Oracles Customer Data Hubs: The Emperor Does Indeed Have Clothes

Opinion: Although response to the new hub technology is mixed, Oracle is taking steps to tailor CDH to a variety of clientele.

Some 14 months ago, Oracle faced the music. As little as the database giant likes the fact that organizations have business applications made by vendors that are not, in fact, itself, it announced technology to cull, clean and enrich data from disparate sources.

As such, in the pre-PeopleSoft merger days of 2004, when it still had to shore up the trading value of its business applications division, Oracle Corp. made its bid for the nascent CDI (customer data integration) market by announcing at AppsWorld its Customer Data Hub.

Oracles CDH is designed to provide a central data store that cleanses and enriches data from a variety of sources, including outside applications.

It consists of the hub itself, which runs on E-Business Suite; Oracles database and its application server; and a separate integration server that enables companies to model and integrate business processes.

Despite the initial flurry of hub hubbub, this is new technology for Oracle. Kinks are to be expected. At least one analyst, however, charges that Oracles CDH is "drawing yawns from serious CDI evaluation teams," unless such teams are at all-Oracle shops.

/zimages/6/28571.gifCEO Larry Ellison described Oracles latest technology vision as a series of data hubs that will serve as shortcuts to having all data stored in one huge, centralized database. Read more here.

Aaron Zornes is chief research officer at The CDI Institute, a CDI research firm. He recently put out an e-mail alert titled, provocatively enough, "Oracle Data Hubs: The Emperor Has No Clothes?"

In that alert, Zornes contends that theres a dearth of success stories or references for CDH. The CDI Institute interviewed more than 10 enterprises that either have CDH in production or are seriously evaluating CDH, but, Zornes writes, the majority of those sites are running on precursor technology, such as Oracle Customers Online, as opposed to running on the current version of the shipping CDH product.

There is, in fact, no formal training available for CDH at Oracle University, Zornes charged—a true enough charge when he made it. Oracle did, however, turn that situation around this week with the introduction of a new, four-day training course for CDH customers in Oracle University.

But, until recently, Oracle offered no formal training and, according to Zornes, had no referenceable customers who are using a current version of the shipping product. Could it be said, then, that there is actually a product there?

"We disagree violently with what [Oracle is] stating and with whats [actually] out there," Zornes said in a recent interview with eWEEK.com. "We love their vision, like we like Siebels, but Oracle wont let us talk to their references. And Siebel has more [references] anyway. … The [Oracle] products been shipping a year now, but everybody I talked to had the pre-product."

Zornes cant drop the names of Oracle customers he spoke with, since his conversations took place outside of official Oracle channels, and customers can get in trouble for such exchanges.

But he makes reference to high-end organizations: "Type A" outfits with IT departments that have enough know-how and gumption to take raw components—such as Oracles TCA (trading community architecture) data model from the e-Business Suite—and to then build their own customer data hub around it.

Next Page: Scalability is a big question mark.