There is little question that since Oracle’s acquisitions of Hyperion and earlier Siebel, the vendor has evolved to a major BI player. Its core BI revenues grew 17% last year, and it’s gone from a second tier player three years ago to now a solid number three (according to IDC figures). Its analytic applications, with prebuilt dashboards, reports, and data models for E-business Suite, PeopleSoft, Siebel and, recently introduced, J.D. Edwards are unmatched by its 3 closest competitors. While everything would sound rosy in Oracle’s BI world, two blemishes are its complex BI tool portfolio and a delay in OBI EE 11g.
Oracle has a policy of “protect, extend, evolve,” meaning if you were on Hyperion System 9 prior to the Oracle acquisition, you can safely continue to expand your deployment on that platform. The vendor has announced lifetime support for all the Hyperion and Oracle Standard Edition BI products. In fact, the plus in OBI EE Plus includes Hyperion Interactive Reporting (formerly known as Brio) and Production Reporting (formerly known as SQR); Essbase meanwhile is a separate license (see this evaluation for clarification on modules and strengths and weaknesses). In many respects, lifetime support is great for customers who really can’t afford the cost and complexity of converting Interactive Reports to Answers (the lead ad hoc module in OBI EE) queries and reports. But are customers just delaying the inevitable? And are they wasting resources in the interim? The bigger question in my mind is why any customer would actually buy and deploy legacy technology for which better alternatives exist, from the same vendor nonetheless. While there may be some features in Interactive Reporting that do not exist in Answers, newly deploying both products seems to introduce unnecessary complexity and a higher cost of ownership. The capabilities in Production Reporting versus Publisher, meanwhile, are so vastly different that the “which module” question is a harder choice here.
The product mix gets so confusing that some Oracle Hyperion customers have simply deferred any major BI decisions until 11g comes out. OBI EE 11g was originally slated for about now and has been delayed until early next year. A delay of six to nine months is not that big a delay in the software world, but it means it will have been two years since Siebel Analytics / OBI EE customers saw substantial enhancements. In a market in which other BI vendors seem to be on a 6 to 9-month major release cycle (which is clearly too fast for customers to absorb), it does beg the question (that Information Week editor Bob Evan’s debates here) of how much customers are getting for their maintenance fees and if 11g will have been worth the wait.
With any of this, the bigger issue is not which BI tool, but rather, what business problems you are solving with it. So on that note, if you haven’t yet taken our successful BI survey, don’t forget to share your insights here.
Cindi Howson, BI Scorecard