Can Discoverer "Drake" Replace Discoverer Desktop?
I was working with one of our customers last week who was
looking at implementing the new OracleBI Discoverer 10g, otherwise
known as "Drake". The customer already used Oracle Discoverer
Desktop 3i and had previously looked at upgrading to Oracle
Application Server 9i Discoverer Plus, but had chosen not to upgrade
to this version due to a number of usability issues with the new
version. For anyone unfamiliar with the different versions of
Discoverer, this is Discoverer Desktop, a Windows application:
whilst this is
Application Server 9i Discoverer Plus (10g Release 1 is much the
same) delivered as a java applet
and this is the new OracleBI Discoverer Plus 10.1.2, a.k.a. "Drake",
also a java applet.
When Discoverer 9iAS first came out, the Discoverer Plus version was
positioned by Oracle as being the natural replacement for Discoverer
Desktop. However, many organisations (including our customer) had a
number of issues with Discoverer Plus that meant it couldn't be a
complete replacement for Discoverer Desktop. Whilst the
functionality of Discoverer Plus was quite similar to Discoverer
Desktop (you could author and view reports, swap around dimension
and page items, format tables and crosstabs and produce graphs)
there were a number of things you could do with Desktop that you
couldn't with Plus:
As Discoverer 9iAS Plus used an HTML table to
display cell-level data, there was no mechanism for individually
selecting cells, or blocks of cells, except as rows in the
Because of this use of an HTML table and the lack
of individually selectable cells, there was no facility for
right-clicking on a cell, and then formatting it or drilling to
a different worksheet.
All column rearrangement and formatting had to be
carried out using the worksheet wizard
Printing was via the browser and was hard to
format and fit to a page
The Analysis Bar had gone (again because of the
lack of individually selectable cells and columns)
There was no facility to save workbooks to the
Discoverer Plus did have a number of improvements over Discoverer
Desktop, principally the fact that it was web-based and therefore
needed no client software install, and also the graphing was much
better. However the usability issues and the poor quality printing
usually meant that, even if Discoverer Plus was rolled out, a few
copies of Desktop were still kept installed for the more "demanding"
sets of users.
So, now that OracleBI Discoverer Plus 10.1.2 is available, is it a
suitable replacement for Discoverer Desktop? The short answer is "on
the whole, yes" but let's look in more detail at how it shapes up.
The big, big improvement with Discoverer Plus 10.1.2 is that the
method of displaying cells has been overhauled. Instead of an HTML
table, there's a java applet widget in it's place and it supports
individual cell selection, selection of rows and columns, and
right-clicking on cells and ranges of cells. This new ability to
individually select cells addresses a major part of any issue with
previous versions of Discoverer Plus.
Whereas in Discoverer Plus 9iAS you could just drill to detail
using the column or row headers,
with Discoverer Plus 10.1.2 you can now additionally right-click on
cell and drill to a related item, a facility that our client was
used to using as a way of "mining" into the data.
The fact that you can select individual cells, or columns or
rows, also means that you can format them individually (dispensing
with the column-by-column formatting using 9iAS' worksheet wizard)
The Analysis Bar is available again, albeit in a slightly
The other big improvement with Discoverer Plus 10.1.2 is the
printing support. Printing is now much better and uses a different
java printing mechanism (a PDF driver/filter?) under the covers.
Worksheets can be fitted to a page and do not span across multiple
print pages as they usually did with Discoverer 9iAS.
Cell-level selection and printing were the two big improvements that
impressed our customer. Also, looking now at what's new with
Discoverer Plus 10.1.2, there are a number of improvements on
Discoverer Plus 9iAS and Discoverer Desktop, including:
Support for OLAP as well as relational data sources
Excellent graphing, improved even on Discoverer Plus 9iAS
integration with Oracle Portal
new "Selector Bar", which makes it easy to both add new and
amend the items in a worksheet, and immediately see what
conditions you've put on a worksheet
There were however
still a couple of outstanding issues with Discoverer 10.1.2 that,
whilst not being show-stoppers, would be good if the Discoverer
development team could address in a future release.
Firstly, there is
still no ability to save workbooks to the filesystem. Whilst Oracle
might, at a high level, argue that the filesystem is redundant now
and the database is a more secure, scalable place to put workbooks,
it is still easier to pass around workbooks as .DIS files via email
and the customer has implemented a form of workbook sharing by
putting the workbook files on a fileserver and then granting
permissions to groups of users. They found this easier than
individually granting access to users to workbooks that are stored
in the database, and would miss this feature.
Secondly, although the
quality of graphs in Discoverer Plus 10.1.2 are far better than in
Desktop, you can't drill to related items using the 10.1.2 graph as
you can with Desktop. Also, with Desktop you can drag slices of pie
charts out to highlight a particular dimension value, which you
can't with 10.1.2.
Lastly, and these are
not things that are even present in Discoverer Desktop, but are
found in competing BI tools, it would be nice if you could select
columns or rows and "freeze" these panes, like you can with
Microsoft Excel, and it would be useful if the format of a
particular cell could be based on the value of another cell (as you
get with Express), so that for example the colour of a sales total
cell could be red, green or amber depending on another cell that
contained the performance to target.
So, to go back to our
original question - "Can Discoverer Drake Replace Discoverer
Desktop" - I think the answer now is "Yes", as long as saving
workbooks to the database rather than filesystem is not a problem.
More details on Discoverer Plus and Oracle Business Intelligence 10g
can be found on the