Last month, Oracle finally released the long-awaited on-premises release of EPM 11.2, rumoured to be the last hurrah for the venerable suite. After a couple of test installations, I have a few thoughts from an infrastructure perspective.
First, the bad news:
- This is very much a .0 release, in many ways the first since 18.104.22.168 (the last time so much of the infrastructure had substantially changed). It is rough in quite a few places, and configuration is not for the faint of heart.
- I have encountered what, to me, looks like a blocking bug in multi-server configurations. I filed a support request with Oracle and will see how it goes. At the moment I simply wouldn't be able to recommend it in situations where high-availability is necessary.
- Even after configuration, it is harder to operate by non-techies than in the past. Even the "start" and "stop" links provided, which used to be ok for single-machine use at least, are not sufficient anymore - some extra scripting will be necessary to make it useable even in the most basic scenarios.
- Documentation has not fully caught up with 12c, particularly in the area of additional configuration tasks for Financial Close Manager (which was already pretty lacking). Some of the additions, to deal with the now-necessary Repository Creation Utility, are ambiguous.
- Weblogic seems hungrier for memory than in previous releases. This might be due to 12c, or to the fact that it's now using Java 8 under the hood - I had already measured an increase in this area when replacing Java 6 with 7 on 22.214.171.124.
- Essbase seems to have been shipped almost unmodified from the latest 126.96.36.199 version. Among other things, this makes it currently impossible to do a full-SSL configuration if Essbase is in the picture. It's disappointing, particularly considering how Essbase customers are typically among the few who often require fully-encrypted solutions.
- The documentation seems to state that running any "Configure Database" task more than once will end in failure. I suspect this is true only for certain components, but I have not had the time yet to explore this area. This makes it even harder than before to migrate databases after configuration, so make sure you take design choices that will stand the test of time.
- EPMA lives! Well, not really - the product is gone, but somehow it's still avilable in the Provisioning screen and you can assign roles for it. 🤷🏻♂️
- This is the end of the line for IIS stalwarts. Using IIS as front-end webserver will simply not work (according to docs).
- It's not particularly clear whether Oracle 18c and 19c are officially supported as database. In practice they seem to work (after all, they are really 188.8.131.52 and .03 rebranded), but it would be nice if the matrix was clarified.
But there are also some good news!
- The products themselves are basically the same, with the occasional extra feature. Users shouldn't need any substantial retraining, with the notable exception of any EPMA or Interactive Reporting power-users still around.
- The 12c stack, in theory, unlocks a number of attractive possibilities for system administrators and implementors - containers, no-downtime patching, and so on. It will take some time to fully unpack how EPM can take advantage of these goodies.
- Recent Windows Server releases are supported.
- In my test, everything seems to work even with the free editions or Oracle and SQLServer (XE 18c and Express 2017), which is nice for consultants and other professionals.
- Both 12c and Java 8 support modern crypto standards, which should make things less awkward when risk-assessing and pentesting.
- Java 8 brings a lot of improvements to the language and the ecosystem. Whole classes of problems have been removed (MaxPermGen, anyone?), which should make services more reliable and performant. Custom integrations will also be easier and faster to develop and run.
In the past, I would have expected such a release to be followed by a quick stream of fixes, necessary to make it actually fit for production use. We will have to see if it is going to be the case here, considering how long it took to debut and the overall tone of the Oracle roadmap (mostly cloud-focused). Should Oracle really commit to improving the on-premise, this release would soon prove itself as a substantial improvement over 184.108.40.206.
If you'd like to know more and discuss your options in the EPM space, make sure to get in touch with us.