Oracle puts focus on data integration

Data integration will be one of the major themes at Oracle's OpenWorld conference this week.

The conference itself integrates Oracle's previous applications conference, Oracles AppsWorld with its technology conference, OracleWorld, into a single show. However, if opening day is any indication, it appears OpenWorld will focus more on the technology behind the applications rather than the applications themselves.

Oracle unveiled Business Intelligence 10g, a BI architecture that rolls up numerous Oracle BI point solutions from the giant software vendor into a single product.

Oracle BI 10g will include Oracle Discoverer, Spreadsheet Add-In, Warehouse Builder, and BI Beans. Discoverer, a query, reporting, and analysis tool, is in fact several years old. What is new about the package is its ability to access both relational data and OLAP data.

The challenge in BI up until now, according to Steve Illingworth, senior director of BI products, is the need for IT to have different tools and skill sets in order to capture different types of data, put it into different data buckets, and access the data. "This is the first tool that goes against relational and OLAP data," said Illingworth.

However, while Bill Hostmann, research director at Gartner, gave Discoverer an overall "thumbs up," he also said there is a big gap in its reporting capability. "Competitors like Cognos have an integrated reporting capability. Oracle will have to address that, but it is a big step forward," said Hostmann.

Oracle Spreadsheet Add-In will give Microsoft Excel users direct access to Oracle OLAP data and store the data in the database rather than on the local hard drive.

Oracle Warehouse Builder will generate the code to extract data from a variety of application data types, including SAP, Microsoft SQL Server, and IBM DB2.

Oracle BI Beans are reusable Java components that will give business users the same query and presentation interface no matter what type of data is being accessed.

The other news around Oracle Business Intelligence 10g is the unbundling of the BI tools from the application server. According to Gartner's Hostmann, users will benefit by allowing Oracle to put more focus on BI as a single product rather than it being part of a monolithic applications server package.

Oracle's CRM division also had news today around integration. Oracle's CRM integration effort began last summer with the announcement that its customer services components, Oracle Service 11i.10 applications, will now share the same customer data with its CRM sales and marketing applications. Last August, Oracle announced the integration of sales and marketing customer data.

Oracle Service 11i.10 now connects and shares data with other CRM applications, including marketing and sales as well as a host of other enterprise solutions such as human resources, supply chain, and financial business systems.

As "do not call' and anti-spam initiatives increase, companies are looking for new ways to reach customers with promotions and marketing campaigns, according to Robb Eklund, vice president of CRM applications marketing at Oracle.

"By integrating marketing with service such as call centers and field service, companies will be able to upsell and cross-sell to drive revenue using the call center," said Eklund.

Oracle is able to achieve a high degree of integration between these applications by building all of them on top of its database, noted Eklund.

"Because it can access all of a customer's information, a company can design personalized marketing programs," Eklund added.

Also announced Monday was a new spares logistics capability that integrates parts inventory with scheduling and human resources. With this capability a company could schedule on-site calls based on the parts in stock and the skill level of the field service technician.

Oracle Business Intelligence 10g will be available in the first quarter of 2005. Oracle Service 11 i.10 is available now.

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