Art of BI: OBIEE 11g Patching Capabilities – Fusion Middleware Enhancements

By | In 11g, Art of BI, Oracle | March 24th, 2011

The term patching is going to get used quite a bit with the new Oracle Business Intelligence 11g Suite that Oracle has established as a pivotal software release towards their Fusion Middleware brand and BI dominance.  Specifically withing Oracle Business Intelligence 11g, the term patching will get to be ambiguous.  First there is OPatch, which for those who are familiar with Oracle RDBMS, this has been around for some time. The other patching utilities are around the OBI Repository (RPD) and the web catalog.  Yah, Finally!

OPatch provides the capability for the “software application” to be patched or upgraded without a complete uninstall and reinstall. The latter method was the approach OBI integrations in the 10g and previous life of the software had to endure in order to get the latest updates and releases to the suite. OPatch has been around for a while and it is nothing new but it is new to OBIEE. Now, Oracle will provide a OPatch “patch” release for upcoming minor updates of OBI 11g. Fantastic! This should make life easier on many an OBI Administrator going forward but not without caveat. Take a look at the Oracle BI 11g documentation for the post/pre OPatch execution process in order to understand what actually takes place. The long and short of it is that only core elements of the software suite are actually updated via the OPatch patch execution. Some other “patch” logic will have to be done separately. I may go into detail in another blog post on this but I’ll wait until the upcoming 11.1.1.4 patch for OBI 11g comes out this spring 2011 to list out these details.

The other patching takes place around the OBI 11g Repository, which leverages either a Command-Line Interface (CLI) or the Administration Tool (Admin Tool) GUI. The latter, every OBI Admin should be familiar. This patch is a perfect gap-filler for what has been lacking in OBI administration for years – the ability to control the comparison of two RPDs and manipulation of the XML for which the RPDs are comprised. Even more powerful within this functionality is the ability to create a XML patch that only modifies a portion of an overall RPD file and execute the patch against and RPD online or offline. The prime use case for this is migrating an RPD from a dev/test environment to production. Think about it. In the past the OBI admin had to jump through hoops to modify Dev/Test connection pool attribute values such as username or password to line them up with the subsequent environment. Now, an OBI Admin can create a patch XML file, either manually or through the new Compare GUI function of the Admin Tool, store this patch file that contains just the connection pool settings, and then when it comes time to migrate the RPD just apply the patch via CLI and presto!  This type of patching can be done if offline and online mode though online mods are not recommended.

The final patching capability worth looking at is the ability to patch the web catalog. That’s right, the web catalog. I won’t go into great detail on this here because I plan another full-blown post on the topic but go see the details for yourself. Navigate on your OBI client tools machine down the instance path to the catalog manager folder, C:oraclefmwinstancesinstance1bifoundationOracleBIPresentationServicesComponentcoreapplication_obips1catalogmanager. Before talking about the options that you have with patching the web catalog, let’s first just think about the path where this functionality resides. This directory is located away from the standard location where the other /server/bin files for the Oracle BI Server, etc. reside. The file we are concerned with is runcat.cmd. This command file does two things as it is executed as a CLI. First it sets some environment path variables and then it runs a JAR execution; placing the same /catalogmanager/startup.jar that launches the Catalog Manager GUI into a CLI mode.

Now, with that background knowledge, navigate to the path mentioned above and then run the following command from the windows command prompt, runcat –help. You will notice that several patch options exist such as diff, createPatch, and applyPatch. That’s right, the ability to migrate changes in your web catalog from one environment to another via patching may now work just the way you always dreamed and not the nightmare that we all have been working around in the past.

I am delighted at these new changes and all OBI Admins should be too. Remember my post last year on OBI CAF ? Wow! Now there is finally a migration path that albeit not perfect, allows for some enterprise deployment standards to be leveraged. And, all it took was the addition of a few XML Patch commands in a major release – Thanks for the updates Oracle BI Dev team (Go Xerces). Now OBI Dev Team all you have to do is open OBI 11g up so that it is more of a framework for plug-ins and finer third party vendor controls and we can really start the party.

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Christian Screen
Christian is an innovator in analytics and data warehousing design, best practices, and delivery. With more than fifteenyears of decision support and data warehousing with key experiences at Office Depot HQ, Sierra-Cedar, and Capgemini, he oversees the Oracle Analytics Practice which includes the technical development and delivery of Oracle BI collaboration software, data warehouse solutions, Oracle BI/EPM projects, and packaged analytics solutions at Datavail.

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