An Oracle blog about BI Publisher

A Brief History of BIP

I came across my XML Publisher Pilot web page today, it has a bunch of early examples we built way back then - OK it was only 3-4 years ago - we're young still but we have some history ...

Back in '98 I had just finished a degree (finally) and started with Oracle UK in the Financials for EMEA team under the EBS product. We had nearly 200 reports and umpteen pieces of regional functionality to build and maintain. I can still remember fixing my first bug on an Oracle Report - 10.6 character was still around,  and R11 had just come out - I was amazed at just how bad the reports were. Now, Im not talking content here, all the data was there of course and it could be argued that for many of the 'listing' reports 10 point Courier with no text decoration was fine. I was not on that side of the fence - we had a good solid tool in Oracle Reports 2.5, yes it blew up too regularly and core dumped when you least expected it to - I learnt very quickly to save at every step - boy did it need an autosave feature.


But, we were using it in character mode and generating what I considered to be crappy outputs. There were reasons of course - to move all of the Apps reports to Bitmap mode would have been a huge task with ~2000 reoports, there were other concerns around i18n to consider too. Almost a year later I moved to our sister team in California and discovered RXi for those of you using EBS you will no doubt have come across RXi - it addressed one of the big issues customers had with Oracle Reports - customization! It was painful, we never shipped quite the right report to you folks, there were fields you wanted and had to be added or removed, layouts needed changing - as soon as you touched that report - it was yours to maintain. RXi allowed you to create as many layouts as you wished on top of a basic extract, on top of that you could plug your own data into the extract - still character based but so much better.

In 2003 I got a new project - Financials Reporting Strategy - a grand title for a tough project. How could we get the best of RXi and Oracle Reports and produce a flexible reporting solution? We worked with the Oracle Reports folks, we even came up with a prototype that allowed you to create multiple bitmapped layouts on top of an Oracle Report and choose which one you wanted at runtime - sound familiar?

Then I got involved with a broader Applications Reporting Strategy - I was shown a reporting based on MSWord and XML, it had folks' names and their telephone numbers in output - I was blown away, this was awesome. I told my team to 'down pencils' - we had found the answer to the problem. I dragged my now development director in front of our VP and got him to demo it - it did not go too well - after the meeting I was gushing with enthusiam - the rest of the attendees were less than overwhelmed - 'give me a month I said.'

In that month, we worked danged hard to get a real world example working - the first report was an invoice listing.


The template parser back then was a little different, we now have '<? ?>' and XSL like commands - back then we swung from '[ ]' to '{ }' and back again and used 'Group:' rather than 'for-each:'


Three years later and the tool has come a long way ... we still have a long way to go of course. But you'll find it in EBS, PeopleSoft, JDE, BIEE as a standalone product, integrated with APEX and maybe even bundled with the database one day - its a fun ride, exhausting but fun.

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