Many business opportunities result from innovative thinking

Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle Corporation, knows how to think outside the box. He was instrumental in promoting the vision of the network computer (NC) and more recently in promoting Raw Iron, an Internet database server. Raw Iron is a fairly naked attempt to bypass Windows NT and other OSs by using a stripped-down OS, a microkernel, running Oracle 8i—oddly reminiscent of the ill-fated database machines of the 1980s. The first implementation of Raw Iron is based on Sun Solaris and should be available by the time you read this. Later, you might see Raw Iron running on versions of Linux and Macintosh OS. Eventually, Oracle 8i will include several startling features including a unified data store based on Oracle's new integrated file system (iFS).

Earlier this year, Ellison announced the formation of a $100 million venture capital fund to support firms offering interesting solutions based on Oracle 8i. What a smart way to encourage third-party vendors, support Oracle, and get a list of technology weaknesses and missing components in Oracle's current product line!

Another innovative announcement from Oracle is Business OnLine. The idea of Oracle Business OnLine (www.oracle.com/businessonline) is to offer Internet-hosted business applications for human resources, accounting, enterprise resource planning (ERP), procurement, and more. Oracle Business OnLine automates clerical tasks and offers more self-service than traditional client/server implementations of Oracle Applications. Oracle Business OnLine hosts Oracle's Release 11 applications for financials, discrete manufacturing, distribution, HR/payroll, project accounting, and self-service, but Business OnLine will be expanding to include Oracle's Front Office applications and select independent software vendor (ISV) partner products. And in April, Oracle launched an updated version of its modular suite of 35 customer relationship management products, Oracle CRM 3i.

The Internet has forced many companies to adapt to a changing marketplace and has created opportunities for new businesses. In January, three startups (When, www.when.com; Jintek, www.scheduleonline.com; and Clockwise, www.jump.com) launched online schedulers and address books. Other free online scheduling and contact management services include PlanetAll, which Amazon.com acquired in August; Appoint.net; and Dataferret. Also, rumors suggest that Microsoft will offer online scheduling.

What does all this innovation have to do with SQL Server? The idea is for you to think outside the box, too.

The Next Big Thing


Rumor is that Microsoft's next big push will be in the arenas of content and knowledge management (KM). Although KM is a broad, ill-defined term, it's basically a special case of data warehousing that relies on database technology.

It's hard to get a handle on how widespread KM implementation is. Such an assessment is like evaluating client/server in its early days. Firms that are implementing KM are reluctant to talk about it for fear of losing competitive advantage. Most of the large consulting firms, whose main product is information, have deployed KM systems, often based on Lotus Notes. Microsoft isn't pushing KM just to sell more SQL Server licenses, but instead is hoping to lock customers into a combined SQL Server/Exchange/Office 2000 solution. Office 2000 is reportedly getting a new workflow automation engine that will feature similarities to complex state-management and state-transition-based events.

Today, you can do a lot with SQL Server's SQL Agent technology. Add SQL Server's full-text indexing to a database or data warehouse, and you're well on your way to building your own KM system.