Oracle keeps finger on pulse for top world companies
Oracle is well known for its database software that runs in the background of many of the world's companies.
Microsoft is always called the biggest software company in the world but Oracle is, without doubt, the biggest database software company and the chief executive officer, Larry Ellison, is energetic and does not shy away from saying what he thinks.
Oracle has been quick to realise the importance of the Internet.
Netscape, of course, takes the prize for being there first but Oracle followed quickly.
If anything is to function properly on the Internet then the key is in the design and implementation of the databases that handle the huge amounts of data shuttling back and forth.
Handling such large amounts of information does not simply mean keeping it organised. It means keeping it in a form that is easily accessible and changeable should a future need require a complete reorganisation of the data.
The key to dealing with the Internet and the large amounts of data that accumulates is knowing how to work in groups and organise the collection, distribution and maintenance of such systems in a networked environment.
There are many systems in the world that are still closely tied to the mainframe. These systems were built 20 or 30 years ago and were extremely expensive.
Some companies have been trying to move from a mainframe-based system to what today is called 'Open' or client/server.
This is usually a Unix-based system that can run on almost any of the major Unix boxes that are available today.
What makes this so desirable is the fact that the user is no longer totally dependent on one company.
Another factor that is increasingly attractive for those considering moving to open systems is the fact that it is no longer necessary to have all the software written specifically for one purpose.
Previously, if you had a database to handle names, addresses and telephone numbers, it would be written especially for you.
If, at a later time, you decided it would be a good idea to add age and sex to the database, it would require a tremendous effort.
With today's open systems, changes can be made much more easily.
One should also consider that multimedia is beginning to play a far more important role in how we handle and present data.
As systems become more complex, dealing with them has also had to change.
In particular, how we go about organising and dealing with these systems becomes crucial.
We are in the middle of developing sets of tools that can help us manage these systems. The new model of working with computers, data and the tools we need is based on networking, client/server and open systems.
More and more of the larger systems are combinations of many other systems.
There may be, for example, a backbone of data that resides on an old mainframe computer.
Nothing on this system need necessarily change, but the way in which it is accessed certainly will.
From the mainframe there will be a connection to a Unix system that may well span the globe.
Companies like Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems have set up global networks of Unix machines.
These machines in turn can be accessed with an ordinary PC or Macintosh.
The business side of an organisation may well depend on a Windows-based network for many of its workers while the advertising and artistic side may be on Macintoshs.
The data they access could be on the other side of the world and all of this has to be integrated and work together seamlessly.
Part of this job can be handled by a database company like Oracle with its experience and expertise.
Oracle produces a suite of products that can help in this, beginning with Oracle Developer/2000 and Oracle Designer/2000.
Oracle defines these as follows: 'Designer/2000 supports the modelling of complex systems with business process re-engineering (BPR), analysis, and design diagrammers.
'Developer/2000 empowers organisations with the ability to rapidly and productively build sophisticated systems which scale from workgroup to enterprise.'