Oracle Focuses on BI, EPM

The company's new Fusion Middleware suite will offer greater business intelligence and enterprise performance management features.

San Francisco—Oracle paid particular attention to building out business intelligence and enterprise performance monitoring capabilities when upgrading its Fusion Middleware offering, according to Thomas Kurian, senior vice president of server development technologies at the company.

Fusion Middleware 11g, the next iteration of Oracles integration platform, is currently in its fourth beta cycle.

BI and EPM are two closely linked categories. BI is a broad set of applications and technologies that let companies store and analyze data in an effort to make better business decisions. EPM, once geared toward financial divisions, is branching out to include monitoring of overall corporate performance through forecasting, budgeting and planning applications. Both categories are also areas in which Oracle finds itself increasingly pitted against rivals SAP and IBM.

On Nov. 12, IBM announced it will acquire BI provider Cognos for nearly $5 billion—a move that seems, if nothing else, aimed at keeping up with competitors. SAP said in October it will buy Business Objects for $6.8 billion, and in February, Oracle acquired Hyperion for $3.3 billion. The last remaining independent player in the BI space is SAS.

Each company¹s goal is to provide straightforward capabilities that let business users assess their organizations without having to constantly turn to IT. It turns out doing that is harder than it sounds.

"Oracles EPM strategy is a single integrated system that provides simple, accurate information from CRM [customer relationship management] data warehouses, data marts, reporting, and financial and management systems for organizations to get the ability to go from strategy and plans to operations decisions, to insight, to action," Kurian said during a keynote address at Oracle¹s OpenWorld conference here Nov. 13. "Then [the next step is the ability] to take action to improve how business functions. New capabilities were introducing in EPM and BI start with the infrastructure to get data out of transaction systems and into the data warehouse."

Those capabilities in Fusion Middlewares EPM suite include a Data Integrator that has a fast ETL [extraction, transformation and loading] capability. Transformations that occur in the data warehouse do not require a separate ETL server and provide some data cleansing capabilities, Kurian said.

On the BI front, Oracle has upgraded BI Server to include new data visualization capabilities in dashboards, such as mapping and dynamic data functions. Users also can model information they would like to calculate in BI Server. At the same time, the server is more tightly integrated with Microsoft¹s Office and Excel, with the most compelling outcome the fact that BI Server will automatically update users charts from Microsoft documents, Kurian said.

BI Publisher—really the reporting engine in Oracles BI suite—has three new features: a report environment built in AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML), advanced scheduling of reports, and the ability to integrate with BI dashboards.

As for Oracles acquisition of Hyperion, the company has added three new features, including support for XBRL (Extensible Business Reporting Language), a mandated Securities and Exchange Commission standard for reporting financial information; advanced features for tax adjustment and provisioning, and the ability to drill from a consolidation system back into the source general ledger system to identify problems within a user¹s financial management environment, Kurian said.


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