Business analytics describes a variety of technologies and solutions, including business intelligence (BI), enterprise performance management, and analytic applications. Oracle Magazine Editor in Chief Tom Haunert sat down with Paul Rodwick, vice president of product management at Oracle, to discuss business analytics innovation, the impact of in-memory technology, the challenge of and move to cloud integration, and more.
Oracle Magazine: What is the origin of business analytics, and how is it defined today?
Rodwick: Business analytics has a long history, starting back with decision support and reporting and data warehousing and business intelligence—things companies have been working on for, in some cases, 20 years or more. But really at its core, business analytics has expanded to include using information in an intelligent way to optimize processes, to simplify operations, and to innovate. In short, business analytics is really the key to innovation and getting ahead of the competition.
Oracle Magazine: What are the core Oracle Business Analytics products and solutions?
Rodwick: Business analytics is embedded throughout almost everything Oracle does because it’s important to everything that Oracle customers do. At the technology layer, some of the core products are Oracle Business Intelligence foundation and of course the analytics capabilities in the Oracle Database products—including Oracle Database for data warehousing and advanced analytics running in the database.
There is also a series of more than 80 prebuilt analytic applications on top of these technologies, as well as the Oracle Hyperion enterprise performance management applications. A new entrant in Oracle Business Analytics that’s quite exciting is the Oracle Endeca Information Discovery applications, which enable self-service analysis of unstructured data. Finally, Oracle engineered systems are a very important part of the business analytics equation. They include Oracle Exadata, Oracle Exalytics In-Memory Machine, and Oracle Big Data Appliance.
Oracle Magazine: What are the latest Oracle Business Analytics releases?
Rodwick: Back in February 2013—following the acquisition of Endeca—Oracle introduced the first major function release of Oracle Endeca Information Discovery applications, Release 3.0. This release delivered greater levels of self-service and also internationalized the product for use across the globe.
That was immediately followed by a major Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition release, 126.96.36.199, which delivered 200 new features including new visualizations, easier self-service by business users, and a lot of other great capabilities such as connectors into Apache Hadoop for accessing big data.
That was immediately followed by Release 188.8.131.52 of Oracle Hyperion enterprise performance management applications and their new application capabilities, and by Oracle Business Intelligence Applications 184.108.40.206.1, which was the biggest release in more than three years and introduced the use of embedded Oracle Data Integration technology, a lot of new application content, and some brand-new analytic applications.
And then everything was rolled up together and offered in a new version of Oracle Exalytics In-Memory Machine.
Oracle Magazine: Why are in-memory technology in general and Oracle Exalytics in particular important to business analytics?
Rodwick: In-memory technology is key for business analytics because it helps scale up user communities and deliver speed-of-thought interactive analysis especially to mobile devices. It also enables new kinds of applications, such as bigger planning applications and applications with greater levels of interactive visualization.
Oracle Exalytics In-Memory Machine was announced in October 2011, and it’s seen tremendous growth. Oracle has announced a new release, the third major release of Oracle Exalytics, which includes all the embedded software, updated and refreshed to make it easier to use, simpler to install, and able to deliver even greater performance. But we’ve also introduced brand-new hardware, the Exalytics In-Memory Machine X3-4, which increases the on-board RAM from 1 terabyte to 2 terabytes and also includes 2.4 terabytes of flash storage. All this adds up to greater capacity, greater capabilities, and faster performance.
Oracle Magazine: How do business analytics, in general, and Oracle Business Analytics, specifically, address big data challenges?
Rodwick: Oracle’s taken a really pragmatic approach to big data, going beyond the classic variety, velocity, and volume of data to concentrate on getting value out of the data. Oracle has solutions that allow companies to continue to use their data scientists, those precious resources with high skills who are very hard to find, but also open up big data to analysis by more business users and people who have SQL or BI skills.
For example, Oracle Endeca Information Discovery applications create a sandbox in big data Hadoop systems. There is new connectivity from Oracle Business Intelligence to Hadoop systems. And of course, Oracle Big Data Appliance and Oracle Big Data Connectors enable efficient evaluation or analysis of big data, and they enable the extraction and loading of portions of that data into an Oracle database.
Oracle Magazine: What is the current status of business analytics in the cloud, and how is it evolving?
Rodwick: It’s evolving very rapidly. At the core of all of Oracle’s SaaS [software as a service] solutions is, of course, built-in reporting and analysis, and it’s all built on the same Oracle Business Analytics technologies. What we’re going to see very quickly is a move from having standalone analytics siloed within each different SaaS application, whether from Oracle or from other vendors, to having the ability to bring that all together for a cross-enterprise view.
We’re going to see deeper, richer analytics built into all these SaaS applications, with the ability to integrate them all together across Oracle and non-Oracle sources of information. And, we’ll see more-advanced analytics beyond the simple reporting that has generally been offered in SaaS applications, such as predictive analytics, forecasting, and trending.
Oracle Magazine: Going forward, what do you see as the biggest challenge that business analytics is facing?
Rodwick: Oracle is offering more and different kinds of analysis with greater visualization, geospatial analysis, and big data analysis to be able to get at social media and other unstructured datasources.
All those capabilities are great, but one of the things that stops companies from adopting these technologies is the need to integrate them all together. So, one of Oracle’s primary strategies for business analytics is to integrate all these technologies together so companies, as they mature, can more easily adopt new levels of analytical sophistication.
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