OBIEE (Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition) is a business intelligence tool from Oracle Corporation used to gather, store and visualize enterprise data. OBIEE is part of a broad suite of products from Oracle called Oracle Fusion Middleware. Fusion Middleware serves multiple business needs, including integration services, collaboration, content management and business intelligence.
While OBIEE is commonly used with Oracle business applications such as Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS), it can ingest and analyze data from multiple sources. External data sources include relational databases, online analytical processing (OLAP), flat files and spreadsheets.
Organizations use OBIEE to:
- Collect up-to-date information about an organization
- Present the Oracle data analytics in easy-to-understand formats such as tables and graphs
- Deliver data in a timely fashion to decision-makers in the organization
OBIEE competitors include Microsoft BI tools, SAP AG Business Objects, IBM Cognos and the SAS Institute Inc.
The history of OBIEE
OBIEE is based on business intelligence (BI) solutions developed initially by Siebel Systems and Hyperion Systems, both acquired by Oracle in 2005 and 2007. Siebel Analytics was later rebranded by Oracle as OBIEE. The components of the original Siebel Analytics product are still visible in OBIEE. For example, Siebel Answers, used for ad hoc queries, and Siebel Delivers, used for sending alerts based on changes in data, are available as optional OBIEE add-ons.
Oracle continued to enhance OBIEE through the early 2000s combining Hyperion and Siebel Analytics functionality. Oracle announced the general availability (GA) of OBIEE 11g in August 2010 and continued to enhance OBIEE delivering OBIEE 220.127.116.11 in April 2013. Oracle announced OBIEE 12c in 2015 and an upgrade procedure from OBIEE 11g.
OBIEE 12c introduced a new architecture for several back-end components. It offered significant new functionality, including a new Web UI and a new visual analyzer to create visualizations via a drag-and-drop interface. Several new advanced analytics capabilities were also provided in OBIEE 12c. These included new prebuilt functions available from OBIEE’s expression editor, including features such as forecasting, clustering, regressional analysis and outlier detection.
OBIEE is comprised of several components. These include:
- BI Server – The BI Server lies at the heart of OBIEE and interacts with other system components. The BI Server is a horizontally scalable service that can be optionally deployed across multiple physical hosts for scalability and availability. Clients can access BI Server hosts via a load balancer, making OBIEE appear to users as a single logical service. The BI Server reads data residing in external data sources. The BI Server maintains a logical data model available via ODBC to the BI Presentation Server. The metadata supporting this model is stored in a proprietary repository definition file (RPD). In the back end, the BI Server connects to customer data sources using various data source adapters.
- BI Presentation Server – The BI Presentation Server provides a framework and interfaces for presenting business intelligence data to web clients. This service also maintains an Oracle BI Presentation Catalog that allows customization of the presentation framework. Users can interact with the catalog to create, access and manage various BI objects. The catalog allows objects to be organized into folders that can be optionally shared with other OBIEE servers.
- BI Server Repository – The BI Server Repository (referred to as just the “repository”) is the metadatabase used by the BI Server and managed by the Oracle BI Administration Tool.
Data in OBIEE can be thought of as being stored in three logical layers. These include a physical layer, a business layer and a presentation layer. The OBIEE business layer assumes that data will always be organized in a star schema format to support efficient analytic queries.
There are several other components in the OBIEE architecture, including the OBIEE Admin Tool, a BI Scheduler and the Oracle Process Manager and Notification Server (OPMN). OBIEE is often implemented alongside other Oracle Fusion Middleware applications.
Features and benefits of OBIEE
OBIEE provides a common reporting framework that can be used to produce and deliver standard reports, scorecards and dashboards across the business. Capabilities also include ad hoc and OLAP-based analysis.
It is important to note that many components in OBIEE require additional licenses from Oracle. Customers can choose to license an Oracle Business Intelligence Suite Extended Edition that includes OBIEE along with additional functionality such as interactive dashboards. When we describe OBIEE features and benefits, we include functionality in some of these separately licensed add-ons:
OBIEE provides the following features:
- Interactive dashboards
- Self-serve OBIEE reporting for business users
- Ability to automatically create and distribute standard reports
- Proactive detection and notification of unusual events
- Automated invocation of business processes from within dashboards and reports
- Embed data and visualizations in Microsoft Office tools
- Map-based visualizations
Organizations realize the following benefits from OBIEE. Users can:
- Access and analyze business data without assistance from IT
- Receive automated notifications via real-time alerts for faster decision making
- See the latest available data reflected in their Microsoft Office documents
OBIEE can be used with other tools in the Oracle portfolio to present and visualize data in various ways. Among these separately licensed tools are:
- Oracle Analytics Publisher (formerly Oracle Business Intelligence Publisher) – A component that provides enterprise reporting functionality, including services for authoring, managing and delivering formats reports to various stakeholders.
- Oracle Business Intelligence Interactive Dashboards – A web-based environment for developing and deploying interactive dashboards to visually present information to business users.
- Oracle Business Intelligence Delivers – A separately licensed interface used to create alerts based on various analytic results and notify people through various communication channels.
- Oracle Business Intelligence Answers – A tool designed to answer business-level questions. Users can explore and interact with information using charts, pivot tables and reports and save results in the OBIEE Presentation Catalog.
Why is OBIEE important?
While OBIEE has a relatively small share of the overall BI market, it has a strong presence in the enterprise business application market. Oracle business solutions include Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS), Oracle Siebel CRM, JD Edwards and Oracle NetSuite. OBIEE has an installed base that comes from OBIEE’s Siebel Systems heritage, and it is also widely used with Oracle EBS.
Introduced in 2001, Oracle E-Business Suite was Oracle’s first complete bundle of ERP and CRM applications. EBS remains the most widely used line of business applications in Oracle’s product portfolio. Other enterprise applications, such as JD Edwards/PeopleSoft (2003) and NetSuite (2016), came from acquisitions.
Given the strong position of EBS in Oracle’s application portfolio, Oracle has made it easy to integrate OBIEE with Oracle EBS modules. Most users integrating OBIEE with EBS use Oracle Business Intelligence Analytics (OBIA), although this is not a requirement. OBIA is a prebuilt, prepackaged BI solution that provides a prebuilt set of OBIEE dashboards and reports for EBS. Given OBIEE’s heritage as a Siebel product, it continues to be widely used with Oracle Siebel CRM.
OBIEE is top of mind for EBS and other Oracle application users because of its pending end-of-support status. Fusion Middleware versions 18.104.22.168 have been out of Oracle’s Error Correction Support (ECS) since December 2021. For OBIEE users, bug fixes and security patches are no longer available. For OBIEE 11g users, ECS deadlines passed a long time ago, and most OBIEE 12c users are out of Oracle’s support, depending on their Fusion Middleware software versions.
OBIEE customers are facing a migration, and unfortunately, migrations of this sort tend to be disruptive. Customers have three broad choices:
- Oracle Analytics Cloud (OAC)
- Oracle Analytics Server (OAS)
- Move to a non-Oracle data analytics solution
Common challenges and OBIEE limitations
Some common challenges with OBIEE stem from its overall design, which dates back to the early 2000s. Data extracted from clients pass through a BI Presentation Service, which queries underlying data through the BI Server. An OBIEE limitation is that business data needs to be converted into a dimensional model such as a star schema before it can be analyzed. As a result, organizations typically need to spend time converting data from its source format, requiring ETL pipeline operations. The result is added cost, delays in obtaining needed business data, and loss of data granularity as data is aggregated to support analytic queries.
A second challenge with OBIEE is related to its dashboarding capabilities. While OBIEE provides prebuilt dashboards for Oracle EBS via Oracle Business Intelligence Analytics (OBIA) data engineers and analysts need to develop their own dashboards for other applications. Developing business-friendly data views for enterprise business applications is a complex process. It can take organizations months of effort to build data models and business views useful to business and analytic users.
Incorta for OBIEE users
For OBIEE users, Incorta offers several potential benefits. Incorta is an all-in-one solution that combines data acquisition, data processing, data curation, a semantic layer and data analysis, all accessible from a single web interface. Using Incorta’s data connectors, organizations can easily extract data from Oracle business applications and third-party sources.
Incorta enables organizations to sidestep the traditional challenges associated with data warehousing and analytic environments. Data is mapped directly to the source on ingest, avoiding the need for traditional data aggregation, reshaping and flattening.
Incorta also makes it exceptionally easy to get productive by quickly extracting business insights from Oracle applications. Incorta data applications (formerly Blueprints) include prebuilt reports, dashboards and business-friendly data views pre-tailored to popular Oracle and third-party business applications such as Oracle EBS, NetSuite and Oracle ERP.
With Incorta, OBIEE users can:
- Expedite their migration from OBIEE and drastically speed time to value for analytics projects
- Improve analyst productivity by providing self-serve access to data from multiple enterprise applications
- Directly map to Oracle and third-party data sources, eliminating traditional transformation and aggregation steps and delivering data to the business in record time
- Achieve new insights with custom dashboards tailored to Oracle business applications featuring multiple types of interactive visuals