Software // Information Management
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1/3/2005
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Oracle BI And ECM: Who's Buying It?

The release of OracleBI Discoverer 10g is more of a coming-out party than a birth.

An IBM spokesperson responded thus to Oracle's BI announcements at December's Oracle OpenWorld: "It's the same old story. Oracle is trying to recast itself as a player in markets where it has no market share and no credibility."

It's a bit of a cheap shot, considering that Oracle's mature BI capabilities, like many of its content management capabilities, have been hidden as bundled features. The release of OracleBI Discoverer 10g is more of a coming-out party than a birth. At the same time, Oracle doesn't currently offer the breadth, depth or interoperability of IBM's BI products: OracleBI Discoverer is a sort of high-powered analog to Microsoft SQL Server/Analysis Services.

Fair or not, IBM's comment strikes at a weakness in Oracle's image. Oracle database user Wade Anderson expresses a healthy skepticism about the new version of Discoverer, even as he's considering using it to replace a Microsoft-based BI application. Anderson, head of management reporting at digital projector manufacturer InFocus Corp., says he'll run tests for scalability and performance instead of taking Oracle at its word because the company "is new at this." He's hopeful that Oracle Discoverer's use of caching will speed queries from the Excel add-in interface as advertised. Anderson is also attracted by Oracle's ability to use relational queries to derive answers from OLAP cubes, which relieves the application of the burden of working with a special multidimensional language. Currently, Anderson has to use Microsoft's MDX syntax to work with OLAP cubes. While similar to SQL, he dislikes MDX in part because he can't insert comments to document the code.

Oracle also used OpenWorld to announce Oracle Files 10g, an enterprise content management (ECM) product described by Rich Buchheim, Oracle's senior director of product management—ECM strategy, as "content management for the rest of us." Set for release in mid 2005, Files will be deployable on its own or as part of Oracle Collaboration Suite 10G. Either way, the company is aiming at the same low-cost, every-seat deployment model that has helped Microsoft gain 25 million SharePoint users in three years. Files will beat SharePoint on security, scalability and ease of administration, Buchheim asserts, while undercutting high-end ECM on price.

An upgrade to an existing Oracle module, Files 10g includes better content security and access control and provisions for policy- and event-driven workflows. Records management capabilities have been added for creating file plans and managing document retention. Events, policies and foldering schemes can be used to declare records automatically.

ECM vendor Interwoven describes Oracle's foray into its market as another "too-little, too-late" attempt to move beyond the database market. "We don't see them as a near-term threat because the true value in ECM is in creating value for vertical and departmental applications. Oracle still has a lot to prove in that regard," says John Bara, Interwoven's senior vice president of marketing.

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