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Art of BI: OBIEE, Corda PopChart, and SQL Anywhere – Underrated Third Party Tools

Christian Screen | | December 3, 2009

Searching for some answers to an OBIEE issue a client was having led me through an extremely detailed excursion through the OracleBI andOracleBIData file system folder structures.  I bumped into the folder /OracleBI/Corda50/ which I hadn’t paid much attention to in the past.  This is where things got interesting.  Spelunking through that directory led me to, which low and behold is the owner of the PopChart software technology that OBIEE uses to render its charting graphics – all formats of all charts and graphs.


This PopChart technology is the core reason we have the seemingly superfluous Oracle BI Java Host service that we have all come to love/hate.  It is Java based and clearly fits directly into OBIEE’s infrastructure model.  Okay, so now that you now have that tid-bit in your arsenal, here are few questions that one could ask of their dev skills or conjecturing minds:

  1. Why do the charts that PopChart show on their website look cooler than what OBIEE offers?  Could one download a trial, rip the new PopChart version binaries, and swap them in the /Corda50/ folder?
  2. Why didn’t Oracle throw in the cool Corda mapping chart?  It would beat MapViewer any day.
  3. Is PopChart the engine that we should expect to run graphs/charts in OBIEE 11G?
  4. What licensing deal did Oracle set-up to get Corda PopChart in OBIEE?  It had to be a sweet deal for Corda.

Next up in the third party tool battery is a tool that Oracle BI leverages in a more ancillary fashion, SQLAnywhere.  If you haven’t heard of it before don’t worry, there’s only 10 Million or so copies in use  : ) .  SQLAnywhere is owned by Sybase. And as far as I know, even though Sybase had a stellar year in 2008 they have not yet been acquired by an larger firm like let’s say…Oracle.  Although Oracle did have Sybase on their acquisition list back in 2004 during the PeopleSoft takeover helmed by a younger Ellison.

For those of us that have actually completed a Oracle BI Disconnected Analytics implementation you will immediately know (well, you should) that SQLAnywhere is the database for disconnected analytics.  When installing Disconnected Anlaytics as part of a client tools install you get a folder within the OracleBI folder structure called SQLAnywhere.  I eventually plan on doing a Disconnected Analytics Tutorial just to show how it works from a client’s laptop, using Briefing Books, connecting to a local dashboard, etc in a later post.  BTW, SQLAnywhere looks for a “.db” extension for its database file. Without the .db file there is nothing in that default folder to query.


This post is about more that just rambling tid-bits.  It seeks to gain insight into the inner workings of OBIEE.  Let’s face the facts, the cost per license seat for Corda PopChart and SQLAnywhere are not cheap.  You can look it up yourself.   What’s more interesting is Oracle’s no to long ago purchase of Sun Microsystems who had purchased MySQL not to long before that.  Will MySQL replace Oracle BI’s use of SQLAnywhere?  I belive so.  MySQL is much more widely adopted and it is still open-source.  And, what about Corda PopChart?  We’ll soon see who gets the chart and graphs rendering job in Oracle BI 11G but I suspect that it won’t be Corda.  Why my suspicion? Just look at the screenshots from the upcoming 11G Answers preview and look at the Corda PopCharts website, if they did get the gig, they must have done some custom work which I would have brought in-house if I was Oracle BI development management.  Plus, there are some nice open source graphing tools out there, just do a Google search to find them.


All in all I think 11G will make us re-think what we know about OBIEE.  It is going to give us bloggers a lot more content to write about that’s for sure.


Screenshot for OBIEE 11G

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