• Anaplan for Essbase Developers (Part 1)

    Justin Biard on anaplan
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    Anaplan is a relative newcomer in the EPM space compared to Essbase, which has been in production for over 20 years. To provide some context for those who don't know about Oracle Essbase, it has a long history of modeling data for planning, reporting and analysis across a wide spectrum of use-cases. Essbase is multi-dimensional by design. Financial intelligence, hierarchical aggregation, rapid drill-down and ad-hoc analysis are staples in Essbase. Collectively these features support the processes associated with Enterprise Performance Management (EPM).

    Introduction to Anaplan

    Both Anaplan and Essbase are multi-dimensional and both support EPM solutions. Later on in the series we will also look at how Anaplan incorporates some relational database-like features. You won't find any judgement here about which is better for a particular use-case.

    They are different.

    Anaplan and Essbase solve performance management problems each with a different architecture, capabilities and considerations.

    There are four somewhat analogous layers between Essbase and Anaplan and things start to deviate where architecturally they differ:

    Essbase Anaplan
    Server Server/Workspace
    Application Model
    Database Module
    Dimension List (and Line Item)

    Let's take a look at these Anaplan concepts as they relate to Essbase by comparing the two or highlighting major differences.
    Diagram of Anaplan vs. Essbase
    The diagram above is a simplified perspective of Essbase (left) vs. Anaplan (right). Ignore the surrounding infrastructure and other software dependencies so that we can focus on the applications.

    • Anaplan is used by customers through a Software as a Service (SaaS) subscription model.
    • It is similar to Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (PBCS) where customers purchase access to Anaplan and then login to a Web Application (workspace) provisioned in the Cloud to create their models.
    • The Anaplan software runs on Anaplan's own servers and is accessible over the public Internet via HTTPS.

    Note: At the time of this writing, there is no SaaS version of Essbase. Oracle has released a version of Essbase in the Cloud as a component of Oracle Analytics Cloud (OAC). Essbase-Cloud is a Platform as a Service (PaaS) solution. We are comparing Anaplan with the on-premises version of Essbase that most customers use today.

    If Anaplan is similar to Planning or PBCS then why not compare it to PBCS?

    This series is intentionally focused on Essbase vs. Anaplan. The graphical user interfaces of PBCS and Anaplan are supported by core architectural components that have already dealt with multi-dimensional data modeling, business logic and data integration. This knowledge is fundamental to understanding the way each platform works without respect to the forms and dashboards that support a particular planning process.

    Servers vs. Workspaces

    While Essbase applications are stored on an Essbase server, models in Anaplan are stored in workspaces assigned on a per-customer basis. Each workspace is running on an Anaplan server (a core) that has an Internet address / host name.

    A workspace is the primary portal into the Anaplan environment and users are automatically routed to their assigned workspaces when they login at anaplan.com. When you sign up for Anaplan you don't worry about deploying physical infrastructure. Anaplan takes care of that for you. Customers login to Anaplan using a supported web browser.

    Comparing the two products:

    Component Essbase Server Anaplan Workspace
    Computing Resources (RAM, CPU, Etc.) Virtual or Physical, typically configured by IT during a project. Sizing based on potential growth and usage/concurrency. Resources are constrained at build. Controlled by Anaplan and allocated based on workload and space purchased. Resources are constrained by license model. Policy-based resource usage controls.
    Developer Access Proprietary client/server software such as EAS, MaxL, ESSCMD, Etc. Anaplan workspace web application.
    User Access Primarily Smart View for Office, Financial Reporting, or various APIs. (Java, C++, Etc.) Primarily Anaplan workspace web application, plugins for Office or REST APIs.
    Security Role-based access controls to applications and dimensional filtering of read/write access. Native IDs or directory based. Role-based access controls to models/objects and list item filtering of read/write access. Native IDs or single-sign-on.

    With Essbase, you install software and run it on a Windows or Linux server. It is common for this server to sit inside your network. Instead of running on a customer-owned server, Anaplan runs their proprietary software on their own servers and provisions access to customers. With SaaS, the infrastructure is meant to be a black box so we will ignore that for now.

    When it comes to moving data into and out of each of these two platforms the flow is very similar. There are slight changes in terms of network traffic and logical steps. Local Area Network is common for Essbase vs. the public Internet via TLS/HTTPS with Anaplan. Loading data to Anaplan also requires an additional step to stage extracts.
    Diagram of Typical Data Flow
    This diagram shows the typical data flow. Both products support multiple user interfaces, in addition to those shown. The diagram includes the most common interfaces. Both products have add-ins for various Microsoft Office products with some notable differences in functionality. Inside a server Essbase is organized by Applications and Databases whereas Anaplan is organized by Models and Modules. We dive deeper into these concepts in our next post in the series.

    Wrapping Up

    As an introduction to Anaplan, we compared concepts between Essbase servers and Anaplan workspaces. We talked briefly about the user interfaces. We also reviewed the differences in a typical data flow for both products with a preview of the infrastructure differences.

    In the next post, coming soon, we will look at Essbase applications, databases and dimensions vs. Anaplan models, modules and lists.

    We work with customers and consulting partners around the world. If you have any questions or would like our help delivering your performance management solution:

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