Oracle releases Warehouse Builder upgrade

A new version of Oracle Corp.’s Data Warehouse Builder will make it easier for database developers and administrators to tie together information from different data stores within an enterprise, the company said Wednesday.

Version 9.0.4 of the Oracle9i Data Warehouse Builder (OWB) includes a number of enhancements from previous versions of the tool, according to Oracle.

Those enhancements include:

– A new SAP Integrator that makes it easier to extract information from SAP R/3 systems by SAP AG.

– Better workflow features and a more user-friendly interface simplify the process for creating extract, transform and load (ETL) processes.

– Support for industry standards such as XML (Extensible Markup Language) Metadata Interchange and Process Description Language to simplify the process of integrating OWB with third-party products.

Oracle9i Warehouse Builder is used to pull data from disparate sources such as financial and accounting databases into an Oracle9i database, for example as part of an effort to build an enterprise data warehouse that consolidates data from across an organization.

Once in a predictable format within Oracle, data can be accessed by more sophisticated analytic tools such as CRM (customer relationship management) and ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications, according to Mark Shainman, a senior analyst at Meta Group Inc.

OWB competes with similar “native” ETL tools from Microsoft Corp., which offers its Data Transformation Services (DTS) and IBM Corp., which sells Warehouse Manager, according to Shainman.

By making it easier for database developers to pull data into a specific database environment such as Oracle or SQL Server, native ETL tools are competing with more expensive, but “database agnostic” tools such as those by Cognos Inc. and Informatica Corp.

Database vendors are investing heavily in ETL tools, hoping to drive adoption of their databases as platforms for centralized data warehouses, according to Shainman.

“People want to know what’s going on in their businesses. The database licensing sales and momentum are behind decision support and data warehouses. That’s where the spending is,” Shainman said.

Gregory Richard, chief technology officer of Hull, Que.-based Decisions Today Inc., said that his company uses OWB in addition to Microsoft’s DTS and Cognos’s Decision Stream to build tools that accelerate the process of building data warehouses.

Decisions Today’s software does analysis of an organizations’ business databases and systems, automatically generating a data warehouse model and ETL routines to supply it. The software is licensed directly to database vendors and sold to large enterprises, Richard said.

Due to limitations in OWB’s scripting environment, Decisions Today was prevented from integrating with prior product editions. Version 9.0.4 of OWB fixed that problem, and Decision Today is now using OWB to build and automate ETL processes for Oracle, Richard said.

The product’s user interface is also much improved in the latest version, according to Richard.

“It used to be quite cumbersome to use. You had to pop in and out of dialogue boxes a lot,” Richard said.

The product’s new interface brings it more in line with competing products by Informatica and others, providing a diagram to represent an overall build and “point and click” support for editing object properties.

Version 9.0.4 runs on a variety of platforms including Linux, Sun Solaris and Windows. The product is being offered as part of the Oracle9i Developer Suite, according to Oracle.

Despite it’s focus on deploying to the Oracle environment, OWB offers a powerful and relatively inexpensive alternative to other solutions, Richard said.

“When you look at price per feature, OWB blows the others away,” Richard said.