Oracle Business Intelligence 11g: do you smell something fishy?

Oracle used Old Billingsgate fish market to brief the press, analyst and customer community on its forthcoming Business Intelligence 11g offering this morning. There wasn't much of a smell of fish left in the auditorium thankfully.

Oracle used Old Billingsgate fish market to brief the press, analyst and customer community on its forthcoming Business Intelligence 11g offering this morning. There wasn't much of a smell of fish left in the auditorium thankfully. In fact, David Callaghan senior VP UK & Eire kicked off straight away by using a nice link to the market itself and Business Intelligence by citing an old saying attributed to the metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947).

"Knowledge does not keep any better than fish…"

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I'm sorry, but I liked that. At least I liked it more than the corporate mantra, which is now stated as: Competitive advantage is the new key driver for BI. But I suppose I could live with both if I had to.

President of Oracle (second in command to Larry) Charles Phillips graced us with his presence to put a little colour on how the company's BI strategy sits these days. From OLAP to data mining to enterprise portfolio management (EPM) systems, Oracle has been (as a database company) logically very close to all of these technology milestones, so how should they all be aggregated in 2010 and onward?

"Business Intelligence is not BI if you get five different answers to the same question," said Philips when describing the 'common information model' that the company is striving to achieve with what it describes as a more integrated suite of BI components.

I'm not fond of those bland figures Oracle insists on posting up that say 80-something percent of the Fortune 500 companies use Oracle. You see them at airports a lot. Sure, big companies probably use a bit of Oracle at least "somewhere". Get over it. It's like the MacDonald's 40 billion served sign. As Jerry Seinfeld said, "Hmm, 40 billion you say? OK, I'll try one!"

Instead let's move down to the nitty gritty as far as possible. For the developer with his or her nose stuck to the coalface of BI system operation and/or fine tuning, the opportunity now exists to work with Oracle's Exadata, the company's high-performance data warehouse appliance, developed in partnership with HP to function as a specialised BI platform.

Positioned very much in the same space as IBM's DB2 pureScale data warehouse offering, they key word here is 'scalability'. Oracle's Exadata is essentially a combination of storage, processors and the Oracle database specifically aligned for BI tasks, all integrated into a single database appliance – something that the company is only able to do now that it can say that it is a hardware company.

For team leaders and developers with systems integration responsibilities concerned about ease of deployment here, Oracle is at pains here to say that its Business Intelligence 11g technologies are best described in three words - complete, open and integrated. The company also says that this effort is further supported by virtue of this whole technology stack being built upon Oracle's Fusion middleware suite, which in particular caters for considerations such as collaboration and security.

While Oracle spent much of this morning's event talking to the customer/user audience in attendance by saying that its dashboard was intuitively aligned to the needs of power analysts right down to regular end users – I was still looking for the developer angle. The company did talk about its conscientious approach towards insisting on an 'architecturally open' BI foundation with consistent build architecture, a common UI platform, use of a common metadata foundation so that users can consistently define the semantics of what they are calculating and, just for good measure, a common clustering environment too.

Logically (I hope) you'd also expect Oracle to talk about clients and devices here in terms of access points to this technology. There is support for all types of clients with 11g from sophisticated desktop dashboards, scaled down mobile device clients, as well as unstructured data which may be found in Word or Excel.

So what's the general impression of Oracle out in the open post Sun then? Well I always say that every company has a 'corporate personality' i.e. Microsoft guys smile a bit too much, IBM has its funny old ways and funny old people as well as some young bucks, Adobe has a cool bunch of dudes who usually talk too fast (Mr Forta you know who you are!) and Oracle?

Well, the company still insists that a press release should be a set of hard to digest bullet points – but in general, given the fact that the company is run by god Larry (praise be upon him), they do come across as far more approachable than I thought.

Let me say one final thing. Our later keynote presenters took us through the common BI information model for administrators digging down into OLAP options for the Oracle database and how to deal with multi-dimensional data sources in an analytic workspace – and they were both wearing buttoned down suits and ties.

Need I say more?