BI bites into a bigger slice of Oracle’s Red Stack

Madan Sheina, Lead Analyst, Information Management

Oracle recently held its third annual Industry Analyst World conference at its Redwood Shores headquarters, and it came as no surprise to Ovum that business analytics featured as one of six major track themes (aligning nicely with our Big Data and Analytics Super Theme for 2013).

Oracle’s business intelligence (BI) and enterprise performance (EPM) portfolio is undoubtedly impressive in both breadth and depth. Having spent much time and effort rationalizing and updating its product set, Oracle is also planning innovative new analytics offerings through the convergence of new products, notably its Exalytics in-memory engine and Endeca-powered information discovery environment.

This will inevitably present product development, integration, and marketing challenges, but Oracle has the necessary engineering resources and budget to address all three. However, it needs to do so quickly.

BI and analytics now pivotal in Oracle’s Red Stack

Business analytics is a significant component of Oracle’s attempt to provision an entire end-to-end corporate IT stack that extends beyond software into its engineered systems strategy.

Oracle has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to BI and EPM, thanks to a combination of home-grown development and a series of astute acquisitions. BI and EPM now sit as a core software value proposition for broader Oracle applications (E-Business Suite) and infrastructure (Fusion) solutions, both horizontally and vertically implemented.

Analytics also continues to have an increasing influence on Oracle’s platform strategy. Oracle Exalytics, Oracle Exadata, and Oracle Big Data Appliance are all engineered hardware-software systems born from BI and analytics data-processing needs. Ovum expects Oracle to engineer more analytics smarts into these platforms that are hardwired to take full advantage of the hardware processing potential.

Ovum also expects BI and analytics to deepen in Oracle’s newer customer experience (customer 360), personalization, and social initiatives, forming a key component of the business value and transformation proposition.

This will resonate well for companies that view Oracle as a strategic business investment. BI and analytics could certainly be a seed for further expansion and growth, particularly for customers that are looking at Oracle as less of an infrastructure technology supplier and more as a value generator across various business operations.

BI and analytics certainly help shift the debate from technology “boxes” to business enablement and improvement, a subtle trend from Oracle that Ovum has noted over the past couple of years.

Oracle’s strategy goes broad and deep

Oracle’s BI and analytics product strategy is aligned to both a broad continuum of business use cases and needs, ranging from the simple (operational reporting) to deepening analytic sophistication (added multi-dimensionality). A third alignment, which can be layered across both use cases, is real-time performance.

Meeting all of these alignments can be achieved in two ways technologically, with a set of point tools or a unified platform approach. Oracle is clearly angling for the latter, a flexible analytic server, with extensions and integrations based on tight metadata sharing and exchange between different BI, EPM, predictive, and unstructured analytic use cases.

This includes, for example, allowing users to shift from traditional Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE) dashboarding and reporting to EPM planning, predictive analytics, or Oracle Information Discovery (Endeca) mode of analysis.

Innovation is being driven through product convergence and integration

Oracle’s business analytics strategy clearly points to convergence, pulling together cleverly engineered combinations of new and existing tools, applications, and platforms that are already well-developed divisions within Oracle. For example, many of its in-memory capabilities are derived from Oracle Exalytics, Oracle TimesTen, and OLTP product development teams.

Internally, this could be Oracle’s biggest challenge, but Oracle has the resources to invest heavily in engineering and R&D to pull the solutions together, and in 2012 it spent nearly 13% of its revenue on this area.

Oracle has had a very active product cycle over the last year, culminating, curiously, to coincide with the end of Oracle’s fourth quarter, which is always a busy time of year. New versions of OBIEE, Exalytics, and Endeca are in the process of being developed and released, and Oracle is also ramping up its cloud and mobility offerings.

Aggressive release cycles across multiple products show there are still plenty of integration points across the Oracle BI stack that need to addressed in order to present a unified platform, as well as more opportunistic integrations enabling innovative BI and analytics, such as the recent OBIEE integrations into Oracle Essbase and Oracle Information Discovery.

However, the integrations will not be straightforward and will require some work, and as more disparate systems are straddled and connected, some will also raise non-trivial technicalities. One immediate challenge is to ensure that data lineage is maintained across OBIEE and unstructured Information Discovery environments, particularly from social sources.

However, the signs are that Oracle is starting to rationalize its overlapping BI and analytics products, and is standardizing on a particular application or platform. It is also re-architecting some of its core products to run on a single core base.

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