Creating A Free Form Application

One of the coolest features available in Oracle EPM Cloud is Free Form cubes.  These are essentially Essbase cubes easily created and maintained in the familiar EPM Cloud interface.  There are some limitations, but for many use cases this is an appropriate option.

When first released, the Free Form cube needed to be created by importing an existing Essbase outline.  That is no longer the case, you can now create from scratch either a Hybrid BSO or ASO cube.  You can still import an existing outline as well.

To create from scratch (not migrating an existing cube), from the instance select Planning.

From the next page, select Create a New Application.  Note: If you are going to import an existing Essbase outline, you would still select Create a New Application, do not select Migrate.

Name the application, select Free Form from Application Type.

When you get to Application Setup, select type of cube.  This is also where you would select to import an existing outline. 

Since we are creating a new cube from scratch, enter a name for the cube, then click Next.

The next screen has choices for dimensions.  I went with the defaults, but you could choose differently.  At least one needs to be enabled, additional dimensions can be added after the application is created.  Click Next.

The review screen displays what will be created.  Use the Back button if changes are needed, otherwise click Create.

A few minutes later the application creation is completed.

Compared to creating a regular Planning application, this was very easy and uncomplicated.  The steps will be a little different if you’re importing an existing outline, but still simple.  I intend to connect to this application from my main Planning application, I’ll create a separate cluster so users will be able to access forms and reports with ease.

Now as to the limitations I mentioned at the beginning, the most significant is that you can only have one Free Form cube per instance.  What this means is that if you want multiple cubes, you will have to provision a separate instance for each one.  This differs from a regular Planning instance where you can have multiple ASO and BSO cubes within the application.  While this is a limitation (and one that I hope Oracle addresses at some point), it can be managed.  First off, be sure to request an adequate number of instances.  Though you can request additional at any time, it can be a long process.  It took my current client several weeks after requesting additional instances to finally get them provisioned.

Another implication of the one cube per instance is the challenge of managing multiple connections.  As I mentioned before, I will be creating a cluster in my main Planning application to easily access the Free Form instance.  I’ll be able to add additional cards and clusters to accommodate more applications as needed.  Each will need a connection set up and maintained.  More challenging is that for Smart View users, private connections will need to be managed.  One option I’ve found very useful is to create a xml file with all my Smart View connection information and reference that file in my Shared Connection URL.  Details for this method can be found at https://randomepmnotes.com/2020/04/30/smart-view-shared-connections-xml/

Overall, I believe Free Form cubes in EPM Cloud are a great step forward and can be of use to many customers.  While not full blown Essbase (perhaps Essbase Lite?), it is really close and offers advantages like forms, dashboards, business rules, and easy integration with other EPM Cloud applications.  And as an Essbase like cube, you are not restricted to the dimensionality requirements of Planning.  In Free Form, you can create a cube with whatever dimensions you need, and you do not need to have scenario, period, year, etc. As always, happy EPM’ng!

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