Wednesday, 16 July 2008

R.I.P. Oracle Reports?

While the Apex vs Forms vs JDeveloper wars rage on (no casualties so far, just bruised egos), there has been another much more silent war where there has been another casuality, though whether the victim is just wounded or dead is uncertain.

Good ol' Oracle Reports has been for a long time brother-at-arms with Oracle Forms. In my opinion Reports is still one of the most sophisticated reporting tools available, purely through its support for matrix reports. It was also an incredibly successful tool in the fact that I'd say nearly all of the Oracle sites I've supported in the last 10 years had Oracle Reports as its main reporting tool. Yet with its antiquated interface, complicated (though sophisticated) layout manager, and dying skill set, it appears Reports as a tool of choice for new developments is definitely over and it's now pushing up the poppies on the IT battlegrounds. When was the last time you saw Oracle Reports at a user group event?

Don't get me wrong, many organisations out there are still using Oracle Reports for legacy systems. Yet it's my belief that for new development organisations are looking (or should be) elsewhere.

Now there are obvious Mark III tanks on the battlefield trundling up (I might as well wear this war metaphor out), such as XML/BI Publisher. XML/BI Publisher has certainly taken a lot of the reporting publicity focus in the last couple of years. However like a tank, the price of XML/BI Publisher seems to put it out of range (get it? ;) of most development teams. Why Oracle has yet made it competitively priced I'm not sure (and by this I mean people don't suck in their breath when they hear the price). Oracle could easily make it cheaper, flood Oracle customers with it, then start to raise the prices and have it as the next Oracle Reports of 2020 (and the associated revenue stream which I'm sure Oracle doesn't care about ;).

Keeping this last point in mind, there are of course other third party tools such as Jasper Reports which many have (reportedly) moved to. It seems to me Oracle is failing to think long term enough here because as customers move off Reports to third party (cheaper?) tools, they're one step closer to not buying Oracle software altogether.

What's your opinion? Is Oracle Reports dead for new development (and even old)? Is XML/BI Publisher a real contender as replacement for Oracle Reports given Publisher's price? What other reporting tools has your organisation adopted in replacement for Oracle Reports?


Noons said...

"What other reporting tools has your organisation adopted in replacement for Oracle Reports?"

Microsoft Report Server: bundled with enterprise edition SQL Server.

See? I keep saying Oracle has gotta come down to earth with their pricing structure: they are in absolute, total, la-la-land.

With the almost demise of Crystal Reports as an enterprise tool in recent years, Oracle lost a golden opportunity to take over with a sensibly priced tool.

Guess who took advantage of that?

Of course I'm talking about Australia, more specifically NSW. I'm sure in Outer Mongolia the situation is quite different.

I do recall pointing out that Fusion et all was a disaster, a long while ago. And being called all sorts of things by folks with no clue of what the market is all about. I guess I was right: even the most ardent supporters of that monolithic mamooth are now openly admitting it's a failure.

Wanna bet the rest of the country will eventually follow from NSW?

I'll be here then, with my memories...

Gary Myers said...

I think a lot of the in-house reports have moved to BI tools, dashboards and screens in general.
I don't hear anyone saying "I want a PDF in my in-tray every Monday."
The bulk paper stuff gets extracted as CSV or XML and an external print shop formats the output, sticks it en envelopes and posts it.
'Fraid I won't miss Oracle Reports. The UI of all those nested boxes always got me frustrated. It could have done with a 3D interface.

Roel said...

While APEX is not a pure reporting tool, I see a lot of customers being very enthusiastic on the Interactive Report functionality. The possibility to adapt the report output on the fly is the strongest plus - not beaten by anything out there (yet)!
Just my 2 cents...

JCFlack said...

I never liked Oracle Reports - the design tool and I never got along. I used to yearn for old SQL*Reports - yes RPT/RPF, but I admit that it couldn't handle images, fonts and other visual design elements.
When I started writing Web PL/SQL applications, first by hand and then generated from Oracle Designer, I started doing all my reports as PL/SQL Server Pages (PSPs). They have a lot of the functionality and design ease of RPT/RPF but can do any visual design that you can do in HTML. Actually, you could have used HTML instead of RPF with RPT to read your database. And I've seen PSPs that output the XML formats for MS Word or MS Excel instead of HTML.
Now that most of my new development is JEE/ADF, I need a new reporting tool. We're looking at Jasper and BIRT.

Simon Haslam said...

Chris - like you I have a lot of respect for Oracle Reports. Fortunately, as an app server admin type, I generally don't have to go near the reports builder which has been neglected really since the Developer/2000 days. I think the reports server itself (including after the java rebuild of chunks of it) is pretty powerful and stable, e.g. I have a couple of customers who produce thousands of PDFs a day out of it. I've found Oracle Support uninterested recently though, even when I've found bugs and suggested fixes.

Like jcflack I've been looking for an alternative but am not convinced Jasper is up to serious enterprise work yet, and find the BIP pricing astonishing. Maybe when BIP is renamed Fusion Publisher (which I think I read somewhere - it may just be speculation!) Oracle will realise the potential market they are missing out on and reduce the price or, for example, bundle it with OAS/FMW Standard Edition. Here's hoping...