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New ML, AI features highlight Oracle Analytics Cloud update

Augmented intelligence and machine learning capabilities feature prominently in the latest Oracle analytics platform update, which the vendor revealed on May 3.

New machine learning tools and enhanced natural language processing capabilities are among the latest additions to Oracle Analytics Cloud.

Tech giant Oracle -- now based in Austin, Texas, after moving its headquarters recently from its longtime base in Redwood City, Calif. -- unveiled the additions, which include 10 new and upgraded features, on Monday during a virtual Oracle Live presentation.

Oracle Analytics Cloud is the business intelligence piece of Oracle's analytics platform -- which also includes Oracle Analytics Server and Oracle Fusion Analytics Warehouse -- and is made up of Oracle's traditional BI reporting tools, self-service BI capabilities, data visualization tools and augmented intelligence capabilities.

Before an overhaul in June 2019 designed to reduce complexity, Oracle's analytics platform consisted of 18 different products.

New machine learning (ML) capabilities in Oracle Analytics Cloud include Machine Learning Explain-Ability, a tool that enables business users to view complete details of how machine learning models calculate predictability to get insight into influencing factors. In addition, Smart Data Preparation is a data profiling engine that scans source data for data quality problems and misuse of sensitive data and offers recommendations for how to fix problems.

Enhanced natural language processing capabilities, meanwhile, include the ability to generate narratives to explain what's happening in a user's data and understand queries in 28 different languages.

Other new AI and ML capabilities include built-in text analytics to extract information from documents, association analytics to determine the co-occurrence of items, and market-basket analysis to assist retailers' sales and marketing efforts.

Together, the AI and ML capabilities will strengthen Oracle customers’ analytics capabilities and are in line with where the analytics market as a whole is headed, according to David Menninger, research director of data and analytics at Ventana Research.

An organization's revenue history is displayed in graph form using Oracle's new Redwood visual experience.
A graph featuring Oracle's new Redwood visual scheme displays an organization's revenue history.

"The use of augmented intelligence and machine learning will continue to grow, and applying AI/ML for sophisticated analytics such as association analysis, market basket analysis and text analytics is one way these techniques can be used," he said. "We also expect that most data and analytics processes will also be enhanced with AI/ML, such as the smart data preparation capabilities included in this release."

This release includes a number of new capabilities that significantly enhance the product.
David MenningerResearch director of data and analytics, Ventana Research

In addition to the new and enhanced AI and ML capabilities, new Oracle Analytics Cloud capabilities include the following:

  • a new user interface called Redwood designed to provide both a visually compelling data experiences and a unified experience across the web and mobile apps;
  • a feature titled Custom-reference Knowledge that recommends data to enrich data sets so organizations can avoid creating duplicate data sets that wind up stored in separate data silos;
  • graph analytics capabilities that enable users to more thoroughly explore the relationships between people and transaction data points stored in Oracle's Autonomous Data Warehouse;
  • custom map analytics capabilities to give users the ability to add map backgrounds and map layers to their data visualizations to analyze, for example, population data or transportation routes; and
  • a new mobile app that enables users to interact with their dashboards and listen to natural language-generated narratives about data to get key information from reports, dashboards and data visualizations while away from their desktop.

Though each of the 10 new and updated features incrementally enhance the capabilities of Oracle Analytics Cloud, together they add up to a significant upgrade, Menninger said.

"With vendors making quarterly or more frequent releases, the industry has generally moved from product revolution to product evolution," he said. "Nonetheless, this release includes a number of new capabilities that significantly enhance the product."

Meanwhile, no single factor was the impetus for all 10 of the new and upgraded capabilities but the majority were motivated by a mix of customer feedback and market trends, according to Joey Fitts, vice president of product strategy for Oracle Analytics.

And all were developed to work in concert with the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) and Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse (ADW).

"The updates allow customers to maximize [previous] investments and capitalize on new capabilities," Fitts said.

The "new capabilities rolling out in OCI and ADW … offer customers the latest set of capabilities for analytics across roles, including business users, data analysts, citizen data scientists and data engineers," he continued.

Beyond what the new capabilities add, Menninger said the latest Oracle Analytics Cloud features are evidence that Oracle is trying to make its analytics platform a priority, something the vendor didn't always do when it had 18 BI products and the platform was difficult for customers to use.

"I’ve been impressed [since the 2019 overhaul], and the customers I’ve spoken with have also been happy with the new product and new approach," he said.

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