I have spent a lot of time showcasing data modules to audiences across the world in-person and in livestreams, helping people understand how and why to use them as part of Cognos Analytics. The most consistent question I receive – by far – is about understanding framework manager vs data modules. There are a lot of outdated opinions and outright misconceptions floating around so let me outline the exact feature differences between framework manager and data modules as of Cognos 11.1.4.
What do data modules and framework manager have in common?
The answer is ‘a lot’ but this wasn’t always the case. In the 11.0 releases data modules were missing many essential framework manager features and didn’t offer compelling reasons to switch. Of course that has changed. As of 11.1.4 framework manager and data modules both:
- Produce data models that can be used with all Cognos 11 features
- Join dozens or hundreds of tables across multiple databases
- Execute cross-grain fact queries (aka the dreaded determinants)
- Build simple or complex calculations and filters
- Build alias, view, union and join virtual tables
- Secure data by groups, roles and users
- Create OLAP-like dimensional hierarchies
- Offer enterprise governance, auditablity and security
Oftentimes people washed their hands of data modules a couple years ago and are surprised to see virtual tables, cross-grain fact queries and security by groups. These features may exist in both but the implementation in data modules is superior from a usability perspective.
What do data modules offer that framework manager does not?
Again, the answer is ‘a lot’. The 11.1. release takes data modules beyond what is possible in FM with a host of powerful capabilities and quality of life enhancements. The following features are either exclusive to data modules or done infinitely better in data modules.
- Natural-language and Ai powered auto-modeling
- Automatic join detection
- Easy integration of excel data
- Ability to easily clean data
- Flexible hierarchies that go up, down and across (navigation paths)
- Easy measure binning and attribute grouping
- Easy extraction of year, month, day, etc… from data data types (split)
- Automatic creation of relative time filters (YTD, MTD, PYMTD, etc…)
- Automatic creation of relative time measures (YTD actuals, PYTD actuals, etc…)
- In-memory materialized views within Cognos Analytics
- In-memory query cache
- Easy multi-model inheritance for single source of truth
- Degenerate dimension aggregation (column dependencies)
Some of these features are absolute game changers for how I craft highly performant, easy to use and self-service friendly data models. Consider
the coconut relative time; because this was such a titanic brain buster in framework manager only the most skilled developers could deliver. Now it takes minutes for end users to implement.
What are data modules missing?
There are still some things data modules lack:
- Object level security
- DMR capabilities
- Parameter maps
- Multiple connections for data servers
If I’m being honest, I don’t really recommend you use many of these features for new development in 2019 unless you absolutely have to, particularly DMRs. DMRs are very powerful for those who know MDX but a true maintenance and self-service nightmare in the long run. I cannot count the number of clients who are stranded with critical DMR based reports they cannot understand. In any case, a little bird told me that DMR-like functionality will grace data modules soon.
Going beyond the feature list
Comparing framework manager vs data modules feature for feature, we can see how data modules have few shortcomings and offer huge advantages. While this is a common way for IT folks to think (and I would know, I’m one of them!), I argue that it badly misses the point. By using data modules an IT professional can do weeks of FM work in an afternoon while a self-service user can easily accomplish tasks that will otherwise be done in Power BI. I repeat it often but I’ll say it again – data modules are the key to modernizing your Cognos Analytics environment and delivering content with the speed modern users demand.
What do you recommend?
I’ll parrot Cognos offering manager Jason Tavoularis and say, ‘use data modules unless you can’t.’ And as you can see above, the list of reasons you can’t has become quite short. I start ALL consulting engagements under the assumption that we’ll be building data modules and I’m always happy with the results.