Oracle joins or refashions the information age

Summary:Dan Farber: Oracle President Charles Phillips cites a new era of "information age applications" and rolls out a new corporate tagline--Oracle, the information company.

COMMENTARY -- Oracle OpenWorld opened this week with keynotes from Oracle President Charles Phillips and HP CEO Carly Fiorina. Phillips rolled out Oracle's latest strategic thinking, with the revelation that Oracle is the information company. Certainly, not a unique claim to fame.

Oracle isn't yet trumpeting the new tagline, which perhaps reflects a mental shift from data (database technology) to information (getting business value out of data) as the DNA of the company. "Our entire strategy revolves around information," Phillips said. "Our core competence is around information, managing it in a secure way. It's about looking at data in context."

It's not as if Oracle just discovered that it was in the information business, but you have to wonder how the company came up with such a ponderous, albeit unambiguous, tagline. After all, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison came up with the "unbreakable" software marketing idea. Phillips added to the information theme, citing a new era of "information age applications," which he defined as timely, consistent (a single view of the customer, for example), complete and globally accessible. The notion of the information age is a bit retro or revisionist, given that the electronic information age really started with the telegraph in 1837. More precisely, the digital information age is the full fledged 21st century phenomenon that will play out over the next several decades.

Of course, an example of an information age application is Oracle's E-Business Suite, which has a single, integrated data model across the various components. Basically, Oracle is now presenting itself as a platform of pre-assembled, synchronized components, delivering everything from data management and data integration to forecasting and business intelligence, all in service of turning information into competitive advantage. "We try to engineer out cost and complexity at the factory," Phillips said.

What makes Oracle's platform unique is the notion that all data -- structured or unstrucutured -- should reside in a single database. Given that the vast majority of enterprises have data scattered in silos, Oracle is ramping up its data hub middleware to bridge the integration gap. "[Data hub] is fundamentally a new computer architecture component to get to information age applications with legacy systems. You create a live repository of information that speaks in real time to legacy systems--it's a way to get information in one place to create a single place of record," Phillips said.

Oracle's Customer Data Hub collects customer data from source application (Oracle, PeopleSoft, Siebel, SAP, etc.), and then creates a centralized, master record. The centralized repository is de-duplicated, verified, enhanced and synchronized with source applications. Oracle is prepping several other data hubs, including hubs for product data, citizen data (government hubs), financial consolidation data and financial services accounting data. IBM's DB2 Information Integrator has similar integration capabilities for building a unified view of customers or products, but the composite data is not centralized in a master database.

Whereas Phillip's talked about the information age, data hubs and grids, Carly Fiorina's keynote was more of a high level overview ofthe state of computing and HP's strategy, laced with a liberal dose of executive speak. "Everything we have lived through in the last 25 years is a warm-up act. We are entering the main event of technology, an era where technology will truly transform every aspect of business, government, society, and life . Every process and all content will be transformed from physical and analog to digital, mobile, virtual and personal."

And HP, with its consumer and business divisions and focus on working with partners, is hoping to profit handsomely from the transformation, "linking business processes, applications and infrastructure in seamless and transparent ways to support business strategy and to create higher value."

And don't forget about "turning data into information, information into insight and insight into competitive advantage," and the virtues of the "grid-enabled adaptive enterprise" and the three key ingredients for the future: "Simplicity, agility and value."

Fiorina noted that partnering for HP is done by strategy, choice and DNA, and that HP and Oracle have 88,000 customers in common. She also noted that HP is generating 11 patents per day-- the highest ever for the company apparently demonstrating that innovation is alive and well at HP.

HP and Oracle did announce that they will work together with the resellers who reach smaller customers, jointly develop and certify Oracle software with HP's ProLiant servers, and expand programs for reseller sales, marketing and training.

You can write to me at dan.farber@cnet.com. If you're looking for my commentaries on other IT topics, check out my blog Between the Lines.

Topics: Software

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