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At Oracle OpenWorld: Ellison presents vision of data hub

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.- Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has an "information-age answer" to the myriad problems associated with the growing fragmentation of data among disparate enterprise applications. Speaking to a crowd of attendees at this past week's massive Oracle OpenWorld conference, Ellison called the "data hub" the "single most important application" needed to unite islands of information into a "single global instance," and provide organizations with real-time access to "360-degree views of their businesses."

"A single, global database might sound like Nirvana," Ellison told a packed auditorium at San Francisco's Moscone Center where the Oracle show drew an estimated 25,000 attendees, "but we can get there with data hubs."

The data hub is something of a holy grail when it comes to data consolidation. It's a software application that takes information from hundreds of thousands of databases and puts it into a central repository accessible to application users. "Data hubs synchronize whatever systems you have-ERP, CRM, custom or legacy-and get information into the hands of people who need it to move their companies into the Information Age," Ellison said.

Ellison's message is not new; Oracle has been decrying the evils of information fragmentation and touting the benefits of data consolidation for years. The Redwood Shores, Calif.-based company reportedly spent five years consolidating its own customer data into a single, global system. That system, the Oracle Customer Data Hub, unveiled in January 2004, has helped the company expand its profit margins from approximately 20% in the late 1990s to 40% this year, Ellison said.

Oracle's CEO cited the existing global credit database as the most successful hub currently in place, and an inspiration for his company's own data consolidation efforts. "The global credit database is the most integrated database in the world," he said. "It tracks every creditworthy consumer on planet Earth" to provide banks and creditors with access to information they need to make decisions about a customer's creditworthiness.

Oracle is expected to launch a series of specialized data hubs based on its E-Business Suite, including its Product Data Hub (for manufacturers and supply chain companies), a Financial Consolidation Hub (for credit card companies), a Citizen Data Hub (for government), and a Financial Services Account Hub (for the financial services industry).

The Product Data Hub is already shipping, and Charles Phillips, Oracle's president, called it "the hottest product we have" -- but the company offered no shipping dates for the other data hub products.

Phillips said that data hubs fit well into Oracle's larger grid computing strategy, the launch of which dominated last year's conference, when the company rolled out its 10g product line. Grid-computing environments, which combine the compute power of numerous machines, support the single-view architecture, he said.

Ellison agreed. Providing businesses with a single global repository requires a network that scales and won't break or bog down, he said. "The only way I know how to build a system that would scale that much and not break is to build your network on top of a grid instead of on a mainframe," he said. "Don't use large computers, use clusters of low-cost computers that would scale horizontally."

Ellison's enthusiasm for data hubs seemed to know no bounds. At one point during his speech, he asserted that the technology would have prevented the 9-11 terrorist attacks. "As it was, Mohamed Atta passed through international customs saying he was visiting on a holiday, while the police in Broward County, Florida, had an outstanding warrant for his arrest," he said. He suggested that "terrorist data hubs" might emerge as valuable law enforcement tools.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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