The travelling roadshow that is the Oracle "eBusiness IT Breakout" seminar rolled into Calgary last week. With Oracle and the META Group explaining to Calgary's Oracle customizers how "The Internet Changes Everything."
The seminar itself began with a top Oracle Canada exec. giving a brief introduction, followed by a META Group presenter, and then another Oracle presenter. The seminar then divided into two groups, one a technical seminar and the other a business seminar. The more interesting of the first-half talks was given by Kip Martin of META Group.
META Group is a company out of Stanford, CT and from what I could tell they are some kind of technology think tank. Their customers are corporations that are interested in understanding how technology will help their business. Their job is to advise their clients of "the next big thing" and how to take advantage of it. The presentation they gave was basically about the prevailing trends in eBusiness and how to make it successful for companies coming on-line.
META Group segments the eBusiness market into three sections. The first has the highest awareness, the sell-side market, or the end-consumer market. This includes things like online catalogs, hosting services, and packages. The second, with a large growth potential, is buy-side market. This encompasses the business-to-business selling and the procurement side of things. The third is the supply chain or service chain market. This market address service industries or product oriented industries that involve many different companies contributing to a chain to produce an end product or service.
In order to be successful, META Group stresses the following critical factors of success:
Identify (and measure) quantifiable business objectives. Whether this be an impact on the income statement, broadening into new markets, increased efficiencies, etc. they must be measurable and measured.
Process mapping. Find the areas of the business that could be benefited by using an electronic alternative.
Model/classify the user/customer. Figure out who your typically user is and be able to address their needs. Or be able to present people with customized or directed content.
Market the idea. People need to be sold on the idea.
Historically trends for consumer-driven sites have been storefront or catalog Web sites, credit card information for site usage, and home-grown solutions. The current trends are to either outsourced or commercial commerce packages, custom catalogs and personalized self-services, advanced analytical and site monitoring, real-time settlement, and integration of call centres and legacy systems.
A lot of focus is spent on creating a customer relationship management strategy or building a long-term relationship with your customers so that they will return to your site. To aid in this, you need to understand how customers interact with your company and move them from reactive customer service to proactive customer knowledge.
In the past, the focus was on procurement of materials for the purposes of producing a product and traditionally the non-production procurement like pens, pencils, toilet paper was overlooked. Manual processes built up around phoning, faxing, and mailing was typical. The trend is now to do all procurement over the Web. This includes materials as well as services like security or janitorial. Doing business over the Web allows companies to provide content interchange, enable comparative analysis and decision support, manage logistics, and integrate everything into their ERM systems.
An important technology in this area is XML. XML is predicted to replace the traditional strictly formatted EDI specifications making it possible to integrate all of your disparent data into a flexible standardized format. This will make integration with other companies data much easier than it currently is and provide a consistent method of data presentation without losing flexibility.
I'll summarize all three of the Oracle presentations into one. For the most part they were all the same. They emphasized the role Oracle believes the Internet is playing in the present and future of business and how Oracle fits into the picture. The technical session dealt with how to get your business on to the Web and how Oracle had all the tools to help you.
For the data store, Oracle is promoting their Oracle8i database, interMedia, and the Internet File System (IFS). The database and interMedia will allow you to consolidate all of your information, text, image, audio, video, etc. into the database and allow you to store, manage, and search it. The IFS will provide drag-and-drop capabilities from your Windows desktop into the database as if it were a networked drive. Having your files in the database will allow them to be searched, shared, backed up, versioned, checked in/checked out, etc. As well the database will understand file types and be able to convert your documents automatically into HTML to be viewed with a browser if you do not have an appropriate viewer on your system.
On the content side, Oracle has tools to produce Java (JDeveloper) and complete sites from the database (WebDB). They also provide pre-built applications to integrate into your environment (iStore, iBill, iPay). JDeveloper produces 100% standards compliant Java code and you can use it to build Enterprise JavaBeans 1.0, Java Servlets, Applets, Java Stored Procedures, etc. As well you can use it to integrate with JDBC, SQLJ, and CORBA 2.0. Oracle8i has a Java Virtual Machine built into it so you can run your Java code straight from the database. As well it also has a CORBA-compliant ORB built in supplying things like object naming services. iStore allows you to build a store front and supplies built in catalog handling, shopping carts, credit card transaction processing, etc. iBill is aimed at service companies like telcos and utilities that integrate bill paying to the Web while iPay integrates with banks, cybercash, etc. The final product WebDB lets you create Web sites out of your existing Oracle data. Everything is built and controlled from your Web browser and the complete site-building software is stored in your database. Having your database store everything gives you the security of a real database backups, concurrency control, transaction processing, and security.
So once you have content, how do you serve it up and make it perform and scale? Oracle has products that address all tiers of software. For access anywhere, there is Oracle8i Lite, good for throwing on a laptop, PDA, or soon, a wireless phone. The middle tier is covered by the Oracle Application Server that will support 10,000 users per server and 10 terabytes of data per server. It provides features such as connection management, resource management, cluster support, and dynamic load balancing. For the backend, there's Oracle8i and Oracle Parallel Server (OPS). OPS provides fault tolerance (no single point of failure, handles hardware and software failure), automatic failover, automatic recovery, and on-line maintenance.
Finally Oracle provides tools to support the backend and integrate with other products and technologies. Oracle Enterprise Manager controls and manages the database, Oracle Internet Directory provides LDAP functionality, Oracle Advanced Security integrates SSL, public keys, etc., Oracle XML provides XML parsing facilities, and Oracle Advanced Queuing allows integration into message handling/queuing protocols like IBM's MQSeries.
If you're a neophyte to Oracle products, it's an interesting seminar to see what's going on. If you've kept up with what Oracle's been doing, not much new is presented. iDevelop next week should prove to be more interesting.