What’s New and Exciting with OEID 3.1?

OES

Starting with Oracle Endeca Server the sample data domain is now called Sales History instead of GettingStarted.  The web service numbers have moved from 2 to 3 so any Integrator graphs will need to be updated. There’s a large number of changes to service names, properties and a few EQL changes to be aware of. They’re well documented, but here’s the top 3 changes in OES I would highlight.

There’s now a warm-cache-dd command for Endeca-cmd to preload a dgraph cache which can be very helpful. Especially if you’re preparing for a demo to an executive.

Another big change for OES is the concept of idling data domains that aren’t being queried, and shifting those resources to those that are. Nice efficiency if it works as advertised, but also a nice complement to the warm-cache-dd command.

Newly introduced is the concept of “Collections”, which are containers for attributes and define how OES will index them. I’ll revisit this in a later post, but off hand this seems an odd direction. Grouping attributes into logical groups to support business semantics is one thing, but having to sort attributes into data sets starts to sound a bit like traditional data modeling of entities into columns and tables. I think there are some intriguing possibilities with this, in the meanwhile Base remains a valid collection.

Integrator

Oracle Endeca Information Discovery Integrator is now called “Oracle Endeca Information Discovery Integrator ETL”. So that’s an important change that makes it much simpler and clearer…?

All data being loaded into OES now must have a “collection key” field specified to direct them to the appropriate container in their data domain. As mentioned you can load them all to the “Base” collection if you want, but you have to specify something.

There is a new component called “Language Detector” you can use to detect what language you’re reading in.

There is improved support for Hadoop and Apache Hive. Haven’t tested it to see how well it works but clearly they aren’t neglecting the ever growing popularity of Hadoop.

They’ve introduced the “Oracle Endeca Web Acquisition Toolkit”, which could be a big win for a lot of clients. This provides a GUI interface to access web content where no existing API exists. I give bonus points for this, adding those unstructured data sources is a high value item for analysis and is only increasing in opportunity and return value.

Separately worth noting there is now available an “IKM SQL to Endeca Server” module. This provides a mechanism for writing to Oracle Endeca Server from Oracle Data Integrator 11g instead of the Endeca CloverETL version of Integrator. Oracle has suggested ODI is their strategic long term tool for all data integration so Integrator developers may want to consider familiarizing themselves with ODI. I don’t know if this module is compatible with the most recent ODI version 12c.

Studio

Finally we get to the actual business application. So what’s new here? Well the interface is a bit different, but we’re still conceptually working with Applications.

We now have a Data Source Library that includes the options to select “Oracle BI” & “JDBC”. This appears to provide an alternative source for data for business users to create their own applications against. JDBC connections opens up a number of doors.

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Endeca data domains need to be specified through the Control Panel option “Endeca Servers”.

The import process has been improved for Provisioning Services, including adding the ability to merge two separate data sources together. Data Mashups have been around for other BI tools so filling that gap is good to see. Provides a nice capacity for end users to correlate records from different sources for themselves. Provisioning Services will still present some questions around IT governance and each data load is a one-time effort so there’s little support for updates.  Still a very convenient feature for business users.

There’s a number of general bug fixes. Sorting options are improved, special characters are displayed correctly, browser support is addressed, nothing earth shattering but cumulatively positive. Dragging components around different containers has been resolved which is frankly awesome since that bug was driving me nuts. More nuts at least.

Results Table component has some minor improvements, but this is more important than it sounds since it is a critical component for exploring and extracting data of interest. I didn’t have any hierarchical dimensions to test the Pivot Table with but they both have a non-EQL interface and business users should find them both easy to work with.

The “Add Components” menu has changed. Popular bubbly icons and no longer in folders. I think this makes them generally more intuitive.

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Guided Nav is now called “Available Refinements” and allows users to switch from a custom listing to a default one. Breadcrumbs are now called “Selected Refinements” and looked pretty much identical.  The IFrame component is also very easy to configure, though not every site will support it.

Metrics Bars is now called “Summarization Bar” (Alerts component is also gone).  As with the table components you no longer have access to EQL queries. You’ll need to select from the available attributes and from the aggregation queries they provide (e.g. min, max, avg, etc.). This is geared directly at making that component easier for business users, however all custom EQL work will need to shift entirely to views.

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There’s a Toolbar along the base of the browser window which offers a couple nice features. One of them being the option to select Data Sets. The second is to take a Screen Capture of all the components on the screen (note the little camera icon). They extended that to the “Actions” menu on the components as well so you have the option to “Save Image”.  This should be popular and I’ve had a few clients asking for this very option. The third element on this toolbar is the ability to directly create bookmarks which replaces the Bookmarks component. This toolbar is an elegant improvement.

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The inclusion of Heat Maps to improved mapping components is nice. Heat maps as a form of visualization is popular and an effective means for intuitive information display. This screen capture isn’t the best example but you get the idea.

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Text enrichment can now be applied within Studio (Application Settings..Data Sets menu) rather than solely as part of the ingestion process. This will help empower the business users to apply their subject matter expertise directly. The Extract Terms feature was pretty cool to see exposed in Studio, though I’ll confess I only got an error trying to run it.  Sentiment scoring is still an ingestion phase features, however Whitelist Text Tagging will let business users manage their own term substitution which should allow them much faster reaction to changing business rules.

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The Tag Cloud provides a toggle between cloud & list view. Another nice touch for the people who want to see the data in a more structured sorted order.

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Summary

OEID 3.1 is delivering a nice focus on the business usage of the tool. The changes are not dramatic, but elegant refinements that make the overall user experience much more comfortable. Going from 3.0 to 3.1 might be a tough sell, but from 2.x to 3.1 is definitely compelling.

The top three features I see are firstly the “Oracle Endeca Web Acquisition Toolkit”. I think that will make a big difference to sites wanting to load unstructured data. There’ll still be some work to do during the ingestion but the IAS process was a bit convoluted and not easy for everyone to adopt.

The second big feature is the removal of EQL from all the components. This version is really aimed at improving the ease of use factor for business users. There is still the capability to write custom EQL in views. Although it now becomes largely the domain of the developer it is comforting to know that flexibility is still there. And it’s not such a bad thing if our more casual users can’t risk a typo or a logic errors when they try their hand at writing queries.

The third big feature I see is in those Data Sets (a.k.a. Collections). They’re similar in function to Views, but I’m not entirely sure just how they might be leveraged.  Stay tuned for more information on this, I think they could prove quite valuable.

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