In case you missed the news: TM1 10.2.2 has just been released, probably not coincidentally in advance of the IBM Vision 2014 conference in Orlando that begins Sunday, May 18th. All of our QueBIT FrameWORQ products, including ControlWORQ, ReportWORQ, and WebWORQ, fully support TM1 10.2.2. In this post I’d like to give you an overview of some of the enhancements to TM1, Cognos Analysis for Microsoft Excel (CAFÉ) and Cognos Insight that are part of the new 10.2.2 release. This post will focus predominantly on TM1 and CAFÉ, which saw some very significant improvements. Before you get excited and start upgrading your production environment, though, some words of caution: this is a new functionality release, some of the changes are significant, and it would be imprudent to push any of this into production without some very rigorous testing in a non-production environment. It is also worth noting that some of the new 10.2.2 features of the TM1 SDK described in this article require programming expertise in order to use them - QueBIT is proud to have consultants and developers on staff who are experts in these areas and, as your trusted advisor, we can help you evaluate whether or not you should take advantage of TM1 10.2.2 and these features.
The 10.2.2 release was apparently so good that IBM felt the need to skip version 10.2.1 altogether! In truth, the confusing choice of a 10.2.2 version number was probably done to avoid even worse confusion with Cognos Express 10.2.1, which includes the 10.2.0 release of TM1, and to align with the version numbers of other products like Cognos Disclosure Management (CDM). One of the general improvements IBM has made across all of these products in 10.2.2 is to provide more options for localizing the names of objects in TM1 to, for example, allow the same cube to appear as a cube named “Sales” to a user in the US and “Verkäufe” to a user in Germany. Here is a summary of what I believe to be some of the other new feature highlights for this release:
CAFÉ’s biggest strength with regards to TM1 is that its performance does not suffer over a wide area network (or any network with significant latency) in the same way that TM1 Perspectives and Architect do. CAFÉ, then, may provide a viable alternative, free of Citrix and Remote Desktop, for TM1 Perspectives/Architect users who experience poor network performance with TM1. CAFÉ is a critical component of IBM’s TM1 cloud strategy and it delivers as advertised: CAFÉ users get a similar performance experience whether they’re connecting to a TM1 Server located in the office or across the globe. It also provides an interface that users of Essbase migrating to TM1 will find very easy to adopt.
The main barrier to adoption of CAFÉ by existing TM1 users, though, has been that it hasn’t supported existing TM1 Perspectives Excel reports or some of the same reporting capabilities; users can leverage existing TM1 Views and explore data through crosstabs and flex views, but recreating the same rich TM1 Perspectives Excel reports in CAFÉ would require far more effort than most customers are willing to invest. In the 10.2.2 release of CAFÉ, however, this barrier to adoption is beginning to fade…
Support for a Subset of TM1 Excel functions
If you only use DBR, DBRW, DBRA, SUBNM and VIEW TM1 functions in your Excel reports and do not use Active Forms, then CAFÉ will be able to refresh existing TM1 Excel reports for you. You can’t use CAFÉ in this way while TM1 Perspectives is loaded; instead, you must load a separate CAFÉ XLL add-in before it can refresh these functions for you. Once loaded, even double-clicking on SUBNM cells will bring up CAFÉ’s subset editor. This presents a great opportunity to reach TM1 users with your existing TM1 Excel reports who, due to poor network connections with the TM1 Server, cannot otherwise work efficiently with TM1.
Access to Turbo Integrator (TI) Processes
You now have a somewhat limited capability to run TI processes from CAFÉ in much the same way that you can run TI processes from TM1 Perspectives. Drag a process from the task pane onto the spreadsheet and it will generate something similar to a TM1 Action button, which when clicked will run the selected TI process. It is worth noting a couple things that aren’t clear in current IBM documentation on this feature:
- You cannot edit Turbo Integrator processes from CAFÉ; you can only modify process parameter values. Only TM1 Perspectives, Architect and Performance Modeler can be used to edit TI processes.
- You get much more limited feedback when you run processes from CAFÉ; there is no “Process executed successfully” message that appears, by default. You can display a simple “Active Processes” form, but in my testing the form often showed “Error” when the process executed successfully and there is no way to investigate or review message logs from the CAFÉ interface.
There is still some distance to go, I believe, before TM1 Perspectives users will consider migrating, en masse, to CAFÉ for their TM1 Excel reporting needs. But, this new release brings that day much closer and customers who are struggling mightily with poor TM1 performance over the network should take a serious look at CAFÉ. In the meantime, I hope the CAFÉ development team will continue to expand the list of supported TM1 functions and consider supporting, or at least provide tools for “upgrading”, TM1 Active Forms to CAFÉ equivalents.
Users of Cognos Insight have a number of enhancements to look forward to:
- Support for printing all tabs in a workspace at once
- Conditional formatting capabilities for workspace cells
- Ragged/unbalanced hierarchy options are now available when importing dimensions/data into Cognos Insight
There are quite a few exciting enhancements in the core TM1 components in the latest release, many of which build on what were already major TM1 10.2.0 enhancements like Multi-Threaded Queries (MTQ), an overhauled TM1 Web, Scorecarding, and a new Mobile app.
New (and Resurrected) TM1 Server Features
Less-Disruptive Save Commands
Each new functionality release of TM1 seems to go even further toward minimizing the scenarios where locking contention (translation: users stuck waiting for something to finish) can occur on the TM1 Server. In this release, the TM1 Server’s save operations, like those initiated from “SaveDataAll” and “CubeSaveDataAll” TI functions, are much-less likely to interfere with what appear to be nearly all read operations and even many write operations.
Back from the dead: 32-bit ODBC on a 64-bit TM1 Server
If you were a TM1 developer prior to TM1 9.4 you may remember an “ODBC Gateway” that was managed through some “ElfODBC”-prefixed parameters in your TM1 Server configuration file. This feature let you access 32-bit ODBC data sources from a 64-bit TM1 Server instance, and was dropped apparently due to the fact that that 32-bit ODBC Gateway would no longer work when TM1 moved to support the Unicode character set. The option to access 32-bit ODBC sources was really handy as there are still a number of database drivers out there that are 32-bit only. Fast-forward to TM1 10.2.2 and we have a “new” feature called “ODBC Proxy”, which will enable a 64-bit TM1 Server to see 32-bit ODBC data sources when EnableODBCProxy is enabled in the server configuration file. I know many TM1 customers and partners will be very glad to have this option back!
Birth of a TM1 SDK
I know that this has been in the works for some time, but the beginnings of a true TM1 SDK (Software Development Kit – your toolset for building custom solutions using a product) are starting to take shape in the TM1 10.2.2 release. The documentation around much of the SDK is very thin right now, but I’m sure it will improve soon. The TM1 SDK does not yet cover all components of the TM1 family of products, but what has come out in this release is a wonderful start. The new TM1 SDK components do not replace current Java and C/VB API’s for TM1, but they do significantly enhance the tools available to TM1 developers. The IBM Cognos TM1 SDK developerWORKS community is a great place to bookmark, along with other active TM1 community forums like www.tm1forum.com, for what will certainly be a growing body of information, proven practices, and resources from IBM and others in the TM1 community regarding the TM1 SDK. Here are the TM1 SDK components in TM1 10.2.2:
TM1 REST API
In this age of cloud-based applications, it is crucial to have programming interfaces that adhere to well-known standards and operate efficiently over the internet. When the CAFÉ Excel client was first released, it made use of an early version of what is now the TM1 REST API to communicate with the TM1 Server using RESTful web service calls; for the non-technical audience, this is what makes CAFÉ perform so well over even very poor networks compared to TM1 Perspectives. Version 1 of TM1 REST API is included in TM1 10.2.2 and, although it doesn’t appear to be officially mentioned in the list of new features, it is most certainly there and available for use. Provided the TM1 REST API is functionally complete and performs well, it could become the preferred programming interface for customers and partners who need to develop custom solutions using the TM1 Server.
Interestingly, the basis of the TM1 REST API is version 4 of the OData protocol standard; in the longer-term this may mean that OData-compliant reporting applications could read data directly from TM1 without requiring a TM1-specific interface from the application vendor. We will go into more detail on the TM1 REST API in a future post, since it warrants its own topic, but suffice to say we are very excited about its release and the fact that developers can use potentially any modern programming language to interact with this new API.
Turbo Integrator Java Extensions
As long as I’ve known fellow QueBIT blog author Richard Creeth he’s been advocating for the ability to leverage custom-developed libraries in TM1 Rules and TI or, in the case of TI, even changing the “scripting” language to be based on an actual programming language. We have taken a very big step in this regard with the new capability in TM1 10.2.2 to develop Java classes, called “extensions”, that can be called from TI using two new ExecuteJavaN and ExecuteJavaS functions. These extensions can contain calls to existing TI functions as well as any other Java-based libraries; and, these extensions can be debugged as they’re being executed on the TM1 Server! The possibilities are limitless, but to list some here:
- Reach out to other data sources and systems, for example to read in the latest currency rates via a web service
- Package/standardize frequently-used blocks of TI code; implement your own custom return values
- Develop financial and mathematical functions in Java that can be easily called from TI
- Manipulate and search string values beyond the very primitive TI string functions
So, although Java extensions for TI aren’t quite what we might have expected in this regard, it is certainly a very-welcome development for TM1. We hope that similar capabilities will extend, soon, to TM1 Rules, and perhaps extend support for extensions developed in other languages, beyond Java. Note that as of this writing no official documentation outside of an excellent tutorial walkthrough by Brian Toohey of IBM is available. We will go into more detail on TI Java Extensions in a future post.
TM1 Web API
There are a few final items worth highlighting that were included in the 10.2.2 release:
64-bit TM1 Perspectives
This was a bit of a surprise, but users of 64-bit versions of Excel can now run TM1 Perspectives.
There have been a significant number of new and improved visualizations added to TM1 Scorecarding.
It’s worth noting that this release also contains a long list of fixes to TM1 product issues: http://www-01.ibm.com/support/docview.wss?uid=swg27041360
In conclusion: the latest TM1 10.2.2 release brings a large set of powerful features to the TM1 family of products. Although it might have the appearance of a minor upgrade, it is most certainly not: enhancements to the CAFÉ Excel add-in and the advent of the TM1 SDK, in particular, are going to enhance dramatically our ability to deliver outstanding solutions for our TM1 customers.