Using PowerPlay Web with an Analysis Services Cube

Introduction and Scope

In exploring the use of Cognos PowerPlay with Analysis Services cubes, we soon become aware that there are multiple approaches to reaching our ends. In this article we will examine using Cognos PowerPlay’s web incarnation, PowerPlay Web. We will explore the components involved first, and then we will expose the steps for setting up connectivity with simple security (that is, security that is non-integrated between Access Manager, the operating system, MSSQL Server / Analysis Services, etc.). The integration of security for various elements is addressed in my upcoming article, Cognos for Microsoft Analysis Services Reporting: Establishing Integrated Signon, which is devoted to that sole focus.

PowerPlay Enterprise Server (“PPES”) acts as the OLAP application server for Web, Windows and other users for cube access. With PPES we can access not only Cognos’ proprietary PowerCubes and our Analysis Services cubes, but numerous other “third-party” cubes, such as IBM DB2 OLAP, SAP BW, and Hyperion Essbase, through their respective OLAP database servers. PPES also provides for user access to PowerPlay reports, which typically originate in one of the PowerPlay client applications, via a report server. Load balancing is an important attribute in the highly rated PPES, which is designed to be multi-server and multi-process capable; with proper configuration, it can easily support multiple concurrent requests from both Web and Windows clients, which can be accessing reports and / or cubes.

As one might expect in any well-constructed client / server architecture, the server performs many of the heavy processing functions. Performance becomes more efficient because of minimal client processing and reduced data traffic between the client and server involved in any given operating relationship. The dual benefits are realized as a result of the lowered need of the client to obtain data, and because caching mitigates a portion of the need for communication.

PowerPlay Web (“PPWEB”), like PowerPlay for Windows, has two presentation modes. The purposes of PPWEB’s two modes do not directly parallel those of the PowerPlay for Windows Explorer and Reporter components. (For more on these, see Using PowerPlay for Windows with an Analysis Services Cube.) In the case of PowerPlay Web, these are called PowerPlay Web Explorer and PowerPlay Web Viewer. The Explorer option again provides a direct browse of the cube data. PowerPlay Web Viewer, however, is different from PowerPlay for Windows Reporter, in that the Viewer acts essentially as a simple viewer for PowerPlay .pdf reports. This option is often adequate in cases where static reports meet the business requirements of the organization’s information consumers, and it allows for easy deployment of the reports using a minimal overhead browser – all the real processing occurs on the server. Access to non-local cubes (be they native PowerCubes or non-Cognos cubes), as well as reports that do not reside on the PC from which we are running them, is provided through PPES, as we discussed above.

Let’s take a look at how we set up PPWEB to allow us to connect to, and report from, an Analysis Services OLAP cube. For the purposes of this article, we will assume that we wish to establish simple security, meaning that you may be prompted for logon input at more than one juncture while processing. My reasoning, in approaching from the perspective of a simple security scheme, is that we want to understand the connectivity and data manipulation processes for PPWIN in a broad sense, and as a separate step from delving into the somewhat intricate steps of establishing integrated security. Should you wish to establish integrated (also called “unified” of “seamless”) logon capabilities, after understanding the basics we cover in this article, I invite you to refer to my upcoming article Cognos for Microsoft Analysis Services Reporting: Establishing Integrated Signon.