Part 2 - Oracle's own solution for Cloud Analytics

Following on from my blog about Cloud Analytics generally, it might be helpful to understand a little more about Oracle’s plans. Oracle has thrown all its eggs in the Cloud basket in the last 2 years, so a strategy for Analytics in the Cloud was always approaching.

Its early attempts were clumsy. A customer implementing Fusion (Cloud) HCM could purchase HCM Cloud Analytics (based on Oracle Business Intelligence [OBI] and OBI Applications), but would have little control over the Cloud Analytics environment. For instance, a user could change reports in Answers and could change Dashboards, but they could not change the way a metric was calculated in the OBI repository. Introducing new data sources and additional user-defined fields from Fusion HCM could also be very awkward. Customers using On Demand services rarely went beyond operational reporting within the On Demand service.

Oracle has recently introduced Hyperion Planning and Budgeting in the Cloud (PBCS) and is now looking to extend this to broader BI initiatives. Oracle does intend to release a version of OBI Applications which is more flexible for organisations, but has not set a date yet.

In the meantime, Oracle has released Business Intelligence Cloud Service (BICS) – As far as I can glean, the following is true, but there is always change in the air with Oracle!

Although the product uses OBI in the Cloud, as you might expect, it does have a new lighter weight UI with new skin & style called “Skyros”. This skin utilises the database schema and Apex, rather than OBI Answers or BI Dashboards (or BI Mobile Developer). The skin will be supposedly be rolled out in future releases of OBIEE. The BI Administration tool is also replaced and uses an online repository editor providing a reasonably strong subset of the full BI Administration tool functionality. This version will only read data from the connected Oracle Cloud database (Oracle Database Schema Service), which could be a constraint for many organisations. Although you have online access to Answers and Dashboards, you do not have access to Agents, Scorecards, BI Publisher or Essbase.

It is less expensive than buying Oracle BI Foundation, even though you are also buying the management of the tools. The former is listed as c£150 per user per month, making a 50 user licence over 3 years cost £90,000. The equivalent price for OBIEE is approximately £3,000 per user for a perpetual licence. With support costs, the total for 50 users over 3 years would be £210,000, albeit you may have some room for price negotiation. Oracle BI Foundation does also include Essbase, so you may also choose to build a financial case for OBI Enterprise Edition and the Mobile option, which would be closer to £125,000 for 3 years (on a Perpetual basis). It is worth considering the onward costs beyond 3 years, since there is only a support cost for the latter, rather than a subscription cost.

Who will use BICS? Traditional consultancies and large Oracle customers will probably continue to use BI on-premise for some years, while smaller customers may switch to BICS, especially if they have little Oracle expertise in-house. The other market for BICS will be ISVs, who will want to build reporting front-ends for their Cloud applications, to enhance the capabilities and sell more software. They will not be familiar with the OBIEE stack, and this will be much easier for them to maintain and enhance.

Oracle undoubtedly has excellent software on the market – with prebuilt BI Applications, even more so. But it has confused its own BI story again, just when people had started to understand the stack. I would ask Oracle to clarify its positioning with regard to OBI, Endeca, BI Applications and Cloud BI, so that customers can have confidence in the Oracle choices they make, especially as they move towards Cloud Applications.

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