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Oracle’s BI Publisher versus Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE): Strengths and Weaknesses
Posted on June 18, 2013
Author: Kirby Lunger, Performance Architects

BI Publisher has long been a companion application to Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE) since the early days of OBIEE version 10g and is now part of the Oracle Business Intelligence Foundation Suite (BIF). This is often a confusing point since BIF is referring to OBIEE and its companion products where OBIEE is referring to Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition itself. That tidbit of clarification aside, BI Publisher is often underutilized in an OBIEE implementation and many times is ignored. While I can’t say I’ve had the most memorable experiences with this tool, it should be considered more often as a viable reporting solution in an Oracle-based BI environment.

Oracle positions the BI Publisher solution as the go-to tool for “pixel-perfect” reporting. If your report requires data to be arranged in a particular way, this is your tool. BI Publisher is delivered in a myriad of Oracle tools under the name “XMLPublisher” and also “BI Publisher” and varies in product version and feature set depending on the products it is bundled with.

For instance, the version that is bundled with Oracle’s Enterprise Business Suite (EBS) Release 12 (R12) is XMLPublisher 5.6.3, whereas the BI Publisher version that is bundled with Oracle Business Intelligence Foundation Suite 11.1.1.7 is 11.1.1.7. We have been told through reliable sources at Oracle Support that the EBS version will soon be listed as 10g. BI Publisher can be purchased in a stand-alone version as well, and the standalone version still tracks with OBIEE’s version number.

BI Publisher’s strengths include:

  • Format output on a form in any way
  • Create custom data models based on any query
  • Provides support for multiple types of output
  • Offers a scheduling tool
  • Allows output bursting (this is the process of generating multiple documents based on a data)
  • Provides lightweight Java j2ee application with a simple architecture
  • Supports multiple authentication protocols and single sign-on methodologies
  • Ubiquitous within the Oracle technology stack
  • Allows true ad-hoc reporting

BI Publisher’s areas for improvement include:

  • Data models can only be leveraged within BI Publisher
  • Multiple data models are created based on any number of SQL statements
  • Only offers primitive prompting and user interfaces
  • Intended mostly for delivered reports (unless served up through OBIEE dashboards)
  • Limited to no user interactivity (unless served up through OBIEE dashboards)

The main takeaway here for me is that BI Publisher is clearly a tool meant for operational reporting and not analytical reporting. You can create reports based on a data mart and deliver analytical reports, but there is no concept of real user interactivity without OBIEE. Unlike OBIEE, which imposes a Kimball methodology in modeling its central model, BI Publisher will let you use any old SQL as the basis for a “data model.” In the hands of non-technical users, this is a recipe for disaster in terms of maintenance costs and overall durability of those reports over time. So BI Publisher is really still a report-based solution for operational-type reporting.

If your organization is upgrading from BRIO, SQR, Oracle Reports, or the like, and you want to just be able to quickly port your reports “as is,” then BI Publisher is for you. It does a great job of allowing you to replicate any report, based on any SQL, with any inputs, and to be able to produce a report just the way it should look.

Author: John McGale, Performance Architects

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