Observations on Oracle BI

Not quite in the “magic” spot within Gartner’s famous quadrant, Oracle still is a formidable competitor in the business intelligence arena.

Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE) Version 11g is now significantly more substantial than the versions before it. The feature set and system requirements are greatly expanded resulting in mildly shocking sizing. Someone opined whether Larry Ellison is sticking to the “Fusion” strategy at Oracle by weaving as many products as possible into one thereby making it more expensive, more resource hungry, more dependent on consultant hours, and more appliance oriented. This may have been a humorous comment rather than an opinion, but there could be some truth to it.

A “small” proof-of-concept (POC) installation based on Oracle’s own cookbook came with a recommendation for 300 Gigabytes of disk space – and that’s only for the software. In practice, disk usage came close to 200 Gigabytes when ODI ETL was running. This was due to the number and size of temporary files that were being created during the run. Again, the database software and the data in it were on a separate server.

Another revelation came during a presentation of said POC when the laptop with 4 Gigabytes of memory was unable to run the necessary client side Java applets to show off parts of ODI user interface (BIACM). Therefore, we concluded that developers must make sure their workstations are adequately equipped.

Exalytics, Exadata, and Exalogic are Oracle’s specialty appliances configured to handle high availability. These are not cheap by any means, and software complexity lends itself very well to these pieces of hardware. It is possible to avoid the appliances, but if performance requirements are high then it may be very difficult to even come close with alternate solutions.

Constraints aside, Oracle’s differentiation is their pre-built applications – OBIA – which were, presumably, developed in collaboration with various industry leaders. For example, Student Information Analytics (SIA) is an application that could be installed, configured, and used by the Education industry out of the box with little extra work if the delivered product satisfies business requirements. Even if it does not, a fully built baseline system may be a better start than a blank slate. Currently, there are ready made applications for a number of verticals.

In short, 11g OBIEE suite is a capable monster of a software product that takes money and knowledge to implement. It does, however, provide a wealth of analytics options and that can lead to a good return on investment if done right.

Rumors have it, the next version of OBIEE – 12c – may include built-in visual data lineage tools.

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