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Oracle details warehousing plan

Oracle unveils its data warehousing strategy, tying together the interests of the $7.1 billion software company.

    REDWOOD CITY, California--Playing a new tune as it trumpets upcoming version 8i of its flagship database software, Oracle today unveiled its data warehousing strategy, tying together the interests of company that logged $7.1 billion in revenues last year.

    Updating an languishing initiative launched back in June 1995, the introduction included a variety of products and services to be offered by the Redwood City, California, software maker. Data warehousing refers to analyzing vast stores of customer or other data stored in databases, for purposes of identifying trends that can be used to guide corporate strategies or sales efforts.

    Oracle also revealed it had acquired yet another software company and hinted at its intentions for two firms it picked up last week.

    "The real story is the breadth of our solution," said Gary Bloom, Oracle's executive vice president, systems products. Oracle's portfolio includes its database, business applications, development tools, and consulting.

    Oracle's data warehousing initiative adds a new dimension to the promotion of Oracle 8i database, due to ship by year's end. To date Oracle has emphasized its Internet-friendly features, but today president Ray Lane pointed to the new version's strategic significance for its business.

    Oracle estimates that 35 to 50 percent of its revenue is driven by customers' interest in data warehousing, although the company does not specifically track data warehousing revenue because it shows up as sales of its core database and business application software.

    "We have taken what is probably the last piece of significant revenue and married it to our Internet, networking computing strategy," Lane said.

    Of course, Oracle is not the only database maker mining the data warehousing market. Last week rival Informix, which acquired data warehousing firm Red Brick Systems on October 6, detailed its data warehousing plans. Sybase too has talked up data warehousing.

    The rival initiatives come as analysts see a slowdown in Oracle's revenue from its relational database software. Oracle owns well over half the market in relational database software for large enterprises, in part because competitors Sybase and Informix have stumbled.

    But Oracle faces a challenge from Microsoft for less costly database software running on Windows NT. Oracle officials say they own 35 percent of the NT market to Microsoft's 30 percent, but the latter expects to unveil its new version 7.0 of SQL Server on November 16.

    In addition, the market has softened for Oracle's business applications, which compete against enterprise resource planning (ERP) vendors like SAP, Baan, and PeopleSoft, as corporations turn their attention to Y2K problems.

    Today's announcement included:

  • Release of Warehouse Builder 2.0, Oracle's tool to simplify setting up data warehouses.

  • Release of the 2.0 version of Data Mart Suite, a version of its data warehousing tools designed for mid-sized companies or departments of large enterprises.

  • A standards effort with IBM and Unisys to define a Common Warehouse Metadata protocol. CWM will be submitted to standards body Object Management Group. That effort will compete with a Microsoft effort to rally developers behind its data warehouse interfaces.

  • "Snap-in" connectors to allow Oracle's data warehouse applications to pull data from PeopleSoft and SAP R/3 ERP software. The applications can pull data from Sybase and Informix databases using standard ODBC interfaces, and Oracle has created an "integrator" for partners and corporate developers to create links to other applications.

  • A suite of business intelligence tools, designed for different users within a corporation, to analyze and report the results of data warehousing.

  • Acquisition of meta data software firm One Meaning, formerly Software One, on undisclosed terms. Analysts say One Meaning has been focused on meta data, the equivalent of a card catalog in a library because it provides information about information, for nearly 10 years. It also has had close relationships with Oracle rivals Microsoft and Unisys.

    Today's announcement also put new light on two other recent Oracle acquisitions, including last week's purchase of Graphical Information Systems. GIS has "balanced scorecard" that will be integrated in Oracle applications that analyze results from data warehousing queries.

    Oracle also highlighted its Activa tools, purchased in May from Price Waterhouse, to track corporate costs based on activities, not departments or other standard categories.

    The data warehousing initiative puts major emphasis on services, both from Oracle's new consulting practice in data warehousing and from partners. That is consistent with a trend among business applications firms to emphasize services as product revenues stagnate.

    Lane made something of a mea culpa in terms of Oracle's past marketing of data warehousing.

    "We don't believe data warehousing is just a technology, but we've been selling it that way, and we often don't know how it will be used," he said. "We have more of a resolve to figure it out, but we haven't done that heretofore."

    He said Oracle's challenge will be to identify specific applications and industry sectors that can benefit from data warehousing techniques. He also think revenues from data warehousing can become robust, even though markets for Oracle's core database and ERP software is slowing.

    "Data warehousing is fairly inexpensive relative to a big ERP project," he said. "You can get an early payback."