Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Praise for Oracle BI Publisher

I have been working on a small scale data warehouse project for a few months along with many other tasks. Following Kimball's ideas on dimensional modeling and by keeping it simple I had more or less an idea on how to proceed with the construction of the database, data model and how to create the reports (but only in SQL). One guy in management actually wanted to learn SQL and went ahead with SQL Developer (fantastic product, so easy to use that anybody familiar with the layout of the keyboard can use it). But I did not expect the same attitude from the rest. I have to say that I've seen many products for making glorified reports, but all of them gave me the impression of being cumbersome to install and not exactly bug free. I did not know any product very well and neither had I the time to start testing them. Earlier I've played with Application Express and thought some reports could be created in ApEx, but I had a nagging feeling this would not cover all our needs.

After a presentation delivered by a guy from Bicon at OUGN's (Oracle User Group Norway) yearly conference I decided to try out Oracle BI Publisher (formerly called XML Publisher). BIP is clearly an option for us. After installation which is plain sailing, you define a few simple reports for immediate publishing. BIP comes with its own web server and can be installed on any windows box lying around (which you then baptize The Application Server). Anybody with a net browser can indulge themselves with the reports. The security model is intuitive with roles and users; I can easily write a report and decide who will have access to it. The BIP Desktop add-on for Windows does a good job with defining a layout. The ability to export the report in different formats guarantees that reports can be published in different ways and even processed further elsewhere (e.g. Excel). BIP has a scheduler (requires access to an oracle database for storing a repository) so that long-running reports (i.e. the sofar-not-converted batch job reports that used to run on the OLTP database) can be run during the night and be ready for the early morning bird at 07 hs.

If you are a DBA with limited experience outside the world of sqlplus and alike, I recommend checking out BIP. Later on when demand for more analyzing tools increases I will dig into some other BI tools, but for a while I will spend time creating more reports in BIP.

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