APPSWORLD: Shrinking database numbers key to Ellison

SAN DIEGO – Fewer databases are the wave of the future, according to Oracle Corp. chief Larry Ellison, who on Tuesday spoke to delegates of Oracle AppsWorld. Down the road, enterprises will be moving to fewer and fewer databases, and those used will be more inclusive and will have affiliations with global databases, he said.

During keynotes over the last few years, Ellison often referenced a time when he asked one Oracle executive how many employees Oracle had and no one could answer him. At the time Oracle had 97 separate HR databases.

“We had one in Japan…We had one, for God’s sake, in Canada,” he said. Because the information was fragmented across several databases, they could not get a clear picture of their HR numbers. “We were paying extra not to know. It’s much less money to have one database…It’s less money and gives more information.”

Ellison was in a reflective mood as he made mention of the fact that for several years it has been developing on Java, and spoke against vendors still using proprietary languages.

He said the bulk of development for 11i and for future applications will continue to be in open and non-proprietary languages.

A couple of years ago, Ellison reminded the audience at his keynote, he predicted that movement to suite applications would be a coming trend and that the cost of integration would be so high that small kit players would fall out and suite vendors would remain. He concluded that this is one trend still playing out, but nearing its end as the suite players remain dominant.

Even still the costs for implementing huge systems are enormous, and Ellison said it is even more difficult when vendors will not give enterprises a price.

“This is the only industry where we don’t tell you how much (your purchase) will cost. It’s a great deal,” he said.

“Sign here,” he joked, “we’ll fill in the cost later.”

Oracle, he continued, wants to make the costs more predictable and work with their clients to guaranteee and tell them in advance what the cost of ownership will be.

Ellison also noted that cost of infrastructure has come down, in great part thanks to Linux on Intel. All of Oracle’s internal processes run on two Linux machines, according to Ellison.

Warren Shiau, an analyst with IDC Canada in Toronto, said Ellison’s keynote did not have a lot of new information to impart on listeners, and joked that a “kindler, gentler Ellison” could be here to stay.

One point of interest for Shiau was that many of the applications in Oracle’s business are tied very closely to its database.

Oracle Business Intelligence v5, which it unveiled Monday, will run on Oracle’s 9i2 database and Oracle 11i8. Shiau also noted that the stress placed on running everything on one database is part of Oracle’s push for all of its applications.

“A while back Oracle seemed to have to decide, are they an applications company or a database company. I think they decided they are a database company and their applications are add-ons to that. The applications promote sales of the database,” he said.

The database is still priced strongly, Shiau noted, but bringing down the cost of the applications that run on it and tying them together tightly, is a good strategy for Oracle.