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Interview with Oracle Corporation

In this issue of EOMAG, EARSC will have the privilege to feature an interview with Mr. Jean-Claude Michaca from ORACLE Corporation.

Oracle is the world leader in Information Infrastructure, Data Management, Sharing and Securing Information, it has about 15.2 B$ turnover and more than 56,133 employees (FY2005). Which is nowadays the business model in looking forward to establishing partnerships with the Earth Observation and Geo-information sectors?
Oracle is the world‘s largest enterprise software company and the uncontested leader in Information management. Oracle‘s business is information, how to manage it, use it, share it, protect it. For a successful launch, GMES requires a wide scope of technologies and applications such as Data Integration and normalization, Spatial content, Business Analytics and more. Oracle is the only company that can provide all the elements of this puzzle needed to run such a Platform while guaranteeing the scalability and performance
For introduction, could you briefly describe the current responsibilities of your Unit?
The international Account sales division was created 3 years ago to manage customer who need a consistent interaction with us throughout Europe Middle East and Africa. Within that group we have also the mandate to look after the large European and International Infrastructure projects such as Galileo, GMES, GAIA, SESAR and others
The notion of extending commercial database technology to accommodate the location-based or spatial data that fuels Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is not new. In fact, efforts to integrate robust data management systems with the analytics and the visualization tools common to GIS have been under way in one form or another for nearly as long as these systems for spatial analysis have been in use. What is the planned business model to integrate earth observation data? Which are the key processes that Oracle is expecting for the near future?
EO data should benefit areas such as disaster relief, national security and resource management across the EU. The value derived from EO data will depend primarily on the extent to which the data is complete, correct and current and can be integrated with other existing datasets. Data need to be of sufficient quality to be suitable for use in critical government and private sector decision-making and business processes.
While it is relatively simple to define such concepts, there are significant implementation challenges. The systems need to support very large databases (petabytes), they also need to scale as the number of users increases and there should be no discrimination made between spatial data and non-spatial data, both structured and unstructured.
Oracle has achieved to include in its product offerings the results of a number of fundamental technology breakthroughs that enable building such systems. The most important ones we can mention are the use of Spatial within databases, data integration, the ability to handle mixed workloads and grid computing.
While research and technological development (RTD) has succeeded in providing instruments and systems that now generate literally millions of environment-related data sets, there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of the interoperability of these systems and the effective and efficient management, integration and distribution of data in support of the citizens of every nation. How do you see the realization of structuring all these information?
Oracle has a long track record in managing vast amounts of Data of different types and integrating them into a platform that allows users to move from Data, to information to insight. Past experience has shown that with data integration, the value of data increases exponentially allowing customers to make better decisions. Concerning interoperability, Oracle is committed to building standards-based software to help customers reduce complexity and get the most out of existing technology investments. Our committed participation to the work of bodies like the Open Geospatial Consortium is a clear indication in this direction. Unfortunately the world is less then perfect and in the EO field we are confronted to different kind of data coming from different sources often presented in non-compatible forms. We have been confronted to a similar kind of challenge in the business software market space since more than a decade. To respond to these challenges Oracle has developed a comprehensive offering in terms of Service Oriented Architecture, Fusion Middleware and Web Services. The case of the ESA Service Support Environment (www.), where Oracle BPEL has been used to orchestrate synchronous and asynchronous web services based on Earth Observation products, is a showcase of how business software know-how can be successfully applied to services using earth observation data.
Interoperability focusing on the confirmed benefits of using standards-based interoperable geospatial technologies and the challenges for the future. Which are then in your opinion the steps from data to Information to Insight?
Moving from data to Information to Insight can be a costly and complex exercise. Oracle can propose various ways of moving towards a single source of customer information without a costly and complicated transition to a single system. Oracle Data Hub offering centralizes your data by creating an enterprise-wide master customer identity that serves all operational and analytical systems
Earth Observation technologies provide powerful tools for monitoring the state of the planet and the global impact of human activities. To enable citizens around the world to access the vast store of earth science satellite data, is the Information Infrastructure and Data Management the solution?What is the limitation?
Well-established technologies to handle large amounts of data are available nowadays. Data can come from different sources and access to it is already possible in a distributed, transparent and dynamic manner thanks to Grid Computing. Data Management can be highly automated and virtualized allowing a great level of flexibility and high-availability.
These technologies have been consolidated over the last years and now we are able to build a strong Information Infrastructure that really allows Knowledge Discovery and Sharing. Oracle is a key player and a thought leader in the field of Grid Computing and Data Management with consolidated solutions. The current challenge for the Information Infrastructure is to provide discovery and re-usable functionalities to integrate data that can be used by large groups of non-specialized people.
Tell me about your opinion on the Importance of Data Standardization for Generating High Quality Earth Observation Products. How do you see that an integrated infrastructure will allow the service providers to develop a new generation of services boosting the take up of the services?
Standardization is key to interoperability and integration. Services need to provide functionalities that can be reused and orchestrated in a modular and flexible manner. Standards like BPEL, Webservices and SOA, as well as technology based on Ontology and Semantic Grids will be at the core of an integrated infrastructure where services are the focal point. Oracle is highly committed to work in this direction: the company embraces these standards in its product and is an active member of standard bodies such as W3C, OGF. Oracle is also an active participant of EU initiatives to accelerate a future service-based computing architecture such as NESSI.
Thinking on industry partnership, will Oracle provide new capabilities to develop new services? Which is the expect interaction with the EO industry?
Oracle has a good record of industrial R&D partnership. For example, Oracle is a key partner in the CERN openlab, an R&D partnership between the High-Energy Physics lab based in Geneva, which is also the birthplace of the Web, and IT industry leaders. In the Netherlands, Oracle played a key role in the set-up of AlmereGrid, a collaboration between SMEs, local organizations (hospital and university) and IT leaders to run Medical projects for the community.
How is possible to combine the EO sector with the expanding communication in order to improve the economic dynamism and further extend the quality of life of citizens due EO capabilities?
This is indeed a market in its infancy. Nevertheless we already see some potential in it. Recently I came across an interesting service combining mobile communications, location and earth observation. Based on data collected by ESA EO satellites, the user, a “beach dweller”, is provided via SMS with information about the suggested time of exposure to sun, on the basis of a profile previously uploaded on the Internet and of his/her location. This is an example of how integrating different technologies, it is possible to devise creative and innovating services which may open new interesting markets.
How do you believe the EO VA market could expand in the next few years?
This is a difficult kind of question to answer: the experience shows that the market very rarely develops in the directions announced by people venturing in forecasts! Maybe also in the EO sector the future is in convergence. Convergence of different related technologies like EO, mobility, localization, location-based services.
Additional Information at
On EARSC behalf and personally I would like to thank ORACLE Corporation for the EOmag interview