Collaborate’07 Day 2 - BI Roadmap Update

I've just got out of the Oracle's BI Roadmap session by Matt Elumba, here's some notes on what Matt had to say. I was sort of expecting more or less a rerun of the same talk we had at Open World and ODTUG Kaleidoscope, but there was actually quite a lot of new material on the BI EE and BI SE release schedule, plus an update on what's happening following the Hyperion purchase. Here's the highlights of what was covered:

Oracle BI Suite still comes in Standard, Enterprise, and Standard Edition One versions. Hyperion Essbase was shown in an architecture diagram at the same level as Answers, Dashboards, Delivers and so on (above the BI server, as the end-user query tools), as "Essbase Analytics". Oracle Data Integrator was shown in the same line-up, giving Oracle's enterprise BI toolset as Answers, Delivers, Dashboards, Essbase Analytics and Data Integrator. When we pressed Matt on whether Essbase was being positioned as Oracle's "enterprise OLAP server", he said that this had yet to be decided and both Essbase and Oracle OLAP would be developed and sold for the immediate future, but that Essbase had some obvious benefits in that it was cross-platform, drives all of the hyperion planning applications and had a good market share. I guess we'll hear more on this over the next twelve months or so; I went to a talk recently where I heard a bit about what's happening with Oracle OLAP 11g - there's a lot of very interesting new features coming along with this product as well (which I'll go in to in more detail when they're officially announced), so I certainly don't see Oracle OLAP being dropped, but then again I doubt Oracle bought Essbase for no reason.

In terms of the BI Suite Enteprise Edition roadmap, Matt talked about three upcoming releases:

  • The release (we're currently on, the "Maui Release"). will extend coverage from Windows and Linux 32-bit to the same platforms on 64-bit, plus support for AIX, HP-UX and Solaris. This release will also include general bug fixes for the existing Windows and Linux 32-bit versions, so presumably will be an upgrade all of us will want to make.
  • The release, due out "in the summar or fall", will primarly bring in new Microsoft Office integration. There'll be an Excel add-in that allows you to connect to the Common Enterprise Information Model, browse and open Answers requests, drill in to hierarchies and drill back to the original answers report. The plug-in looked quite swish (in screenshots) and will be accompanied by a Powerpoint add-in that again allows you to browse and choose report, insert answers charts and tables into presentations (converting them en-route in to powerpoint-native charts and tables), and will allow you to copy and paste either single answers views or complete dashboards. This release will also feature bookmarkable dashboards and reports, allowing you to share dashboards via URLs and to return to particular reports that you'd like to mark and go back to later.
  • This release will also provide integration between BI Publisher and Discoverer (as covered by Mike Durran at various user group events this year), a web-based metadata dictionary, BI Publisher export to Flash, pass through of database functions (so you can use Oracle-specific functions in your BI Answers requests), XMLA-driven business models (e.g. import of XML/A cubes in to the Common Enterprise Information Model, is this how they'll integrate Essbase in to BI EE?), and Netezza certification.
  • Matt then went on to talk about Discoverer futures. After the usual slide about upgrade options, Matt talked about Discoverer End User Layers being importable in to the BI EE Common Enterprise Information Model - this was originally given as a development aim by Thomas Kurian at the original BI EE launch last year, was dropped and now appears to be back on the cards. Cool. Matt also then covered Discoverer/BI Publisher integration, use of Delivers for alerting, and surfacing Discoverer worksheets in BI EE Dashboards. I looks likely that this functionality will be out within the next twelve months (i.e. pre-Discoverer 11g) although as usual this is more for information rather than a definate promise.
  • We then asked a number of questions, many of them were around DBI and EPB which of course were outside of Matt's area, but we asked around OWB vs. DBI and Oracle OLAP vs. Essbase. Matt as you would expect at this early stage had to be fairly non-committal, but to me at least it's clear that ODI and Essbase are going to have a major part to play in Oracle's vision of Enterprise business intelligence. To quote Matt, Oracle bought Hyperion "to bring enterprise performance management to the enteprise level" and their aim to to take what Hyperion have done well up to this point, and then apply it across all the areas - supply chain, manufacturing, finance etc etc that Oracle have applications in. Using Oracle's BI tools, you'll be able to set goals at the enterprise level and use the new tools from Hyperion to manage performance across all the organization, not just finance. Good stuff indeed.

Finishing off, there was a brief talk about the 11g release of BI Enterprise Edition, where we should see something called the "Action Framework" introduced, along with the next generation of balanced scorecard. Given that the release of BI EE will be out (realistically) for Open World, my guess is that the 11g release of BI EE will be out around the summer to fall of 2008, but that's all guesswork at the moment based on the usual gaps between releases.

Anyway, it was a useful talk and the new stuff on Hyperion was interesting. Apart from positioning Essbase alongside Answers, Dashboard and so on, it was obviously early days in terms of being more specific but over the next few months (perhaps in time for ODTUG Kaleidoscope in June?) I'd expect more details of the adoption of Hyperion products to be announced, particularly what they plan to do with the planning and budgeting products (and by extension, what'll happen with EPB) and what they plan to do with Brio.

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