If you have been working with OBIEE for many years, you probably have a very stable and working OBIEE 11g environment that your company has invested in over the last 6 years. OBIEE 11g was released in July of 2010 a lifetime ago in terms of BI technology and for years it was struggling with a multitudes of bugs. The upgrade from OBIEE 10g was a nightmarish experience for most customers. But most of them have gotten through it. With the release of OBIEE 18.104.22.168 in 2013 most customers have a stable environment on which they could build out their data model and reports and dashboards.
In addition, over the years most business users have been frustrated with OBIEE’s shortcomings of speed of change, visualization, blending and ease of use and have purchased modern BI tools, especially Tableau. In a lot of companies, Tableau entered the organization with a few business users purchasing the desktop product and then it proliferated enough that IT got involved and have purchased and implemented enterprise desktop and server company wide.
In today’s world there is a need for parallel development cycles for both modern data visualization/discovery tools like Tableau and the legacy BI tools like OBIEE. The question that is in the mind of business and IT users are which product to use for what purpose. What about the new products that Oracle has been releasing and whether they should consider these and how it fits with their current dual Tableau (or similar tools) + OBIEE approach. Here is my view on the recent developments from Oracle.
If your company has been using OBIEE, you are most probably aware that Oracle has introduced a slew of new BI products over the past two years.
Here is a sample –
Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service (BICS)
Oracle Data Visualization Desktop (DVD)
Oracle Data Visualization Cloud Service (DVCS)
Oracle Analytics Cloud (OAC)
In 2016, Oracle has introduced a new version OBIEE 12c which has taken features from BICS, DVD and DVCS and included them in the base OBIEE 12c version. In this latest release they have attempted to catch up with what Tableau, Qlik, Spotfire has in terms of data visualization, data blending, and wrangling.
Even though this looks like a great step for existing OBIEE 11g or even 10g customers to use these new features there are a few roadblocks to get there –
- Complexity of Upgrade – Upgrading all your OBIEE environments to the latest OBIEE 12c – This is a massive project for most organizations as multiple divisions of the company use the same OBIEE 11g platform and it’s a huge challenge to find the time and resources from various business teams to test the upgraded system. BI analysts and business users are some of the busiest people in the company as they are constantly juggling between operational review reporting and multiple other technology initiatives all the time. Getting your company to OBIEE 12c is at least several months to a year project.
- Which tools to use? – None of the new tools are part of the upgrade from OBIEE 11g. Everything needs to be bought separately as an add-on module or probably a transfer of license might be available. Understanding and working with Oracle on buying the right set of products for your company is very tricky as you are not sure which products your business needs – OBIEE 12c Visual Analyzer, DVD, DVCS, BICS, OAC etc. Each of these have their own benefits and trade-offs and analyzing and working with each stake holder is a challenge.
- Roadmap – Given the number of tools Oracle is releasing and the push to cloud creates a lot of uncertainty and confusion among IT and business users. There is a constant churn in the BI products strategy and roadmap and its very unclear as to what the next year is going to bring. Given that it takes a several months to a year to upgrade from existing OBIEE 11g its very complicated for customers to keep up with Oracle’s roadmap.
- In-memory capability and performance issues – Even with the large set of on premise and cloud tools that have come out from Oracle it is still unclear as to what is the in-memory strategy for Oracle BI. Is it Exalytics or Oracle 12c database in memory option. Is cloud performance going to be good for large data volumes? In any case there are additional hardware and software components that customers need to evaluate and purchase.
The release of all these new products from Oracle has added plenty of new capabilities and features for customers to explore but the biggest challenge is that customers do not have just an OBIEE only BI environment in their company. They have multiple modern BI tools like Tableau in their environment in addition to OBIEE. Their business users are already very familiar with Tableau like tools and have heavily invested in terms of knowledge and content in them. Oracle, with the latest set of tools has just about caught up in terms of visualization and self-service features with Tableau, that is if they work as advertised, but it comes with the set of questions that each company needs to evaluate as listed above. In addition, IT and business users have been put under further confusion as to which tools to use for what purpose.
When to upgrade to OBIEE 12c or move to OAC?
Companies who have invested in Tableau, Qlik or similar tools which are already providing the users with great visualization, blending and in-memory capabilities can take their time and upgrade from OBIEE 11g to OBIEE 12c or move to OAC or BICS only when they are ready.
This would be a great time to think about your BI tools strategy. I would suggest they fully understand whether Oracle’s BI strategy is something that they really want to continue investing in given the complexity of Oracle’s roadmap. All of Oracle’s investments are going to the cloud and whether BI in the cloud is in your roadmap needs to be considered. This is especially true if you have Oracle Business Intelligence Applications (OBIA) which Oracle is sun setting. (More on this topic in a later blog).
Consider whether you are ready to move your OBIEE stack to cloud, what are the cost implications of doing so, how is it going to access your data if that is going to continue residing on-premise. Or is this a good time to move out of OBIEE and adopt a different tool?
I’m sure it won’t be an easy discussion to have in your companies, but it needs to be considered before you make the leap to Oracle Analytics Cloud – the latest in Oracle’s multitude of BI offerings. Things to consider include how complex is your OBIEE implementation, whether you have Oracle ERP, Siebel CRM and OBIA or not and where your data sources that feed your warehouse located (are they in the cloud or on-premise) etc.
I would highly recommend that companies think about where their future data sources are going to be. There is a very high likelihood that your applications are going to be moving to multiple cloud platforms. If you are moving to for example Workday for HR, Salesforce for sales, Eloqua for marketing automation, Apptus for CPQ and Coupa for purchasing then is OBIEE 12c or OAC the most effective solution both in cost and features? The answer is most probably not. If you are in this situation then it’s time to move to a more modern platform. But what should it be – I will be covering these and other topics in future blog articles.