Ellison: Oracle Data Hubs Lead to Solid Biz Decisions

By putting "consistent, up-to-date information about your business at your fingertips," data hubs will arm companies with good information and serve as shortcuts to having all data stored centrally in one huge database, Oracle's CEO says in hi

SAN FRANCISCO—You spend $19 a month to get instantaneous information on Iraq or on the U.S. presidential elections through an AOL dialup. Thats cool, but what about getting consistent information on your business, after spending millions on business systems? Thats what Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison asked during his keynote here Wednesday at the Oracle OpenWorld conference.

Ellison proceeded to illustrate Oracles latest technology vision, which incorporates a series of data hubs that will serve as shortcuts to having all data stored centrally in one, huge, centralized database.

"How much did you sell yesterday?" Ellison asked. "How much was in inventory? If it wasnt in inventory, how much will it cost to build? What did I spend yesterday? Who is my best supplier of PCs? Whos got the lowest cost? Who can deliver most quickly? Who has the most returns? Are they configured properly, or do I have to send it back?"

That information, Ellison contends, has been unavailable, as data has existed scattered in bits and pieces throughout an enterprise, spread through hundreds of databases.

"The ideal situation for any business would be to get all corporate data into a single database," Ellison said. "If you could keep all your data in one place, you would have consistent, up-to-date information about your business at your fingertips. Everyone would know where to go to get the information theyd need to make good decisions."

That vision of consolidation on Oracle databases is nothing new, but Oracle, like other technology vendors, has focused in recent years on building applications to automate business processes. The current state of affairs is that processes have been automated along with their applications, such as those from PeopleSoft Inc. or Lawson Software Inc. or any of a score of enterprise applications. The information, though, has not been delivered to people who need it to do their jobs, Ellison said.

This is not a BI (business intelligence) problem, Ellison said. The problem is that underlying data is chopped into little bits and pieces and stored in databases all around the world. BI tools wont be truly useful until all of that information is brought together, he said.

Oracle, of Redwood Shores, Calif., has long preached the idea of consolidation—it was the idea behind Oracle e-Business Suite.

All you have to do, Ellison said, is convert from 6,000 current databases or so and get to one, consolidated database. Oracle itself just completed that process—one that took five years as the huge company slimmed down from thousands of systems to one, global system.

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It took five years for Oracle, which is itself an IT company and which faced problems including inconsistent data formats and the culture shock of managers losing their identity as data warehouse wranglers. How long, then, will such a project take for other, non-IT businesses?

Thats where data hubs come in, Ellison said.

"There must be another way" other than the overwhelming task of consolidating hundreds of databases, Ellison said. The solution, he said, is to move a copy of data to a central data hub, while leaving existing systems where they are as they continue to provide services to application users.

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