Users Applaud Idea of Oracle BI as Center of the Universe

Users buy into Oracle's plan for them to consolidate, ditch the special-purpose data warehouses, and move to a version of Oracle's Database 10g and Oracle BI 10g that feature unified OLAP and relational (SQL) data engines and infrastructure.

SAN FRANCISCO—Know more, spend less.

The message was, characteristically, all-Oracle: Consolidate, ditch the special-purpose data warehouses, and move to a version of Oracle Corp.s Database 10g and Oracle BI (Business Intelligence) 10g that feature unified OLAP and relational (SQL) data engines and infrastructure, hooking directly into the Oracle database and in the process erasing all difference in data formats, making users blind to OLAP/relational sourcing, and ushering in the nirvana of plunking data directly into the beloved and ubiquitous Microsoft Corp. Excel spreadsheet.

Thats the mantra that Oracle Vice President of BI Ray Roccaforte trumpeted in his keynote here on the opening day of Oracle OpenWorld, as Oracle announced Oracle BI 10g, a vision of information reporting that, unsurprisingly, puts Oracle Database 10g squarely in the center of the universe.

Audience members in a keynote devoted to BI 10g loved it, practically without reservation.

"I was shocked you could touch the database and pull in the data, tweak and modify a report," said Randy Zenk, team leader of database administration at Priority Health, a health insurer in Grand Rapids, Mich., after witnessing a demonstration of the unified BI environment.

Priority Health now uses a mishmash of Discover, Microsoft Access and Oracle Reports for its reporting. Thats typical of most enterprises, which have a laundry list of BI tools and are drowning in data that they dont know how to prioritize and cant handle centrally because of disparate formats, Roccaforte said.

"The old approach would be that youd have a central database, but then to handle special-purpose processing, people would purchase an OLAP engine to do advanced analytics, another BI engine to do data mining, yet another to do relational," he said. "Youd also have a complicated set of tools. Tools written to run against OLAP servers dont run against relational engines as well."

Oracle is proposing that users consolidate servers and databases, thus lowering costs and improving back-end performance; consolidate BI infrastructure, moving to one integrated dashboard for business users; focus on data quality and data integration, arriving at a "single version of the truth"; and take advantage of Oracles pre-built BI over integrated transaction systems.

Zenk liked the look—one seamless environment, regardless of data source, that would mean streamlined training. "Its similar no matter which application piece youre in," he said. "It would probably be easy to train people once somebodys caught on" to the general environment, he said.

Zenk also liked the ability to e-mail a dashboard, it being a means of ensuring that end users would all have the same data. At this point, thats not a given, since one user may create an Access report one day, another user can report against Access the second day, and the reports would differ when the two went into a meeting, Zenk said.

But would Priority Health be willing to consolidate to such an extent on Oracle systems? Oh, yes, Zenk said. The insurer is now an Oracle and Sybase Inc. database shop, but its on track to become 100 percent Oracle, moving its Oracle 9i.2.04 databases in the direction of RAC (Real Application Clusters).

Why RAC? Roccaforte said that RAC and ASM (Automatic Storage Management) allow users to take advantage of low-cost storage devices and low-cost servers. Thats Oracles grid message: Put together a large number of commodity components into one, scalable system.

One consultant for a major defense contractor, who requested anonymity, said that her firm was absolutely interested in implementing BI 10g for the Department of Transportations Federal Aviation Administration, since the FAA now suffers from the same mishmash of BI servers, applications and databases that Oracle is proposing to squeeze out.

Next Page: BI 10g a step in the right direction.