The Best Thing That Ever Happened to OBIEE 12c: BICS

With the recent and much-anticipated release of OBIEE 12c, some of the main overall areas that you hear about regarding improvements to this platform typically revolve around some combination of:

  • Visual Analyzer
  • Data Mashups
  • Much Improved Look-and-Feel, Architecture and Administration

For those familiar with the Oracle BI Cloud Service (BICS), it’s no secret that most of these new features and capabilities were already available via Oracle’s BI service in the cloud. It also means moving forward, Oracle’s cloud-first approach will ensure that BICS sees new future advances and advantages first, before the on-premise OBIEE versions. But let’s pause for a moment to consider why this has the possibility to make OBIEE for the on-prem world better than ever moving forward.

With the advent of BICS, Oracle really gave themselves a revolutionary new way to deliver to their BI market. Light, nimble, pay-as-you-go BI for those where a full blown on-prem OBIEE footprint may not be necessary or even desired. They didn’t invent the model, but it did invent an all-new way for their flagship BI platform to materialize as a stronger than ever product, well into the future.

BICS is the major reason why this release of OBIEE 12c could potentially be as good as we all think it might be:

  1. Oracle’s cloud-first strategy in BI means that BICS gets it first; it’s the tip of the BI spear
  2. As a result, it’s given Oracle a real “proving ground”; a place to allow for rapid feature development and usage/real world testing
  3. BICS has made Oracle “Eat Their Own Dog Food” — and it’s why so much is different today and potentially better than ever before when it comes to architecture and system administration

With BICS as the “proving ground” for new BI capabilities, they can roll them out with the push of a button to their cloud, instead of having to ready everything for a traditional GA rollout. It’s allowing for faster development to improve capabilities and integrate new features. Sure, for the on-prem world these new jewels will lag behind for when they are available, but when they get here, they’ll have already been proven out from the cloud development, deployment and usage there.

First, the Feature “Proving Ground”

The “proving ground” has wrought some amazing new capabilities that if you think back to the not-so-distant-past of OBIEE 10g would make your head spin if you just hopped out of your DeLorean from that prior era.

Look-and-Feel Interface

A more modern, stylized and flatter landscape now greets OBIEE 12c users. Right-click graph and chart context menus make the experience more relative and expected for contextual drilling and interaction. But a key element here is that the front end isn’t so drastically rearranged as to inhibit 11g users from quickly getting up to speed and around the new interface.

Data Mashups

With this key element, there’s more self-service capability than ever before. One traditional challenge in OBIEE was having to go to the BI administration team to model in new data sets if a new source was needed. For your most savvy power user analysts, this is obviously not ideal since they already know a great deal about their data, how they would model it themselves, and typically won’t wait around for the IT queue to clear. It’s why more pervasive self-service BI tools in the market have drawn a legion of dedicated fans who will only give up their tools when you pry them from their cold, dead hands… Data mashups in OBIEE 12c will get us closer to the need of satisfying these communities of more expert users, and not lose them to other alternatives.

Visual Analyzer

Perhaps the most lauded and highly anticipated component of OBIEE 12c I’ve heard by more than one speaker presenting behind a red podium is referring to VA as the veritable “Tableau Killer”. I suppose only time (and perhaps the Gartner Magic quadrant!?) will tell this full story in the future, but it’s far and away the best visualization mechanism we’ve had to date in Oracle BI. This modern explorer will allow for rapid development of powerful visual analyses through a new drag and drop creation process.

Secondly, “Eating Your Own Dog Food” – Lo and Behold: Better Architecture and Administration!

Oracle had to “eat their own dog food” as the saying goes by being the main adopter of their own technology to host and provide the BICS offering. Who better to invent and make the technologies the rest of us BI admin/support folks need to help better maintain our own on-prem OBIEE installations?

So it should come as no surprise that the following elements are now all new or improved in our latest OBIEE 12c reality:

  • Improved configuration setup
  • Quicker and more streamlined installation
  • Easier to upgrade – raise your hand if you liked upgrading from 10g to 11g?
  • Entirely new Baseline Validation Tool (BVT) component; one of my personal favorites
    • This was something that Mike Durran of Oracle presented on at Kscope15 that had me on the edge of my seat during his talk (ok, ok – well strongly interested anyway)
    • Free utility to automate regression testing that verifies data, visuals, catalog object metadata, and system-generated SQL across your 11g and 12c releases
    • Documentation reference here
  • The OPMN is no more
  • User GUIDs are now extinct (and let the world rejoice!)
    • Sorry, you’ll have to just miss out on all that Refresh GUIDs fun in the future…
    • Removed to make administration easier and replaced with user names
  • Internal system users gone. No longer need to create a BISystemUser in your LDAP anymore.
  • BI Archive File for cloning, backup, deploying
    • Ever tried to clone your OBIEE 11g system for redeployment? Don’t.
    • Provisioning and backing up your BI systems are now radically easier than ever before thanks to the entirely new concept BAR (BI Archive file)
    • New archive format which contains OBIEE Catalog, RPD and Security packaged in one file. The file will be created in current environment and imported in Target environment.
  • A litany of new command line utilities are now added for administration. Hmm, I wonder if Oracle BICS team needed them so they invented them!?

At the end of the day, better management/maintenance is going to mean lower TCO and happier and better utilized IT and support staff.

I know that I for one am excited about the prospects of where OBIEE is headed into the future.

Thank you, BICS.


If you’re looking for more information, training or thinking about upgrading to OBIEE 12c, drop us a line at: info@emerald-cube.com.

Resources and various other random OBIEE 12c trivia to use at your next party to impress your friends (yeah, just kidding on that last part):