Tag Archives: oracle

Webinar Review: Oracle Big Data Cloud, Understanding Business

People at technology startups love to call the industry giants dinosaurs. The analogy fails for a number of reasons. The funniest is that the dinosaurs existed for many millions of years. As the large companies exist now, are the startups are saying the big companies will only disappear if we’re hit by a meteor? Companies became large by filling a need. While many might not be as nimble, their experience, especially in enterprise software, means they often see the needs of the business community while the small companies are focused too much on their “cool” technology.

This week’s Oracle webinar, hosted by the DBTA, was a good example of that. The speakers were Rich Clayton, VP Business Analytics Product Group, and Omri Traub, VP Software Development, and the subject was, no surprise, Oracle Big Data Cloud Service (OBDC. Yeah, I know. Too close to ODBC…). Before we get into the details, people need to be aware that Oracle is fully committed to the cloud, as pointed out in a recent advertorial in Forbes. Oracle is clearly competing with Amazon for enterprise cloud business. Big data is only one part of that.

Rich Clayton began the presentation by pointing towards Thomas Edison’s laboratory as an example of using the ideas from many people to not only invent things but also to figure out how to market those inventions. He brought that directly into the evolution of corporate data labs. The biggest problem, Rich stated, is that that labs are usually only populated by very technical people while they require a broader array of talents. That requirement is one of the data labs principles he defined and one I’ve also described as the missing component of many corporate data labs.DBTA Webinar - Oracle - Principles of the Data Lab

A related problem is that most products are so complex and silo’d that very technical people are needed. At this stage in business intelligence and big data, that’s the horse that needs to be addressed before the broad access cart can move.

Omri Traub then took over for the demonstration portion of the presentation. Unfortunately, he unintentionally proved the point about technical folks missing business needs by the setup he used for the demonstration. The demo was built around an enormous amount of information on New York City taxi information. While manipulating a billion record data set is cool and powerful, he never presented a business message. He pointed to the large volume of data, talked about other data sources he combined, and then played with the data to show correlations.

The problem? Omri, claimed we were gaining insight. Correlations aren’t insight. Understanding how those correlations might impact your business and ideas how to adapt business to meet what you find is insight. Nothing in the demonstration pointed towards insight.

Fortunately, Rich Clayton earlier had given a couple of case studies showing business insight gained by OBDC early customers. It would have been much better if Mr. Traub had focused on one of those cases or something similar.

The best point of the demonstration was when Omri showed how, in the middle of playing with some relationships, he easily incorporated some analysis created by a different person. As mentioned above, collaboration is critical and it looks like Oracle hasn’t limited that to just a marketing message but has worked to make sure that Oracle’s product helps the team. As many companies claim to do that and it was only an overview, your mileage might vary. Make sure when you talk to them to follow through and see whether the collaboration (not to mention the entire product…) meets your needs.

The final section was the Q&A. I’m a marketing person, so I have to be honest and state that it sounded like canned questions they wanted to address, as there was way too much about the full Oracle ecosystem brought into discussion at this point compared to what I’d expect from customers. Still, there was one important point.

A question was asked about what advanced analytics might be added. Mr. Taub had the perfect response. After quickly mentioning that, yes, Oracle was always looking at advanced analytics and how to add them, he made a much more important point. Collobaration is key and OBDC is designed to get business people involved. All analytics need to be added in a usable manner, in a way that is understandable and can be leveraged by more people than just the technical resources.

That is the critical viewpoint that a large, enterprise focused company can bring to BI, the cloud and big data. That’s why it’s foolish to write off the large companies, the ones with expertise in not just technology, but in business and business relationships. They might not move as fast, but they can move to the right places with the right products and the right business messages.

Silwood at BBBT: Understand Packaged Software Metadata

Tuesday saw a rare, mid-week presentation at the BBBT. Silwood Technology, an Ascot, UK, company sent people to Boulder to present their technology. Roland Bullivant, Sales and Marketing Director, and Nick Porter, Technical Director (and a co-founder) were the presenters.

Silwood Safyr is focused on helping IT understand the metadata in their major packaged enterprise systems, primarily from SAP and Oracle with a recent addition of Salesforce. As those familiar with the enterprise application space know, there are a lot of tables in SAP and Oracle and documentation has never been, shall we say, close to perfect. In addition, all customers of those systems customize the applications, thereby making the metadata more difficult to understand. Safyr does a very good job at finding the technical metadata.

Let me make that clear: Technical metadata. The tables, indices and their relations are what is found. That’s extremely valuable, but not the full picture. Business metadata is not managed. I’ll discuss that in more detail below.

The company, as expected from European companies, uses partners rather than direct sales for its primary sales channel. In addition, they OEM white label products through IBM, CA and other firms. All told, Roland Bullivant says that 70% of their customers are via reseller channels. Also as expected, they still remain backline support for those partners.

Metadata Matters

As mentioned above, Safyr captures the database structure metadata. As Roland so succinctly put it, “The older packages weren’t really built with the outside world in mind.” The internal structures aren’t pretty and often aren’t easily accessible. However, that’s not the only difficulty in understanding an enterprise’s data structures.

Salesforce has a much simpler data structure, intentionally created to open the information to the ecosystem of partner applications that then grew up around the application. Still, as Mr. Bullivant pointed out, there are companies in Europe that have 16 or more customized versions in different countries or divisions, so understanding and meshing those disparate systems in order to build a full enterprise data model isn’t easy. That’s where Safyr helps.

But What Metadata?

Silwood Safyr is a great leap forward from having nothing, but there’s still much missing. While they build a data model, there’s not enough intelligence. For instance, they leave it to their users to figure out which tables are production and which are duplicates or other tables used just for performance. Sure, a table with zero rows usually means either a performance table or an unlocked app segment, but that’s left for the user rather than flagging, filtering and indicating any knowledge of the application and data structures.

Also, as mentioned above, there’s no business intelligence (gosh, where’d that word come from?). There’s nothing that lets people understand the business logic of the applications. That’s why this is a pure IT tool. The structures are just described in technical terms, exported to data modeling tools (a requirement for visualization, ERwin was used in the demo but they work with others ) and then left to the analysts to identify all the information need to clarify which tables are needed for which business purpose or customer.

One way to start working on that was indicated in Nick Porter’s demo. He showed that Safyr is good at not just getting table names, but also in accessing descriptive names and other metadata about the tables. That’s information needs to be leveraged to help prepare the results for use by people on the business side of the organization.

Where to Go From Here?

The main hole I see in the business links from the last section: The lack of emphasis on business knowledge. For instance, there’s a comparison function to analyze metadata between databases. However, as it’s purely on a technical level, it’s limited to comparing SAP with SAP and Oracle with Oracle. Given that differences in versions of those products can be significant, I’m not even sure how well that works across major version releases.

Not only do global enterprises have multiple versions of one vendor, they have SAP on one continent, Oracle in another and might acquire a new company that is using Salesforce. That lack of an ability to link business layers means that each package is working in a void and there’s still a lot of work required to build a coherent global picture.

Another part of their growth need is my usual soapbox. When the Silwood team was talking about how they couldn’t figure out why they weren’t growing as fast as they should, Claudia Imhoff beat me to the punch. She mentioned marketing. They’d earlier pointed out they don’t spend much on marketing and she quickly pointed out that’s a problem. This isn’t Field of Dreams, they won’t come just because you build it. Silwood marketing basics are good, with a lack of visible case studies being one hole, but they’re not pushing their message out through the channels.


Silwood Safyr is a good core product to help IT automate the documentation of data models in packaged enterprise software. It’s a product that should be of interest to every large enterprise using complex applications such as those by Oracle and SAP, or even multiple versions of simple databases such as Salesforce. However, there are two things missing.

The most important missing piece in the short term is the marketing necessary to help their resellers better understand benefits both they and the end customer receive, to improve interest in reselling and to shorten sales cycles.

The second is to look long term at where they can grow the business. My suggestion is to better work with business logic within and across applications vendors. That’s the key way they’ll defend their turf against the BI vendors who are slowly moving downstream to more technical data access.

The reason people want to understand data models isn’t out of curiosity, it’s to better understand business. Silwood has a great start in aiding enterprises in improving that understanding.