Cut databases, Oracle chief says

Governments and businesses must solve "information fragmentation" to truly prosper in the Digital Age, and the solution lies in fewer, larger databases, according to the head of Oracle Corp.

Larry Ellison, Oracle's chairman and chief executive officer, said that most organizational conflict is caused by information fragmentation because "if you can't share information, you can't cooperate."

The best way to remedy the situation is to reduce the number of databases within an agency or company and to have those databases hold more information, Ellison said during his keynote address July 10 at the E-Gov 2001 conference in Washington, D.C.

"We're in the business of selling databases, and you're buying too many of them," Ellison deadpanned to the crowd. "Every year, if you're not reducing the number of databases, you're making data fragmentation worse. You need fewer, larger databases every year."

Oracle currently produces more information management software than any company in the world, three times more than its closest competitor, IBM Corp., and 10 times more than third-place Microsoft Corp., Ellison said.

Ellison used the health care industry as an example. He said that of the $1.5 trillion spent annually in the United States on health care, about $500 billion of that is spent on recordkeeping. He said this problem could be lessened by a national database that contained all Americans' health records and could only be accessed by doctors or other authorized providers. Such a system would only cost about $100 billion, he said.

"The irony is, if you want better information, you have to be willing to spend less," Ellison said, adding that government agencies can quell citizens' concerns by explaining that their records aren't private now anyway.

Ellison said manila folders sitting on metal shelves in a doctor's office could be read by anyone in that office, including teenagers working part-time. But if those records were kept in an Oracle database, the only people that could access them would be those to whom the individual gives permission.

"Manila folders are not private," he said. "In an Oracle database, we guarantee they're absolutely private. It's never happened that an Oracle database has been violated on the Internet."

Besides, he said, "[You] have fabulous privacy right now because most of your records are lost."

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