Oracle cloud architecture push spawns new tools, issues for users
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John Matelski is president of the Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG) and chief innovation and information officer for the government of DeKalb County in Georgia. At Collaborate 15, a conference held jointly in Las Vegas by Oracle's three primary user groups, SearchOracle caught up with Matelski to get his thoughts on Oracle's changing priorities, in particular its increased push toward the cloud. Matelski said the growing portfolio of Oracle cloud services is getting the attention of IOUG members, including his own organization.
He also discussed the adoption of business intelligence and big data analytics technologies by the DeKalb government, which oversees Georgia's third-largest county by population, including the city of Decatur and part of Atlanta. Matelski said he thinks government operations that are willing to be on the leading edge of BI and analytics usage have a good shot at being able to improve services and lower costs. Excerpts from the interview follow.
Oracle has been going through a lot of changes lately. Which change do you think will have the biggest impact on Oracle users?
John Matelski: I would suggest that the biggest impact in terms of changes is their deep dive into cloud. I know in the past Larry [Ellison] might have been giving some mixed messages here, but at this point there is no doubt about the significant investments they're making in the cloud. I can speak for the IOUG community and say that there is a lot of excitement being generated. That doesn't mean everyone is out there buying it today. But the promise of being able to be more efficient, be more effective, do things more quickly, is bringing in a lot of interest. It's going to be exciting to watch the execution. For the most part, Oracle has been very good about executing once they make a commitment, so I don't have too many doubts as to whether or not they'll be able to do it.
How has Oracle's focus on the cloud affected your IT work in DeKalb County?
Matelski: Over the past two years, we've endeavored to move more and more of our solutions into the cloud. We're more focused on private and hybrid cloud offerings -- we're really not looking at public cloud solutions at this point. But every RFP that we put out on the street, if [vendors] have a cloud option or a SaaS option, we're asking them to bid that. Now, if their best way to provide a solution is still on-premises, that's OK. We're still willing to look at that.
It's just the way the cost of hardware continues to escalate and the way the refresh cycles are getting shorter. In the past, I could get a good five years out of my servers. Now, I'm maybe only getting three years. In a public-sector government environment, there's never a guarantee that I'll be able to get the couple hundred thousand or a million [dollars] to do a hardware refresh. It's better for me to move into the cloud, where the infrastructure components are being managed by the vendor. It enables us to focus more on what our competencies are and not have to worry about the hardware, the platform, the infrastructure.
I'm not going to suggest to you that all public-sector governments are doing that. I think the biggest issue right now that people are concerned about is always security. It's a very valid concern, but I would suggest -- and I tell everyone I talk to, including the [county's] Board of Commissioners when I was making these recommendations -- that vendors like Microsoft and Oracle spend more on security in one day than I could hope to get for years to put into our security. So, the reality is that these cloud and software-as-a-service environments are much more secure than I could ever hope to be. That's not to say that I've got an insecure environment. It's just that they do this for a living. What we need to focus on is making sure that our service-level agreements and our contractual agreements are written in such a way to make sure that we're fully protected.
Are you buying into the new Oracle cloud services, then?
Matelski: I want to get more clarity on [them]. We're looking in DeKalb County at enhancing and/or upgrading the customer relationship management portion of our overall Oracle ecosystem. Right now, the cloud offering seems like the direction I probably want to go. What I haven't seen yet is the cost proposal and then all of the different integrations I might need back into my current solution. But I'm now at the point where I can really take a look and get a better understanding of what is the cloud offering going to give me, and try to get a return on investment or total cost of ownership model created for that.
How is the public sector handling big data and business intelligence?
Matelski: The biggest concern from the public-sector standpoint is that once you get the data, in most cases those records become open records. Any data or big data that I might start collecting can become [the subject of] a potential open records request, so we have to be really, really careful as to how we delve into that.
But DeKalb County is really a progressive, innovative county. My title has moved from chief information officer to chief innovation and information officer, because we really want to focus on innovation. We're one of the few counties or jurisdictions that are really looking at the value of the Internet of Things or Internet of Everything. We're partnering with Cisco right now and doing some studies and hoping to do some rollouts of IoT [technologies] that will help us be able to collect data that will then help us get a better understanding of traffic patterns and other constituent-type data. It's not Big Brother-type data, because that's always a concern. It's about how can we aggregate the data to deliver higher-quality services to our citizens and constituents.
We're getting into BI and analytics fairly aggressively. The first area where we really started focusing is in our public safety realm. We use a lot of data for some of our smart policing initiatives so that we can better understand crime trends. There, again, it's not about John Matelski or Jane Doe. It's about how, in this particular area, crime has increased. What's happened? Did we get a movement of some kind? Did something happen at a particular school? We try to look at all of the different data points that are available and then leverage that data to help provide better services to our citizens and constituents. And I would argue that those counties and jurisdictions that are willing to be at the forefront -- I wouldn't say at the bleeding edge, but maybe the leading edge -- those are the jurisdictions that are going to be able to really provide their citizens and constituents with better services and drive down costs.
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