After working with a few Oracle EPM Cloud customers directly and speaking to many potentials, I’m seeing a pattern of questions related to how backups and software updates work in the Cloud. Although I would not classify my expertise in this area as being on the same level as Product Management nor Product Development, I would like to offer insight based on a combination of first-hand experience from myself and others and the documentation.
EPM Cloud Backups & Software Updates: Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do backups work with Oracle EPM Cloud?
In general (with the exception of BICS): Backups occur every night auto-magically during the 1-hour maintenance window of your administrator’s choosing. Note that the 1-hour window can be modified by an administrator, but you can only have one execute within a 24-hour period.
PBCS, EPBCS, FCCS, ARCS (application-type products that are built upon similar platforms): Backups include LCM exports of the application components, as well as tertiary objects (Data Management, Financial Reports, etc.). This allows you to import and restore pieces of your environment, if you so wish. You can also access and view the current nightly backup. Every night’s new export overwrites the previous night’s since a standard name is used. Therefore, it’s highly recommended that you create a process to download and archive a rolling number of daily backups (via EPM Automate), just in case. The online documentation has some great basic script examples. From what I’m seeing, most customers are doing a minimum of a rolling 7 days backup.
EPRCS: Backups include a nightly image taken of the environment. There are currently no options within the Simplified UI to download and archive the backups. You can, however, create scripting to download and archive snapshots through the File Transfer Utility (a command line tool similar to EPM Automate). Another way to maintain backups is to export individual artifacts (report packages, applications and models, etc.). This can be done manually through the Simplified UI Library or through the File Transfer Utility. Note that the File Transfer Utility is the only option for artifact exports larger than 256MB.
BICS: The first two things to note about BICS are: 1) BICS is not a SaaS (Software as a Service) solution – it is PaaS (Platform as a Service); and 2) it’s not truly “EPM”. However, I throw this into the blog post because of the overlapping relationship between BICS and EPM and the fact that many EPM customers are using BICS/OBIEE in conjunction with their EPM tools. As BICS is a PaaS solution, this means that it operates differently and does not conform to all of the same rules as the EPM cloud solutions. PaaS solutions do not offer pre-built foundations, but rather, open platforms for development. If you think on what that means, this explains why it’s unique when it comes to backups and upgrades. For BICS, an image of the data model & connections, application roles, and catalog (analyses, dashboards, and Data Visualization objects) can be taken manually. There is no magic 1-hour nightly window where this occurs on an automated basis. You can also export Data Visualization projects manually. If backups need to be saved and archived, they have to be downloaded manually. Currently, there is no automation tool to handle these tasks through scripting.
2. How do restores work with Oracle EPM Cloud?
PBCS, EPBCS, FCCS, ARCS (application-type products that are built upon similar platforms): Upload the backup that you’d like to use to the environment that you’re restoring. Alternately, use the EPM Automate command “copysnapshotfrominstance”, which will copy a snapshot from one environment to another. Then import the components that you wish to restore. If you’re re-hauling the entire application, you might want to delete the current application and then upload/import the restore files through the start screen (applies to all but ARCS in this list).
EPRCS: You can schedule a restore from the most recent nightly backup, if it’s in the same environment. If you’re restoring one environment from another, you will need to download one snapshot via the File Transfer Utility from the source environment and then upload it to the target environment. Then you can schedule the restore in the target environment. All scheduled restores run at the next scheduled daily maintenance hour. Alternately, you can restore individual objects by exporting them manually or through the File Transfer Utility and then importing the files.
BICS: You can restore from a snapshot on demand or manually with an exported Data Visualization object. Upload/select the snapshot that you’d like to restore from and choose the “Restore” option. You can also choose to replace just the data model, the application roles, and/or the catalog.
3. How do software updates work with Oracle EPM Cloud?
In general (with the exception of BICS): Minor patches can be applied nightly during the maintenance window, but large patch releases generally occur on Fridays. New release upgrades are usually applied once a month during the maintenance window to Pre-Production on the first Friday of the month (if one exists) and the customer is notified in advance. For new releases and major patches, Pre-Production will be updated 2 weeks before Production. This gives customers a 2-week time frame to test the changes before they receive the update in their Production environment.
BICS: Patches are handled generally monthly and new release upgrades are pushed out several times a year. Oracle sends out an email several weeks in advance to notify you of the date and time when these will occur in Pre-Production. The update process may take longer than an hour. Production gets updated sometime after Pre-Production – an email is sent out to indicate when.
4. How do migrations work with Oracle EPM Cloud?
For the most part, Oracle EPM Cloud uses LCM (lifecycle management). Therefore, if you need to migrate between environments, LCM would be used to accomplish that. It’s a simple interface to use. This can be handled manually through the Simplified UI (via the “export, download, upload, import” process) or through EPM Automate. For the EPM Cloud products that use LCM, this means that you can migrate just the pieces that you want.
For EPRCS and BICS, see the comments in question #2 above.
5. If I delete my application, what happens to those backup files?
PBCS, EPBCS, FCCS, ARCS (application-type products that are built upon similar platforms): This is interesting but awesome. The EPM Cloud products were once described to me as solutions allowing for more of a “transient” purpose. After working with them, I would have to agree. LCM works so seamlessly that you can quickly export a backup of the current application, take it offline for however long you need while using a different one, and then bring it back online within a matter of minutes/hours (depending on the size and complexity of the application and technology type). The backups that you create/import/rename persist throughout the product for as long as you license it. For instance, take the very fluid EPBCS/FCCS environment. This is a Cloud product that currently allows you to have either an EPBCS or FCCS application (but you can only have one at a time). I’ve had an EPBCS application for a little while, made a backup of it, then deleted and replaced it with an FCCS application. The EPBCS backups that I manually created stayed in that folder even when I switched to FCCS. When I was done with my FCCS application and deleted it, I was easily able to switch back to EPBCS within an hour. (Note that this worked well because my security was the same between applications, too.)
5. Is there a upper storage limit for EPM Cloud, and if so, do the backups count against that limit?
It’s better if Oracle definitively answers this question, but I’ll tell you what I was originally told. I was told that there are storage limits on some of the products (PBCS and EPBCS, specifically)…but: it’s not a hard limit, Oracle will warn you if you start to approach the maximum limit, and that no customer has exceeded it yet. And yes, in this case any of those backup files (and any other file) that you have saved in the Cloud would count towards that limit. I’ve never seen or personally hit that limit myself.
6. What if my environment becomes unusable? Can I still access the backup files?
It depends, but in the very few instances where I’ve seen an Oracle EPM Cloud interface became “hosed”, the backup files were accessible every time. With most EPM Cloud products, you can access the backup files through EPM Automate.
EPRCS uses a utility called File Transfer Utility, which has similar commands.
There is uncertainty around BICS, as there is no automation utility available. You can work through Oracle Cloud Support for this. Wayne hasn’t seen the BICS environment become unstable to date.
7. What happens if I rename the current nightly export?
Applies to PBCS, EPBCS, FCCS, and ARCS: The nightly exports have standard names, which is why they get overwritten the following night. If you choose to rename the previous night’s backup, no harm comes to the backup. Because it’s renamed, it stays in the Cloud until you delete it. When it’s time to do the next night’s export, a new one gets created using the standard name.
8. Can I rename the standard nightly backup name?
As far as I know, no. You can rename the backup manually after it’s been created, but you can’t program the system to take on a different standard name (to include the date and time, for instance).
9. What if I don’t want the latest patch/new release?
This gets a little tricky and the policy has evolved over time. From what I understand, with some products the latest update can be deferred up to 6 months in very special circumstances, but you should really contact Oracle for more information.