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23Jan/130

OBIEE – what’s in a name?

The unwieldy acronym OBIEE stands for Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition.

The offering is a loosely coupled assembly of a dozen plus components (eight – by some other counts) both acquired and homegrown. Its beginnings go back 12 years ago to nQuire product which first became Siebel Analytics only to be reborn as OBIEE after Oracle's acquisition of Siebel in 2005 and then Hyperion in 2007. The story does not end here as Oracle continues its acquisition spree with the recent (2012) purchase of Endeca for its e-Commerce search and analytics capabilities.

The current intermediate result is a solid contender for the Enterprise BI Platform, firmly placed at the top-right of Gartner's Magic Quadrant along with Microstrategy, Microsoft, IBM, SAP and SAS.

Oracle's page for Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition 11g summarizes the suite's functionality in following terms (direct quote, with claims about “cost reduction” and “ease of implementation” left TBD)

• Provides a common infrastructure for producing and delivering enterprise reports, scorecards, dashboards, ad-hoc analysis, and OLAP analysis
• Includes rich visualization, interactive dashboards, a vast range of animated charting options, OLAP-style interactions and innovative search, and actionable collaboration capabilities to increase user adoption

And – by and large - it does deliver on the promises.

One of the important features for the enterprise is integration with Microsoft Office (Word, Excel and PowerPoint). What Oracle has dubbed as “Spacial Intelligence via Map Based Visualization” represents a decent integration of mapping capabilities (not quite ESRI ArcGIS but a nice bundled option nevertheless – and no third party components!)

Among other things to consider is tighter integration with Oracle's ERP/CRM ecosystems (no surprises here as every vendor sooner or later tries to be everything for everybody), and for the organizations with significant Oracle presence this would be an important selling point.

Being redesigned with SOA principles in mind, OBIEE yields itself nicely to integration into SOA- compliant infrastructure. Most organizations choose Oracle Fusion Middleware for the task due to more coherence with OBIEE and the rest of Oracle's stack; but it is by no means a requirement– it can be run with any SOA infrastructures, including open source ones.

For mobile BI capabilities, OBIEE offers Oracle Business Intelligence Mobile (for OBIEE 11g), currently only for Apple's devices – iPad and iPhone – downloadable from Apple iTunes App store. Most features of the OBIEE available in the corporate environment are supported on mobile devices, including geo spacial data integration.

NB: Predictive modeling and data mining are not part of OBIEE per se (it cannot even access data mining functions built into Oracle dialect of SQL!) but they could be surfaced through it. Oracle Advanced Analytics platform represents Oracle's offering in this market.

OBIEE ranks second from the bottom in difficulty of implementation (SAS holding the current record); coupled with a relative dearth of expertise on the market and below-average customer support, this should be considered in evaluation of the OBIEE for adoption in the enterprise.

One interesting twist in OBIEE story is Oracle's introduction of Exalytics In-Memory Machine in 2011 – an appliance that integrates OBIEE with some other components such as Oracle Essbase and Oracle TimesTen in-memory database. The appliance trend resurrects the idea of a self-contained system in a new context of interconnected world, and Oracle fully embraces it with the array of products such as Exadata, Exalogic and now – Exalytics. By virtue of coming fully integrated and preconfigured it supposedly addresses the difficulties of installation and integration – at a price; this is designed to be a turn-key solution for an enterprise but its full impact (and validity of the claim) remains to be seen.

So, to sum it up:

Pro:

It is a solid enterprise class BI platform with all standard features of a robust BI – reports, scorecards, dashboards (interactive and otherwise), OLAP capabilities, mobile apps,
integration with Microsoft Office, SOA compliant architecture. It also includes pre-defined analytics applications for horizontal business processes (e.g. finance, procurement, sales) as well as additional vertical analytical models for the industries (to help to establish common data model)

Contra:

It is evolving through acquisitions and integration thereof which affects coherence and completeness of vision; no integrated predictive modeling and data mining capabilities,
ranks rather low on ease of deployment and use as well as on quality of support; rather shallow (and therefore expensive) talent pool; with all being factored in, the TCO could
potentially be higher than comparable offerings from other vendors.

 

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