, adding or moving a button/label/field is simpler too.  In Java, the configuration can be simply deleted or pasted in their new place.  There is no need to concern with assigning proper index numbering to assign sequence.  There is no need to concern over how or to what a button/label/field is attached to another button/label/field.  There is no risk changing one column of a table will affect other columns.  The changes are not without some drawbacks.  In the past, tool configuration changes could be done with less impact to NMS users.  Sometimes it would not be necessary to have users see any downtime at all.  Now with the Java only NMS, system downtime is needed in most cases to deploy changes.  There are very few exceptions to this.

 

Occasionally, Oracle may have made oversights when converting functionality from the old X-Motif format to the new Java format.  If any logic, expected functionality or expected behavior seems missing, write the SR with Oracle.  It may be possible to fix it by making your own change, but alert Oracle to this issue too.

 

What have been your experiences with 1.11?  If you have and tips or observations, please share.  I would love to hear them.

 

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