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5 Oracle Business Intelligence

Oracle Business Intelligence is an integrated, intuitive, and interactive business intelligence solution that provides comprehensive report creation and delivery capabilities, from data preparation to final presentation, against multidimensional OLAP or relational data sources.

This chapter provides an overview of Oracle Business Intelligence features and benefits. The topics include:

5.1 Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer

OracleBI Discoverer is a business intelligence tool for analyzing data. It provides an integrated business intelligence solution that includes intuitive ad-hoc query, reporting, analysis, and Web-publishing functionality. OracleBI Discoverer allows non-technical users to gain immediate access to information from multidimensional OLAP data sources, data marts, data warehouses, or online transaction processing systems.

Figure 5-1 shows an example of a business intelligence dashboard, using OracleBI Discoverer reports through Oracle Application Server Portal.

Figure 5-1 Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer Dashboard Example

Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer Dashboard example
Description of "Figure 5-1 Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer Dashboard Example"

Using the various OracleBI Discoverer components, you can do the following:

With OracleBI Discoverer, business users at all levels of the organization have secure and immediate access to data from a variety of data sources, all through a standard Web browser.

5.1.1 Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer Components

Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer includes the following components: Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer Plus OLAP

Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer Plus OLAP allows non-technical users to create reports that leverage the powerful OLAP analysis capabilities of the Oracle database.

The OLAP query model works with users' own common business terms and definitions. This allows users to build complex queries in a series of steps. The flexibility of the OLAP model allows users to add new analytic calculations to their reporting environment that look, feel, and operate like stored measures and execute directly in the database.

After creating a report, Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer Plus OLAP lets you save your report definitions and calculations independent of the report, saving you time in creating future reports. Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer Plus Relational

Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer Plus Relational is a Web-based report authoring tool designed for non-technical users. It provides efficient, interactive report layout and formatting capabilities, as well as data analysis tools and built-in calculation wizards.

Discoverer Plus Relational works against any relational data source, from data warehouses and datamarts to online transaction processing systems.

After creating reports, you can share them directly or export them as Excel, PDF, or HTML files. Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer Viewer

Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer Viewer allows business users to access reports and analyze their data from a standard Web browser using a pure HTML interface, without needing to install or download additional software. With Discoverer Viewer you can open reports created with Discoverer Plus OLAP or Discoverer Plus Relational.

After analyzing the data, you can save your changes for future viewing, or you can export the report to a variety of file formats, such as Microsoft Excel, HTML, or PDF. You can also send exported files as e-mail attachments directly from Discoverer Viewer. Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer Portlet Provider

Integration between Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer and Oracle Application Server Portal allows you to create secure and convenient dashboards to track performance measures critical to your business.

The OracleBI Discoverer Portlet Provider lets you publish existing Discoverer reports to an OracleAS Portal page through a wizard-based interface, without having to write any code. Report data can be presented as a gauge, graph, table, or crosstab, depending on the report.

You can then allow other users to view and access their data through these reports, taking advantage of Oracle Identity Management in Oracle Application Server and the fine-grained Access Control in the Oracle Database. Users can click the Analyze link to access the reports in Discoverer Viewer. The Discoverer Viewer interactive analysis environment lets users make personalized customizations to the report, tailoring information to their own needs.

5.1.2 Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer Architecture

Figure 5-2 shows the relationship among the components of Oracle Business Intelligence.

Figure 5-2 Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer Architecture

Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer Architecture
Description of "Figure 5-2 Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer Architecture"

Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer has a multi-tier architecture, which takes advantage of the distributed nature of the Web environment. OracleBI Discoverer components are installed across the following tiers:

  • The Discoverer client tier is the Web browser accessing Discoverer Plus (OLAP or Relational), Discoverer Viewer, or Discoverer Portlets included on an OracleAS Portal page.

    For Discoverer Plus, the only requirement for the client machine is that it runs a Java-enabled Web browser. The first time a machine is used to connect to Discoverer, the Discoverer Plus applet is downloaded from the Discoverer services tier and cached on the client machine. The applet provides the user interface and functionality for creating workbooks and analyzing data.

    For Discoverer Viewer and Discoverer portlets on a portal page, the only requirement for the client machine is that it runs a JavaScript-enabled Web browser.

  • The Discoverer services tier (also called the Discoverer middle tier) consists of Discoverer J2EE and CORBA components. The Discoverer middle tier manager controls these components using Oracle Enterprise Manager 10g Application Server Control. The services tier also stores the Discoverer Plus applet.

  • The Discoverer database tier contains both data and metadata that includes:

    • The Discoverer workbooks used to store reports and charts

    • The Discoverer End User Layer (EUL) that provides an easy-to-understand view of the relational data sources

    • The Discoverer Catalog for access to multidimensional data sources

    • The data users want to analyze, such as an OLAP analytical workspace, data warehouse, or online transaction processing system

    The database tier may include more than one database.


    Metadata management tools and Client tools are not part of Oracle Application Server. They are available with Oracle Developer Suite or Oracle Database.

See Also:

Oracle Business Intelligence Installation Guide for information on preparing your data or downloading and installing the Oracle Business Intelligence samples

See Also:

Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer Plus User's Guide and Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer Configuration Guide

  • Metadata management tools: Before using Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer, you need either an OLAP data source or a Discoverer End User Layer (EUL) in your database. If you have the connection information for a properly prepared OLAP data source or Discoverer EUL, then you can launch Discoverer Plus to create and edit workbooks and launch Discoverer Viewer to view and customize workbooks.

    Depending on your datasource, you may also need one or several of the following in order to create and maintain your Oracle Business Intelligence metadata:

    • Oracle Warehouse Builder

    • Analytic Workspace Manager

    • Oracle Enterprise Manager

    • Discoverer Administrator

    • Client tools: In addition to the Discoverer client tier, users may directly access their Oracle Business Intelligence data from Microsoft Excel using the Spreadsheet Add-in. Developers can use Oracle BI Beans with Oracle JDeveloper to create highly interactive custom applications.

5.2 Oracle Application Server Reports Services

In a business intelligence environment, data is generated by multiple sources in various formats. Publishing this business intelligence data should be fast and easy, without requiring multiple, convoluted steps to manipulate and consolidate the data into a single format.

5.2.1 Introduction to Oracle Application Server Reports Services

Oracle Application Server Reports Services provides a robust deployment platform for creating high-quality, dynamically generated end-user reports in a scalable, secure environment. You can build and publish sophisticated reports from any data source, in any format, and deploy them anywhere with Oracle Application Server.

OracleAS Reports Services is part of Oracle Reports. Oracle Application Server also includes Oracle Reports Developer, a component of the Oracle Developer Suite. Using Oracle Reports Developer you can build a complex data model and share it between an existing high quality paper layout and an improved high quality Web layout using servlets and JSP technology.

Developers can publish sophisticated, high quality reports from any data source, in any data format, and deploy them anywhere on Oracle Application Server. OracleAS Reports Services can combine data from multiple data sources into a single report, including the Oracle database, XML feeds and JDBC-enabled data sources. Developers can even add custom data sources using the open API for Pluggable Data Sources.

Reports can be generated on demand or scheduled for a specific time or interval. Once formatted, a report can be distributed to a standard Web browser, email, printer, or Oracle Application Server Portal, be stored on the middle tier for rapid retrieval, or be stored in a custom destination via the Pluggable Destinations API.

OracleAS Reports Services enables you to do the following:

  • Access reports dynamically from any browser on demand

  • Leverage middle-tier load balancing to provide high volumes of reports, without excessive demands on limited resources

  • Generate reports in HTML for browser viewing, PDF for quality viewing, XML to communicate data to Web sites, RTF and delimited output for import into Microsoft Office, and PCL for printing

  • Optionally secure distribution of reports by allowing only specific users to access the report and grant secure access

  • Link to published reports and provide portlet support using OracleAS Portal

Figure 5-3 shows an example of an Oracle report.

Figure 5-3 Oracle Reports Example

Oracle Reports example
Description of "Figure 5-3 Oracle Reports Example"


Oracle Reports Developer is available with Oracle Developer Suite.

5.2.2 Oracle Application Server Reports Services Architecture

Figure 5-4 shows how Oracle Application Server Reports Services handles client requests. OracleAS Reports Services runs reports by entering all requests into a job queue. When one of the server's runtime engines becomes available, the next job in the queue is dispatched to run.

As the number of jobs in the queue increases, the server can start more runtime engines until it reaches the maximum limit specified in your server configuration. OracleAS Reports Services runtime engines are shut down automatically after having been idle for a period of time that you specify.

OracleAS Reports Services keeps track of all jobs submitted in the server, including jobs that are running, scheduled to run, or finished. The Reports Queue Manager (Windows), the Reports Queue Viewer (UNIX), or the show jobs command (Web) enable you to view information on when jobs are scheduled, queued, started, and finished, as well as the job output and the final status of the report.

Figure 5-4 Oracle Application Server Reports Services Architecture

Oracle Application Server Reports Services Architecture
Description of "Figure 5-4 Oracle Application Server Reports Services Architecture"

OracleAS Reports Services job objects are persistent. This means that if the server is shut down and then restarted, all jobs are recovered, not just scheduled jobs.

Oracle Reports Developer enables you to embed a report within a larger existing Web page. This technology enables you to open and save HTML, JSP, and XML files that contain report definitions. When a report is saved as a JSP file, the data model is embedded using XML tags. The entire report can also be defined using XML tags and saved as an XML file.

You can also use Oracle Reports Developer to take retrieved data, using the data model, and embed it into an existing Web page. This provides tremendous flexibility in creating reports that meet business demands by completely integrating multiple sources of information within a single Web page. If you choose to create your own JSP, Oracle Reports Developer supplies templates that can be used to build your report.

Developers can easily create a JSP layout using the Reports Block Wizard to generate the necessary JSP tags in Oracle Reports Developer. Alternatively, they can add the tags themselves manually for more precise control.

See Also:

Oracle Application Server Reports Services Publishing Reports to the Web


Oracle Reports Developer is available with Oracle Developer Suite.

5.2.3 Oracle Application Server Reports Services Features

Oracle Application Server Reports Services provides the following features: Event-Based Reporting

OracleAS Reports Services enables you to run a report that is triggered by database events. You can execute a report using a set of PL/SQL stored procedures that can be called from a database trigger. The trigger invokes OracleAS Reports Services and the event data is submitted to the server. For example, when an employee submits an expense report, new data is being inserted into the database. The insert event causes a database trigger to fire, which sends a report to the employee manager on a portal page or in an e-mail message asking for expense report approval.

In addition to database events, you can trigger reports from within your Java application using the Reports Web Service or from within your business process using Oracle Workflow and the Reports Workflow activity. Extensible Architecture

OracleAS Reports Services enables you to customize your access to data sources, runtime engines, security, notification, distribution, and cache, as follows:

  • Write your own data access methods for data that is specific to your business: A Pluggable Data Source (PDS) is a set of Java APIs that provides openness to OracleAS Reports Services by enabling data input from any source. PDSs allow OracleAS Reports Services to combine data from various data sources including multiple Oracle database connections – each potentially having a different connection. When written to the PDS API, you can specify the icons to be displayed in the data model and Report Wizard of Oracle Reports Developer.

  • Use OracleAS Reports Services functionality with your own runtime engine or job type: The OracleAS Reports Services engine is the default implementation provided by Oracle. However, you can take advantage of the security, notification, distribution, and caching features of OracleAS Reports Services using your own engine code. An example of runtime engine code is a Java class that uses an operating system call to package a series of reports into a zip file and then distributes that file using e-mail to a defined set of users.

  • Create your own security mechanisms for user-authentication against the OracleAS Reports Server: The OracleAS Reports Services architecture provides a complex security mechanism. The OracleAS Reports Server authenticates users and performs the necessary security checks to ensure the user is able to process the selected report. The out-of-box interface allows the administrator to easily enter the OracleAS Reports access control information from within a Web browser. All of the access control data is then stored within the Oracle Application Server Portal repository, which is checked each time a user runs a report request.

  • Configure OracleAS Reports Services to submit notifications upon success or failure of a job: Besides using the default implementation of sending an e-mail message, you can now implement your own notification mechanisms.

  • Distribute to various destinations such as the Oracle AS Reports Services cache, e-mail messaging, and printers: You can add your own destinations such as fax machine and FTP servers using the pluggable destination API.

  • Replace the default caching with your own caching mechanism for the output of the OracleAS Reports Services using the pluggable caching API: The pluggable caching APIs are custom engines that use Java APIs to pass jobs to the OracleAS Reports Server. Enhanced Report Bursting and Distribution

Oracle Application Server Reports Services enhanced bursting and distribution enables you to distribute a report to different media, such as paper, e-mail messages, Web pages, or even delimited output like a spreadsheet.

You can burst on repeating data within a report. Bursting enables you to create multiple personalized reports out of a single report model. For example, department-based reports can be distributed to employees within that department. This ensures that each user only receives information that is relevant and appropriate for them. For example, with a salary report, the manager of a sales department will get an e-mail with the salary information for employees in that department only; the manager of the purchasing department will only be e-mailed the salary information for employees in that department; the CEO of the company will receive a printout containing a summary of each department's information.

The report runs only once, and the output is sent to different sets of users according to requirements. You only have a single set of data to fetch and format in order to distribute the report.

5.3 Oracle Application Server Personalization

Today's e-businesses must compete by maintaining personal, one-to-one relationships with their Web customers, including both registered customers and anonymous Web visitors. Companies must provide e-customers with customized product recommendations, ratings of the likelihood that the customer will "like" the recommendations, and improved site navigation based on their interests and profiles.

5.3.1 Introduction to Oracle Application Server Personalization

Oracle Application Server Personalization provides real-time analysis and recommendations for Web stores, application hosting environments, and business call centers. Oracle Application Server Personalization provides an integrated real-time recommendation engine that is deployed with Oracle Application Server.

By delivering real-time personalization, Oracle Application Server Personalization delivers powerful, scalable real-time personalization for customer areas of interest. This enables e-businesses to provide e-customers with customized product recommendations, rank the likelihood that a customer will like the recommendations, and improve site navigation based on customer interests and profiles.

OracleAS Personalization is used by business-to-consumer customers, business-to-business customers, and Application Service Providers (ASPs) who need to personalize their customer "touch points" to support business-critical operations to achieve a competitive advantage.

Oracle Application Server Personalization provides recommendations and answers to questions such as these:

  • Which items is the customer most likely to buy or like?

  • Customers that bought or like this item are likely to buy or like which other items?

  • How likely is it that the customer will buy or like this item?

  • Which items is the customer most likely to buy or like given that the customer likes or is buying another item?

5.3.2 Oracle Application Server Personalization Architecture

Figure 5-5 shows how data flows through and is processed by Oracle Application Server Personalization.

OracleAS Personalization incorporates visitor activity, through Web, mobile, call center, and campaign applications, into recommendations. This activity data is saved for that visitor in an Oracle database, where OracleAS Personalization uses the data to build predictive models. Future visits to the Web site add to the set of data for a customer. The new data allows for more accurate predictions.

OracleAS Personalization uses SQL queries for obtaining scores, which can be executed in real-time or in batch mode. Recommendation engines serve OracleAS Personalization recommendations to Web sites across the enterprise.

Figure 5-5 Oracle Application Server Personalization Architecture

Oracle Application Server Personalization Architecture
Description of "Figure 5-5 Oracle Application Server Personalization Architecture"

OracleAS Personalization predictive models may be rebuilt on a periodic basis (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly) and deployed to the recommendation engines when completed. OracleAS Personalization enables users to create "recommendation engine farms" that are comprised of many recommendation engines serving customized recommendations to the Web site.

The architecture is extremely scalable for high-traffic sites. OracleAS Personalization stores the predictive models in memory to handle the high traffic and speed requirements associated with e-commerce sites. Data mining algorithms find hidden patterns and customer profiles that drive personalized recommendations.

OracleAS Personalization uses the Oracle Application Server Personalization Administrator to define a package that contains information needed to build predictive models using data mining technology in the database, as well as information about the database connections. The OracleAS Personalization Administrator creates and manages schedules for building the packages and for deploying the packages to the recommendation engines that will produce the recommendations. Recommendation engines with the same package are grouped together in recommendation engine farms.

See Also:

Oracle Application Server Personalization User's Guide

5.3.3 Oracle Application Server Personalization Features

Oracle Application Server Personalization provides the following features: Real-Time Recommendation Engine Architecture

OracleAS Personalization dynamically serves personalized recommendations (such as products, content, and navigational links) in real time based on a registered customer's or anonymous visitor's explicit input (transactions, purchases, ratings, and demographic data) and implicit information (mouse clicks, pages visited, and banners viewed). Data Mining Technology

Powerful data mining technology embedded in the Oracle Database Server automatically discovers individualized behavior patterns to generate highly accurate personalized recommendations in real time. OracleAS Personalization uses data mining to build data mining models. The models predict what the Web site visitor will probably like or buy. The predictions are based on the data collected for that Web site visitor in previous sessions, in the current session, and on demographic, purchasing, and ratings information.

OracleAS Personalization works in conjunction with existing Web applications and other applications that can make Java API calls. The applications ask OracleAS Personalization to capture certain visitor or customer activities, such as navigational clicks, adding items to a shopping cart, or providing demographic information. This data is both cached by OracleAS Personalization and saved into an Oracle database schema. At user-scheduled times, OracleAS Personalization mines the collected data, builds predictive models with rules for making recommendations, and populates its recommendation engines. The calling application can then ask OracleAS Personalization to generate real-time, individualized recommendations to display to each visitor or customer. OracleAS Personalization uses the rules to retrieve a list of items about which the visitor is most likely to be interested. Single Administrative Interface

OracleAS Personalization enables you to build, configure, manage, and deploy many recommendation engines throughout your enterprise from a single administrative interface.

Additionally, the administrative interface supports deployment of multiple recommendation strategies for different campaigns or time periods (such as holidays). You can also capture and model behavior for specific events using the events scheduler.

5.3.4 Implementing Enterprise Reporting with Oracle Reports Builder

Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer provides seamless integration with Oracle Reports Builder, the enterprise reporting tool available from Oracle Developer Suite. OracleBI Discoverer users export workbooks with full fidelity. Information about layout, formatting, exceptions, parameters, and other features is passed via XML, enabling OracleBI Discoverer workbooks to be extended using the full power of Oracle Reports Builder. This also provides users access to the full suite of publishing capabilities of OracleAS Reports Services, such as batch scheduling and PDF support. Refer to the Oracle Developer Suite Reports Builder online help for more information.

See Also:

Oracle Application Server Reports Services Publishing Reports to the Web


Oracle Reports Builder is available with Oracle Developer Suite

5.4 Integrating Oracle Business Intelligence

Tight integration between Oracle Application Server, Oracle Developer Suite, and the Oracle Database delivers performance and scalability. Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer provides the technology that makes data visible across all parts of the business.

The following sections discuss OracleBI Discoverer in relation to other Oracle Application Server components.

5.4.1 Leveraging Single Sign-on Functionality

A single sign-on service provides a single authentication mechanism that allows users to identify themselves securely to multiple applications through a single authentication step. Web-based e-businesses can use single sign-on functionality for deployment of business intelligence applications to employees, customers, and partners.

Oracle Application Server Single Sign-On enables users to log in to multiple Web-based applications, such as expense reports, e-mail, and benefits information, using a single user name and password. OracleAS Single Sign-On can serve as the security gateway for all OracleBI Discoverer features.

With OracleAS Single Sign-On, each user maintains only one identity and password for all applications they access.

OracleBI Discoverer leverages OracleAS Single Sign-On functionality to provide a secure point of access to all of your Discoverer users.

5.4.2 Using Oracle Enterprise Manager for Management

Oracle Application Server Business Intelligence integration with Oracle Enterprise Manager provides a centralized configuration management tool, enabling system administrators to view and configure Oracle Application Server services in the middle tier. The Application Server Control Console provides easy-to-use graphical interfaces for managing Oracle Business Intelligence services. From Application Server Control Console you can:

  • Monitor CPU and memory consumption for OracleBI Discoverer Plus, OracleBI Discoverer Viewer, and OracleBI Discoverer Portlet Provider

  • Customize the look and feel for both OracleBI Discoverer Plus and OracleBI Discoverer Viewer

  • Install and manage the Discoverer catalog

  • Customize the functionality available to users in OracleBI Discoverer Viewer

  • Administer OracleBI Discoverer services

  • View and search log files

  • Switch user-defined connections on or off

  • Set default locale for connections

  • Set connections to Oracle Application Server Single Sign-On

  • Link directly to the Oracle Enterprise Manager Central Console

Figure 5-6 shows some of the OracleBI Discoverer options you can customize through Enterprise Manager.

Figure 5-6 Configuring Discoverer in Enterprise Manager

Configuring Discoverer in Enterprise Manager
Description of "Figure 5-6 Configuring Discoverer in Enterprise Manager"

From the Application Server Control Console you can view alerts and analyze historical data for OracleBI Discoverer services. In addition you can use the Application Server Control Console to manage other related components such as the OC4J and the database supporting these services.

5.4.3 Improving Performance with Oracle Application Server Web Cache

To boost performance over the Internet or extranet, OracleBI Discoverer leverages Oracle Application Server Web Cache. Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer uses OracleAS Web Cache to speed up the response time for the most common requests. Additionally, you can use OracleAS Web Cache as a router to balance the load across all available application servers.