Oracle's plans for Hyperion users center on a relatively new product called Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition Plus (OBIEE Plus) and an attempt to offer customers "the best of both worlds," according to company executives speaking at last week's Oracle OpenWorld 2007 conference.
Released after Oracle acquired Hyperion for its strengths in financial performance management (FPM) and enterprise performance management (EPM) software, OBIEE Plus bundles Oracle's largely Siebel-based BI suite with specific Hyperion System 9 Essbase BI tools, including Interactive Reporting, SQR Production Reporting, Financial Reporting and Web Analysis.
And through its support of a common enterprise information model, or a semantic layer, Oracle says OBIEE Plus is the key to getting disparate Oracle data sources -- like an Oracle Data Warehouse or a PeopleSoft customer relationship management (CRM) implementation -- to integrate more seamlessly and more meaningfully with Essbase and other Hyperion products.
"The logic is that you connect physical information from multiple data sources into the semantic layers," said Nicolas Moscaritolo, director of BI strategy for Oracle's enterprise product management group. "Here you have the malleability to utilize your existing tools to either go through the semantic layer or continue to go directly to the data sources going forward."
OBIEE Plus and semantics, Moscaritolo said, are all part of Oracle's overarching EPM vision for the future -- a vision that entails giving customers a more holistic approach to BI that leverages service-oriented architecture (SOA) to combine Hyperion's strengths with Oracle's various BI tools and data management capabilities.
"SOA from a middleware standpoint bridges the gaps between parts," Moscaritolo said. "[Oracle owns] the database, the enterprise resource planning (ERP) and the CRM systems, so who better than Oracle to manage the middleware, including the BI, to deliver that information out to your customers."
Oracle's plans for Hyperion users made sense to conference attendee Peter Kubiaczyk, a system analyst for Trinity Health and an Essbase user charged with many tasks, including prototyping and modeling analytical reports.
"We have an Oracle warehouse and we also have PeopleSoft," he said, "so tight integration of these diverse elements is very, very important to us, and that's what I want to see."
Kubiaczyk said he hopes to use OBIEE Plus to simplify the process of transferring data between the Oracle Data Warehouse and Essbase.
"Actually, extracting data from Oracle warehouse, especially when it comes from the Essbase end, is pretty straightforward, but feeding the data back was a pain," he said. "You had to get the text file and feed it back almost manually to Oracle. This pain is not going to go away right now, but [we're] getting close to it."
The systems analyst then summed up why he thinks the semantic layer in OBIEE Plus will be important at his firm.
"This semantic layer will allow you to do a cross-reporting from different sources and synchronize data between them," he said.
The BI dilemma
Oracle's vision of delivering a more comprehensive approach to BI stems from a problem that has plagued BI users for the last decade, according to Colin Dover, director of BI strategy for Oracle's enterprise performance management group.
"BI is sideways, it's departmentally focused in a lot of ways, it's about addressing fragmented business challenges, and typically those challenges get addressed in a very fragmented way," Dover said.
As a result, he added, there has been a major proliferation of individual BI tools designed to resolve specific issues within an organization, but because the tools are so narrowly focused, most of them do not see widespread adoption.
Folks who work in IT want BI tools that offer users self-service capabilities, Dover continued, whereas business users want more flexibility, access to more systems and contextually meaningful data.
It all points to a need for greater integration between BI products, he said.
"This is really about recognizing that BI can no longer be on its own," he said. "It has to be considered part of a holistic set of activities in order to be valuable and in order to stop [the BI dilemma]."