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Best Practices from Oracle Development's A‑Team

Fusion BI RPD and Webcat files

Introduction

Oracle Fusion Applications have a built in Business Intelligence framework based on Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE). With this framework, organizations are provided with the capabilities of transforming their business process automation systems into powerful Business Intelligence systems. There are many components which constitute the Business Intelligence suite within Fusion Applications but two of them play significant roles in transforming the business data into powerful Intelligence information. This blog provides an overview of these two components, namely the RPD file and the Web Catalog, and the role they plan within the BI framework of Oracle Fusion Applications.

(Please note that this overview is confined to Oracle Fusion Application framework and does not apply to other versions of OBIEE).

Main Article

Whether you are a new to Oracle Fusion Business Intelligence (Oracle BI), or have been using it some time now, you are likely already familiar with the Oracle BI Analytics page.

Analytics First Page

 

This page contains  multiple components like folders, menu items, reports, filters, prompts and many more.

Looking at these objects on the screen, we might be left with questions such as,

  • What is the logical foundation for the pre-built BI reports?
  • When I create new answers I see different subject areas, where do these reside?
  • Where is the underlying Model which creates the SQL queries that return the data for my Answers?
  • How do I customize this Model?
  • Where are my objects stored internally?
  • What tool do I need if I wish to rearrange the way my reports and dashboards are organized?

The following two key components mentioned earlier provide answers to these questions and in the coming paragraphs, we will learn more about their significance.

  1. RPD – BI Repository
    Web Catalog –Oracle BI Presentation catalog

 

RPD

The RPD is a repository which stores all the information including the metadata associated with Oracle Fusion BI. It contains the connectivity information between the BI server and various data sources, details of Physical Data, Business Models & Mappings and Presentation structures that are available for users to build their analyses (answers as it is called in OBIEE). In Fusion applications, the RPD forms the foundation on which Business Intelligence is modeled. It contains pre-built physical data sources that access the Fusion Application transactional data in the form of ADF (Application Development Framework) View objects. In addition, it contains connections to the Fusion Applications Datawarehouse (if the warehouse has been enabled).  All of the pre-built Oracle Transactional Business Intelligence (OTBI) reports that are rendered as part of the Fusion Install are designed against the model in the RPD file.

Layers of RPD

The RPD contains three different layers. The Physical, Business model & Mapping and Presentation.

OBIEE Admin tool New

 

Physical Layer : As the name suggests, this layer defines the physical data that will be used for building the business model, which will serve as the foundation for Oracle BI. It provides complete information on how the data is sourced from the back end databases and objects that are available, relationship between these objects, and features and rules that are specific to database types. For example, relational databases have physical tables and joins, while multi-dimensional databases, have cubes and hierarchies.

These objects and their relationships are in turn used by the BI Server for generating the physical SQL queries that run against the data sources to retrieve the specified data/information. The primary task within this layer is to import the physical objects, after the data source is defined.

Data can be sourced from different places such as relational databases, Oracle ADF, data Warehouses, non-Oracle databases, Essbase data sources, and flat files etc.

Business Model and Mapping Layer : This defines the logical model, also known as the Business model of the data as it would be seen and used by the business users. Unlike the physical layer, which shows the data in its organized structure in the back end, the Business Model and Mapping layer models and defines the data in business terms, as facts and dimensions. Data structures are grouped on a common business they address and collectively constitute a business model. The  attributes defined within this layer, have a direct mapping to their physical layer counterpart. Just as in the physical layer, joins can be defined between the fact and the dimension tables.

Mappings to the physical schema are defined, and used by the BI server while evaluating the logical SQL requests.  These mappings may contain transformations and/or calculations. Metrics within a fact table are also defined in this layer.  Lastly, this layer also defines how the data is viewed on the Analytics page by the user when running analyses. For example, data can be viewed as individual columns,  hierarchies or drill down columns.

Presentation Layer: This layer defines the customized views (subject areas) of the business model. It provides secure, role-based subject areas for users to build their own queries.  In addition this layer provides the user the facility to organize the views (subject areas), define dictionary entries, assign security to different groups of users and assign custom naming conventions.

So how do these layers tie up and provide the user the platform that generates queries and return the data set?

 

 

RPDWebcatBlog_pic2

 

The image on the left, displays how a logical query, initiated by a user accesses the various layers of the RPD to produce the necessary information.

Users initiate logical queries from the views (subject areas) in the presentation layer. During run time, the business model is read by the BI Server for this logical request to fetch the corresponding mappings to the physical schema. Based on the mappings to the physical schema, the best set of tables, cubes or ADF view objects are determined by the BI server to execute the queries and return the information.

 Location of RPD

The RPD is stored in the following location within Fusion Applications (11g)

 ORACLE_INSTANCE/bifoundation/OracleBIServerComponent/coreapplication_obis1/repository

Managing RPD

The RPD is managed  by a windows based tool called the OBIEE Admin tool.  Users customize the RPD using this tool. They can define their custom physical data sources, create newe or modify existing Business Models and design their own subject areas in the Presentation Layer.

For instructions on, installing and configuring the BI Admin tool, refer to the following blog.

Installing and Configuring BI Admin Tool for Fusion Applications

Operation Modes

The RPD can be accessed in Online or Offline mode using the Admin tool.

Online Mode: This mode is used to view and modify a repository that is deployed on a Oracle BI Server.  The following tasks can only be performed in the online mode.

  • Manage Schedule jobs
  • Manage user sessions
  • Manage the query cache
  • Manage clustered servers

Offline Mode: In this mode, the user can view and modify a repository that resides locally.  If an attempt is made to open a repository in offline mode that is deployed on a Oracle BI server, then the repository is opened in READ-ONLY mode.

 

Now that we've seen how the RPD provides the model and foundation for building the analyses of BI, let us look into the second component, the  Web Catalog, and understand how it helps in organizing the pre-built and user generated objects in BI.

Webcat (Oracle BI Presentation catalog)

Web catalog or Oracle BI Presentation Catalog stores the BI objects in the form of a file based directory structure. During an install of Fusion applications, the web catalog files provide the organization information of the pre-built Business Intelligence objects that are rendered as a part of the install. They also extend this functionality to any custom reports, analyses or BI objects users may build in the future. In general, the web catalog file contains all of the following objects

Folders, Shortcuts, Analyses, Reports, Filters, Prompts, Dashboards, KPIs.

Directory Structure

A web catalog consists of  the following folders:

Shared Folder – Contains the shared objects of all catalog users. The pre-built dashboards, analyses, and objects that are shared among all the users are also stored here.

System Folder – Internal folder (Not to be modified) that contains the privileges configured by the administrator as well as some that are distributed with the original product.

Users Folder – Contains the individual analyses of the users along with their allied objects like filters and prompts.

Catalog Files

The object (analyses) is stored in a folder and contains 2 components; The object itself and an attribute file with “.atr” extension. The object component  is an xml file that provides the details of the object like query details for an analyses object. The attribute file provides the description and the access control for the object. A third, temporary lock file is generated when an object is being edited by a user but gets deleted on the user exiting their editing process. However, in rare situation like system crash, this temporary lock file will not be deleted and requires a manual delete.

Location of the catalog

The default location of the catalog within Oracle BI is

ORACLE_INSTANCE/bifoundation/OracleBIPresentationServicesComponent/coreapplication_obips1/catalog

Managing Catalog

Oracle BI Presentation catalogs can be managed using a tool called Catalog Manger. With Catalog Manger you can,

  • Manage all the folders, shortcuts and objects (filters, analyses, dashboards..).
  • View and Edit the objects in XML.
  • Preview objects such as analyses
  • Do mass changes to catalog objects like search and replace text.
  • Localize captions.

Catalog Manager is available for both Linux and Windows platform and is installed (or available) as part of regular installation. To start the Catalog Manager in,

Windows

Option 1 : from the Start menu, select Oracle Business Intelligence and then Catalog Manger

Option 2 : Use the command line and run 

“runcat.cmd”

from  location

“ORACLE_INSTANCE\bifoundation\OracleBIPresentationServicesComponent\coreapplication_obipsn\catalogmanager”

Linux

Run 

“runcat.sh”

from location

“ORACLE_INSTANCE\bifoundation\OracleBIPresentationServicesComponent\coreapplication_obips1\catalogmanager”

CatalogManager

Operation Mode

Web catalog can be accessed by Catalog Manager in online or offline mode.

Online mode – Connects to a catalog that is running a the BI server. In this mode, permissions are verified when accessing objects. The user can only see those objects for which they have permission. This mode is used to make incremental changes, additions to catalog, changes to permission, updates to single object  and migration of objects between environments.

Offline mode – Connects to a local catalog that does not require any BI server to be running. All the objects are visible to the user. This mode is used for mass changes to the Catalog and moving multiple objects to reorganize the catalog structure.

Summary

This post is an overview of two of the most significant components of Oracle Fusion BI, the RPD and the Oracle BI Presentation catalog (Web Catalog). Though they are independent objects, they compliment each other and provide the foundation for the users to source, design, extract, present and manage BI information that help the business with their analysis and decision making.

The answers to the questions mentioned in the beginning of the blog can be found in these two components.

In Oracle Fusion Application, RPD provides the logical foundation for the pre-built BI reports that are delivered as part of Fusion Apps install. In addition, it provides the base for the users to design and generate analyses and/or reports. The different subject areas on which the user constructs their analyses are in the Presentation Layer section within the RPD. All the three sections in the RPD (namely the Physical, Business and Presentation) together constitute the model, which generates SQL queries that return the data for the Answers created by users. Users can customize this model using the OBIEE admin tool.

Web catalog (Oracle BI Presentation catalog) provides the storage and directory structure for the users to organize and manage their BI content which includes, but is not limited to analysis, reports, dashboards, filters, prompts and KPIs (Key performance indicators). The catalog folder within the BI Instance home contains these objects . Users can rearrange their dashboards, organize their folders and objects using Catalog Manager tool.

For additional information refer to Oracle Fusion Documentation.

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