Oracle sets sights on BI functionality

SAN FRANCISCO — Oracle told customers around the world Monday it wants to build on its strength in the database sector by enhancing the business intelligence capabilities of its application server products.

The company used

its OpenWorld conference to launch Business Intelligence 10g, a standalone product already being beta-tested by customers such as Broadcast Music Inc. and R.L. Polk and Co. The product features Oracle Discoverer, designed to provide the kind of query, reporting and analysis commonly found in products from Cognos, among other business intelligence (BI) stalwarts. The company is promising that Discoverer will essentially perform the functions of two tools by providing access to relational SQL data and OLAP data in a single reporting environment. Other features include the ability to access OLAP data through Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.

In his keynote address, Oracle president Chuck Phillips said the company was developing an information-age applications strategy that will help customers ensure data is timely, consistent, complete and global. This is a response, he said, to CIO concerns about point software products that are tied to individual processes, resulting in conflicting data. He referenced one Oracle user at a U.S. manufacturing firm in the southern Midwest where 50 per cent of all orders processed have to be manually adjusted at some point due to different part numbers or blips within the shipping process.

“”They don’t want to shoot from the hip anymore,”” he said. “”We’re living in the information age, but our applications haven’t followed.””

Oracle is best known for bundling a number of capabilities, including business intelligence, into its Application Server product, but Phillips said the company could best expand its footprint in BI with a standalone option.

“”That strategy got us seeded in a lot of areas,”” he said. “”Now we’re letting them add individual components.””

Warren McCall, principal consultant with DBM Solutions in Victoria, said in a telephone interview that he remains focused on Oracle’s strength in the database market, rolling out Real Application Clusters in corporate enterprises.

“”My customers are more concerned about the back end than buzzwords,”” he said. “”They tend to customize more at the application level, rather than buying an Oracle platform product or just implementing the E-Business Suite.

Jane Lockhart, president of the Calgary Oracle User’s Group, said the bulk of her organization is also made up of database administrators, though two years ago she said an Oracle representative started giving hints about the firm’s application and middleware strategy.

“”He did give a presentation on business intelligence and warehousing and I’m sure it was received quite well,”” she said. “”We are always looking for things that are not strictly DBA-related.””

Phillips said the applications strategy and Oracle’s database business go hand-in-hand. “”This is a great foundation to build on,”” he said. “”As you start integrating the applications, their performance becomes more unpredictable. That’s where the grids can help in terms of resource allocation and load balancing.””

Oracle is hosting its user conference shortly before a U.S. judge will decide whether to kill off a “”poison pill”” provision that could block its takeover bid for rival PeopleSoft Corp. Phillips said if the deal goes through, PeopleSoft customers will choose between a product roadmap based support for their existing PeopleSoft products, or a track based on Oracle’s products.

“”We’re not going to make some kind of superset of the product and merge the code and all that,”” he said.

Oracle this week is also expected to outline details on a product code-named Tsunami, which will provide standalone content management capabilities for dealing with unstructured data such as e-mail and graphics.

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