ORACLEWORLD: Ellison delivers keynote

SAN FRANCISCO – On the last day of OracleWorld here Thursday, Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison gave a solutions based keynote via satellite from Auckland, New Zealand, where he is trying to win the Louis Vuitton Cup yacht race.

Ellison chose what he defined as the three most serious problems facing the IT industry – data fragmentation, software integration and incomplete automation – as the focus for his address to the packed conference hall.

“We are in the business of selling databases and you have bought way too many of them,” he joked. Companies have lots of little databases all over the company and it is very difficult to know where to look for information, he explained. Although he added, tongue in cheek, that this provided fabulous security: if senior management couldn’t find the data, then a hacker most certainly couldn’t.

Oracle is in the process of addressing this problem on the home front. The company had 400 separate databases of customer information, which both drove up its cost and made finding important information next to impossible. “I was paying extra not to know,” Ellison said.

Within the next 12 months Oralce will consolidate all customer information, from product information, pricing and marketing to billing and services, into one database, he said. But “the one has to work…it can’t fail.” Oracle will create a failsafe environment using its own real application clustering technology, where failures are not eliminated but rather tolerated. If one machine goes down, the clustering technology allows for the application to continue running, he said. By moving everything to one database Oracle will save money and increase reliability.

“Typically the largest cost savings would come in an environment where you would have standardized on someone’s stack,” said Warren Shiau, software analyst with IDC Canada in Toronto. “That is what a lot of the Oracle savings are predicated on.”

Software integration, long the bane of IT managers the world over, was Ellison’s next focal point. Oracle does not sell complete business systems, rather technology parts that it requires the customer to put together, he said. Even if a customer chose only Oracle components, the potential number of combinations and permutations of a solution was almost limitless. “Who had ever tested all these components in this exact configuration to make sure it worked?” he asked. “The answer is nobody.”

Oracle’s solution is to create one product for all of its middleware – the Oracle Application Server. Oracle’s goal is for all companies to use the same configuration. Oracle will test the components and when something new is added, Oracle will make sure it works, Ellison said.

“Oracle is a stack vendor and they want to get you into their stack,” Shiau said. “All of the issues between different solutions or pieces in your computing environment…are taken care of if you buy into the idea of standardizing on an Oracle stack,” he said.

Ellison said vendors have also failed in their ability to give users complete automation. Disparate systems would be glued together and called ERP or CRM, but “they haven’t been complete,” he said. The systems were not really plug and play. Companies had to buy them and then hire a consultant to “finish the software for us.”

Companies like SAP had solutions that integrated accounts payable, receivable and the general ledger but the applications, as delivered, didn’t automate the whole system, Ellison said. Oracle solves this with 11i. Prior to its release, Ellison said 85 per cent of Oracle’s customers customized the software, now 85 per cent don’t custom it at all. If there is a missing feature, “we will work with you to put it in the next version.” Let Oracle fix and improve its own software, he said.