Charles Phillips, co-president of Oracle, during a half-day conference on March 22 detailing the companys business intelligence plans, made an obvious but astute observation.
“If you think about Oracle,” Phillips said, with his low-key, rapid-fire delivery, “weve been a company in a hurry.”
That, in a nutshell, seems to be the case with Oracle BIS (Business Intelligence Suite), announced at the New York event. It brings together the companys existing BI technology with Siebel Systems business analytics platform, but adds little new technology—at least not yet.
Oracle acquired Siebel in a $5.85 billion deal that closed Jan. 31.
Arguably the worlds leading database developer, Oracle is making moves to hold the same position in the business applications and middleware markets, with 15 software company acquisitions in about as many months.
With Oracle BIS, the company is looking to lead in the rapidly expanding BI market by using what it has on hand: database, middleware and business applications.
Oracle BIS—with standard and enterprise editions—leverages the Fusion Middleware stack by pulling in functionality such as Oracle Discoverer for OLAP (online analytical processing), BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) integration and report-publishing capabilities.
By adding Siebels technology to the Enterprise Edition of Oracle BIS, Oracle is able to offer a “hot-pluggable” version of BI that optimizes not only its database and middleware stack, but others as well (Siebel had a strong relationships with both IBM and Microsoft). The Oracle BI Suite Standard Edition is still optimized for Oracles environment.
The Siebel addition also brings something called a unified semantic layer that Oracle will utilize in the future.
“Customers were calling me, saying this is world class stuff, you guys should focus on this,” Phillips said. “So we did and fairly quickly concluded this is a key technology and were going to build around it… [This enables] transactions with all the context around it, so you can analyze [data] when its coming at you, not six months later.”
Primarily a customer relationship management company, Siebel also had a fairly significant business analytics concern that amounted to about 25 percent of its revenue, according to Phillips. The analytics capability—based on semantic layer architecture—came from a small company, nQuire, which Siebel bought in 2001.
“Originally [analytics] technology was just a server piece, middleware really, that would get plugged into data sets,” said Adam Driver, now a director product specialist at Oracle, who came over from nQuire by way of Siebel. “Unlike other competitors [that asked] which type of analysis do you want to use, we provided a unified common metadata structure that allowed the end user to ask a question—that could be OLAP-based [or other]—that was either very simple, or very complex.”
The ability to query based on simple or complex questions was “a fundamental shift in how BI was consumed, to really make it pervasive,” Driver said.
The semantic layer approach unifies but keeps separate three distinct functional areas: a physical layer that defines objects against which users want to perform analysis and optimizes communication with the database; a business model layer that creates a hierarchy and metadata around “all the things users want to have conversations with;” and a presentation layer, according to Driver.
“Without having three layers, simple changes cause issues in the relational database,” Driver said.
During the four years Siebel owned nQuire, the company added support for additional browsers, brought clustering and high-availability capabilities, and upgraded user dashboards. Oracle plans to include components of that technology, now the Siebel analytics platform, in future releases of its Oracle E-Business Suite and PeopleSoft Enterprise and JD Edwards EnterpriseOne suites.
Oracle also plans to build Siebels capabilities into Fusion, its next-generation application suite that brings together the “best of” capabilities from E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft and JD Edwards.
“From an applications perspective we will rapidly uptake the business intelligence platform,” said Chris Leone, group vice president of applications strategy at Oracle, in Redwood Shores, Calif. “Weve leveraged Business Activity Monitoring as a broader definition in PeopleSoft, leveraged the BI Publisher now in the Oracle E-Business Suite, and [we will] rapidly uptake other elements as part of our road map.”
Next year, the company plans to continue building out analytics dashboards, with a focus on industry-specific dashboards that include its Retek and Profit Logic acquisitions in the retail industry, and I-Flex acquisition in the financial services industry. Over the next two years Oracle plans to build out the semantic layer in Siebel Analytics, gearing it for Fusion.
“Were really starting the path to Fusion through intelligence first,” Leone said.