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How does BI connector compare to native ODBC driver for connecting from Tableau to Oracle BI?

How does BI connector compare to the native ODBC driver that comes with OBIEE?  Why should you use BI connector rather than the OBIEE ODBC driver to connect from Tableau to OBIEE?  These are valid questions asked by some of the BI Architects that we have spoken with.   After learning about the difference between the two and the significant advantages of BI connector which are listed below, they quickly recognize the value of BI connector.

There are four significant technical, cost saving, and time saving differences  why customers prefer BI connector over the native ODBC driver:

1. BI connector does not require any changes to OBIEE.  Native ODBC driver requires extensive changes in OBIEE resulting in significant development time and cost for the organization.    

If you use BI connector to connect from Tableau to OBIEE,  you do not have to make ANY changes to OBIEE.   BI connector will connect Tableau to OBIEE out of the box.

On the other hand, with Native ODBC driver, you need to make extensive changes across all your Subject Areas and Tables that you want to connect from Tableau.  With Native ODBC driver, for each folder/Table that you want to use in Tableau, you need to make changes in OBIEE to expose the key fields in Business Layer and Presentation Layer in OBIEE.   Tableau itself has described the extensive changes that you need to do in OBIEE if you use Native ODBC driver. Imagine the extensive development, testing and deployment effort required to expose key fields across  hundreds of Subject Areas and folders in your OBIEE environment.  In addition, fact tables might not have primary keys. So now, the ETL and database team have to be involved in exposing a key field and populating it for each and every fact table. This is a major project involving multiple IT and business teams to design, build, test and roll out to end users just for connecting from Tableau.  What would be your time, cost, and opportunity cost of making these extensive changes? Compare this mammoth effort to the ease with which you can install BI connector and connect from Tableau to OBIEE in just a few minutes.

2.  BI connector is simple to install and provides reliable connectivity to OBIEE from Tableau.  Native ODBC driver is unreliable, difficult to install, requires manual configuration and still might not work.

Business users with minimal technical knowledge can install BI connector in just a few minutes, connect from Tableau to OBIEE and create stunning reports instantly.  BI connector provides Business users with secure, reliable access to the Subject Areas in OBIEE.

With Native ODBC drive, Tableau often has trouble connecting to the OBIEE. Even if the connection is established and the list of subject areas are shown, it does not allow you to move forward from that. The folders in the subject area do not get exposed to Tableau.   In addition to the changes in OBIEE (from #1), you might have to create and modify the .tdc file in each desktop and Tableau server install. Creating and maintaining .tdc files requires careful manual editing, and there is no support for sharing these files.

In addition, installation of the native ODBC driver requires pre-requisites like Java and .net components. Different versions of OBIEE clients need different pre-requisites.  This makes it difficult for enterprise organizations to install and manage native ODBC drivers.

3. Seamless integration with multiple versions of OBIEE

BI connector works seamlessly with any version of OBIEE including OBIEE 10g, 11g and 12c.  User just needs to install BI connector once in their desktop or server and it works across all OBIEE versions.  BI connector is simple to install and manage from an IT perspective.

The native ODBC driver needs to be installed using client tools installation. This needs to be patched with each release of OBIEE. There are also separate client installations for OBIEE 10g, OBIEE 11g and OBIEE 12c. So if a user needs to connect to OBIEE 11g and 12c then they needs to install multiple client versions and then go through the complex .tdc configuration for each client. Imagine the complexity and cost of supporting this approach for hundreds and thousands of users.

4. Performance Optimizations

Since BI connector is a purpose built application to connect from Tableau to OBIEE, several performance and other optimizations have been built into BI connector. For e.g., BI connector prevents blank queries from running on OBIEE from Tableau. It also provides the capability to limit the number of records that can be extracted from OBIEE. In addition, there are a number of query translations that are built into BI connector which provides Tableau users a seamless experience when they connect to OBIEE.

The native ODBC driver is not a viable option for connecting Tableau to Oracle and poses insurmountable hurdles for both business users and IT organizations.   BI connector, on the other hand, is the only application that brings together the best of Tableau and OBIEE for business users while providing significant time and cost savings to the IT organizations.  It is a win-win for both IT and Business.

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Tags: Integration, OBIEE, ODBC

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