If you are a MS BI developer or Architect (SS, IS, RS, AS) you need to look at Oracle BI. a) so that we know what’s out there, and b) we increase our understanding of our own area by studying other areas. When I ask people which BI stack did you implement? These days the answer is almost always MS BI. There other BI suites: SAS, SAP (BW & BO), IBM (Cognos + InfoSphere) and Oracle. Out of these, OBI is not the most popular (BO or Cognos probably is), but OBI is the “latest trend”, i.e. with the arrival of OBIEE 11g, in the 2nd half of 2010 people start considering OBI as an alternative to MSBI.
The OBIEE 11g originated from Siebel Analytics (latest version was 7.8, Jan 2006). Answers, Interactive Dashboards, and Delivers were from Siebel Analytics (read here). Discoverer was not from Siebel Analytics, it was from Fusion Middleware (see this book page 31), along with Forms, Reports and Portal. At that time, OBI was part of “Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g Release 1”, see here. Apart from OBI, OFM 11g R1 consists of Communication Services, Identity Management, SOA Suite, WebCenter, WebLogic, HTTP Server, and Application Development Framework.
So, in Jan 2006, OBI is located in 2 places: a) Siebel Analytics contains Answers, Delivers and Intelligent Dashboards, b) OFM 11g R1 contains Discoverers, Forms, Reports and Portal.
Then OBI 10g was released in June 2006 (10.1.3.2). It consisted of Answers, Delivers, Interactive Dashboards, BI Publisher, Disconnected Analytics. Discoverer 10g was a separate product, released in Dec 2004 (10.1.2, aka Drake), see this book page 4. Discoverer was a very mature product, has been in the market for a long time, first released April 1997. Other Oracle BI tools: Beans, Reports, Data Miner, OWB, Spreadsheet Add-In were all separate tools, not in the “OBI 10g” suite.
OBIEE 11g was released in July 2010. 10g’s Answers is renamed as Analysis. 10g’s Interactive Dashboards is renamed as Dashboards. 10g’s Delivers is renamed as Agents. New features added: Scorecards, KPI, Actions, Conditions, Filters, Prompts and OBI Add-in for MS Office. BI Publisher (Report Designer) and Real-Time Decision are also part of OBIEE 11g.
I’m going to use 11g terms here, instead of 10g.
An Analysis is a DW/BI SQL query presented in the form of tables, pivot tables and charts. These tables and charts can then be included in a Dashboard. We can create a prompt in an Analysis, to allow the users to select a value to filter the result of the Analysis. We can integrate an Analysis with an Excel Internet Query (IQY) to enable us to run the Analysis from Excel. We can create an Agent from an Analysis to schedule the Analysis to run at certain time. We can use variables practically anywhere within an Analysis (title, column, formula, formatting conditions, SQL, header, etc).
A Dashboard is a collection of analysis. A Dashboard consists of one page or several pages (shown as “tabs” on the top of the Dashboard). Apart from displaying Analysis, a Dashboard page can also display images, text, alerts, action links, views, reports, URL links and embedded objects. There is a toolbar on the top right of the Dashboard containing buttons such as: Edit, Print, etc. We can create a Skin to change the appearance of a Dashboard, e.g. background colour, logo and style sheets. A Skin can be assigned to users so each user can have a different look. A Style control how a Dashboard are formatted, e.g. the colour, font & size of the text, table border, graph attributes. Styles are organised into folders that contains Cascading Style Sheets, images and graph templates. We can create a Dashboard Template, which acts as a starting point for users to build their own Dashboard pages.
A Briefing Book is a collection of Dashboards. A Briefing Book can also contain an individual Analysis and a BI Publisher Report. The Dashboards, Analyses and Reports in a Briefing Book can be static (can’t be updated) or updatable (the content is refreshed everytime we open it). We can export a Briefing Book to PDF. We can deliver a Briefing Book to users using an Agent.
BI Publisher is a tool to create and publish reports. We can read data from databases (using SQL), spreadsheets, Analysis and OLAP DB (using MDX). We can also read from LDAP, Web Services, HTTP feeds, and XML files. If the data source is unrelated (such as individual files), we can create relationships between data sources. Using Publisher we can create layouts for our reports and publish the reports to various output format, including: HTML, PDF, Excel, PowerPoint, XML, CSV, and Rich Text. The output can be sent to: printer, email, file, fax, WebDAV or FTP. We can split a single report into multiple sections, each section is sent to different recipients on multiple destinations, using different formats. This is called Bursting. We can create a Template that contains style information that can be applied to RTF layouts. For PDF output, we can split the PDF into several smaller files (called PDFZ). We can schedule a report to produce multiple outputs, each with different layout, and each is sent to different destinations. There is an interactive viewer, where users can sort or filter a table, scroll the table, get a pop-up graph, and do “propagated filtering” across different area of the report.
Real Time Decision (RTD) is a tool to create/model business processes, gather data/statistics, and make recommendations (all that is called an Inline Service). An Inline Service consists of several elements including: Performance Goals, Choices, Rules, Statistics Collector and Models. A Performance Goal is KPIs used for setting criteria for the scoring of choices. A Rule is used to target a segment of population. A Rule can also be used to decide whether a choice is eligible. A Model is self-learning and predictive, used for optimising decisions and providing real-time analysis. RTD’ is fully integrated with Eclipse development environment. We can deploy an Inline Service, run it to process requests, monitor its performance, gather and view the statistics, and fine-tune/optimise it.
How these components fits together is shown in OBIEE system architecture diagram here.