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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.

 

11Jun/120

Oracle Service Bus development with Continuous Integration (sort of)

Having spent some time setting up and configuring Oracle Service Bus environment (OSB) I can't help but wonder whether developers' needs had taken a backseat to the operational capabilities. Not only development in the OSB console is painful, the team collaboration and continuous integration are virtually non-existent... a configuration based development environment. 🙁

So, what can be done to alleviate the pain?

A quick search around found quite a few posts where people address the issue with custom ANT/Jython scripts here, here and here, zum Beispiel. None of the solutions is pretty including either manual export/import step or bundling entire OEPE (Oracle Enterprise Pack for Eclipse) and WLS environments with the CI server. Oh, well - it could always be worse! 🙂

 

 

 

 

27Dec/117

Getting started with Oracle BI: a virtual experience – Part VI

(continued from Part V)

Step 10

You are ready to access OBIEE web interface. Launch Firefox browser either from desktop icon, or from the top toolbar; its home page is set  to the Oracle Business Intelligence login page (http://localhost:7001/analytics/saw.dll?bieehome&startPage=1)

Note that several bookmarks are set up (see Fig. 1):

  • OBIEE  (http://localhost:7001/analytics)
  • WLS Console (http://localhost:7001/console)
  • Enterprise Manager (EM) (http://localhost:7001/em)
  • BI Composer (http://localhost:7001/analytics/bicomposer/faces/answersWizard.jspx)

NB: I was unable to launch BI Composer, ether due to configuration problems and/or Essbase services not running

Log into OBIEE (case sensitive)

User ID: Prodney        Password: Admin123

This will sign you in as “Paulo Rodney”; other user ID(s) and passwords are set up within the system; the document seems to imply that  BISAMPLE/BISAMPLE credentials pair is set up on the system - it does not work

OBIEE opens on General Index page which is packed with links to all the capabilities built into the application.

The following users are set up in the system:

 

Here is an example of a BI dashboard demo - one of the few supplied in this SampleApp_107 virtual machine

To log onto WebLogic Server console (WLS), click WLS console bookmark in the browser.

User Name: weblogic
Password: Admin123

Note: the same user id and password are used to log in onto Enterprise Management (EM) console

Here is an example of the WLS administrative console

You can access Oracle Enterprise Manager (EM) in the same way; with the same user ID and password.

User Name: weblogic
Password: Admin123

 

And here's a sample of the EM administrative console

 

That's all. Hope this will spare you a few moments of aggrawation 🙂 Comments and suggestions are always welcome.

Feel free to explore the applications on your own; you can also shut down system by killing off the VM environment - or you could do it in an orderly fashion using Oracle's provided scripts (see comments below)

 

 

27Dec/110

Getting started with Oracle BI: a virtual experience – Part IV

(continued from Part III)

Step 6

Once the VirtualBox app informs you that the process completed successfully the imported VM will show up in the left pane with “Powered Off” label  as shown on Figure 1.

You’re almost ready to start the machine; there is one more task that needs to be completed before you could launch your OBIEE sample - make sure that hardware virtualization support (VT-x for Intel platforms, and AMD-V for AMD based machines) is enabled. The setting is in your system’s BIOS, normally under Security menu (here is a link to an article explaining how to access BIOS settings on a computer )

Step 7

After you’ve enabled the VT-x setting, save it and exit the BIOS; allow the machine to boot up. Start up VirtualBox and select the imported VM image.

Before you start the image you need make sure that your system’s settings are within recommended optimum. Click on Settings button, and then on System menu option as shown on the Fig.2

Make sure that Base Memory is in the green area of the ruler (click and drag the central marker to adjust settings). While there might be temptation to increase memory allocated to VM (with the idea that it might speed things up), allocating too much might crash the system; keep in mind that your Windows and VM Linux+Oracle Applications will be competing for the same RAM.

Click OK to exit the screen

Step 8.

With SampleApp_V107 entry selected (see Figure 1), click Start button on toolbar (alternatively you may select Start option from right-click pop-up menu).  The VirtualBox will load VM image containing Oracle Enterprise Linux system which might take some time (20 min for my machine), as shown on Figures 3 and 4

Along the way you might see several pop-up messages informing you that you have “Auto capture keyboard turned on” or that “Host OS does not support mouse pointer integration” as shown on the pictures below -  click OK each time, you may also check the “Do not show this message again” box at the bottom of each pop-up message (Figures 5 and 6)

Finally, the VM will be loaded and you will be prompted to enter your user name to log onto system (Figure 3). The user name is “oracle”, password is “oracle” (both lower case; press Enter after typing in eachoracle).  NB: You could also selects a different the default language for the system by clicking on Languages option at the bottom of the screen (see Figure7)

Upon login the desktop (GNOME) would look similar to the one shown on Fig. 8

(continued in Part V of  Getting started with Oracle BI:  a virtual experience)

 

 

 

 

21Dec/110

Getting started with Oracle BI: a virtual experience – Part III

(continued from Part II)

Step 5

You are ready to assemble the VMDK files into a working virtual machine. Make sure that VMDK and OVF files are all in the same directory (Figure 1)

 

Start up VirtualBox application (Figure 1; disregard already imported appliance). The virtual appliance will be created in the default directory - be sure to set up the directory that has enough free space to accommodate files, logs etc.(virtual size for the running appliance will increase the size of VMDK file by ~30%; you need all free space on the hard-drive you can get!)

 

By default, on Windows machines, the directory will be located on C:\ drive; to change it, go to File > Preference… option. The Default Machine Folder will be under tab [General] - select [Other…] choice from the drop-down box as shown on Figure 2

From the File menu select  [Import Appliance…] option. The “Appliance Import Wizard” screen would appear. Click on [Choose…] button to navigate to the directory where the [Sampleapp_v107_GA.ovf] file is located, and select it.

The next screen will present the summary of the virtual appliance settings including location of the .VMDK files (they have to be in the same directory where .OVF file is).

Click [Import] button to start the process which can take up to several hours - depending on the computer’s caharacteristics.

(continued in Part IV of  Getting started with Oracle BI:  a virtual experience)

 

21Dec/111

Getting started with Oracle BI: a virtual experience – Part I

Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition is a suite of that integrates a number of different applications acquired by Oracle during its shopping spree for the last 10 years. At the heart of the system is Siebel Analytics which Oracle had acquired in 2005, and at the heart of Siebel Analytics is nQuire which it gobbled up in 2002.

The Oracle analytics platform is facing stiff competition in the enterprise arena from the entrenched rivals in a rapidly consolidating market such as Cognos (acquired by IBM in 2008 ), Business Objects SA (acquired by SAP in 2007 ), Microstrategy Inc. (the only remaining independent heavy-weight) and Microsoft Business Intelligence Solutions ( MS SQL Server, MS Office and Microsoft SharePoint Server). In the Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for business Intelligence Platforms all these are in the Leaders quadrant (along with SAS, Information Builders and QlikTech).

As with every enterprise piece of software the users who want to have a hands-on experience face a challenge - procuring, installing and configuring OBIEE components is a daunting experience. Realizing this Oracle had provided prebuilt virtual environments that could be downloaded free of charge - a full-blown installation of OBIEE, complete with database server , application server and demo applications built on top of the stack.

This post (and a couple of follow up) describe my personal journey of installing OBIEE on a woefully under-powered 32-bit Windows XP Pro/SP3two-core 1.86GHz machine which barely met requirements set by Oracle:

  • 4GB of RAM (the max under 32bit systems)
  • 75GB free space (double this number for better performance!)
  • NTFS file system (non-negotiable on Windows machines!)
NB: If you are using old FAT32 system for your Windows XP machine, stop right here - since the VM image files are larger than 4GB supported by the FAT32 file system you wont't be able to download/unzip files, let alone run the application. You can convert FAT32 into NTFS (e.g. by running CONVERT /FS:NTFS command from command line) but keep in mind that this will be a one-way process.

It took me several hours to download, unzip, install and configure the appliance - and I had to start from scratch a couple times... Here is my step-by-step journey of downloading, installing and running OBIEE 11.1.1.5 - Sample Application (V107) virtual machine - hopefully it might help you along the way!

Step 1.  

Get Oracle VM VirtualBox application here (you might need to create an Oracle Technology Network account to download trial products); select the installation for your particular operating system - Windows, Mac OS X, Solaris or various flavors of Linux. The download is about 90MB in size.

Step 2.

Install Oracle VM VirtualBox. On my Windows XP 32-bit machine the process was rather straightforward - accept all defaults by clicking Next button.... The installation takes additional ~120MB.

The application appears in the Programs menu as shown on Fig. 1

 

(continued in Part II of  Getting started with Oracle BI:  a virtual experience)

 

 

 

7May/110

Hudson is released to Eclipse Foundation

I was watching rather apprehensively the split in Hudson development (Hudson/Jenkins fork). My team was using Hudson CI for over a year now, and we came to rely on it as a key component of our Software Development Ecosystem, with extensive customization and integration; we really like the product and the idea that we would have to replace it was enough to give me jitters (I even blogged about it here)

I view this as a positive development, even as some in the field disagree

Oracle submitted proposal to release Hudson as an open source project to Eclipse Foundation

"Oracle today announced that it has submitted a proposal to the Eclipse Foundation to create a Hudson project in Eclipse and contribute the Hudson core code to that project."

"Under the new proposal, Oracle will be the project lead with Sonatype, Tasktop, and VMware as initial contributors.Other companies are also listed as project supporters."

 

Update:

Looks like my celebration was a bit premature, and there appear to be a lot of acrimonious feeling in the developers community.  They voice their frustrations here, in the post by Mik Kersten

At the same time, Kohsuke Kawaguchi uploaded a presentation on SlideShare with his own narrative on the split, and his perspective on the future developments.

I guess we have no choice but wait until the dust settles.

 

 

21Apr/110

It’s gotta Hurd!

Oracle's decision to drop Itanium support reverberated throughout the Oracle users community many of whom are running the software on Itanium servers.

One has to wonder whether this decision has something to do with Mr. Hurd's joining Oracle... after all Itanium was a sizable chunk of HP business, and especially for its HP-UX operating system.

Regardless of the rationale and/or true reasons,  IBM was only happy to offer consolation to about to be abandoned customers, while Microsoft sided with Oracle, having announced that  support for Itanium on Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 will end on July 9, 2013.

SAP, having acquired Sybase (presumably for it's mobile technology) still has to figure out what to do with Sybase ASE database; so it also will continue to support Itanium, at least until dust settles.

Itanium is not going anywhere anytime soon, Intel had just reaffirmed its commitment to the processor. So , is Larry Ellison making a mistake, along with Microsoft, or they both know something that we don't?

15Apr/110

Oracle® 11g Database Express Edition

The Oracle 11g was released in 2007 but without corresponding "Express Edition"; the developers were encouraged to use Oracle 10g Express instead. This gap is about to close with this beta release: Oracle Express Edition for Oracle 11g

It's too late to be added to my Discovering SQL book now (I used Oracle 10g Express), but I will be adding scripts and slide presentations to reflect this development at my support site.

28Feb/110

Déjà vu: Hudson vs. Jenkins

It did not take long for Oracle to tighten its grip on the jewels which it fond itself in possession of with Sun Microsystems acquisition. The examples include Java spat resulting in Google's Android lawsuit and changes that lead to Apache Foundation withdrawal from the Java Community Process. Here's the recent one - expropriation of Hudson Continuous Integration Server

Not surprisingly, the Hudson developers bailed out, leaving Oracle with the only asset that it really owns - the name "Hudson". The fork of the code is fait accompli: the new Jenkins site is up and running, and the project is being considered for Apache Foundation umbrella - where it logically belongs.

Oracle maintains that this ousting of the project's founder Kohsuke Kawaguchi was in the best interests of the project because now they'll be able to bring in "real structure" and make the project "corporate friendly". Needless to say that neither are the top priorities of the open source community, Oracle has pushed the wrong key - again.