It is a well-established fact that business users are rapidly adopting visual analytics tools like Tableau, Power BI, and Qlik. These tools are easy to learn and offer powerful data analysis capabilities. What they lack is the enterprise data model that exists in legacy BI tools like OBIEE. Companies have invested several million dollars into their enterprise data warehouse and BI tools like OBIEE. However, the business users do not want to use the OBIEE user interface. They want to analyze the corporate warehouse data using Tableau or Power BI. Oracle’s Data Visualization Desktop or Cloud and other efforts by Oracle have failed to close the gap with Tableau and therefore has not been received well by customers.
Given the business requirement to connect Tableau to OBIEE data, organizations have four options:
1. Download from OBIEE to csv or excel and upload to Tableau
2. Connect directly from Tableau to the data warehouse tables
3. Use the native OBIEE ODBC to connect from Tableau to OBIEE
4. Use a purpose-built tool like BI Connector to connect from Tableau to OBIEE
We have already discussed the productivity, usability and security challenges of the first three approaches in earlier blog articles. The choice is clear that a purpose-built tool is the best way to go. At the time of writing, there are only two products which provide a solution to connect from Tableau to OBIEE: BI Connector and a web data connector solution from an OBIEE consulting company.
Here are five things to carefully consider when you evaluate the product to connect from Tableau to OBIEE:
1. Does the Product offer a Secure Live (ODBC) Connection or a Risky Extract Only Web Data Connector option?
A live connection from Tableau to OBIEE allows users to create an interactive ad-hoc visual analysis of OBIEE data. BI Connector is the only solution that provides a live ODBC connection from Tableau to OBIEE. The live connection is available in both Tableau Desktop and Tableau Server. Users can connect live to both OBIEE subject areas and reports.
The live connection to OBIEE is made possible by BI Connector’s patented Analytics to BI integration technology. This technology converts Tableau’s Visual SQL queries to OBIEE queries in real-time. Besides, BI Connector’s patented technology also supports extract option if you need to cache data in Tableau. So, you honestly get the best of both worlds with BI Connector.
On the other hand, the web data connector solution is an extract only option. The web data connection method was built by Tableau for vendors to create solutions that primarily interact with web pages and online spreadsheets. It is not designed to interact with enterprise data warehouses with OBIEE as the front end. The OBIEE data could run into several hundred thousand to several million records. Do you want to extract all of this data from OBIEE into Tableau all the time?
Another critical factor to consider is data governance and security. Extracting OBIEE data into Tableau desktop is a massive security and governance issue. Do you want your sensitive corporate HR, financial or sales data sitting as extracts in users’ laptops? If you are a government, bank, healthcare or educational institution, this is a make or break criteria.
Isn’t it better to interact with OBIEE securely using OBIEE’s security model without the extracting the data every time? We think the answer is clear – use the live query method provided by BI Connector to connect securely to OBIEE data and use the extract option occasionally to improve performance.
2. Is the Product Battle Tested in Customer Environments?
Since releasing v1.0 in Sep 2015, BI Connector has been implemented in several large OBIEE customers including Fortune 500 companies, universities, banks, and government agencies across the globe. We have encountered and successfully handled hundreds of edge cases involving uniquely designed OBIEE RPDs, reports, and security models. As a result, the BI Connector solution is genuinely battle-tested in the real world. Every OBIEE environment, subject area, and report is unique. Therefore, customers should give careful consideration to whether the product is proven and capable of handling unique designs that might exist in production OBIEE environment.
3. Can the Product handle Complex Reports?
Handling complex reports is a significant consideration. Can the solution handle union reports, reports with subquery, a large number of columns and extremely complex calculations?
BI Connector has handled extremely complex reports with several thousand lines of a query at customer implementations. It has been built from the ground-up to connect to a wide range of complex reports efficiently.
4. Do you need to make changes to OBIEE to make the solution work?
With BI Connector the customer IT team need not make any changes to OBIEE for both desktop and server editions. Install the BI Connector on the same machines as Tableau, and you are ready to go. BI teams are very hesitant to make any changes to the OBIEE environment and hence if you want your Tableau to work with OBIEE and make it to production fast, it is best to use a solution which is entirely independent of your OBIEE platform. Customers should check this aspect of the product’s server and desktop editions.
5. What about Power BI?
We see Power BI getting much traction in the market. Chances are some of your departments are already using Power BI because it is readily available with Office365. The requirement to connect from Power BI to OBIEE is going to come to IT sooner rather than later. With BI Connector we have a native Power BI connector to OBIEE which works similar to how it works with Tableau.
If you go with a Tableau specific technology like web data connector then connecting from Power BI in the future is not an option. With BI Connector you just need to procure the Power BI license, activate the license key and you are ready to connect from Power BI to OBIEE.
There you have it, the five key things to consider when you are looking for solutions that connect Tableau to OBIEE. Leading institutions with large OBIEE environments such as the University of Massachusetts carefully evaluated the various options and chose BI Connector as the preferred choice for connecting Tableau to their enterprise OBIEE data warehouse environment.
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