Oracle has announced a new packaging of its business intelligence technology that is aimed at small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) previously priced-out by its enterprise-class platform.
The Oracle BI Standard Edition One (SE One) builds on the same Oracle BI Suite Enterprise Edition (EE) product the company introduced a year and a half ago that incorporates technology acquired from Siebel Analytics and home-grown Oracle reporting tools.
SE One includes Oracle's core OLAP analysis, ad hoc and production reporting, and role-based interactive dashboard tools as well as a Standard Edition One of the Oracle's 10g database, the Oracle Warehouse Builder (OWB) ETL tool for building data warehouses and marts, and Oracle's core BI Server infrastructure that provides a unified metadata layer across all the end-user products.
Dave Planeaux, director of BI product marketing at Redwood Shores, California-based Oracle, said the SE was specially tailored for SMBs and large workgroups within organisations in terms of packaging, functionality and price.
"We have basically included everything you need - reporting, analysis, dashboarding and building data marts to get a BI and data warehousing system running. And at a price-point that is approachable for SMBs."
Pricing for the SE One software starts at $1000 per user - with a minimum of five users and maximum of 50 users.
That is a much lower entry cost than the EE which sells for $15 000 users (or $225 000 per processor) with a minimum of 50 users.
Planeaux also said that SE One comes with a greatly simplified installation process. "We are providing a single install for all the suite's components that run on a single server."
Oracle had been selling another BI product at this same market for several years - Oracle BI Standard Edition which is based on Oracle's Discoverer product packaged up with the Oracle Application Server Enterprise Edition.
But Planeaux said the new SE was the first Fusion-led BI foray into the SMB space. Fusion is the name for Oracle's modern SOA-based architecture for tying together all its various applications and tools.
Functionally the SE One includes more or less the same capabilities as EE but without some bells and whistles like proactive alerting and disconnected analysis.
Also in SE One's BI Server, the number of data sources that customers can connect to is also limited to an Oracle database plus one other relational source. Access to flat file sources is however unlimited.
While Planeaux believes that connecting to a multitude of data sources will not a pressing issue for most SMBs, he does point out that SE One customers can use the included OWB tool to integrate data from other sources into an Oracle database.
Because SE One is built on more or less the same technology as the EE, Planeaux said that customers can easily upgrade when user-scale demands it.
"Because SE One shares the same core technology as EE, companies that outgrow it can just acquire a license with no re-implementation needed. They can continue to use the same reports, multidimensional analysis, and dashboards they already have."
With Oracle BI Suite SE One it seems as if Oracle has simply lowered the price-bar for its EE software. Sure cost has always been a major barrier for the adoption of BI and data warehousing technologies among budget-constrained SMBs. But there are other factors that need to be taken into consideration, not least packaging and ease of use.
Oracle said it has included all the 'right' components needed for BI - which is a bit of a generalisation. More importantly perhaps is the pre-configuration of these components to work with one another. Oracle also claims to have 'dramatically simplified' installation, which is important for companies that are constrained in terms of in-house IT skills. But the area where Oracle needs to be a lot more convincing is in ease of use.
Oracle BI Suite EE is not the most complex suite on the market. But it certainly carries a learning curve. Customers should press Oracle on what they intend to do in terms of supporting customers with tutorials, training and education. If not, then they risk getting their hands on a complex set of BI technologies, albeit at a bargain price, that they struggle to use.
Finally Oracle could do with a serious re-think of its BI branding. 'BI Suite' appended with 'SE, EE, and/or One' make for a confusing mix. Surely there is a more simplified branding to go with the various packaging.