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

Author: Christian Screen | | July 28, 2009

Every software tool has its own language and nomenclature that comes along with it.  Most times that language 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)

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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