Tuesday Oct 04, 2011

OpenWorld 2011, Retail Perspective Part 1

The big announcements at OpenWorld this year revolved around engineered systems, where software and hardware are optimized to work together.  Larry Ellison kicked off the conference by explaining that Oracle's engineered systems use a "parallel everywhere" approach to squeezing greater performance out of commodity parts. 

Below are six such systems and my thoughts on their applicability to retail:

1. Exadata

There are several retail customers that are running Exadata with great results.  When lots of data is involved, be it analytical or transactional, Exadata increases database performance, reduces storage and electricity costs, and simplifies through server consolidation.  Exadata is perfect for running merchandising, supply chain, and data warehouse/BI applications.

2. Exalogic

Exadata's brother is Exalogic, the middleware machine.  It shares much of the Exadata architecture but instead of focusing on data, its focused on fast application execution.  It does particularly well with Java-based applications like ATG Web Commerce.

3. SPARC SuperCluster

While Exadata specializes in database workloads and Exalogic specializes in middleware workloads, the SPARC SuperCluster is a general-purchase system that handle both well.  Think of the SuperCluster as Exadata and Exalogic merged together in single lower-cost rack running the new SPARC T4 and Solaris 11.  This might be the best solution for mid-tier retailers that can't invest in Exadata and Exalogic separately.

4. Exalytics

When dealing with data, memory is faster than flash which is faster than disk.  Exadata uses a cost-effective approach by using all three types of storage to maximize performance.  Exalytics, on the other hand, is simply focused on speed and therefore memory. It's a specialized BI Machine that uses the TimesTen in-memory database to render very fast analytics "at the speed of thought."  Essbase is also a database option.  This is where real-time analytics and visualization shine.  Retailers running Hyperion and/or OBIEE will benefit from Exalytics.

5. Big Data Appliance

With Twitter generating a billion tweets per week, we are being overwhelmed with data, and more specifically unstructured data.  To help deal with this deluge of data, the Oracle Big Data Appliance includes the necessary hardware and software to acquire, manage, and analyze huge volumes of data.  It includes open-source versions of Hadoop and R, popular choices for big data problems.  Retailers that are serious about collecting social data about their brands, products, and customers will benefit from this solution.

6. Database Appliance

At the low-end, if your database needs don't require Exadata or Exalytics, then the Oracle Database Appliance is the perfect combination of hardware and database in a simple, cost-effective package.  This data center simplification play will likely resonate with smaller mid-tier retailers.

Part 2 will discuss cloud computing.

Thursday Sep 15, 2011

Upcoming Conferences

I bet many of you are just back from the Shop.org Summit today.  I saw some pretty good sessions on the agenda, so I'm sorry I didn't go.  In two weeks ARTS is having its third annual user conference in Orlando.  Topics include mobile, social, cloud, and the use of standards in the retail industry.  I really enjoy this conference because it doesn't involve selling, and its light on marketing fluff.  The attendees come from IT and are only interested in solving real problems.  I'll be presenting on the use of social media in retail, previewing some of the content from our upcoming ARTS Social Blueprint.

The week after is Oracle OpenWorld, starting on October 2nd.  I'll be kicking that conference off with a run at the Bridge-to-Bridge 12K in the morning, then catching the start of the conference later in the afternoon.  Larry Ellison is always entertaining, so I don't want to miss his general sessions.  There will be several new products announced during the week, many of which have applicability to retail.

This year the entertainment is Sting and Tom Petty.  Neither does much for me, so this is the first year I'll be skipping the customer appreciation event. Regardless, if you get an invitation you should definitely attend.  The spectacle of so many people, free food and drinks, and the carnival games is a great experience.  I promise you'll have tons of fun.

As has been the case in past years, the retail sessions will be held in The Palace Hotel a few blocks from the Moscone.  I actually like this arrangement as its much more intimate so people are able to relax and talk.  Ever try finding a place to sit and talk in the Moscone?

There are lots of good retail sessions, so I'll just name a few here:



23821 - General Session: Retail
Mike Webster, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Oracle

Palace Hotel Concert



 38841 - Powering Business Transformation at Morrisons to Build the
Supermarket of Tomorrow
Mike Davies, Senior Vice-President, Wipro Technologies
Gary Barr, CIO, Wm Morrisons Supermarkets

Palace Hotel Concert



23445 – The Next Generation of Cross-Channel Customer Experience
Andrea Morgan-Vandome, Vice President, Retail Strategy and Solution
Marketing, Oracle

Palace Hotel Concert



23816 – Exploring New Technology in Retail
David Dorf, Senior Director of Technology Strategy, Oracle
Leif Larsen, Vice President, Oracle

Palace Hotel Concert



23806 – Retail Analytics and Critical KPIs
John Bible, Senior Director of Insight Analytics, Oracle
Mark Lawrence, Senior Principal Product Manager, Oracle

Palace Hotel Pacific Heights



23818 – Oracle Order Management: How Starbucks' Solution Surpassed Expectations
Karen Metro, Vice President of Business Systems Development, Starbucks
Tanya Trejo, Director of Business Systems Development, Starbucks

Palace Hotel Concert



07442— Improving Market Insight at Outback Steakhouse
Jim Marzoppi , Vice President of Applications, OSI Restaurant Partners
Sal Seno , Senior Manager, Deloitte Consulting LLP
Carla Daniels , Senior Manager, Oracle

Moscone South Room 310

Shameless plug: I haven't started building my OOW presentation yet, but I'm pretty sure its going to revolve around the research we've been doing with mobile and social (surprise!).  The guys from ATG are going to join me and demonstrate some of their omni-channel concepts.  I just hope we can get good networking so the iPad and iPhone stuff works.  Lord knows the AT&T network will be useless.

Hope to see you at one or both of these events.


David Dorf, Sr Director Technology Strategy for Oracle Retail, shares news and ideas about the retail industry with a focus on innovation and emerging technologies.

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