Oracle: Known Quantity

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2005-07-08 Print this article Print

Oracle shops like the vendor's all-inclusive offerings, though some say its database hits a wall querying huge amounts of data.

Why use Oracle for data warehousing? For many customers, the answer is: Because it's there.

For one thing, true-blue Oracle shops say they have a lower learning curve. "Since we're familiar with Oracle tools and technologies, we didn't want to have to learn a different set of tools," says Kyle Lambert, vice president of information systems at John I. Haas, a producer of hops for beer makers.

In some cases, an Oracle data warehouse is virtually free, according to its customers. The Louisiana Office of Group Benefits, which administers health insurance plans for 250,000 state employees and their dependents, is using Oracle to run its 3-terabyte data warehouse partly because it had already licensed the full suite of software. "I didn't have to buy anything" for the project last year, explains Rizwan Ahmed, the agency's CIO. "We had negotiated a fantastic deal with Oracle."

Moreover, with Oracle supplying a complete set of business intelligence software—including its own reporting and querying tool, Discoverer—there's no finger-pointing if a problem arises, says Camellia Petty, assistant vice president of application systems for Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), which collects music licensing fees. "It helps you with support and not having to work through blame games," she says.

But others say Oracle doesn't hold a candle to the special-purpose Teradata or Netezza systems for massive ad-hoc data crunching. "We never felt Oracle was satisfactory for our data warehousing needs, in terms of performance," says Michael McBride, data architect with American Eagle Outfitters, a clothing retailer that runs a 1.5-trillion-byte Teradata system. With Oracle, he says, at a certain point "you hit a brick wall."

Oracle maintains that its database, if tuned properly and running on recent server hardware, goes head-to-head with any competitor. "We're more than willing to demonstrate our performance with a proof-of-concept," says George Lumpkin, senior director of data warehousing products.

Still, Oracle customers sometimes have to find ways of accommodating long processing jobs. BMI's Petty, for example, sets complex queries that take 30 minutes or more—such as what percentage of country-music fees came from commercial radio in 2004—to run overnight. Says Petty: "We've never had a problem with someone needing a query back faster than that."

Data warehousing

500 Oracle Pkwy.
Redwood Shores, CA 94065
(650) 506-7000


Andy Mendelsohn
Senior VP, Server Technologies
The 21-year Oracle veteran oversees database development and product management. Previously worked at Hewlett-Packard and Esvel, an early relational database software vendor.

Ray Roccaforte
VP, Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing
Heads development of very large databases for data warehousing. Before joining Oracle in 1994, he was a software developer at Hewlett-Packard.

Warehouse Builder software provides extraction, transformation and loading of data into an Oracle database from multiple sources, including IBM and Microsoft databases, for business intelligence applications. Discoverer is an ad-hoc query, reporting and analysis tool with Web-publishing features.
Reference Checks

Broadcast Music Inc.
Camellia Petty
Asst. VP, Application Systems
Project: Music-licensing organization provides 100 employees access through Discoverer to 36 Oracle-based data marts.

Louisiana Office of Group Benefits
Rizwan Ahmed
Project: Agency that administers state employee insurance plans feeds 19 data sources into an Oracle data warehouse to analyze claims and help set premiums for specific procedures.

John I. Haas
Kyle Lambert
Project: Hop grower uses Warehouse Builder to aggregate sales figures and Discoverer to run reports on the data for 120 employees.

Marvin Windows and Doors
Vron Jones
Senior Data Warehouse Analyst
Project: Window and door maker in Warroad, Minn., gives 40 users access to an Oracle data warehouse via Discoverer.

City of Charlotte
Jim Raper
Mgr., Data Administration
Project: North Carolina city uses Warehouse Builder to analyze municipal services (like waste collection) and information-technology service levels.

Denver Public Schools
Kent Graziano
Mgr., Enterprise Data Integration
Project: School district with 72,000 students uses an Oracle data warehouse to run reports, such as tracking absences.

Executives listed here are all users of Oracle's products. Their willingness to talk has been confirmed by Baseline.

Oracle operating results*

2005FYTD 2004FY 2003FY
Revenue $7.92B $10.16B $9.48B
Gross margin 76.6% 77.2% 75.3%
Operating income $2.62B $3.86B $3.44B
Net income $1.86B $2.68B $2.31B
Net margin 23.5% 26.4% 24.3%
Earnings per share $0.36 $0.50 $0.43
R&D expenditure $1.03B $1.28B $1.18B

* Fiscal year ends May 31; FYTD reflects first nine months
Source: company reports

Total assets - $23.77B
Stockholders' equity - $9.87B
Cash and equivalents - $7.22B
Short-term investments - $1.91B
Long-term debt - $159M
Shares outstanding - 5.23B
Market value, 6/27 - $64.27B
**As of Feb. 28, 2005, except as noted


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