The general session of the Hyperion conference here in Orlando is over and ... I like it. This one was light on hype, and pretty much got straight down to business as it was dominated by the presentation of Thomas Kurian who will inherit and run the Hyperion development organization.
First thing first. I've been pretty positive that the merger was a good one, and Hyperion president Godfrey Sullivan communicated that the vision of the two companies was very much aligned. He said that the entire thing went very smoothly and you can be fairly sure that he was straight about it. The whole thing went down in four months and now Hyperion is officially a wholly owned subsidiary of Oracle.
What is very clear here is that Kurian is all business and has a rather deep understanding of the products and their capabilities. But there is a very subtle genius in this acquisition which is going to make a fairly impressive change in the marketplace. But let me give you one piece of background that I discovered yesterday. The Hyperion salesforce is safe. This is a big deal. So it appears to me that Oracle is big enough and healthy enough not to go headlong into 'synergies' and cost cutting and that they probably won't until they have significantly changed the market. Even so there's a whole lot of product to sell, which is the genius. Kurian's product strategy is clear. He's going to a modified Six Sigma business model that boils down to the phrase "Insight into Action". There are going to be vertical suites for all of the major industries, and all of the major products are going to be represented. The secret sauce? Contextual navigation.
You may have heard that before. The whole idea of the Hyperion Portal which died somewhere back in 2000-2002 was all about that. The problem was that even though it was a great idea, nobody with Oracle Financials was going to manage their business from the context of new BI technology. Kurian's emphasis on drilling down to application-level detail and changing assumptions in the ERP and CRM systems shows that this is how customers prefer to manage their operational business. It always has been a difficulty for Hyperion to sell end-to-end, not because of a technical limitation but to a lack of an operational integration story. Those days are over.
It's All System Nine, Baby
Oracle buys System 9 completely. System 9 will be the framework for all of the BPM going forward. It is now recast as Enterprise Performance Management Systems. Before long, everybody will be calling this the Management System. It integrates financial reporting, operational BI and CRM+ERP. The vision is bold, it's sensible, it's workable and it looks damned near inevitable. It's also going to cost a lot of money because all of these systems are going to have a lot of baggage. However, there's a lot of time to work all that out.
But here's my quick sketch on it in terms of emphasis.
- System 9: New Industry Standard
- Planning: Huge win
- Crystal Ball: Big Win
- Hyperion Scorecard: Win
- Hyperion Strategic Planning: Win
- Hyperion FM: Big Fat Win
- Hyperion MDM: Big Fat Win
- Oracle BI EE: Big Win
- Oracle Alerts: Big Win
- Oracle BI Packaged Apps: New Industry Standard
- Hyperion EIS
- Hyperion Essbase
In the new era that's coming, all of the analytics from every cross-platform thing is going to trickle up through System 9. All that's left is to figure out a new Semantic Layer and Oracle BI Foundation. This is where it gets muddy. Obviously Essbase is the keystone of all of the Hyperion Applications today. But at the enterprise level, you don't care about any of that in terms of presenting the solution to customers. Depending upon how smart Oracle gets in that Semantic Layer (dimensions, hierarchies, metrics, calculations.. etc) pipes through to the BI Foundation can go any which way. In this regard, sure we'll be serving up multidimensional models for analysis and reporting, but they won't necessarily be optimized for Essbase. But that will all be internal to the new development group. I have a lot of confidence that Essbase won't be going away as a product, but in the context of EPMS, it's just a small fraction.
Basically the number of integrated applications available has just skyrocketed. Making all of it work together is going to be a lot quicker and smoother than most people imagine and making sense of the products is going to be less complicated than I thought. The big vision works, the integration is on a fast track, this train is moving.
Why Essbase Looks Muddy
The architectural look of this whole new stack boils down to something fairly straightforward. All of the major Hyperion apps work through a middle tier which is a combination of a relational repository, a Java server and one or more Essbase Cubes. But once the semantic layer is muscled out, you may be able to swap Essbase out for Oracle. That's going to take years, and lots of extentions to OWB, but systems like Star Analytics' SIS could facilitate all that. Now that Oracle owns Essbase, we'll find out price/performance wise if that's a good direction to head, but I'm convinced that the two companies are going with the market leading technologies as a guide. I don't know if Express is behind Oracle BI EE, but Kurian was talking about Essbase as a source on the same level as Hyperion IR and Oracle BI EE. Meaning that pure Essbase apps may be just considered point BI solutions which don't play a major role in the EPMS world going forward.
So I conclude that Oracle is putting behemoth resources behind this. Their combined R&D with Hyperion's, which was no joke, is going to put huge pressures on everybody else in the space. The story already works and already looks architecturally sound. With the combined customer base, the possibilities are very broad and deep.