Global CIO: Oracle Execs Offer Deep Insights Into Company's Soul

Oracle's thinking on MySQL, hardware convergence, infrastructure consolidation, case studies from Home Depot, Toys R Us and RIM, and more.
"Really, the type of customer who uses MySQL is exactly the type of customer who uses Oracle database. By and large, the customers of MySQL are larger enterprises and organizations, the same kind of entities that buy Oracle database, but they just tend to use them each for different purposes. They were always joint customers, and now they can get both products and support from the same place."

3) Screven on the inevitability of Oracle getting into hardware: "Obviously, if we hadn't acquired Sun, or if IBM had been willing to pay 10 cents a share more and they had bought Sun instead, we still would be pushing hard on Exadata. We would have had a lot less arrows in our quiver to make it happen, but because we've acquired Sun, we've added a lot of engineers and a lot of technology that we can put into devices like Exadata.

"We were gonna evolve into a hardware vendor one way or another—and Sun was just a way to really hit the accelerator on that."

4) Fowler on the coming explosion in hardware performance: "You know what I think? I think that the stage we're at right now, we're just rubbing two sticks together. You know how people used to make fire? That's where we're at right now: we're rubbing two sticks together to make fire! I'm telling you, I look at this stuff we're building today and in some ways I think, 'My God, this is so primitive—and on multiple axes!' There's no way that companies should have these multimillion IT staffs just to get the freekin' thing up and running! Would you buy an automobile and than have had to employ a mechanic just to start it the first time? It's some of the things all of us in IT should be embarrassed about, which kinda translates as 'How hard can we make it for people?'

5) Fowler on the need for CIOs to reorganize their teams: "I talk to big companies and ask if the storage IT team reports to the same person as the server IT team? It's sort of amazing to me—you guys have to start thinking about all this together, 'cause it's gonna come to you engineered together, and some of these are very fundamental choices because many companies are organized around best-of-breed technologies that you then go integrate. And whether you're at a manufacturing company or whatever, that's what you're going to start thinking about: is this the best way to do it or not? Those are going to be some pretty wrenching choices because lots of organizations will want to self-perpetuate—the storage organization picks all the storage, so they're not gonna be excited about an engineered system that doesn't need a storage administrator—that's not gonna be a very exciting thing. So at the end of the day it's a people thing."

6) Kurian on more-powerful software being customizable: "As an example, let's take Toys R Us: 11 months of the year they do a certain volume, and then at Christmas they do a totally different volume of business. They have this requirement that says, 'Approvals and logistics and manufacturing processes work one way for one part of the year, but at Christmas season by God everything is expedited. We're gonna cut the approval hierarchy out of the system, we want global inventory visibility because we might be fulfilling orders from different parts of the world which we normally would not do because of expedited shipping and other things.' With today's applications, you'd have to go in and literally yank out the PLC SQL code or ABAP code and modify it. Because of this BPM technology becoming so mature, one of the very powerful things we have provided is the ability to model the processes in the Fusion apps: we ship out of box a set of process models, and then customers can actually bring up this thin-client environment and customize it. Again, you can never, ever get all of the processes for all of the companies delivered out of the box—and the reason isn't that we don't want to do it but rather that every company wants to do it in a way that's adapted to their certain needs. And not only do they want to do it differently but they may want to do it differently for different parts of the world, or differently at different times of the year. And so while everybody wants process-centric applications, that has not been possible until this BPM technology matured."

7) Kurian on the importance of unified views of data: "Each day, Home Depot receives 1 million orders via fax; another million a day through EDI; and they also take orders at point of sale in their stores. We believe that all of these will drive workflow, because when you swipe the thing in the point of sale, you're ticking down inventory in the store. When you go into the electronic EDI, that's ticking down orders in the warehouse. And if you go through fax, they take the fax and digitally scan it, we automatically extract the order amounts and other things from the fax form, and we drive that as well into a transaction system. So from our point of view, system-centric process such as point of sale; human-centric process, such as a data-entry clerk in EDI; and then the document-centric workflow, which is the fax—all need to go through a common infrastructure. Because if you're changing a process—say, expedited shipping—why would you want to change it in three different systems? That's a very very different strategy from what competitors have adopted."

8) Kurian on new challenges in moving and managing massive data volumes: "We run the OLTP system for RIM where they're doing 1.2 million inserts per hour. They want to run reports: who's running what system, how heavily are they used, are they seeing denial-of-service attacks, all these things. They cannot run that directly on the production instance, because the production is so heavily consumed. So first kind of use is, move some of that data off to an online store against which I can do reporting, or take it to a data warehouse/data mart where I can do analysis. A product we have called Golden Gate gives you very very fast data movement and the ability to reconcile data warehouses, data marts, and other systems."

9) Mendelsohn on infrastructure consolidation: In Exadata, "Flash was the key because it let us do very high-performance random I/O's—Flash is much faster than hard disk at doing random I/O's. In one of our Exadata boxes now, we can do a million I/O's per second. If you talk to any of your friends in IT, they'll say, 'Well, my big applications need, maybe, 50,000 or a 100,000 I/O's per second,'—so this million just blows them away. So once we put in the Flash, we could do not only very fast sequential I/O for data warehouse-type workloads, but we could also do huge amounts of random I/O's per second as well. So we can now run any sort of workload with extreme performance.

"The other major thing going on in IT is consolidation—and if you have about a million I/O's per second in this box, then you can run about 50 databases on this one box, not just one, like we were doing with data warehousing. Can save a lot of money—the standard consolidation story."

10) Mendelsohn on 'the mainframe reinvented': Exadata "is really like the mainframe reinvented—if you think about why were mainframes so popular, and are still popular, it's reliability. And why are they reliable? It's because every one is the same. IBM controlled the whole stack of hardware, software, firmware, everything—we're doing the exact same thing here. So at some level we're reinventing mainframes here, except that these are commodity mainframes, they're made out of commodity parts, they're very good price-performance-wise, while IBM's mainframes were very expensive."

Look for lots of fireworks from Oracle at next month's Open World extravaganza: detailed shipping plans for Fusion apps, the expansion of the Exadata franchise into new functional areas, and more. And we'll be analyzing those new plans against the equally big new things coming out before then from IBM, SAP, and Hewlett-Packard.


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GlobalCIO Bob Evans is senior VP and director of InformationWeek's Global CIO unit.

To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page.

For more Global CIO perspectives, check out Global CIO,
or write to Bob at [email protected].

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