Oracle pushes on BI

Some users were surprised at Oracle's entrance into the BI platform market

SAN FRANCISCO -- Oracle Corp. has unveiled Business Intelligence 10g, a stand-alone product that executives said will provide query, reporting and analysis, dashboards, data integration and BI application development.

With the integrated 10g BI platform, users will get unified access to relational and Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) data within a single reporting environment to accomplish tasks that typically require two tools, said Ray Roccaforte, Oracle's vice president of business intelligence and data warehousing. "As an end user, I wouldn't know if the data came from relational or multidimensional data," he said.

The company made the announcement at its Oracle OpenWorld conference here.

The new BI offering also features a spreadsheet add-in designed to allow users to query, display and navigate Oracle OLAP data directly from within Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. All data and calculations are centrally stored in the Oracle database, so all analysis is performed using the most recent data, Roccaforte said.

Some users were surprised at Oracle's entrance into the BI platform market. Rizwan Ahmed, CIO of Louisiana's Department of Natural Resources and Office of Group Benefits, said his organization would not have considered using Oracle's older ETL and data warehousing technology to build executive dashboards.

"We did not anticipate that Oracle would put so much emphasis on BI tools," Ahmed said. "We did not see them in that market before."

However, Ahmed said he has been pleased with the beta version of 10g. "One tool presenting relational data as well as OLAP is very important," he said.

The new BI offering fills a gap for users of Oracle's Express OLAP server and applications powered by Express like Oracle Sales Analyzer. Oracle announced in October that it would replace Sales Analyzer with Oracle Enterprise Planning and Budgeting.

Verizon Communications Inc.'s information systems group began using the beta version of 10g to replace a legacy Oracle Express application it inherited from the merger of Bell Atlantic, Nynex and GTE, said Peter Johnson, director of decision-support systems at the New York-based company.

"We're able to give all this information to analysts who ... can answer a whole lot of questions without asking for another data dump," he said. "In one session, they can get 25 to 30 questions answered without having to bother [IT]. I see a new Oracle. I see a better customer-service-type relationship. We've been with them for 10 years, and there were years we didn't talk to Oracle."

For Ohio Savings Bank F.S.B. in Cleveland, having a single BI tool will mean savings in support and training costs that were previously needed to operate several BI tools, said Christine Collom, the bank's applications development manager. "The integration capabilities in the entire BI stack and simplified administration will make a big difference."

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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