Ellison salutes enterprise computing via the Net

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison on Tuesday discussed his vision for enterprise computing via the Internet, at the same time explaining to customers why the next step in that vision will be just a bit late.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison on Tuesday discussed his vision for enterprise computing via the Internet, at the same time explaining to customers why the next step in that vision will be just a bit late. And while he was addressing users of Oracle applications, Ellison's speech had a distinctly database-driven tone.

Ellison had planned to speak live here at the Oracle Applications User Group conference, but officials said shortly before the speech that he would be unable to attend.

Speaking via satellite from the company's Redwood Shores, Calif., headquarters, Ellison stressed the need for corporations to consolidate databases worldwide into one single database and implement Internet-based applications that anyone in an enterprise can use with little or no training. The goal, he said, is to provide real-time, unified information to customers and employees in a format accessible to all of them.

"We've so dreadfully fragmented our information that we don't know what's going on in our company," Ellison told a crowded but not full room of users at the Orange County Convention Center. "It wasn't so long ago that Microsoft talked about lots of little databases everywhere. This is a really terrible idea."

Ellison said that Oracle itself, which currently operates 70 separate data centers for running its enterprise applications, is using its own software to consolidate information into a central point. Consolidating data, he said, is the first step to effectively implementing collaborative enterprise applications.

"Until we consolidate our data, it's kind of silly to talk about automating global supply chains," he said.

Slipping delivery dates

But customers here were more concerned with delivery dates for the Oracle 11i suite of enterprise resource planning applications and a customer relationship management package -- both of which have slipped from an end-of-year release date to 2000.

Ellison, who said he did not feel that most customers would want to implement applications so close to the year 2000, predicted that 11i will appear in February, while the CRM suite and a key order-management-application will be generally available in April. He said technology slips contributed to the product delays, along with Oracle's desire to pack new features into the applications.

"We decided to sneak in a few more features," he said. "We're constantly making those tradeoffs."

Ellison also stressed the importance of Web-based self-service applications to Oracle's new offering. The applications, he said, will allow employees and customers to control their own business processes and save companies time and money.

In addition, Oracle will soon roll out a My Oracle service portal, which will enable customers to update Oracle on the status of their applications.

"The vast majority of the [11i] system will be self-service," Ellison said.

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