Art of BI: Federation in OBIEE. What are you talking about?

Every software tool has its own language and nomenclature that comes along with it.  Most times that language it is plain, makes sense, and ultimately is accepted by the masses. However, sometimes it can be rather esoteric.  Again, this is great for us consultants because we can often appear even smarter than we already are by throwing out some big buzz words that grab our audiences’ attention.

To make a long story short, I was recently asked about integrating Hyperion Essbase with OBIEE for drill-through functionality.  In that conversation I faintly heard a business user mention something about “federating OBIEE”.  With my e-commerce background I immediately thought of federated servers.  I had implemented that infrastructure in the past for high-availability so I know if the faint discussion turned into a key discussion I would have no problem speaking to it.  Unfortunately that mention remained a non-topic.  However, later I thought to myself that that mention of “federating”  could have also been interpreted as a principal technique used in data-warehousing from years past. Anyway…

Just recently I came across a great web tutorial on Oracle by Example that talks about “Federating Essbase and Relational Data Sources in OBIEE”.  At this point, we’ve been doing the integration shown in this tutorial for a good while so this is nothing new to me.  But, there was that buzz word – “Federating”.  After reading the first paragraph of the document I extrapolated that Oracle is basically referring to “federation” as the combination of data sources (seemingly disparate heterogeneous data sources only) through OBIEE modeling.   Furthermore, they have broken the term down into two components, horizontal and vertical.  Here is a brief summary of the two:

  • Horizontal Federation
    • Integrating two or more disparate data source having the same level of granularity joined by one or more conformed dimensions
    • Example: Essbase Sales cube with HR relational database
  • Vertical Federation
    • Integrating two or more disparate data source having different levels of granularity joined by one or more conformed dimensions
    • Example: Essbase Sales cube to relational Sales detail data (drill-through)

Here is a link to the Oracle by Example tutorial: Federating Essbase and Relational Data Sources in Oracle Business Intelligence Suite Enterprise Edition Plus

I’ll be talking to our Oracle Sales reps here in the next few days to see if this term “Federating, Federation, or Federated” is something they are using going forward for this type of integration in the Oracle Roadmap.  I actually like the use of the term.  Let’s see if it will stick or disappear into the cosmos like so many terms in IT that have come before it.

Let me know what you think.

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Christian Screen
Christian is an innovator in analytics and data warehousing design, best practices, and delivery. With more than fifteenyears of decision support and data warehousing with key experiences at Office Depot HQ, Sierra-Cedar, and Capgemini, he oversees the Oracle Analytics Practice which includes the technical development and delivery of Oracle BI collaboration software, data warehouse solutions, Oracle BI/EPM projects, and packaged analytics solutions at Datavail.

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1 thought on “Art of BI: Federation in OBIEE. What are you talking about?”
  1. I don't think you'll get too much useful information from any tool sales rep. The question isn't whether OBI can do federation (that is the reason the product was invented), but whether you should do it or not. Federation in many cases (not all) is indicative of a lacking data architecture. The sales reps will use the old nQuire phrase, "Play the data where it lies" which helps sell software, but doesn't actually do an adequate job of solving business problems.