Disappearing databases are key to Ellison

SAN DIEGO – Enterprises are gradually consolidating their databases, and those that remain will be more inclusive and affiliated with global systems, said Oracle Corp. chief Larry Ellison, speaking to delegates at the recent Oracle AppsWorld.

As in previous keynotes, Ellison told the story of how he once asked an Oracle executive how many employees the company had, and no one could answer him. At the time Oracle maintained 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, Oracle could not get a clear picture of its 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 said.

He reminded delegates that Oracle has been developing on Java for several years, and he criticized those vendors still using proprietary languages. The bulk of development for 11i and for future applications will continue to be in open and non-proprietary languages.

Ellison reminded the audience that he predicted the widespread movement to suite applications two years ago, and that the cost of integration would be so high that small kit players would fall out, leaving only suite vendors. He admitted that this is one trend still playing out, but one nearing its end as the suite players remain dominant.

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.”

Ellison also noted that cost of infrastructure has dropped, in great part thanks to cost-savings realized when running 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 “kinder, gentler Ellison” could be here to stay.

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

Oracle Business Intelligence v5, which it unveiled at the beginning of the conference, will run on Oracle’s 9i2 database and Oracle 11i8. Shiau also noted that the stress placed on running everything on one database is behind Oracle’s push for its entire suite of 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.