One of the sessions I attended at Oracle OpenWorld was titled "Oracle's Strategic OLAP Technologies" and was presented by Ray Roccaforte, SVP, Oracle Database Technologies and John Kopcke, SVP, Oracle EPM Global Business Unit.  The session was all about explaining how Oracle was positioning their Database OLAP Option vs Essbase.  Prior to Oracle's acquisition of Hyperion, these two products competed so it was interesting to see how Oracle was positioning each of them now.

The gist of the presentation was (in Oracle's words) that both are strong products because they have:

– excellent query performance

– fast update

– rich analytical content

– a dimensional model

"Essbase is designed for Line of Business managed Enterprise Performance Management applications.  Oracle OLAP Option is designed for IT managed database summary management and extending the database with analytic content."

Oracle wants to keep selling both these products and they are positioning Essbase for the Line of Business user or the business analyst and Oracle OLAP Option for IT or database user.  Essbase seems to be positioned as the way to do analytics on top of heterogeneous data sources.  The OLAP Option seems to be positioned as the way to do analytics if your data is already in an Oracle database.  Excel is a front end for both Essbase and the OLAP Option.  Performance Management and Fusion Applications are tools to use with Essbase.  The OLAP Option is positioned to be used with SQL tools like those from BOBJ and MicroStrategy.

There is also a good presentation by Dan Vlamis (Vlamis Software Solutions) that explains the differences and position of Oracle OLAP Option vs Oracle Essbase: http://www.vlamis.com/Papers/collab2008-presentation2.pdf.  You can also look here for more from Dan and his colleagues: http://www.vlamis.com/Papers/.