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Oracle have been catching up in the analytics space. One of the features they had been lacking was in regards to self-service analytics. Basically, the ability for a user to mashup their own data with corporate data. I believe it’s the reason why they didn’t feature in Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms. They have rectified this hole with the creation of Oracle BICS (Business Intelligence Cloud Service) Data Visualization (aka Visual Analyzer). They have now made a desktop version called Oracle Data Visualization Desktop (ODVD). If you want a user guide for Data Visualization Desktop then you can use the guides/videos written for Visual Analyzer or specific help documentation for the desktop. Rittman Mead has already done an intro blog on the desktop tool.

I recently installed the tool to try it out for myself so I could compare it to other tools I have been using. Below are my initial thoughts on the tool after some initial investigation.

Install

This was pretty easy, apart from the fact I couldn’t run it on an AWS EC2. They only have server editions of Windows and Oracle have put what seems to be an arbitrary limit of allowing the tool to only run on Windows 7, 8 or 10. The desktop tool comes with some advanced analytic plugin to give you some advanced features using R which isn’t installed by default, this caused some confusion. Oracle licensing can also be confusing in regards to what is an extra licensed feature or part of the core package. Through a bit of research, the software that is installed is Oracle R Distribution which is open source. However, as one blogger points out there is still some gotchas around this area.

First Impressions

This looks like a tool you can build a nice looking dashboard with, there’s a sample included with the install but you can download more here. You have a lot of control over precise layout and an abundance of visualisation options that tick all the expected boxes. The capability to drill and filter into your dashboards by selecting anything you can see on a dashboard is also present. You also have the ability to create a narrative through the Story Navigator/Insight feature.

In regards to data mashup capabilities, I don’t think they are there yet. There’s a reasonable selection for getting data from databases, but it only supports XLSX files for ad-hoc user data, it’s nice to see that it can handle columns with formulas in them. However, there is no support for JSON, XML, Web services and most surprising CSV. ODVD exports data from visualisations into CSV’s that you can save but not ingest them! ODVD is still limited to the concept of a star schema structure like what was present in OBIEE. Unless there are defined relationships between every data source you will not be able to use them.

In regards to export capability, as previously mentioned visualisation data can be exported in CSV format, and whole projects can be exported and imported into ODVD. There is no capability to export the dashboard as a picture or any other format.

I found it slow at times, the odd random bug with the interface and could be made more intuitive. However, this is the first release of the desktop and the Cloud version is not much older. It shows the potential to fill a very important hole in Oracle’s BI offerings. I expect things to improve as the product matures. Oracle has to continue invest in this tool if they want to stay relevant in the BI space.

All the code, all the fun – Ben

Ben writes blogs about the technical side of BI the code, all the code and not much other than the code.

You can read all of Ben’s blog here.

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