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Oracle BI Cloud Service (BICS) - Future of Oracle Analytical Reporting?

        "How can you get the benefits of an enterprise-class Business Intelligence without the enterprise class costs and infrastructure?" - Oracle's BI Cloud Service is the answer to that question.

          With BICS, Oracle has been continuously striving to bring OBIEE on the cloud along with great cost savings. If that's not enough, BICS ensures faster time to market, immediate availability of latest updates/patches at no extra cost and also mobile ready without additional work. Hence it's a comprehensive solution that makes BICS the future of Oracle Analytical Reporting. 


Let's look at some of the aspects of BICS to understand it better. 

1.      Data:

Data, if present on premise, needs to be ported to Oracle DB cloud service for BICS Reporting. Oracle provides numerous options to achieve this, such as,

                    i. Data Sync Tool can be used to load data from files, JDBC data sources, OTBI, Oracle Service cloud, etc. It can be installed locally in Windows or UNIX machines. Data Sync is especially useful in case of combing data from multiple data sources and scheduling of incremental data loads. Supported databases are Oracle, DB2, Microsoft SQL server, MySQL, Teradata, TimesTen, Greenplum, Hive, Impala, Informix, MongoDB, PostgreSQL, Redshift, Salesforce and Sybase.

                  ii.  SQL developer can also be used to load data from relational databases.

                iii.   PL/SQL scripts, BICS REST API and Oracle Database Cloud Service API can be used for automating the data load process.

2.      Data Modelling:

a.      Modeler on Cloud:

Inside BICS, you have the Modeler tab, where the traditional Star and Snowflake Facts and Dimension model can be created and later published as a subject area for analyses and dashboards. This ensures that BICS is completely on cloud and no installation on client machine is required for repository data modelling and everything required for Analytical Reporting can be achieved using a browser alone.


b.      'Lift and Shift' On Premise Repository(RPD):

On the other hand, Lift & Shift is a feature that enables user to upload RPD built on premise to the BICS, provided there is a DBaaS (DB as a Service) instance available for the RPD to connect on premise. (Currently, Database included with BICS cannot be used for this.) Also, the BI Admin tool used should be or later and RPD must pass consistency check before being uploaded.

The RPD can then be uploaded to BICS using the 'Replace Data Model' option. During the upload process, an option can be selected for the RPD to use the database included with BICS or use the DBaaS used initially for configuring RPD.

Lift & Shift is especially useful in case of migrating from on premise Oracle BI Apps to BICS.


3.      Dashboards and Reports:

BICS Dashboards and Analyses are very similar if not same as that of OBIEE. This ensures familiarity and easy adaptability to self-service cloud for most BI users. In line with Oracle's Cloud first policy, newer visualizations, features. bug-fixes, etc., are made available in BICS on a continuous basis without additional costs or effort.


·         Lift & Shift of WebCatalog

Recently, Oracle has enabled Lift and Shift of OBIEE webcatalog too. This is a simple process provided OBIEE or later is available. Using on premise catalog manager, any '/shared' folder is renamed as '/company_shared' and then Archived. Inside BICS, the Archived file is imported in to a catalog folder and then Unarchived.

Application Roles can also be Lifted and Shifted from on premise OBIEE 12c. Additionally Oracle BI Apps requires connectivity to OLTP (e.g. Siebel, EBS) for variables and initialization blocks and this is achieved using Remote Data Connector (RDC).


Fig 1. Oracle BI on the Cloud

4      Security and Administration

BICS security is completely managed within Oracle without any 3rd party interfaces and ensures highest standard of fine grained data security. Dashboards and analyses can be easily shared by users, yet at the same time recipients will be able to see only what is accessible based on their application roles and access levels.

Since the physical infrastructure related Admin activities are taken care by oracle itself in the Cloud, the BICS Administration is lot more simplified compared to on premise, making it maintenance friendly.


5.      Snapshot Archival:

BICS can be backed up by simply creating a single Snapshot file of latest repository, catalog content and application roles combined. Snapshots can be migrated across different BICS environments (Oracle provides one Pre-Production environment for development/testing along with the Production environment). Since all existing content will be overwritten while restoring using Snapshot, caution is required. Once restored, previously used content cannot be recovered, unless it was backed-up using snapshot. Also, while restoring, all active user sessions will be terminated, hence should preferably be performed during scheduled maintenance window.

Snapshot is useful in case of temporary termination of BICS too, wherein the snapshot file provided by Oracle can be used to restore BICS while renewing subscription later on.



6.      Why BICS?

Some of the Key reasons to consider moving to Cloud BI are,

a.      Lowest Total Cost of Ownership due to,

-          Predictable, Cost Effective Licensing.

-          No additional upgrade/patching costs.

-          Lesser Support and Maintenance required.

b.      If planned well, implementation cost incurred in migrating from on premise to Cloud BI can be recovered in the first year itself.

c.       Faster time to market.

d.      Mobile ready without additional configuration effort.

e.      No additional training required for users familiar with OBIEE Reporting.

f.        Quick Roll out of new charts and features, made available at no additional cost. 

g.      Flexibility to archive and renew subscription later as per requirement.

h.      Lift and Shift can be used to migrate Oracle BI Apps to BICS. Also, in specific scenarios, Lift and Shift can be used to ensure both On-Premise and Cloud BI are in Sync.

i.        Users require only a browser (web client) to access Self Service BI Reporting on the Cloud.

 -  Subramanian S.

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