Monday, May 21, 2007

Introduction to Oracle Data Warehouse and Business Intelligence Solutions

One of the most common questions I get asked by customers and see on the OTN forums is "Where can I find information on Oracle's Business Intelligence products?", this is closely followed by "what is the difference between product X and product Y and when should I use product X rather than product Y". Given all the acquisitions Oracle has made over the last five years this last question is becoming more and more common.

Getting answers to these non-technical type questions is not as easy as you would imagine.
If you search the web you will find there is a huge amount of technical information available relating to using Oracle's products. I suspect most people start with OTN and then branch out to the various blogs such as this one. The problem for most people is where to get non-technical information. Most of the product home pages provide positioning white papers on their respective OTN home page but this assumes you, as a customer, know what you are looking for. There is a Business Intelligence OTN home page, but this is really a series of links to the various product home pages and does not really add much value. To date it has not been an easy way to get a good overview of the whole data warehouse and BI portfolio. Until now….

Last month I quickly reviewed a newly released book called "Oracle Data Warehousing and Business Intelligence Solutions". The book has been written by three people (two from Oracle) who have a huge amount of experience in positioning data warehouse and BI solutions from a business as well as a technical perspective. It covers all areas of Oracle’s extensive data warehouse and business intelligence product portfolio.

The booked is aimed primarily at IT professionals (DBAs, project managers, business analysts, architects etc) but it goes beyond the various products and provides information on choosing a platform, managing the data warehouse, best practices, how to justify projects and claiming success. Most importantly it covers both BI as it applies to an Oracle Application environment as well as bespoke data warehouse platforms. In fact this book covers the whole project life cycle explaining which products to use at each stage. This is really where the book scores - it provides an excellent insight into the whole project life cycle and lists out the various product offerings within Oracle’s extensive portfolio.

Interestingly the topics covered also include managing the data warehouse. Typically, I find general documentation and general collateral in this area to be far too technical and largely confusing. In contrast this book reviews how products like Enterprise Manager can be used to manage a whole series of data warehouse related tasks. This is not an A to Z of Enterprise Manager functionality but focuses more on the types of issues facing many data warehouse projects and how Enterprise Manager provides the tools to help manage and resolve these issues. It provides and excellent grounding for the most important topics.

Personally, I found the book very useful and would recommend it to people who are both new and experienced in delivering data warehouse and business intelligence projects. Specifically, for anyone about to start a new DW/BI project I would suggest reading the last section of the book that provides and excellent approach for ensuring success with DW/BI projects.

The heading on the book states "Timely, practical, reliable". It most definitely is, and it will help answer a lot of non-technical questions that get posted on OTN. There are more details contained in the original blog posting:

http://oraclebi.blogspot.com/2007/02/new-book-oracle-data-warehousing-and.html

So is there anything missing? Well, there are some recent products that are not covered, such as ODI and obviously there is no information on Hyperion. As there are so many products to cover, the focus is on understanding the key features. Technically orientated people may find the book does not provide enough detail, but I think the real aim of this book (in my opinion) is to provide the reader with enough information to understand the various product offerings, how they fit together and allow them take that knowledge and move on to more effectively use the huge resource available within OTN.