Oracle unwraps intelligence for cost-conscious firms

Oracle Corp. plans to sell an “unbundled” version of its business intelligence apps in a bid to win more customers over to its products.

The Redwood Shores, Calif.-based business software maker announced the endeavour at OpenWorld, Oracle’s gathering for users to learn about the company’s latest tech achievements. Held here in San Francisco from Dec. 5 to 9, the event was expected to attract 25,000 people.

The new unbundled app, dubbed Oracle Business Intelligence (BI) 10g, takes the BI tools found in Oracle’s Application Server and presents them as a standalone product. Oracle BI 10g offers Oracle Discoverer, a query, reporting and analysis tool for end users, Oracle Spreadsheet Add-In, which gives users direct access to a database from Microsoft Corp.’s Excel application, Oracle Warehouse Builder for extraction, transformation and loading (ETL) capabilities, and Oracle BI Beans — application components that developers can mix and match to create custom reporting programs.

Peter Thomas, senior director, enterprise architecture in Oracle’s Asia-Pacific region, explained that BI 10g includes some of the Application Server functions, certain database capabilities and specific BI tools to give customers an almost miniature version of the App Server at a lower price.

According to Oracle president Charles Phillips, BI 10g lets companies that want these sorts of functions purchase them without buying the entire Application Server, which has other capabilities that an enterprise might not care to purchase. “Now we can reach more customers,” he said.

Phillips also expanded on his opinion of PeopleSoft Inc., a business app maker that Oracle has been trying to take over in a contentious stock play for more than a year.

“We never called it ‘hostile,’ Phillips said. “We prefer to call it ‘unsolicited.’”

He said Oracle would operate PeopleSoft as a separate entity, and PeopleSoft customers need not worry that his company would pull the support rug out from under them. He also said PeopleSoft’s developers would be redeployed to provide support.

Ron Wohl, Oracle’s executive vice-president, application development, said the company would expand on its data hub initiative, which started about a year ago with the Customer Data Hub — a program that pulls data from disparate, non-Oracle applications to give users a unified view of their clients. Wohl said Oracle would soon roll out data hubs for products, “citizens,” financial consolidation and financial services accounting.

He said the idea is to get customers to the point where they operate a single database across the enterprise and have “a single version of the truth” regarding every aspect of their business operations. He pointed out that Oracle itself has been undertaking such a project that now gives the software maker greater insight into its corporate modus operandi.

“The cultural challenges…took some effort,” Wohl said, pointing out that people and processes were the main sticking points of this migration.

Raghu Hitkari, manager, platform and database operations at B.C.’s Ministry of Forests, attended Oracle OpenWorld, the first instance of a combined Oracle AppsWorld and OracleWorld, which produced massive queues as people jostled to get into popular sessions. Raghu said the data hub initiative was intriguing.

“It looks more flexible” than trying to standardize on one vendor’s BI equipment, he said.

Carly Fiorina, CEO of Hewlett-Packard (HP), also attended OpenWorld, but as a speaker. She said during her keynote presentation that HP would offer Oracle’s E-Business Suite Special Edition packaged on ProLiant servers. E-Business Suite Special Edition is an easy-to-install-and-configure version of Oracle’s enterprise-class E-Business Suite. The Special Edition is meant for mid-sized companies.