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The Ultimate Guide to Modernize OBIEE And Oracle Analytics Cloud (OAC) With Power BI

Your Key Takeaway

First things first, let’s take a brief look at your key takeaway from this guide!

In this guide, we’ll explore the top business drivers for organizations to modernize OBIEE with Power BI, along with the various options available for the modernization.

Our goal is to help you choose the best path for modernizing OBIEE with Power BI that results in quick wins without expensive re-engineering.

1 Introduction

Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE) and Oracle Analytics Cloud (OAC) are Oracle’s offerings for data visualization needs. OBIEE was one of the most preferred BI data visualization platforms for enterprises before the introduction of Self-service Analytics.

But with the introduction of Self-Service Analytics, OBIEE has lost its crown as the preferred platform for Business Intelligence. The modern visualization tools such as Power BI have outclassed OBIEE in the self-service analytics landscape.

Though Power BI has a clear edge over OBIEE in the self-service game, OBIEE still has the upper hand over Power BI in the data management landscape.

Many organizations using OBIEE are considering switching to a modern visualization tool like Power BI either to replace OBIEE completely or to complement the limitations of OBIEE.

In this guide, we’ll see the top business drivers for organizations to modernize OBIEE with Power BI, along with the various options available to replace or complement OBIEE with Power BI.

Quick info

This guide will walk you through the top business drivers for modernizing OBIEE with Power BI and explore the different options of the modernization.

2 Key Reasons for Modernizing OBIEE

cause and effect

In this section we’ll discuss the four key business drivers for organizations to consider modernizing OBIEE with Power BI:

    Sub-topics shortcut

  1. 2.1. OBIEE’s Limitations in Self-Service Data Visualization
  2. 2.2. Business Users’ Hunger for Self-service
  3. 2.3. Deployment of Modern Viz. Tools in the Analytics Stack
  4. 2.4. ROI of OBIEE to Power BI Transition
  5. Back to all topics

We’ll now see each of these business drivers in detail.

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2.1. OBIEE’s Limitations in Self-Service Data Visualization

limitation

Data visualization is the biggest challenge for OBIEE users. Creating visualizations demand a tonne of technical know-how, and require a longer turnaround time.

Though OBIEE is far better than Power BI in its ability to handle complex schemas, joins, and aggregations, the decision-makers use OBIEE only for Business Intelligence purposes and don’t get to experience the ease of data management it provides.

Further, OBIEE doesn’t provide true self-service capabilities, as the users need the help of IT teams to prepare the data for visualization.

Quick info

One of the key reasons for modernizing OBIEE is its lack of self-service data visualization capabilities.

2.2. Business Users’ Hunger for Self-service

self service data visualization

If you’re a business user relying on OBIEE to derive insights and make decisions, you’ve probably realized that your analytical wings are clipped in the data visualization part.

The process of gaining insights is restricted to tabular reports with basic filters, and a limited set of data visualizations. You’re also unable to perform ad-hoc analytics in OBIEE during unforeseen circumstances.

However, when it comes to your wants, you’re envisaging many visualizations that could potentially uncover critical patterns for deriving in-depth insights that result in a confident decision-making experience.

Therefore, as a business user, you want to replace OBIEE with a self-service data visualization tool like Power BI.

2.3. Deployment of Modern Viz. Tools in the Analytics Stack

technology modernization

When organizations using OBIEE focus on modernizing the technology stack, OBIEE is one of the platforms getting a green signal for replacement or to be complemented with a modern data visualization platform.

OBIEE is seen as a legacy business intelligence platform. Hence, modern visualization platforms like Power BI make their way into the organization’s software stack.

Further, if there is an enterprise-wide adoption to Microsoft Azure stack, Power BI is the preferred data visualization platform as it is inexpensive and offers simple connectivity options to many cloud and on-premise data sources.

2.4. ROI of OBIEE to Power BI Transition

return on investment

Return on Investment (ROI) is another key driver for replacing or complementing OBIEE with Power BI.

The business users of organizations using OBIEE typically spend more time in creating visualizations and a longer waiting time for the data to be prepared by IT teams. This results in delayed and inaccurate decisions.

Further, it is hard to uncover critical data patterns with OBIEE visualizations, and hence the decisions are made with less confidence level.

Now that we have seen the primary business drivers for organizations to modernize OBIEE with Power BI, let’s see the different options to get the modernization done.

3 Options For Modernizing OBIEE With Power BI

When modernizing OBIEE with Power BI, the following three options are available for organizations:

    Sub-topics shortcut

  1. 3.1. Migration from OBIEE to Power BI
  2. 3.2. Manual export/import from OBIEE to Power BI through spreadsheets
  3. 3.3. Connecting Power BI to OBIEE
  4. Back to all topics

The first option is the only option for replacing OBIEE with Power BI, while the other two are for complementing OBIEE’s limitations with Power BI.

Let’s explore each option in detail below.

3.1. Migration From OBIEE To Power BI

bi migration

Currently, there are no tools to automate the migration of OBIEE reports and subject areas to Power BI. The migration from OBIEE to Power BI is therefore a manual process and has its own complexities.

Though migration is preferred by many organizations since it eliminates duplicate BI/Analytics environments, there are many obstacles to reaping the benefits of the migration.

3.1.1. Steps involved in OBIEE to Power BI Migration

step by step

From a bird-eye view, the migration project involves 3 steps:

1. Recreating connectivity to data sources from Power BI – When migrating from OBIEE to Power BI, the primary step is to recreate the connectivity from Power BI to all the data sources involved.

With OBIEE, it is quite easy to handle numerous data sources in the RPD without much hassle. However, recreating the connectivity that was created with decades of efforts in OBIEE in Power BI is cumbersome and often cost-prohibitive.

2. Redeveloping joins and measures in Power BI – After establishing connectivity with the data sources, the IT teams will have to get involved in another duplicated effort – redeveloping the relationships and measures in Power BI.

In OBIEE, managing complex relationships is not difficult. However, that’s not the case with Power BI.

3. Replicating OBIEE Security Framework in Power BI – Replication of the security framework from OBIEE to Power BI is another essential step. Depending on the Power BI plan you’re using you may require additional configurations to replicate the security model.

Upon the successful execution of the above steps, you can redevelop the existing reports in OBIEE. It is also important to enable the users to visualize data in Power BI with a brief training session.

3.1.2. Is migration from Power BI to OBIEE feasible?

Based on the steps involved for the migration project, the feasibility of the migration heavily depends on the number of data sources, the connector costs (if any) for each data source, the complexity of the security framework, and the redevelopment efforts.

The best starting point is to list down the data sources and segregate them into the following buckets based on their connectivity to Power BI:

  1. Power BI’s inbuilt connectors
  2. Off-the-shelf connectors
    • Certified
    • Uncertified
  3. Unique data sources that require inhouse custom connectors

Further, the costs associated with each of the connectors (if any) also have to be taken into account for the migration project.

Pro tip

Start with a project risk assessment if you’re choosing to migrate from OBIEE to Power BI, due to high project cost and timeframe.

Additionally, if you choose to go with an uncertified connector, it is necessary to ensure the connector doesn’t land you into security issues.

Let’s now take a brief look at the potential challenges in the migration project.

3.1.3. Potential Challenges

hurdles

The major challenge to deal with in the migration project is the time and cost constraints.

BI Migration projects are sinkholes when it comes to the total cost and the timeframe for the project. Often the projects overwhelm IT and business teams for several years, cost millions of dollars, and in the end, leave both the business users and IT teams in the dust with frustration and failure.

Quick info

For migrating 1 Subject Area, the approximate cost is $250,000 and the turnaround time is about 6 months.

As a ballpark, it is estimated that migrating OBIEE subject areas to Power BI would cost $250,000 per subject area. Each subject area migration could take up to 6 months.

BI migration projects are complex beasts and the corporate IT landscape is littered with more failures than success. So if you’re looking for creating quick wins or dealing with a stringent IT budget, migration might not be the right choice.

Pro tip

Avoid the migration option if you’re looking to create quick wins, as OBIEE to Power BI migration is a long-term project.

If your organization can handle the costs and time frame involved, migration could be the right choice.

3.1.4. ROI of OBIEE to Power BI Migration

Let’s assume your OBIEE has 10 subject areas.

So the total estimated cost of the project is $2,500,000, at a turnaround time of 5 years.

In the best case, the organization can start reaping the benefits of the migration, at least 5 years from the start of the project.

cost benefit chart of OBIEE to Power BI migration

Figure 1: Cost-benefit analysis of the migration project

As inferred from figure 1, the project risk is very high, as it involves years of effort and costs millions of dollars.

Even if an organization is ready to take this huge risk, the biggest drawback of the migration approach is the users will have to wait for years to visualize data in Power BI.

3.2. Manual Export/Import From OBIEE To Power BI Through Excel

spreadsheet export import

If your organization is using the approach of exporting/importing data from OBIEE to Power BI through spreadsheets for ad-hoc analysis, you seriously need to consider other options as this approach is manual and is highly error-prone and inefficient.

Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of this approach.

    Sub-topics shortcut

  1. 3.2.1. Pros and Cons of Manual Export/Import
  2. 3.2.2. Cost-Benefit Analysis of Manual Export/Import
  3. Back to all topics

3.2.1. Pros and Cons of Manual Export/Import

The only advantage of this manual export/import approach is the ability it gives to analyze OBIEE data without any additional setup. Since there is no setup required, this is a low-risk approach.

But the cons of the approach are multifold. The manual process is cumbersome, error-prone, and expensive due to productivity loss.

Each user typically spends 4 to 5 hours per week in exporting/importing data manually from OBIEE to Power BI and blending that data with other sources. This accounts for an approximate productivity loss of $10,000/user/year.

Quick info

The approximate time spent in manual import/export is 4 to 5 hours/week/user.

Further, the disadvantages include:

  • Inability to visualize real-time data.
  • Limitations in the number of rows available for analysis due to spreadsheet-based constraints.
  • User frustration due to manual efforts.

3.2.2. Cost-Benefit Analysis of Manual Export/Import

Assuming 10 users need to analyze OBIEE data in your organization, the productivity loss is $100,000/year for the organization.

cost benefit chart power bi obiee spreadsheet export import

Figure 2: Cost-benefit analysis of a spreadsheet-based approach

As inferred from figure 2, the costs far outweigh the negligible benefits. Hence, avoiding the manual approach is good for your organization.

Pro tip

Avoid the manual export/import approach as it results in a huge productivity loss of $10,000/year/user.

3.3 Connecting Power BI to OBIEE: The Bimodal Approach

connecting power bi obiee

Due to the challenges involved in migration and manual export/import of data, connecting Power BI to OBIEE in an automated way is the most efficient solution to create quick wins. Let’s now take a detailed view of this approach.

    Sub-topics shortcut

  1. 3.3.1. Top Reasons for the Integration
  2. 3.3.2. Advantages of Bimodal Approach
  3. 3.3.3. Handy Checklist for Connecting Power BI to OBIEE
  4. 3.3.4. Reference Architecture for Connecting Power BI to OBIEE
  5. 3.3.5. Options for Connecting Power BI to OBIEE
  6. Back to all topics

3.3.1. Top Reasons for the Integration

The top 4 reasons for connecting Power BI to OBIEE are:

  1. Reusing the existing assets in OBIEE – By connecting Power BI to OBIEE, the IT teams can successfully leverage the existing OBIEE assets, created with decades of efforts. The IT teams can also create a win-win approach easily for the business users who are in love with the data visualization features of Power BI.
  2. Mashing up OBIEE with other data sources – When connecting Power BI to OBIEE, the users will get the ability to mash-up the OBIEE data with their preferred data sources as needed.
  3. Cost savings – The need to reinvent the wheel for connecting to data sources and recreating aggregations is eliminated. Hence, there will be a huge cost and time savings that can be utilized for other transformational projects.
  4. Avoiding spreadsheet inefficiencies – The need to export/import data from OBIEE to Power BI manually through spreadsheets will be successfully avoided. Hence, the productivity loss of users will also be eliminated.

Quick info

The key reason for connecting Power BI to OBIEE is to complement the data visualization limitations of OBIEE with Power BI.

3.3.2. Advantages of Bimodal Approach

Connecting Power BI to OBIEE provides the opportunity to make the best of both worlds – Power BI and OBIEE in a bimodal approach.

With Power BI, the users can experience self-service analytics and uncover hidden insights much quickly. On the other hand, the IT teams can continue to maintain OBIEE as the single source of truth.

Quick info

The bimodal approach enables your organization to make the best of both worlds – OBIEE and Power BI.

In the bimodal approach, the limitations of one platform are successfully complemented by the other, thus providing organizations using OBIEE with the perfect launchpad to implement enterprise-wide self-service analytics.

3.3.3. Handy Checklist for Connecting Power BI to OBIEE

checklist

Connecting Power BI to OBIEE is the most attractive option for visualizing OBIEE data with Power BI. If you’re choosing this option, you must ensure the connector meets the 9 requirements mentioned below:

  1. Power BI and OBIEE versions compatibility
  2. Ability to connect to both OBIEE Subject Areas and Reports
  3. Retain the existing data relationships and aggregations in OBIEE
  4. Ability to connect to union reports in OBIEE, and reports with complex subqueries
  5. Flexible Power BI Data Connectivity modes – Import and Direct Query
  6. Connect and visualize within the frameworks of Power BI without requiring any additional pre-query setup
  7. Works seamlessly with Power BI Desktop, Power BI Service, and Power BI Report Server Editions
  8. Possible to set up scheduled refresh
  9. Plug and play setup for quick self-service

With this checklist, you will be able to determine the list of must-haves and good-to-haves based on user needs.

Quick info

This checklist will help you foresee the scenarios you may face down the road when connecting Power BI to OBIEE.

This handy checklist will help you foresee and proactively tackle potential challenges down the road.

3.3.4. Reference Architecture for Connecting Power BI to OBIEE

bi connector power bi obiee reference architecture

The best option to connect Power BI to OBIEE is via the ODBC Driver. The above figure represents the reference architecture used by BI Connector, a purpose-built ODBC driver for connecting Power BI to OBIEE.

BI Connector is a Power BI Certified connector for connecting to OBIEE/OAC data sources. It is available in both Desktop and Server editions. The users can set up user DSN or System DSN based on their sharing and collaboration needs.

When connecting Power BI to OBIEE using BI Connector, the authentication happens at the OBIEE end when the DSN is configured. From OBIEE’s view, this authentication is similar to the authentication process in a web browser using a Secure Socket Layer(SSL) enabled HTTPS or HTTP URL. The user can also manage the list of Subject Areas or Reports they want to analyze in Power BI.

The OBIEE authentication will happen in the Power BI end also when connecting to an OBIEE DSN configured using the BI Connector driver. BI Connector supports both Import and Direct Query modes.

Quick info

The reports can be published to Power BI Service or Report Server. BI Connector supports Scheduled Refresh via On-Premise Gateway as well.

The reports can be published to Power BI Service or Report Server. BI Connector supports Scheduled Refresh via On-Premise Gateway as well.

The detailed reference architecture used by BI Connector for connecting Power BI to OBIEE can be accessed here.

3.3.5. Options for Connecting Power BI to OBIEE

different ways

The 3 options available for integrating Power BI to OBIEE are:

  1. Oracle BI Server ODBC Driver
  2. BI Connector
  3. Web Data Connectors

Let’s take a quick look at the connectors available for integrating Power BI with OBIEE.

3.3.5.1 Oracle BI Server ODBC Driver

The Oracle BI Server is an ODBC driver provided by Oracle for setting up DSNs of OBIEE data. Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of the driver.

3.3.5.1.1 Pros and Cons of Oracle BI Server ODBC Driver

The pros of using Oracle BI Server ODBC driver are less – It enables direct connectivity to OBIEE data and helps uncover insights out of OBIEE data using Power BI visuals.

However, the cons are many. The users need complex technical knowledge or assistance to connect. This driver is not as reliable as its performance is poor and getting it to work consistently is difficult.

Pro tip

Ignore the Oracle BI Server ODBC Driver if you can’t expose the key fields in OBIEE RPD in business and presentation layers for each folder/table analyzed in Power BI.

The other major disadvantage is the need for re-engineering in OBIEE. The key fields must be exposed in OBIEE RPD in business and presentation layers for each folder/table that is to be analyzed in Power BI.

cost benefit analysis oracle bi server

Figure 3: Cost-benefit analysis when using Oracle BI Server ODBC Driver

3.3.5.2. BI Connector

BI Connector is a Power BI Certified connector for connecting to OBIEE data sources. The BI Connector is an ODBC-based connector.

bi connector power bi obiee

Figure 4: Plug-and-play connectivity from Power BI to OBIEE using BI Connector

When connecting Power BI to OBIEE through BI Connector, the connector transforms the queries from Power BI into OBIEE queries and fetches the data back to Power BI.

Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of BI Connector.

3.3.5.2.1. Pros and Cons of BI Connector

The pros of BI Connector are multifold. You can experience the best of both worlds – Power BI and OBIEE in a bimodal approach through BI Connector.

BI Connector retains the joins and aggregations in OBIEE Subject Areas and Reports with simple workarounds. It works seamlessly in import and direct query modes, and supports Power BI Desktop, Service, and Report Server editions.

The other major advantages include:

  1. No Power BI/OBIEE version incompatibility issues
  2. Provides the ability to mash-up OBIEE with other data sources
  3. Possible to set up the scheduled refresh of OBIEE data sources via On-Premise Gateway
  4. Connects to Union reports in OBIEE, and reports with subqueries
  5. Creates quick wins without expensive reengineering
  6. 30-day fully-featured free trial

Quick info

BI Connector is trusted by several companies such as McDonalds, Allscripts, McAfee, and more.

The only disadvantage of BI Connector is it has a license fee. The Desktop Edition costs $360 per year per user. The Server Edition license depends on the number of CPU cores in the On-premise Gateway server.

Pro tip

Try BI Connector for connecting Power BI to OBIEE for creating quick wins without expensive re-engineering.

Here’s a simple cost-benefit analysis chart for BI Connector:

cost benefit chart connecting power bi obiee using bi connector

Figure 5: Cost-benefit analysis for connecting Power BI to OBIEE using BI Connector

The figure 5 shows that BI Connector provides the maximum benefits at a minimal cost.

3.3.5.3. Web Data Connectors such as Unify

Web Data Connectors are usually an HTML file that includes JavaScript code for connecting two platforms. Let’s now take a brief look at the pros and cons of web data connectors for connecting Power BI to OBIEE.

3.3.5.3.1. Pros and Cons of Web Data Connectors

The pros of web data connectors are:

  • Connects to predefined queries of OBIEE data via web
  • Retains the joins and aggregations only for the predefined set of data
  • Retains OBIEE security framework (except in Power BI cloud, where security implementations are done manually for all data sources)

Pro tip

Avoid Web Data Connectors if you want to connect to OBIEE via Direct Query mode.

The cons of web data connectors are:

  • Direct query to OBIEE data is not supported
  • Power BI and OBIEE version incompatibility issues. Unlike ODBC APIs, the web data connector interface is not a well-defined interface and the connector often stops working when a new version of Power BI is released.
  • Could not handle union reports or complex reports with subqueries.
  • Web data connectors do not provide the same level of performance as C++ built ODBC drivers.

cost benefit chart web data connectors

Figure 6: Cost-benefit analysis of Web Data Connectors

4 Conclusion

When modernizing OBIEE with Power BI, the best option is to connect Power BI to OBIEE, rather than replacing OBIEE with Power BI.

When connecting Power BI to OBIEE, it is vital to check if the connector works in all possible scenarios provided in the Handy Requirements checklist section. It is good to choose a connector that enables the organization to create quick wins without expensive re-engineering.

Ready to connect Power BI to OBIEE? BI Connector checks all the requirements boxes when it comes to connecting Power BI to OBIEE. Give it a spin and experience the ease of use.

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