Last week, Oracle announced the availability of Oracle Business Intelligence 11g. This is a major release for Oracle and comes at a time when Microsoft and SAP have both made major announcements of their own.
The emphasis at the launch was on Integration with Charles Phillips, President, Oracle stressing the depth of the Oracle stack from storage to applications and all points in between. Much of the stack has come from the Sun acquisition and it is too soon to be sure that the emphasis on integration that Phillips kept stressing is really there.
Phillips was keen to point out that it was not just the ability to present an integrated stack that set Oracle apart from the competition but its focus on standards. Phillips told attendees at the launch that Oracle "supports standards, helps define standards and is standards driven". One of the challenges for Phillips here is that Oracle has been particularly coy on what is happening with the whole Java standards process.
The key message for Oracle BI 11g alongside integration was that as the industry moves forward we will begin to see BI embedded in all our processes. This makes a lot of sense. To many people, BI is still all about sales and competitive edge. Yet some companies are already looking at BI tools to see what else it can provide such as a better understanding of IT management in complex environments or the performance of software development. At present, however, Oracle has no stated intention of addressing either of these markets.
There is little doubt that Oracle is keen to counter the messaging from Microsoft about BI everywhere. In the launch, there was a ken focus on the end user experience and the ability to not only access BI from any device but to ensure consistency of what you were working with.
This is important. One of the criticisms of the Microsoft TechEd announcements was the loss of synchronisation and control of data as users saved into SharePoint and created a lot of disconnected data. Oracle is keen to ensure that it can keep control of the data and there was a significant focus on security and data management.
Yet despite all this talk of access from everywhere, Oracle has decided against embedded BI tooling inside Oracle Open Office and instead opted for seamless integration with Microsoft Office. This has to be a mistake and those who believed that Oracle has no interest in Open Office will see this as the smoking gun they have been waiting for.
If Oracle really wants to see Open Office and the enterprise version become a significant competitor to Microsoft's Office then embedding the BI tools is a requirement. This will also make it easier for developers to create applications that are part of the daily toolset used by end users and make BI just another desktop function.
Phillips presentation was just the warm up. It was left to Thomas Kurian, Executive Vice President, Oracle to make the full technical presentation of Oracle Business Intelligence 11g.
Kurian wasted no time in presenting the Common Business Intelligence Foundation upon which the Common Enterprise Information Model is built. This is designed to manage all of the integration between applications/devices and the data sources.
There were several features that stood out for me. The first is the reporting and Oracle BI Publisher. Lightweight, able to access multiple data source formats and output into a wide range of file formats it is also scalable. What was missing was any announcement that Oracle was going to release it as a BI appliance. This would be a game changer, especially if those appliances could be deployed to remote offices.
The second key feature is the integration with WebCenter Workspaces allowing users to collaborate on BI reports. What isn't fully clear yet is whether this has the same potential for data explosion as Microsoft allowing users to save to SharePoint.
The third feature is the Oracle BI Action Framework which can be manual or automated and will appeal to developers looking to build complex applications. It will tie into the existing Oracle Middleware and uses alerts to detect changes to key data. Users can not only ensure that they are working with the latest data but developers can use those alerts to call web services and trigger workflows.
Security is a major problem with BI. As data is extracted from multiple sources and stored locally, it is possible to lose data and end up with unauthorised access to data. The BI 11g Security model uses watermarking of reports as well as encryption along with role-based security. One potential issue here will be how that encryption will be deployed throughout the business chain when you are distributing data to suppliers and customers.
Finally, not only is Oracle looking to provide a range of packaged BI applications within the BI Enterprise Edition but it is ensuring that the BI capability is embedded inside its existing applications. This two pronged approach should mean a tighter link between the BI tools and the applications.
This was a big announcement from Oracle and one that requires some digestion. There are missing elements such the Oracle Open Office integration and the failure to announce a BI appliance. However, it is clear that Oracle is determined to stamp its control on the BI market and as it continues to integrate Sun into the product strategy, we can expect to see complete end to end solutions in the coming months.
You can watch the keynotes of both Phillips and Kurian as well as download their presentations at: http://www.oracle.com/oms/businessintelligence11g/webcast-075573.html