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4/4/2012
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Oracle Makes Its Big Play For Analytics Leadership

Oracle claims top status in business analytics, as it adds several new applications and significant upgrades to its already broad portfolio.

Big Data Talent War: 10 Analytics Job Trends
Big Data Talent War: 10 Analytics Job Trends
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Oracle president Mark Hurd is set on Wednesday to underscore a bevy of recent product launches, introduce significant new applications and upgrades, and put it all in the context of a bold and cohesive business analytics strategy.

Hurd will make his case to the crowd at Oracle OpenWorld Tokyo, but the message is intended for the entire Oracle customer base and the larger IT industry. A key message, according to Oracle's Paul Rodwick, vice president of product management--who gave InformationWeek a bit of a preview last week--will be this: "Oracle is number one in the category of business analytics in terms of market share."

Oracle's definition is broader than the predictive- and statistics-oriented "advanced analytics" domain associated with SAS, which both Gartner and IDC put at the head of that market. But this broader "business analytics" definition, which includes business intelligence (BI), data integration, and data warehousing as well as advanced analytics, is the larger market in which Oracle rivals like IBM and SAP are also claiming leadership status.

[ Want more on Oracle's advanced analytics capabilities? Read Oracle Analytics Package Expands In-Database Processing Options. ]

The recent releases bolstering Oracle's case include the Oracle Big Data Appliance, introduced in January, and the Exalytics In-Memory Machine and Oracle Advanced Analytics software, introduced in February.

The Big Data Appliance brings high volumes of highly variable, unstructured information into a customer's grasp on bundled Hadoop and NoSQL database software. Exalytics brings speed-of-thought analysis and planning capabilities to all Oracle applications and Oracle Business Intelligence (BI) Foundation middleware. The Advanced Analytics product bolsters Oracle Data Mining and steps solidly into SAS's home turf.

Wednesday's announcements include a significant upgrade of the Hyperion Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) platform; two new Oracle Business Intelligence Applications certified for use with SAP systems; two new vertical-industry analytic applications; and the release of Oracle Endeca Information Discovery, Oracle's remix of the technology acquired along with that company last October.

Diving into the details, the Hyperion EPM upgrade includes a new module for Project Financial Planning designed to help aerospace firms, construction companies, and other project-driven firms quickly develop, analyze, and revise project-related financial plans. A new Account Reconciliation Manager module automates a crucial part of monthly, quarterly, and annual financial close processes that many companies struggle to manage.

A key point that Hurd is likely to underscore is the fact that all Hyperion EPM apps--as well as the long list of apps built on the Oracle BI Foundation--can now be accelerated by the Exalytics In-Memory Machine. But a point that surely won't come up is that Hyperion EPM runs on Oracle Essbase, an OLAP database that still requires prebuilt cubes--a contrast with cubeless and all-in-memory SAP Hana. Oracle has introduced a much more flexible relational and OLAP (ROLAP) engine tied to Oracle Database, but where Essbase is concerned, if the data is not in a cube, it can't be cached by Exalytics.

Oracle has plenty of customers who use its database to run SAP apps, so it's actively certifying Oracle Business Intelligence Applications to work with SAP ERP. The hope, or course, is to steal business from its biggest rival. The two new SAP-certified apps announced Wednesday are Oracle Spend and Procurement Analytics for SAP and Oracle Supply Chain and Order Management Analytics for SAP. These apps join Oracle Financial Analytics for SAP, which was introduced last year.

The two new vertical-industry analytic applications are Oracle Manufacturing Analytics and Oracle Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) Analytics. The former works with Oracle eBusiness suite and provides a data model and prebuilt dashboards and reports for optimizing both discreet manufacturing and process manufacturing. The EAM app is used to track, manage, and schedule servicing of key assets such as vehicles, manufacturing equipment, instruments and other expensive items used in capital-intensive industries. Manufacturing and EAM are strong suits for Oracle competitor Infor, where former Oracle president Charles Phillips is now CEO.

Oracle Endeca Information Discovery has been available for several months but was also formally introduced on Wednesday. Based on Endeca's Latitute and MDEX technologies, the search and information-retrieval system helps users explore semi-structured and text-centric unstructured information. Because it requires no prebuilt schema or data model, the platform can quickly bring new data sources online and answer questions that weren't anticipated.

Oracle is billing Endeca as an answer to the emerging monitoring and customer sentiment-analysis needs associated with social networking, but according to Forrester analyst Boris Evelson, Endeca's strongest play is in semi-structured scenarios that aren't practical for relational databases. Vast product cataloging use cases, warranty analysis, insurance claims analysis, and criminal investigations are cases in point. Sentiment analysis requires text-mining and language processing technologies that aren't a part of Endeca.

Beyond the sheer depth and breadth of Oracle's big portfolio, a key strategic advantage it offers is its common enterprise information model, according to Evelson. With a unified model, the same metadata can be used across Oracle Fusion enterprise applications, Oracle BI applications, and everything built on the Oracle BI Enterprise Edition foundation.

"With a shared model, for the first time business intelligence becomes plug-and-play," Evelson said, noting that metrics, dashboards, and reports are available immediately without starting from scratch with ETL data integration and data warehouse development. "That's a huge differentiator," he said.

Plug-and-play BI is not quite the same thing as advanced statistical and predictive analysis, but Oracle has done enough on that front recently to legitimately back its claim to analytics leadership.

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