Oracle taking BI seriously
But will it deliver on its promises?
Comment What would happen if the people with one of the best databases for business intelligence were to add tools and applications of a similar class? Well, we shall soon find out, because after the acquisition of Siebel, Oracle have started to merge their product lines, and the resultant solution set is very exciting.
Oracle has for a long time been the predominant database used in general business for data warehousing and other BI uses. Its tool set, while complete, has never quite matched the appeal of the database. Oracle tools were adequate but never really exciting or groundbreaking. With the acquisition of Siebel, Oracle finds itself as the owner of one of the most exciting BI solutions available at present.
Siebel broke the trend of providing tools and expecting the end user, or third parties, to meld them into effective solutions. For Siebel, rather than a small information centre lying at the centre of the business and providing a service to the enterprise, its vision has been to provide BI capability to everyone in a workflow out-of-the-box with relatively limited needs for expensive and time-consuming tailoring. Oracle, being the dominant force, could have been forgiven for ignoring this model and looking for its tools to become the chosen path moving forward. Instead, Oracle has chosen the core of the former Siebel offering as the basis for its BI Enterprise Edition.
For users of the former Oracle tools this does not mean they are now locked into a tool set which is going to be left to wither; for those in a more Oracle-centric world to support, the pre-existing Oracle tools continue as the Standard Edition. These tools will be supported and there will be migration path. For price conscious users there is Standard Edition 1, a cut-price offering limited to 50 users with a two-processor limit on the CPU, offering Siebel analytics on the Oracle database.
This all indicates that Oracle is taking BI very seriously, and this new found enthusiasm is being backed by significant investment and the creation of a very complete vision to enable it to compete very aggressively in all segments of the market. Critically, Oracle is setting to be very open, not just in terms of word and conformance to standard, but explicitly and enthusiastically it is setting out to embrace other tools, be they SAP, DB2, or Microsoft and offer an open, hot pluggable solution, which is a best of breed tools and applications set that will be very compelling.
Moving forward across all the applications Oracle now supports, from its own heritage, PeopleSoft, JDEdwards and Siebel, the future is looking to integrate analytics with the workflows, so that BI is not just used historically, but also to predict what is to happen. It has long been one of the limitations of BI that it has had grandiose claims of significance, but all too often has only offered after the event, often long after the event, insight - a model I have likened to driving up a motorway using your rear view mirror for guidance!
When Oracle Fusion becomes a reality it will be fascinating to see how people react to having facts and not intuition to guide them. Intelligence driven applications with real time decision making should offer real competitive advantage and start to really deliver on the promise of BI. I expect Oracle to have the resources to match this vision and achieve the goal. We will have to wait and see how long it takes and how business will adapt to such a capability.
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