Oracle banks on e-business to zap economic crisis
By Johannes Simbolon
SINGAPORE (JP): Global database software maker Oracle Corp. has launched a new product to boost business through the Internet in the Asia Pacific region amid the economic crisis.
The region lags behind other parts of the world, particularly Europe and North America, in the number of Internet users, but the company believes electronic business (e-business), or electronic commerce (e-commerce), will establish a strong foothold in the region.
There are 27 million Internet users in the Asia Pacific, compared to 87 million users in the United States and Canada and 34 million in Europe.
Oracle senior vice president for the Asia Pacific Derek Williams said the 20-month-long economic crisis would not stop e- business from growing in the region.
He believed more of the region's businesspeople would realize the effectiveness of the Internet to promote their business expansion and exports in the economic doldrums.
"The traditional definition of markets is fast disappearing. Geographical boundaries are no longer major barriers. The information infrastructure and the Internet add a new dimension to the market," Williams said during a media meeting from March 9 to March 10 to launch the company's latest database software in the region.
Reporters from across the region attended the meeting, which was followed by a three-day exhibition of the new product, Oracle OpenWorld Asia Pacific '99.
The new product package is called Oracle's Internet Platform with the main product named Oracle8i
Oracle said rapid growth in numbers of Internet users required those in business to obtain a highly reliable, scalable and secure database to handle thousands of customers around the clock, seven days a week.
The company claims Oracle8i is the answer.
It said Oracle8i includes many functions to develop and deploy Internet applications and to improve the scalability, performance, availability, manageability and security of data warehouse, transaction processing and electronic commerce applications.
Functions include Oracle JServer which hosts application logic within the database engine.
It also has the Oracle InterMedia function which enables websites owners to manage multimedia contents such that the Web applications can incorporate images, audio, video, text and location information.
Oracle8i is also equipped with the Oracle Internet File System functionality, which makes data that is stored in the Oracle8i servers appear as if it were simply another file system volume in the network.
It also boasts Oracle Partitioning, which stores large tables and indexes in pieces, instead of as one large monolithic object.
Among its other functions is Summary Management, providing a mechanism for storing multiple dimensions and summary calculations of a table. When a query requests a summary of detail records, the query is transparently rewritten to access the stored aggregates, rather than summing the detail records every time.
Oracle8i also provides the Standby Database feature which supports the maintenance of a "shadow" database backup on an alternative machine, possibly at an alternative site.
Company senior vice president of marketing Mark Jarvis claimed during the conference that nine of the 10 world's biggest and best Web sites, including Amazon com. and Yahoo!, use Oracle to handle their huge number of users and information.
He said Amazon com., currently the most popular book retailer on the Internet, demonstrated how a Web-based business could develop to the level that traditional retailers cannot compete.
Amazon allows Internet users to search for any book in print, then use a credit card to order selections.
By connecting its network to publishing companies, bookstores and courier service companies, Amazon will deliver the books ordered by Internet users at the right time.
Jarvis said using Oracle to manage its database enabled Amazon not only to track customer interests and purchases, but also interact with them in a cost-efficient way and create personal profiles about each customer's habits and buying preference.
Company vice president for the Asia Pacific region Paul Burrin noted that electronic business and trading in the Asia Pacific was not yet popular as in Europe and North America. He said it was due to several reasons, including that companies in the region prefer dealing with their business partners face to face.
The strong hierarchy in Asian companies' management also hampers its development, he added.
He noted that Asian firms' cost-consciousness would provide opportunities for the electronic business to grow since business through the Internet would reduce costs.
Today, several e-commerce web services have established themselves in the Asia Pacific, including Singapore-based Advanced Manufacturing On-Line (AMO) and the Asian Sources Group, both of which use Oracle to handle their database systems and queries through the Internet.
AMO runs a website connected to most of the major manufacturing companies across the Asia Pacific, including one Indonesian business unit of Japanese electronic maker Sony Corp.
Interested parties from across the world can order Asian products through AMO's website. AMO then passes the orders to any companies and receives a fee from processing the supply-demand contact.
"By using the Internet, export-oriented companies can promote their products globally the most efficient way," AMO vice president James L. Hetcher.
Oracle managing director for South Asia Loke Soon Choo said Indonesia was behind its neighbors, including Singapore, in developing the electronic business.
"Indonesians have to do that now. Otherwise, people from outside the country will do that for them," Loke said.