In mid-2001, Oracle painted a rosy outlook for itself in the business intelligence (BI) market. With its new Oracle 9i database server package about to ship, the company was expecting to start mopping up market share from the ‘pure-play' BI companies, as customers who have traditionally used standalone BI products alongside their Oracle database plumped instead for the company's new approach – the bundling of business intelligence platform products with its database software and the inclusion of its BI query, analysis and reporting tools with its 9i Application Server.
While there is little evidence of rapid take-up of this option or any kind of mass upgrade by the existing customers of Oracle's own standalone BI offerings, there is not doubt that the integrated suite approach that Oracle adopted has met with approval from many organisations – as functionality has not been sacrificed in the process and all the key tools are indeed integrated.
Certainly, the bundles cover most of the BI bases. Packaged with the enterprise edition of the main Oracle 9i database system are Oracle Warehouse Builder for extraction, transformation and loading of data; a reworked (but still less powerful) version of the company's aging Express OLAP (online analytical processing) engine to allow multi-dimensional views of relational data; and a data-mining product (formerly called Darwin).
Running parallel to this platform line up is a set of BI front-end tools that come bundled with the 9i Application Server: Oracle Discoverer for browser-based ad hoc query, basic reporting and analysis; Reports Services for large scale reporting; ClickStream Intelligence, for analysing web site metrics; Oracle Designer for data warehouse modelling; and the application development environment JDeveloper for building BI applications.
Even though users of the tools rated them highly, Oracle still faces issues of integration between many of the previously disparate products. And while most of its OLAP install base are still using Express, its query and analysis tools and related applications, Sales Analyzer and Financial Analyzer, it may be some years before Oracle's bundling strategy pays off.