Software License Reviews – Are you ready?

by Kenny Wilson, Group Commercial Director

With Oracle’s Q3 FY13 nearly done and dusted, and its full year point only a few months away, it’s not uncommon to see Oracle reaching out to its client base with requests for license reviews. This can often provide a useful insight into this industry giant’s performance going into Q4 – however more compelling, usually prompts considerable consternation and discomfort in the marketplace, even more so with those particular organisations under the spotlight.

Even if you believe you have a fully managed and controlled license estate, this type of vendor communication can set the heart racing of even the most experienced IT professionals. On the flip side, if you have always struggled as an organisation to maintain your software asset management process, then a request for a license review can cause untold stress, disruption and expense.

So, ask yourself – is your organisation ready for an Oracle license review? Would you know where to start? Where would you go to find the information the vendor is looking for and do you fully understand the implications of being over or, more worrying, under licensed.

In our day-to-day working with large enterprise organisations with expansive Oracle estates, we have witnessed the chaos a request for a vendor audit can cause. Our deep understanding of Oracle and its licensing complexities, including Unlimited License Agreements, has enabled us to assist with the entire process and ensure the best possible outcome for all parties. Our publication, ‘9 Critical Steps in Planning an Oracle Software License Review’ which is based upon many years of working with clients with complex licensing arrangements, will offer you an insight into how to prepare for a license audit and the first steps to take should you receive a request from the vendor.

As experts in Oracle licensing, optimisation and Oracle Software Asset Management, our Rocela Control™ service can also help you manage your Oracle estate on-going, thus minimising the stress and inconvenience of a future vendor audit and ensuring value for money in your software investment.

So, if you are under threat of an Oracle license audit and require independent Oracle advice, read our publication and contact us for assistance.

One small step for man, one giant leap for Web ADI

by Kenny Miller, Principal Consultant for Rocela

I recently blogged about ”BI Publisher becoming every accountant’s best friend”. However, as we all know, it’s difficult to keep an accountant happy for long. They’ll likely soon be asking an awkward question of their new best buddy:

“OK, I can see that BI Publisher is great for downloading data from Oracle EBS (E-Business Suite) straight into Excel, but can I do it the other way round? Can I upload data from Excel into Oracle EBS?”

BI Publisher is a reporting tool. It can’t upload data into Oracle EBS. So what other options are available?

Many of us will have developed custom CSV interfaces, where users create data in Excel, save it as a CSV file, which they somehow transfer to the Oracle EBS server, before SQL*Loader (or External Tables, if you’ve “moved with the times”) populates the data into a temporary table where finally it’s processed by a custom program using a standard API or interface. A convoluted solution which has its problems:

  • Having so many “moving parts” means there are a number of different ways for the whole thing to fall over in a crumpled heap (technical term, meaning to “perform sub-optimally”).
  • It’s difficult in Excel to validate the data to be accurate and relevant, without resorting to something complicated like ODBC or Visual Basic. For example, does a cost centre value entered in Excel actually exist in Oracle EBS, is an accounting date in an open period etc?

If you’re interested enough to still be reading then I expect you already know all about Client and Web ADI in Oracle EBS (for those of you still on 11i, be aware that it is Web ADI only in R12). Application Desktop Integrator (ADI) is Oracle’s standard tool for connecting Oracle EBS with MS Office tools e.g. HR letter generation using MS Word, and uploading GL journals using MS Excel.

The problem with ADI had always been that only Oracle could decide what you used it for. There was no supported way to create your own ADI document for something that Oracle hadn’t already provided. HR users have always “felt the love” from Oracle who provided them with numerous standard ADI documents. Unfortunately most of our accountant friends missed out on an invite to the ADI party. Oracle doesn’t provide even a single standard ADI document for either Payables or Receivables, so you won’t be using ADI to load your supplier invoices or your cash receipts.

However, this has all now changed! Available from R12.1.2 onwards is the “Desktop Integration Framework” (DIF)! Finally there is a supported way of creating custom ADI documents, allowing data to be properly validated and processed through any interface or API into Oracle EBS. Only time will tell if this is a “giant leap for Web ADI” but it’s certainly a welcome new option to have available, and one I thought you’d like to know about it.

If you want to learn more then I’d recommend the following material:

  • Oracle note 807319.1 which lists all the Transfer of Information (TOI) content for R12.1. Search the note for “Implement and Use Oracle E-Business Suite Desktop Integration Framework” and you’ll find a very informative eSeminar.
  • The “Oracle E-Business Suite Desktop Integration Framework Developer’s Guide” in the documentation library, which for R12.1.3 is available here.

I’m hoping to use DIF soon to develop a custom ADI document for a client. I’ll blog again once I’ve done so – I’m sure you’d like to know if the reality lives up to the hype. In the meantime, if you have any experiences with DIF you’d like to share, then please let me know.

 

 

Oracle BI Publisher set to become every accountant’s best friend (Part 2)

by Kenny Miller, Principal Consultant for Rocela

In my last post (Part I – Oracle BI Publisher set to become every Accountants best friend – 21st September 2011), I spoke about the newly added Excel functionality Oracle introduced into IIg BIP, otherwise known as ‘True Excel’ and the advantages that this brings to Oracle EBS users.

So in this post, I’ll run through some report conversion examples.

Data selection can achieved with any tool that produces XML output. It’s easy to convert any standard Oracle Reports concurrent program – simply change the output format of the program to XML (see example below). This is the simplest method for generating XML output for concurrent programs, but PL/SQL, SQL*Plus, and Java Concurrent Programs can also be used.

Report Conversion Example

There is no need to convert all existing custom reports to BIP – these will continue to run in R12 (assuming that the impact of any database changes are resolved).

However all payment format output (e.g. BACS and cheque prints) MUST be converted from reports to BIP. The payment functionality in Payables has been replaced in R12 with a new Payments application which only uses BIP to generate report output.

The following is a simple example of how to convert a standard program.

Create a custom Concurrent Program

Copy the program, changing the Output Format to XML:

Add to Request Group

The new program needs added to a request group, just as any other concurrent program does:

The request should now be run to generate XML output (this will then be used to develop the layout of the report):

BIP Data Definition

Use the “XML Publisher Administrator” responsibility to create a Data Definition. By using the same name for both the Concurrent Program Short Name and the Data Definition (in this example “FNDSCRUR_XML”) our concurrent program becomes a BIP concurrent program.

Microsoft Word Desktop Template Builder

The Template Builder installs as a plug-in to Microsoft Word, and is used to develop the report layout. Describing how to develop the layout is beyond the scope of this document. However, the Template Builder includes a comprehensive User Guide:

The following two layouts were developed, one designed to produce PDF output, and the other designed to produce Excel output (XHTML – not “True Excel”):

FNDSCRUR_XML_PDF.rtf

FNDSCRUR_XML_XLS.rtf

BIP Template

Use the “XML Publisher Administrator” responsibility to create a Template for the developed layouts:

Submit Concurrent Request

When we go to submit our request, because we’ve linked our Data Definition to two different templates, we now have the option of selecting which output we want to produce:

The program output using the template “Users of a Responsibility (XML) PDF” is:

“True Excel”

At the time of writing, only the 11g Template Builder can be used to build “True Excel” templates for R11 and R12. However, only the 10g Template Builder can be used to develop RTF templates for R11 and R12.

Unfortunately, the 10g and 11g Template Builders can’t both be installed on a machine at the same time, meaning anyone who will be developing both “True Excel” and RTF templates will either need to install/de-install as required, or install in multiple separate machines or virtual machines.

Chapter 6 of the “Report Designer’s Guide for Oracle Business Intelligence Publisher” describes how to create a “True Excel” template. See http://download.oracle.com/docs/cd/E21764_01/bi.1111/e13881.pdf for more details.

eText Templates

Normally the layout for BI Publisher reports is created using a RTF template. Another type of template for BI Publisher is eText. This gives precise control over where each character appears in the output, and is used to produce the output for interface files e.g. payment output files. An example of an eText template is shown below:

In conclusion

To sum up, BI Publisher makes reporting directly from EBS to Excel much easier than it’s ever been before. Simple tabular reports can be easily created using the XHTML approach, but why not take some time to fully explore the benefits of “True Excel”? For those that haven’t used BI Publisher before then hopefully the simple example shown above removes any “fear of the unknown”.

BI Publisher may well be Oracle’s reporting tool of the future, but it’s here right now, and it’s not difficult to use. Why not take advantage of it?!?

Top 5 Tips for Oracle R12 Upgrade Success

by Ray Brown, Rocela Project Manager

As one of Rocela’s Project Managers who is currently managing several clients through their Oracle R12 upgrade, I have developed a deep understanding of the challenges and successes, pitfalls and quick wins of an Oracle R12 Upgrade.

Making the decision to upgrade is an important step and can truly enhance how you operate and perform as a business.  Get the implementation of this wrong and you will endure business disruption, process inefficiency and low return on investment.

So, what can you do to make the transition go smoothly? Well, there are a number of elements you need to take into account.

Here are my top tips that should help you through the process.

1. Planning

Plan! Plan! Plan!

Yes, I know we all do it, but you need to ensure you create a sound plan and get buy-in from all areas of the business. Having a ‘project kick-off’ meeting to gather maximum momentum from the beginning is a good starting point.

Ensure plans cover all the following areas:

Hardware delivery times (if new hardware is being deployed): Many an upgrade project has been delayed from the start when hardware wasn’t commissioned in time

Internal IT resources:  Even if the upgrade is making use of existing hardware IT support will still be required to install new operating system patches and packages, to make disk space available and to secure backups at key points in the projects

Software release: Agree up-front exactly what version will be installed and to what patching level. Unless the version has just been released by Oracle then it’s certain to be the case that various later security patches, roll-ups and key bug fixes will be available and should be applied up-front to reduce the likelihood of errors being encountered during testing

External resource:  If upgrading using consulting support then make sure that you understand clearly the scope of the services they are providing and ensure that any remaining tasks are assigned to internal resources.

Internal resource: Planning internal resource for an upgrade can be one of the most difficult takes because it usually has to be fitted around users day-to-day work commitments and take into account holidays and busy periods such as month or year-ends. Clearly planning what internal resource is required and when makes securing the resource from the relevant management in the business much easier.

 2. Licensing 

Upgrading Oracle E-Business Suite introduces opportunities and risks with regard to Oracle software licensing. It’s an opportunity to review and streamline the hardware architecture, with a possible reduction in technology licensing.

It’s also a point where customers overlook the licensing implication of changes they make, which can lead to nasty (and expensive) surprises if audited by Oracle. In particular if you’re deploying new hardware then make sure that you don’t exceed your technology licensing (bearing in mind such complications as processor minimums and core multipliers) and don’t assume that just because you’re reducing the overall number of processors deployed that you can’t still get problems.

Also be careful when making use of new technologies (such as BI Publisher) or Oracle E-Business Suite modules that you’re not getting into a situation where additional licenses need to be purchased. Oracle licensing is a complicated area so if unsure then take professional advice!

3. Environment

I would always recommend that the correct level of hardware is available during the upgrade project – duration can vary from project to project (3 – 12 months). It’s likely that additional instances will be required as 11.5.10 and R12 systems will be running simultaneously.

So, consider sourcing additional hardware (even temporarily if required) to accommodate this. Before starting the project it’s essential to do an environment review to confirm that the hardware you have will cope both with the project and with eventual production use of R12. Creating an environment plan as part of the project kick-off is a good idea.

4. Customisations

There may be far more customisations in your system than you are aware of. A good idea is to thoroughly review the customisations in advance and carefully question whether they are required.

Consider whether there is functionality within in Oracle R12 which supersedes these customisations and review your existing documentation to understand what customisations you have. Unfortunately in some cases, this can highlight the lack of documentation!

Conducting this review prior to the upgrade ensures that you have reasonable customisation estimates in place as input to your plan. Don’t be surprised if the cost of upgrading customisations is a significant proportion of the overall project costs.

5. Testing

It is of upmost importance to ensure the appropriate amounts of testing are scheduled in your project plan. Utilise previous scripts if they are available (if they’re not then plan in the creation of test scripts early in the project) and get the business units involved in testing.

Have a team ready to do some high level testing of key processes immediately following the 1st iteration upgrade. Check standard screens and reports still perform in the same manner as in your current release and there is no impact on performance.

How can you make it easier?

Upgrading is always a substantial project, but talking to an experienced Oracle specialist or taking into account some of the tips above can make the difference between a successful project with return on investment and a failed project requiring unbudgeted cost to resolve.

We have just recently added a new case study to our website on Oracle R12 Upgrades – you can read this here.  We hope you find it interesting.

Oracle On Demand: Increasing Efficiency – Part 3

(By Tam Kyle, The third part of our close look at Oracle On Demand and how to make it work for your business)

Oracle

So far, we have discussed how On Demand is provided, how the services are supported and how it’s licensed.  We considered the impacts of additional resources and modifications on your license entitlement and in the process, uncovered some potential ‘gotcha’s’!

When you purchased your licenses – and here I mean the Oracle E-Business Licenses (this isn’t specific to On Demand incidentally – it’s relevant to most Oracle E-Business Suite purchases), you will have done so under an overarching Oracle License and Services Agreement – the so called OLSA.

In this document (or sometimes attached separately) there will be a set of license terms and definitions. Buried somewhere deep in these, will be a statement noting that you are responsible for ensuring that a set of restrictions are not violated.

What is the OLSA?

One of these innocuous looking clauses states that you promise to abide by the Application Licensing prerequisites as specified in the Applications Licensing Table. So what? Well, the application Licensing table is a separate document (unfortunately usually provided via hyperlink!) intrinsically connected to your contract.

Importantly, it states your liability in the event of alteration to the middleware or technology components of the Oracle E-Business modules. If, for instance you have added tables to your instance then you’ll probably need to license the database AND the middleware application server.

Now, don’t think because you’re running your service at On Demand that this protects you from this liability – ‘Oracle made the changes’, you shout.  Yes, maybe so, but they made them on your behalf.  Someone at your company wanted them to be made, and somebody somewhere signed a contract that said you’d be happy to bear the consequences of such an action.

And here’s the rub – if you’re using On Demand at Oracle’s data centres, then they know exactly what’s been altered and how much it’s going to cost you.  After all, they provide the infrastructure!

You get what you pay for?

So, you’ve paid for the Oracle E-Business Suite licenses, you’ve paid for the Oracle On Demand Licenses, you’ve paid for the Oracle On Demand resources (storage, environments, VPNs and so on), and you might now be paying for Oracle database and Oracle middleware licenses, based on a technology footprint that’s owned by Oracle!

Furthermore, are you (or the DBAs at OOD) utilising Enterprise management packs to monitor the instances? Do you know if your contract allows these to be used without additional cost considerations?

Don’t get me wrong, even though that sounds like a hefty payment to one vendor, it may well be attractive compared to in-house provision, particularly in the case of an SME who just doesn’t have the resources available to provide high end Financial or HCM functionality on their own. Just be aware of what you’re potentially getting into.  Oracle holds practically all the cards here. You can’t hide the Oracle infrastructure footprint (and you shouldn’t) – because it isn’t yours.

What to do

So what do you do about it? Sometimes, in a situation when a business case is being written, the implications of a future modification might not be obvious, especially when those implications might be buried deep in contractual documentation hidden in a filing cabinet in a procurement department somewhere.

And don’t blame the Oracle guys providing your day to day operational support – they’ll probably be DBAs, server and storage technicians just trying to do their job and the likelihood is that they’ll be several layers removed from the costing implications of OOD.

No, what you need is to be armed up front – be aware of the FULL cost implications of making a decision to go On Demand. Speak to your potential On Demand Service Manager, and your Oracle Account Manager, and make sure that they know that you want to be fully briefed on any and all cost impacts – in advance of them  happening.

At the moment, many clients are going through migrations to Oracle E-Business Suite R12 – this seems to have triggered a hive of license impact activity.

Be aware

So, be aware – have the conversations, make sure you’re well prepared. Alternatively, speak to us. We’ll help you navigate the license minefield, or at least understand the impact.

Next time, we’ll delve a bit deeper into the implications of those Oracle E-Business modifications – whether you’re hosted at OOD or not.

Oracle On Demand: Increasing Efficiency – Part 2

Am I an angry cloud or a happy cloud?

(by Tam Kyle, – the second part of our close look at Oracle On Demand and how to make it work for your business)

So, now that we’ve purchased licenses for the module of choice, that’s it done? Well no, that was the easy bit. Anyone can purchase Oracle E-Business Suite modules – you’re interested in On Demand, because it’s a value add service.  As the name suggests, you get something that responds to your needs.

Require an additional testing environment for that R12 upgrade? – there you go. Want a new functional modification implemented to show real time expense monitoring? – no problem. Are my applications being backed up and monitored regularly? – sleep easy.

What’s the Catch?

However, you don’t get this for nothing.  If you were doing this in-house then you’d be paying for IT resources, and software tools to do it for you – this is no different, except that you’ve now got the ability to call on these resources from a wide swath of technical and operational capability at Oracle to provide your needs, and these have to be paid for. So what you’ll also see is billing for storage, new environments, VPNs and so on. But how are you paying for all the Oracle resource that’s working on your behalf?

Well, you also have to license each of your users of the On Demand Service (which may be more than your business population) so now you have the concept of an On Demand authorised user – someone that you authorise to use the service on your behalf. These are priced on a monthly basis; so for example, you could have 20 Application users (of say, Financials) for 6 months.  This cost goes someway to paying for the resource you’re consuming at OOD.

Phew, glad that’s over…

What’s next?

‘Fraid not – now we come to the interesting bit…

Remember that modification I mentioned above? You’re probably aware that purchases of the Oracle E-Business Suite modules come with restricted use technology licenses.  Basically you tend to get the supporting database and middleware licenses for nothing, PROVIDED that you don’t alter the functional structure of the applications.

Now, the reality is that most customers make alterations to their Oracle E-Business Suite implementations over time.  Practically everyone has bespoke needs that just aren’t provided in the products out of the box.

So you might tweak some screens, or provide new ones.  You might even go so far as to implement some new tables and stored procedures to give your boss that whizzy new function he was speaking so sparkly-eyed about.  Well, you’ve more than likely just rendered your technology implementation licensable.  (Watch out for my next blog post on ‘Oracle E-Business Customisations’, which will go into much more detail on the impact of this.)

How is this possible? Don’t I get everything bundled together?!? I didn’t sign up for this – well, actually you most probably did and in On Demand Part 3, I’ll explain how.

Control your Oracle licensing, Control your Oracle costs

As Oracle’s product portfolio has grown over the years, so has the challenge of how to manage and co-ordinate the resource that often lies at the heart of modern enterprises.

Even since Rocela was founded and started offering help with software asset management and Oracle licensing, these changes have been wide-ranging and show no sign of slowing.

As a result, we’re announcing the latest service offering from Rocela, which has been carefully developed with all these changes in mind – Rocela Control™.

Taken from our page about it on Rocela.com:

Rocela Control™ is the world’s most sophisticated service for cost saving and optimisation of Oracle licensing.  This service delivers;

  • Oracle cost management and control
  • Oracle license compliance optimisation
  • Reduced license complexity and risk

We think it’s a real step forward and think you’ll agree. To find out more, head to Rocela.com or get in touch.


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