Databases Will Become Larger and Global - Larry Ellison’s Keynote Address - OracleApps World 2003

By Joe Francica

San Diego, CA - January 21, 2003 - Entourage in tow, Larry Ellison strode deliberately on-stage at OracleApps World today and pronounced that in the future "databases will get larger and more inclusive." Sounding the anthem of his company, his went on to say that there will be fewer, but larger databases that support entire supply chains that are shared between multiple organizations.

As an example, Ellison told the audience, "There is one database, if you will, that keeps track of all the financial histories for everyone on planet earth that is credit-worthy.One database.So, when you're in London and you want to buy and expensive watch and all you have with you is a rectangular piece of plastic, you can just give the person a rectangular piece of plastic and they'll give you a $3000 watch." He went on to explain that these "global" databases should, in the information age, extend to many other applications such as personal health and patient records."If we are going to manage credit risk so carefully, we should manage health risk with the same kind of system.We kill lots of people simply because, you fill one prescription at Rite Aid and get 'Drug A'; then you are in the hospital and the hospital pharmacy fills another prescription.Those two different pharmacies used different databases to check for adverse drug interactions.So the hospital pharmacy doesn't check the Rite Aid database and they give you 'Drug B'; you take 'Drug B' and you die...Bummer!" As the crowd at the San Diego Convention Center erupted into laughter, Mr.Ellison's footnote was that it is a "data management problem."

But Ellison sounded defensive as he made his case to the audience in going to an open systems architecture.He was clearly trying to differentiate Oracle from its competitors by emphasizing its Java foundation while criticizing the proprietary languages upon which SAP and PeopleSoft applications are built."Now I'd like to draw a major contrast with our competitors who continue to program in 'old style,' 100% proprietary programming languages. If you want to enhance your SAP system, you use a programming language called ABAP4...we think that is a first or second-generation programming language; its proprietary and its unique to one and only one vendor." Ellison avoided mentioning either IBM or Microsoft as competitors in databases, and Siebel for applications in the context of this open architecture discussion.

But Ellison's most convincing argument of the afternoon centered on integration.The example he focused on was the "promise of Customer Relationship Management (CRM)" that has never materialized because of its lack of integration with financial management, and specifically the connection between sales and billing."The general CRM promise is as follows: 'we will give you a 360-degree view of your customer.We'll tell you about every interaction you have with your customer.That's the promise right on the front page of the Siebel website in CRM.Of course, it is impossible for Siebel CRM system or any CRM system to give you a 360-degree view of your customer...if your customers pay you money.In other words, if your relationship with your customer includes them giving you money...if you have a relationship with your customer where they don't give you money, the CRM system might work just fine!...It is the height of absurdity that the CRM companies say that we'll give you a 360-degree view of your customer except for payment; except for the financial relationship and a few others."

Indeed, as location specialists, our industry should take special note because we have been a remote ends in dealing with anything financial. In fact, this may be the reason why GIS has steadfastly been avoided, by and large, by major businesses and the reason why GIS is still relegated to solely a marketing function or another niche application.Rarely, do we try to link geography with the result of the return that spatial information provides to customer transactions.It is the reason why we have difficulty, as a group of professionals, in proving a sound ROI to our "geographically challenged" friends in the business world.We talk a wonderful game."Find me all of my customer's who spent $100 with XYZ company within a 3-mile radius." Show me the GIS system that is actually tied to the financial backend of a customer's transaction database and I'll show you a CEO who is a spatial thinker.Why do you think all of this wonderful credit card data collected by retailers and tagged with a name and an address is rarely analyzed? I believe it is because the volume of data is too high and it is infrequently viewed spatially.I challenge the GIS vendors to show me the CEO who has their act together with spatial information and I'll do a special interview with him or her.I doubt if they exist.

In closing, Ellison went further to emphasize the globalization of databases to be unified in purpose and scope."Databases will become huge; they will become global; they will become essential for operating our trading communities, our health care systems, our security systems.No longer will it be easy for terrorists to just walk into an airport under their own name, hand over a passport, and we'll say, 'Welcome to American, Mohammad Atta (referring to one of the terrorists responsible for the World Trade Center attacks), when there is a warrant out for his arrest; we just didn't check the right database."

Perhaps from our own geo-centric position, we'll have a single, global spatial database with basic geographic infrastructure information.Let's not miss what Ellison is saying for our own purposes.Using his vision in our context, we would be thinking about a single unified database with roads, utilities, buildings, points of interest, demographics, and imagery, with real-time updates of weather, traffic, etc.- worldwide.Use your own imagination from here.

Published Friday, January 24th, 2003

Written by Joe Francica

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