Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Oracle's inability to focus and execute in BI

Dan Everett is a sharp guy who I had the privilege of working with when I was at Hyperion Solutions. I was pleased to hear that he recently jointed Ventana Research. In his analysis of Oracle's recent BI announcement, he makes the following comment:
Oracle's BI focus has been inconsistent in the past - making major announcements
and looking to generate revenue from BI one year, but in the next, making no
announcements and offering BI as a loss leader to generate database revenue.

I couldn't have said it better myself. Oracle has been dabbling in BI for more than a decade, but aside from their excellent database, has never executed in this space in any other part of the BI stack. History has shown over and over again that no matter how good their acquired products may be, if the champions of those products are not the ones with the political influence to ensure their viability, then Oracle will squash them for the products that were developed in house.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Contrasting Oracle's BI "Strategy" with SAP's BI Strategy

I was very pleased to see some great coverage today on SAP's Analytics and BI Strategy in the following article by Stephen Swoyer in Enterprise Systems: SAP Speaks Softly, but Carries a BIg Stick.

"For example, last month Oracle announced its first-ever Oracle Business Intelligence Suite product, which incorporates analytics capabilities Oracle acquired from the former Siebel Systems Inc. In promoting its new business intelligence (BI) suite offering, Oracle took the fight right to the BI pure-plays, arguing—in effect—that its ERP, database, and applications experience functioned to give it an especial insight into BI. "

"SAP could credibly make the same claim—perhaps even more so than Oracle. But the German ERP giant’s strategy has instead been content to quietly flesh out its own Netweaver-based BI stack, even as it downplays its own ambitions in the broader business intelligence marketplace."

I think Stephen was being very polite. Oracle's BI "strategy" is to make a big public proclamation to disguise the fact that they are throwing a huge bunch of products with disparate architectures, development teams, roadmaps, etc. into one big frying pan and hoping that their customers will get an Analytics omelette, when they are more likely to get salmonella.

How exactly does one "Fuse" the following products for each of the applications stacks that Oracle now possesses?

If you own Oracle applications, your BI and Analytics stack might include:
  • Front-End: Oracle Daily Business Intelligence and Oracle Discoverer
  • ETL: Oracle Warehouse Builder
  • Data Warehouse: Oracle 10g
If you were a PeopleSoft customer, your BI and Analytics stack might include:
  • Front-End: Crystal and/or SQR for Formatted Reporting
  • ETL: First Informatica PowerMart, then Ascential DataStage
  • Data Warehouse: PeopleSoft EPM

If you were a Siebel Business Analytics customer, your BI and Analytics stack might include:

  • Front-End: Siebel Business Analytics for OLAP and Actuate for Formatted Reporting
  • ETL: Informatica PowerCenter
  • Data Warehouse: Siebel Relationship Management Warehouse

What a mess! I don't even know what the J.D. Edwards folks had, but it probably was different from the other three. So is Oracle going to consolidate all of these and somehow derive value for their customers in the process? And they are offering lifetime support for all of the existing products? It seems more likely that Oracle is going to do what Oracle has always done best historically, which is to extract value from its customers at their expense. Do you think Siebel Business Analytics customers are going to continue using Informatica for the long haul? Do you think PeopleSoft customers will continue to use Ascential for the long haul? Do you think Actuate figures into Oracle's long term plans? It took Oracle all of a few weeks to rip out IBM's hosting of Siebel's OnDemand offering and replace it with their own, so I'm sure they'll be happy to concede revenues for their slow growth database business to their acquired companies' erstwhile partners.

Let's contrast this with SAP's NetWeaver BI stack and SAP Analytics. If you are an SAP customer, here is what you get with SAP NetWeaver BI (and we don't charge you extra for it either):

  • Front-End: BEx Suite - Integrated front-end tools for both Excel and web-based business intelligence. SAP Analytics - highly useable and flexible Analytical Applications targeted to specific roles in specific business processes.
  • ETL: SAP NetWeaver BI provides a highly functional ETL stack, with change data capture, trickle-feed capabilities, and advanced data lineage capabilities. Think it's only for SAP data sources? We have reference customers who use it strictly for non-SAP data.
  • Data Warehouse: SAP NetWeaver BI includes a full-featured ROLAP engine and a plethora of preconfigured relational cubes that customers can leverage out of the box to speed up deployment.

We at SAP like to do right by our customers and use this as our means of acquiring more of them. If you look under the covers, you will find us to offer a complete BI and Analytics stack capable of competing with anyone in the market. And it was built in house. And it runs on one stack, NetWeaver. Just don't expect us to host a four hour webcast to prove it. You can just ask the customers who chose us as their trusted partner, not whom we bought from someone else.