Oracle Gets Zippy with Financial Services

Oracle's acquisition of TimesTen is a response to growing hunger for low- or no-latency data movement, coming from industries' growing hunger for fast movement of big chunks of data.

What does Oracles intent to purchase zippy-quick TimesTen Inc., with its real-time, in-memory database technology, mean to you?

Plenty, if youre in the financial services industry, if youre looking for real-time access to data for logistics or high-speed transaction support, or if you happen to be the DBMS vendor that was once king of the financials—aka Sybase Inc.

First, a look at what Oracles acquisition says about the push for real-time data. Basically, it reflects the direction in which all the database companies are either heading or will be soon: the ability to provide real-time access to data, whether for BI (business intelligence) or high-speed transaction support.

This is motivated by a number of things. One source is the fire hose of information being spewed from RFID (radio frequency identification) technology.

"One of the things people talk about as a driver in, lets say, inventory management, is the whole RFID thing, and the idea that youll be able to track not just palettes as they come into the warehouse, but also item by item, and youll be able to capture that information so youll know where any item is at any point in time, and you can use this information to make highly intelligent, highly precise decisions about when to send things from, say, a regional warehouse to a store, or when to reorder, at a much more fine-grained level," said Carl Olofson, noted database expert and an analyst with IDC.

To do that, youre dealing with a blizzard of data. Other usages that would require high-speed data access include logistics: the movement of objects through a delivery system. With concerns over soaring gas prices, for example, the optimization of fleets has exploded in importance. With todays gas prices, you just dont want to send half-empty trucks.

And then theres the king of them all: financial services. According to Bob Iati, a partner with The Tabb Group, the past 18 months have seen a focus on volumes of data, data capacities and, probably most importantly, the ability to move data with no or low latency.

The driver in financial services has been, first and foremost, the advance and penetration of advanced electronic trading systems, Iati said. "Theres been considerable take-up in the last 18 months in program trading—black-box trading, generically, where computers are doing more trading than ever before," he said. "The more that technology and programs are relied upon to find and execute on opportunities, the faster the market moves. That has logically turned the focus to data."

Concurrent with that has been a terrific advance in volume over the last four years, caused by the move from a fractional pricing scheme to a decimal pricing scheme. Remember when securities were priced in 16ths of a dollar? The industry has gone to a penny. From 16 price points between dollars, we now have 100 price points.

Next Page: Lifting TimesTens hood.