Oracle gets analytical with data mining purchase

In an effort to keep up with the Joneses -- the likes of IBM and Microsoft, in this case -- Oracle announced on Monday it has acquired data mining software vendor Thinking Machines.

Oracle officials said the company will begin leveraging Thinking Machines' technology immediately to provide greater analytic support in its database and across its entire line of applications.

Immediate plans call for the incorporation of Darwin, Thinking Machines' flagship data mining product, into future iterations of its customer relationship management suite. Oracle also hopes to use the software in bringing enterprise reporting, ad hoc query, and advanced analysis to its overall data warehousing solutions.

Oracle also will begin work on embedding features of Darwin directly into its Oracle 8i database, a plan that Michael Howard, vice president of data warehousing for Oracle, eluded to last month. That could be important from a competitive standpoint, as Oracle has yet to offer true predictive querying functionality in its database while its competitors have taken steps to ensure their offerings are data mining capable.

"It's something I've been waiting to hear from them," said Henry Morris, vice president for data warehousing at International Data Corp. (IDC), in Framingham, Massachusetts. "It's almost becoming a requirement that a database company has a story about data mining, and it was a glaring hole that they didn't have data mining."

According to Oracle's Howard, the incorporation of Darwin features into Oracle 8i could even put Oracle a step ahead of its database competition.

On a broader scope, Howard noted that the technology will become a critical feature in the company's overall electronic-business strategy moving forward. According to IDC's Morris, that could be important, as the greatest ramifications for Oracle could come in their ability to utilize Thinking Machines' technology across its entire application line in order to provide broader analytic capabilities.

"A lot of efforts around their data warehousing are focused on re-energizing their application offerings, and they may not get a better opportunity than this," said Morris. "The more Oracle can build up quality around analytics and apply that to their applications, it allows them a chance to differentiate their applications, which is something an OLAP (online analytical processing) strategy just wasn't going to do."

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