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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

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SSAS vs Transformer

Posted by Brad Greene on February 16, 2012

I’ve been all over the place the past couple of months. One interesting project I started during this time is helping prove the viability of using Microsoft’s SSAS cube tech to replace Cognos Transformer. The application is retail and there is quite a lot of data in some of the fact tables (one is nearing a billion rows). Some of the dimensions are quite large but not in the millions fortunately. The challenge for this customer has been that Transformer, being what it is, at these volumes of data, has started to become overwhelmed. Build times are getting ridiculously long and the failure rate, while not high, is enough to be troubling and the recovery from any failure is painful given the long build times. I know there are ways to work around some of the limitations and people have been very resourceful. Go there if you have to I guess. But there are options.

Seeing this I felt compelled to recommend SSAS as the next step. We’re starting to see more Cognos clients in this situation making this decision. The results are just too compelling to ignore. The SSAS tool has become robust, feature rich and is very scalable. Our initial proof of concept confirmed everything we expected. We were able to design and build cubes at the lowest levels of detail, providing a more seamless user experience, and do it with build times that were far, far shorter than those of any comparable Transformer cube.

The combination of SSAS to design and build big, detailed cubes, combined with the BI management and presentation capabilities provided in Cognos is an awesome combination. If you simply do this to deliver cubes to Excel users you are missing the point here. Transformer is just no longer able to handle the increasing volumes of data some companies are collecting. So, fix that by plugging in SSAS, but don’t abandon all the other great things Cognos has to offer. It’s a great marriage.

There is a BUT here. No question that SSAS requires more technical skills than Transformer. Knowledge of the MDX language is mandatory. Technical staff will have a non-trivial learning curve to climb but the alternative is not pretty either. In an environment where SQL Enterprise is already present it may well be an easy decision to make the move to SSAS. Get some help, get some training and do it. This stuff works.

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Analytics as a Service, could be

Posted by Brad Greene on May 9, 2011

The idea of offering analytics as a specialization in the world of SaaS, or software as a service, has been around for a while now. In healthcare you have companies like Verisk and in the web space there is Google of course. Whether the offerings are really a form of SaaS or just spin, like putting the word “cloud” in front of your favorite technology platform, depends on the company in question. However, a friend posted a link to an article by Derrick Harris about Opera Solutions on his Facebook page that caught my attention. The article is titled Check Out the Big Data Expert You’ve Never Heard Of. Nope never have, and it was interesting to read up on what they are doing. Besides the article you can go to the company web site here, Opera Solutions. Sounds like a smart group of people doing something well. I also noted they are making use of Hadoop tech here. This company is worth keeping an eye on.

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SSRS security setup on Windows 7

Posted by Brad Greene on April 26, 2011

Here are a collection of tips for getting SSRS 2008 R2 working under Windows 7 on a simple setup like a single user laptop. I have had to go through this a couple times and were a few things that tripped me up so I thought I would try to pull all the solutions into one post in case it helps someone save some time. If you are getting the error message…

User ‘someDomain\someUser’ does not have required permissions. Verify that sufficient permissions have been granted and Windows User Account Control (UAC) restrictions have been addressed.

…when trying to open Report manager there is a good chance the following may help.

This approach is the easiest and is only appropriate for a single user laptop or developer kind of set up. If you need UAC then go figure out how UAC is supposed to be configured and make that work for you. This way just makes it work by putting your user account into the security role SSRS needs to avoid the UAC conflict.

First you need to run your browser as Administrator. This the first place you can get tripped up. The “Run as…” option is used (accessed with a right of the mouse if you didn’t know) but don’t try to do this on the IE icon in the Taskbar. Open Explorer and navigate to the the folder that has iexplore.exe executable and do it there. Now you will actually be running IE as the Admin account you select from the dialog that pops up.

If you have done the above correctly you should be able to successfully navigate to your new SSRS Reports folder. The default URL would typically be http://localhost:80/Reports. If you used a name instead of “localhost” then it might be http://lenovo-t60p:80/Reports for example. The 80 port is the default and obviously you need to change that if you used a different port. The main point is that if you installed 2008 R2 and SSRS correctly, then configured SSRS correctly and are running IE as Admin you should get to a page that looks something like the following. If you are still getting the original error that brought you here it is time to think about starting the installation over and checking for any missed steps. Is the Report service is running? Can you see the databases created by the SSRS configuration tool in SSMS?

Once you have gotten the screen above the rest is easy in my opinion. All that remains is to add your user account to the Admin roles in two places under SSRS and then you will be able to run IE from your normal user account.

So, while still running IE as Admin, navigate to the Site Settings, click on Security, then New Role Assignment and add your account to the list. After adding myself to the role list my setup looks like the screen shot below.

Now, we need to do this in one more place. We need to add our account to the Home folder security role list. Navigate back to the default start screen which is the Home folder and click on Folder Settings. Then using New Role Assignment add your account to the list.

If there is nothing else wrong with your SSRS configuration you should be good to go. Exit IE and start IE again using your normal account to see if you can access the SSRS service URL now.

The only other issue I had was not having http://localhost/ (or in my case http://lenovo-t60p/) in the list of Trusted sites in IE’s security settings. To do this you will have to uncheck the check box that restricts entries to https only.


Good luck with your new SSRS 2008 R2 installation. The tool is looking better than ever!

[Edit] – One more thing I ran into on an early attempt. I was using AVG Free 9.x anti virus software. It was interfering with SSRS so I removed it. I probably could have tweaked it to exclude some folders or whatever but I didn’t have the time for that so I tried Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware and have had no problems with it right out of the box.

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