News and Innovation from Oracle UK and Ireland

From Counting herds to Herding Data?

Richard Smith
Senior Vice President, UKII, ECEMEA & South Clusters for Technology

An evolution of the database, from counting crops to self-driving systems  

It was roughly 7000 years ago that Mesopotamians began tracking the yield of their crops, effectively becoming our first data analysts. Today, companies record and manage data in all shapes and sizes, drawing insight from it to work smarter and better serve their customers. The principles have remained the same for millennia, but the rise of AI and autonomous systems have unlocked a new world of opportunity in the zettabytes of information we collect.

How did we get here? How did we get from counting crops, to storing huge volumes of information, to self-driving, self-managing systems?

Let’s take a trip down database memory lane:

  • 5000 BC – Farmers in Mesopotamia begin to track the size of their herds and record their crop yields, giving rise to early accounting principles and written language.
  • 17th century – John Graunt, widely regarded as the father modern statistics, releases the first European writing on the topic, Natural and Political Observations upon the Bills of Mortality
  • Late 19th century – Herman Hollerith invents the first tabulating machine, used to process data for the 1890 US Census. The machine was subsequently adapted by businesses for accounting and inventory control
  • 1980s – Businesses begin looking for ways to store, track, and understand the data they collect, and begin to analyze the information at their disposal to inform their activities  
  • 1990s – Enterprise software becomes powerful enough to support predictive analysis. For the first time, businesses can take a scientific approach to planning and strategizing for the future
  • 2001 – Gartner Analyst Doug Laney outlines the challenges of managing the 3 “Vs” of data – volume, variety and velocity. He argues that all three parameters are expanding, and that simple storage is no longer enough
  • 2008 – Oracle introduces Engineered Systems, giving rise to lightning fast autonomous infrastructure at the same time as companies start to adopt cloud computing on a large scale. Suddenly, IT departments don’t have to hand-build infrastructure piece by piece using disparate solutions from multiple vendors
  • 2012– Artificial Intelligence (AI) enters the mainstream. Companies begin using algorithms to run complex computations on millions of data points in real-time, automating more elements of their operation and changing the way they serve customers
  • 2018 – Understanding that to capitalize on AI, cloud-based systems must be able operate autonomously, Oracle launches the Oracle Autonomous Database, defining a new category of IT. The self-driving, self-securing, and self-repairing system requires no manual intervention.

Autonomous - the way forward 

We’ve come a long way from counting crops and cattle. The days of simply storing information have given way to a digital era, where computer intelligence is baked directly into the data we collect from a growing range of sources.

The groundwork is now being laid for businesses to become full autonomous, with every system and process able to manage, update, repair and secure itself. Just as cloud computing took the datacenter from CAPEX to OPEX, autonomous systems promise to help users do even more with their data, while putting in less effort and costs.

This doesn’t mean people will have no place in the companies going forward. In fact, as our research  suggests, with machines taking on more administrative tasks, employees will be able to dedicate more time and energy to using data strategically, which is where they add the most value.

The Oracle Autonomous Database marks just the beginning of our autonomous journey. Inspired by rising customer demand, we have now taken a major leap forward with the launch of the Oracle Autonomous Database Dedicated service. Using this service, customers can easily move from manually operated on-premise databases to a fully-autonomous and private database, hosted in the Oracle Cloud. 

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