Today is New Year's Eve, and a kind of review of the year, here's ten of my thoughts on what happened in Oracle B&DW in 2008.
Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition.2008 was the year that OBIEE went from early-adopter technology (at least for general Oracle customers) to a mainstream BI tool. A good proportion of these implementations were accompanied by the Oracle BI Applications, showing that the message of "buy vs. build" was resonating, typically with organizations who had tried building their own "first generation" DW themselves. Of course we're still waiting for OBIEE 11g, with Answers+ being typically the 11g component (along with the web-based template builder for BI Publisher) typically being the bits that most customers are waiting for. That said, there were two major releases in the 10g codestream in 2008, with the 10.1.3.3.3 release providing Essbase support and the 10.1.3.3.4 release providing integration with EPM Workspace, as well as the new Sample Sales application that shows off development best practices. Certainly from my perspective I'm finding that customers are now implementing Oracle BI in the form of OBIEE, rather than Business Objects or Cognos, and for previous users of Discoverer there's a lot of customer satisfaction with this new bit of technology. 2008 was a good year for Oracle BI and it's good to have a product that finally holds it own in the marketplace.
Essbase. Speaking of Essbase, who would have thought that this OLAP server would be the hot new technology in the Oracle world in 2008? My article on Essbase and OBIEE was in the top 10 tech articles for OTN last year, and everyone I know is either learning Essbase or dusting down their skills. Most customers I speak to who are looking to implement OBIEE also want to talk about EPM (Planning, Financial Consoidation etc) at the same time, and Essbase is the common factor that brings all of these together. Conference-wise, the biggest new area at ODTUG Kaleidoscope last year was the Essbase track, and look out for further Essbase content, together with crossover Essbase / OBIEE content, at next year's Kaleidoscope. Now's the time indeed to know your ASO from your BSO, your MDX from your SQL.
Oracle OLAP. Whilst Essbase has been grabbing the limelight, Oracle OLAP has finally delivered, six years on from the initial 9i releases, on the promise of integrated OLAP in the database. Cube Organized Materialized views have provided SELECT-level integration with SQL and query rewrite, whilst the new analytic expressions language in 11g looks likely to make it's way into regular Oracle SQL as a way of simplifying analytic expressions. Just like Essbase and MDX will be must-have skills for Oracle BI implementors, Oracle OLAP, like materialized views, partitioning and compression, will be must-have skills for Oracle DW implementors. It'll also be interesting to see whether Oracle OLAP gets parity with Essbase as a multi-dimensional data source in OBIEE 11g and Oracle BI Administrator 11g, if that's the case (in terms of importing data sources) then it'll be simple choice between in-database OLAP and external server OLAP when it comes to adding analytic horsepower to your OBIEE implementation.
Oracle Data Integrator. Whilst OBIEE and Essbase have been getting all the news, 2008 has been curiously quiet for Oracle Data Integrator. A rather low-key Data Quality add-in came along with the 10.1.3.4 release, but whilst I hear about the tool talked about by customers occaisionally, I don't see many implementations. 2009 should be different though as the 10.1.3.5 release is the first to be certified with the Oracle BI Applications; I suspect judgement will be reserved until customers see how well it works as an alternative to Informatica in this scenario, a lot of which won't be down to ODI but more down to how will it's integrated with the DAC and how well (first time) the migrated Informatica mappings work.
Oracle Warehouse Builder. Whilst ODI has been pointed to as being the future of Oracle ETL, Oracle Warehouse Builder has quietly gone about becoming the default ETL tool (including the option of hand-coding) for Oracle shops. Ironically, of course, everyone now says they like it once they hear it's being phased out or integrated with Oracle Data Integrator, and a few frustrations remain particularly around the Byzantine rules around control centers, locations, configurations and local/remote databases, but the 10.2.0.4 release was a solid one and most of the functionality new to 10.2 (Paris) now works well. I remember going into Oracle customer sites and having to persuade them to use OWB, now it's the default, and there's a good product management team who take the time to blog, get out to conferences and engage with the community. Truly a product success story.
Exadata and HP Oracle Database Machine. Of course the big news in 2008, at least from the Oracle product marketing machine, was Exadata and the Oracle Database Machine. Realistically it's not something you're going to buy for yourself, plug into your laptop and give it a whirl, but it addresses a market segment that Oracle clearly felt they were losing, and the geek inside all of us loves a new bit of hardware to go with our software. I think, like RAC and so on, we'll reserve judgement until non-Oracle database specialists get their hands on it, but it was good to hear about databases, and data warehousing, at Open World in September and I suspect 2009 will bring similar groundbreaking news from the DW front.
Alternative Analytic DBMS Technologies. One side-effect of the Exadata announcement, at least from my perspective, was that it opened up the question as to whether new hardware types are required when working with very large data warehouse databases. At the same time, vendors such as Vertica, Netezza and ParAccel raised their profile through hiring ex-Oracle product development people, reaching out to the blogger community and advocating non-traditional hardware architectures. At this point it's difficult to say whether they are just a flash in the pan (I wouldn't want to predicate my business on one hardware innovation) or whether we're experiencing a Cambrian explosion of new technologies and vendors, but it's certainly raised the provide of VLDB and data warehouses and their particular hardware needs.
The Economy. Outside of Oracle of course, the big news was the economy. Will customers pull in their horns and cancel all non-critical IT projects, or will the need to innovate despite cuts in budgets mean that BI&DW is seen as the only way to work out what's important and what's not? Certainly (fingers crossed) we've found that demand for BI&DW skills has if anything gone up, as an industry we're able to deliver value fast and of course we focus on ROI and business benefits. I suspect that unless we experience a kind of IT spending "nuclear winter" then demand for BI that "delivers" will in reality be stronger than ever in 2009, like all recessions it's a time for innovation and rapid business change, and organizations with a good view of their business going forward as well as going back will be the ones that emerge into 2010 stronger than ever.
Rittman Mead. 2008 was a transformative year for us, with our team going from Jon and I up to six full-timers and a number of associates. We've focused on the quality of our process, delivery and methodology, and as always we share whatever we learn and try and put back into the community as much as possible. As a small and agile organization we think we're well placed to handle whatever the economy throws at us in 2009, and we're looking forward to delivering on our book, developing further our methodology and delivering business-changing Oracle BI&DW systems for our customers.
Looking to 2009. Technology-wise, 2009 will be the most significant year for product releases for many years. OBIEE 11g should be out at some point (the first half of 2009 looks most likely), with Answers+, a new scorecarding application, a metadata API for the semantic layer and the Action Frameworks amongst the new features. OWB and ODI will become further fused together, we may get some new Essbase point releases and of course the 11gR2 release of the database should at least be announced in 2009. To my mind, 2010 is likely to be the year of convergence, but 2009 will have enough new releases to keep us busy and with the betas out soon, we'll be writing the "how-tos" and seminar material in time for the official releases.