Exalytics: A game changing BI solution from Oracle

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This year on Oracle Open World, Larry Ellison announced the third member of the Exa* family, the engineered system for business intelligence called the Exalytics. Although the machine itself is presented on stage as a superstar, it is a tiny and small member of the family in relation to his (or hers) big and muscled […]

This year on Oracle Open World, Larry Ellison announced the third member of the Exa* family, the engineered system for business intelligence called the Exalytics. Although the machine itself is presented on stage as a superstar, it is a tiny and small member of the family in relation to his (or hers) big and muscled Exadata and Exalogic relatives. However, its specifications and results presented on OOW are quite spectacular. This machine offers a game changing add-on to the existing Oracle BI foundation, which provides amazing opportunities like “speed of thought analysis” and a “desktop-like experience”.

Directly after the presentation on Sunday a lot of reactions were written on various social media (#oow11, #exalytics). The content was distinctive and ranged from tweets with a high wow-factor until more critical reactions that referenced to the comparable SAP-HANA machine. In this blog I will not provide you with an extended analysis of the product, but I will share my first impression of the capabilities of this new Oracle Exa* member.

What is it?

The Exalytics machine is presented as an engineered system for analysis with the best visual analysis without limits. On top of that Oracle certified the product from day one with the existing Oracle BI application analytics. These are the two main functionalities of this machine:

  • In-Memory Analytics software
  • Interactive Visualization

This functionality is placed upon the existing Oracle BI foundation which means that all existing customer OBI installations can be processed through the Exalytics machine in order to improve performance. The results showed during various sessions on OOW are impressive and shows improvements with factor 5 to 50 and even 100x faster for some reports/analysis.

In-memory Analytics

The software of the Exalytics machine is split up in two parts.
The first part of the in-memory analytics is the TimesTen parallel in-memory database that Oracle bought in 2005. This real-time data management software is used to keep various types of data in-memory. The system has a very intelligent way to track “hot”, “warm” and “other” data and to store this various types of data in the machines various types of storage like DRAM, Flash or Disk. This enables an end-user to do “speed of thought analysis. So the data for analysis is not transported from a storage location were the data warehouse is located but from the 1TB memory of the Exalytics. This can lead to a scenario were the machine creates a full replicated data warehouse in-memory but this is not always necessary. Other scenario’s can be implemented based on intelligent identification of data.
Next to the in-memory software the Exalytics use columnar data compression (as the Exadata and Exalogic already did), parallel queries and high-density virtualization to optimize its performance.
Second part of the In-Memory capabilities is the parallel in-memory Essbase OLAP server. Where the TimesTen software handles the analytical functions within Oracle BI, this part is specially designed for the analytics in Oracle´s leading multi dimensional OLAP software.
Both parts of the In-Memory functionality fit into the slogan of Larry Ellisson during his keynote in which he stated that he wants to “paralyze everything”.
Mark Rittman from RittmanMead created this very clear visualization of the Exalytics machine in relation to OBI.

Interactive Visualization

The in-memory software of the Exalytics machine creates the possibility to extend the existing functionality in Oracle BI. This extension gives an end-user the “desktop-like experience” where he gets instant responsiveness and instant interactivity on his analyses without leaving his workspace. The demonstrations that were given on OOW showed indeed very impressive response times on complex analytics. An end-user can for instance drag and drop new dimensions into existing dashboards and the results pop up in a flash. New “Trellis-graphs” give very detailed visualizations of multi dimensional data analytics. A right mouse click provides contextual actions which give a whole range of new features that help the user with the analysis. The software of the Exalytics provides so-called “heuristic analysis”. This means that the software is always one-step ahead. Take for example a complex dashboard with various analytics for an article. A prompt on this dashboard can help the user with auto completion of the article name “Sony” when “So” is typed. It will not only give the matching name Sony, but it will instantly change the whole dashboard with all the different analysis based on Sony articles. If “Sa” is typed the whole dashboard instantly changes to Samsung. These are just a few new features that are supported by the Exalytics power for BI.

Up and running in days

So this new BI machine seems to fulfill its promise of speed of thought analytics. I was very impressed when I saw the new extensions of the functionality in Oracle BI and the proved results that Oracle presented from beta customers were significant. The machine can be installed, up and running in days because of its single setup. The hardware and software are engineered to work together and therefore times for installation can be reduced.
The Exalytics can be combined with an Exadata machine for database storage and the Exalogic for Applications. Larry Ellisson couldn’t mention it often enough during his keynote that these machines are engineered to work together and will therefore offer extraordinary performance improvements. However I like the fact that this is not necessary, the Exalytics can be installed on every customer using the Oracle BI foundation.
This is a game changing offering and it will provide us with an answer to other software vendors like Qlikview and Spotfire. The machine is not available yet, but I think this is already a valuable add-on to our Oracle BI proposition.

Raymond Verhoef – BI consultant

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