OBIEE 11G Action Framework – Integration with External Applications

Action Framework in BI EE 11g opens up BI EE to external applications for extensive integration. Mark has covered this as part of his posting here. BI EE, even in 10g had a lot of integration options. But one biggest drawback had always been the lack of an ability to call external applications/scripts/processes right within the BI EE dashboard. Only way in 10g was to either make the call through a URL (like action links to Ebusiness Suite & Siebel) and browser based Java Scripts. In 11g, we now have a lot more options. There are basically 2 kinds of Actions. The first one is the Navigate action which basically enables the drill from BI EE to external applications like EPM, Ebusiness Suite, another report/dashboard in BI EE etc. The parameters can be passed from one application to the other easily.
The second one is the Invoke action that provides an ability to call external Java processes, Browser scripts, web services etc. The invoke action does not provide external navigation. They are primarily used for triggering processes that happen outside of BI EE like calling ETL processes, java processes etc
Both the Navigate and Invoke actions are part of the Action Framework. Listed below are some of the new features in Action Framework that enable integration with external applications.
1. Integration to external Applications through a URL – This feature existed even in 10g and was one of the most commonly used ways of integrating other applications with BI EE. The biggest problem with this in 10g was, we manually had to hand craft the URLs and the parameters. In 11g, this integration has been enhanced to alleviate 2 important issues that we have had with 10g
a. We can specify location aliases instead of hardcoded ip addresses (or hostnames). For example, if you are using Go URL to call another BI EE report, then we will have to enter the full URL including the hostname. When we migrate from environments (say dev to prod), then we will have to manually change the hostnames in every report that use Go URL. This is not needed anymore.
b. Its now much easier to specify the url parameters through the UI. We can pass parameters which can be either made visible or hidden. For example, if you want to pass username and passwords to the url but you would like them to be invisible for the person invoking it, then that is possible now.
2. Integration with Web Services – This is a complete new feature of BI EE 11g. In 10g, web services can be called only using Java Scripts or by calling an external JSP page. In 11g, we have this feature natively. So, effectively if you have say ODI ETL Web Services and you would like to kick start an ETL process from BI EE, it is easily possible now. In addition to making calls to external web services, BI EE also has a new type of Web Service called BI EE Web Services for SOA. This new web service basically is for integration with Oracle FMW products like BPEL etc. One of the big drawbacks in BI EE 10g web services was, every-time we had to call a report or an iBot, we had to establish a session with BI Server and then pass the session id to the individual web service methods. But in the BI EE Web Services for SOA, there is no need to establish a session to get access to the individual methods. I will cover this in detail in another blog post.
3. Integration using Java Methods – Another interesting integration that is part of 11g is the ability to call Java methods natively. In 10g, the only way to call java methods directly was to use delivers and then call the java methods through the Java Host. In 11g, this method of calling java methods (through Javahost) is not recommended. Instead the java classes will have be wrapped inside a EJB and then this EJB can be called from BI EE. This opens up a lot of integration opportunities like writeback to Essbase etc. I will cover this in a separate blog post.
4. Integration with EPM – BI EE introduced the first steps of integration between BI EE and EPM. In BI EE 10g, we could embed BI Answers, Dashboards etc within an EPM workspace. Also, SSO capability was added between the EPM and BI Suites. But there was no native integration between the reporting tools like Hyperion Financial Reporting and BI EE. One had to use methods like the one i have used here and here. In 11g, this is not needed anymore. It is possible navigate to any EPM report (HFR & Web Analysis) and we can also pass parameters from BI EE to the target EPM report. I will blog about this in detail in another blog post.
BI EE 11g provides us with a lot of potential opportunities for integration that weren’t easily available in 10g. Next up is a blog post on how to call Java-EJB methods to add watermarks to BI EE PDF exports.

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