Thoughts on "BI for the masses"

Oracle has a star database. As Charles Phillips refers to the database, it’s the 747 of databases. The products that the Oracle Data Warehousing/Business Intelligence teams pump out are quite capable and are feature rich. There is little that I can NOT provide for my customers using this stack of powerful tools (Oracle DB, Oracle Warehouse Builder, Oracle Discoverer/Portal/BI Beans).

That being said, I’ve realized how inaccessible these tools are for “the masses.” The qualified, smart, analytical masses that need easy to use tools to build help them collect, analyze, and report on their organizations information. They are complicated, require rather extensive knowledge of “Oracle-isms” etc. To date, there are very few BOOKs on any Business Intelligence specific Oracle product. Books reflect a large network of solution providers and consultants. ie, other providers who have picked their preferred tool and are committing to learning, using, and teaching it to customers. Large communities of providers, training resources, and books reflect a support network and makes uptake of a technology MUCH MUCH easier for customers. They don’t have to learn from the manual which is VERY difficult… They can learn from the distilled knowledge of others, in a more participatory manner.

From a idealogical perspective, I’m not exactly drawn to Microsoft products. However, they are having significant success in building this ecosystem around their BI/SQL Server offering. While there exists NO BOOK on Oracle Warehouse Builder and only ONE BOOK on Discoverer here is a list of the scheduled books for Analysis Services 2005 release in BETA.

That’s right, there are 11 books being written about similar Microsoft products while their product is still in BETA! What does the Oracle BI/DW community think about this? I REALLY REALLY have to get comments going on my site… 🙁

6 thoughts on “Thoughts on "BI for the masses"

  1. Mark

    I think what you’ve found is that the market share of Oracle’s BI tools is way, way smaller than those based on the Microsoft (in particular, MSAS) platform. Server-side – Yes, Oracle are still there, the #1 platform as Oracle say for data warehousing, but for OLAP and OLAP tools, they’re well behind MSFT.

    I’m suprised though that no-one has done an OWB book (I know we’ve all discussed it in the past), I would have thought there’d be a sufficiently big market for this tool for *someone* to have had a go, but then again I don’t see many DataStage, Informatica etc books out there either, so I guess the market for ETL books per-se is small.

    I think this situation though, where as you say the ecosystem for BI on MSAS is so big, compared to that for BI on Oracle OLAP, means that if you’re serious about BI, as opposed to serious about Oracle, you’ve got to work with Microsoft tools. Me – I guess my interest is more on Oracle in general rather than specifically about BI, so I’m happy to describe myself as “Oracle with a specialisation in BI&W”.

  2. Nicholas Goodman

    That’s true now isn’t it? There aren’t many books on Informatica etc… In fact my amazon search yields none. I suppose the thought is that if you’re using these tools that you’re the type that will just go to the “manual” anyhow. ie, not a beginner. ?

    There is clearly a market trend towards bringing BI to more people, making it more accessible, closed loop, real time. In other words, BI will always be the domain of the analysts/C*O types, but it is expanding to add value to the “rest” of the organization populations… This is where MSFT has a clear advantage… They approach everything from the “guy/gal” in the cubicle… The “masses” are more related to “OLAP/Reporting” than DW/Server Side.

    With such a healthy acquisition appetite lately I wonder if Oracle doesn’t gobble up some leaders in the “Data Delivery/OLAP” areas… Who knows… 🙂

  3. Chris Webb

    Interesting post – two things to add.

    Firstly, I didn’t mention all of the books that are being written about the whole MS BI stack, just the ones that are AS related. There are even more if you count Reporting Services and Integration Services, probably >15 overall.

    The second thing is that five out the eleven books I listed are authored or co-authored by people who work on the AS development team in Redmond. Obviously these books will have been written in their spare time, but they wouldn’t have been able to do this without at least the tacit approval of Microsoft. What’s Oracle’s attitude to devs writing books?

    Of the other six, I know that the authors will have benefitted from an awful lot of direct support from the dev team. I certainly have. I’m not just talking about answering questions on newsgroups, I’m talking about being able to email them directly on a daily (or more frequent) basis to ask questions and getting intelligent, detailed replies, as well as getting access to documentation such as specs and regular builds. There’s an obvious trickle-down effect from this which is of benefit to the community at large.

    At the end of the day I agree with Mark’s comment that it’s all about market share. No-one’s going to publish a book if there aren’t the people to buy it, and Microsoft has been very successful in winning market share. But there’s also a market share->books->more market share->more books virtuous circle going on here too, which Microsoft have been careful to encourage.

    Yours from the other side of the looking-glass…

  4. Kent

    Writing books on Oracle technology is a tricky proposition. The most visible publisher is Oracle Press, but I hear the review/editorial process is nightmarish. The other publishers will do Oracle DBA books (huge market), but few will do tools. The one I wrote on using Designer a few years back sold a whopping 2,500 copies. That is not much for a publisher.

    That being said, based on my knowledge of the tools community and OWB is particular, it seems to me that you (Nicholas) and Mark R should collaboarte and write the book on OWB yourselves. I am sure you could get Oracle product management to back you in your proposal to Oracle Press. You could probably get Ray R to do the forward. I will even volunteer my team at DPS to help with technical review if that would help.

    Another note: even though there are no books there are at least some good white papers available through user groups like ODTUG (, and the UK Oracle Users group. I would also like to point folks to the free list server that ODTUG runs: odtug-warehouse-l. It gets little traffic now (Mostly on Discoverer), but that is a good open forum we all could use more effectively to share knowledge.

  5. Al

    I have a question to you guys – are we allowed to write a book on Informatica or Datastage.I am an ETL developer and I know a lot of knowledgeous people want to write book on informatica expaining everything easily.I heard Informatica does not allow anyone to write a book.I dont know about Datastage.Do you know what is the actual law?

  6. Nicholas Goodman Post author


    I honestly don’t know. Seeing as Informatica is a trademarked term I’m not sure what the ramifications are in using it as part of the title for a book. I’m not sure there’s anything illegal about the book content, it just might have to do with the title and trademarks.

    Don’t really know… sorry.


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