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New Oracle BI suite boasts greater third-party support

The new release of Oracle's flagship business intelligence (BI) suite fully integrates the spoils of Oracle's $5.85 billion Siebel acquisition and will serve as the BI centerpiece of Oracle's Fusion software stack, according to experts.

The newest version of Oracle's flagship $5.85 billion purchase of Siebel Systems Inc., experts say it offers greater interoperability with technologies, business applications and data sources that come from outside the Oracle family as well.

"Siebel had to work with a number of different platforms including Oracle, while Oracle's own BI components were primarily targeting their own Oracle base," said Dan Vesset, research director for business analytics with Framingham, Mass.-based IDC. "With the incorporation of the previous Siebel technologies, they were able to bring some of that openness -- or that ability to interact with other platforms -- to the Oracle solution."

New features and functionality

Oracle BI Suite EE's "hot-pluggable" or open-standards-based architecture gives it the ability to fit into any IT infrastructure and support existing applications, according to Rick Schultz, vice president of Oracle Fusion Middleware, and Matt Elumba, Oracle's director of product management. This means users can expect it to support the latest releases of IBM DB2, Microsoft SQL Server and NCR Teradata's data warehouse. The software also supports access to SAP's Business Information Warehouse, the Oracle executives said.

Oracle says users can also expect greater integration with Microsoft Office, with enhancements to support live interaction with Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

The software also includes greater support for Web services and service-oriented architectures (SOAs) through Oracle's Business Process Execution Language tool, the BPEL Process Manager.

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Oracle BI Suite EE provides for a slew of new publishing and reporting capabilities via the Oracle Business Intelligence Publisher. Schultz said users can create and run detailed reports at regular intervals and have them delivered automatically via e-mail, fax machines or printers. The reports can also be incorporated into interactive dashboards.

The new BI suite fully supports JSR-168, the specification which enables interoperability between portlets and portals, and really simple syndication (RSS), allowing users to send BI information and reports via RSS readers.

"We've changed from a pull model to a push model where, from an RSS perspective, people can subscribe to business intelligence as opposed to having to go out and look for it via dashboards or self-service ad hoc," Elumba said.

Other new features of Oracle BI Suite EE include greater performance through enhanced clustering and native 64-bit support; a new hypercube infrastructure; multi-pass calculation optimizations; and improved data visualization and end-user personalization with drag-and-drop layout editing.

IDC's Vesset said one improvement that IT departments are sure to welcome is BI Suite EE's data mart automation capabilities.

"One of the biggest challenges in BI and data warehousing remains the creation of data marts and data warehouses," Vesset said. "Further automation of that process goes a long way toward alleviating the challenges that IT is facing in trying to correspond to the needs of end users."

Oracle Business Intelligence Suite EE is available for Linux and Windows users at a cost of $1,500 per user or $225,000 per CPU.

The future is vertical

Industry experts say that the successful BI software suites of the future will cater to individual industries, or verticals. Therefore, if Oracle wants to better compete with the likes of BI specialty vendors Business Objects SA, Cognos Inc. and Hyperion Solutions Corp., experts say it had better ramp up efforts to cater to the BI needs of specific industries.

Oracle already offers The analyst added that the initial targets of Oracle's vertical BI push are financial services, telecommunications and more on the retail and pharmaceutical fronts. Further down the line, Vesset expects that Oracle will seek to meet the demand for vertical BI in the healthcare and government sectors.

Currently, Vesset ranks Oracle as one of the top 10 BI vendors. But he expects its position will be even stronger in the future.

"In the coming years, Oracle will probably grow faster than the market, because they've had BI solutions for a while, but it's only recently that they've put more emphasis on them," he said.

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