Oracle is evidently buying Hyperion Software. Much like Gaul, Hyperion can be divided into three parts:
- Budgeting and consolidation applications, descended from the original Hyperion and Pillar.
- Essbase, the definitive MOLAP engine, descended from Arbor Software.
- A business intelligence suite, descended from Brio.
The most important part is budgeting/planning, because it could help Oracle change the rules for application software. But Essbase could be just the nudge Oracle needs to finally renounce its one-server-fits-all dogma.
Despite varying degrees of integrated marketing, planning technology has remained pretty separate from operational applications. I don’t think the reason is UI; Excel-based interfaces work just fine. I also don’t think it’s business process; while I can imagine a lot of ways to screw up operations/planning process integration, I’ve rarely noticed vendors actually making those errors.
Rather, I think the problem is on the data side. “Actual” and “hypothetical” information simply haven’t mixed well. If this diagnosis is correct, Oracle is exactly the right company to finally solve the problem. And the stakes are certainly high enough to get Oracle’s attention — successful application integration could greatly increase market penetration of both the Hyperion and Oracle/Peoplesoft/Siebel product suites.
Essbase, meanwhile, is the definitive MOLAP product. Quite literally “definitive”; Ted Codd’s white paper establishing the OLAP category was commissioned by Arbor. Oracle some years ago acquired the other classic MOLAP product, Express, and painfully integrated it into the core Oracle database; the whole thing has not been much of a success. Microsoft’s separate-server hybrid MOLAP/ROLAP strategy seems to have gone much better.
Essbase sales have been weak recently, and deservedly so. MOLAP’s problem with database explosion produces ridiculous expansion ratios, recent work to lessen the problem notwithstanding. Nonetheless, the Essbase installed base is probably too big and important for Oracle to mess around with (if nothing else, Essbase is the main underpinning for the Hyperion apps). Thus, Oracle may be forced into a multi-server strategy for MOLAP. And if it does that, maybe it will finally offer native XML and well-performing text search as well.
As for Brio: Yet another BI suite? Yawn.