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OracleWorld takes users into future

OracleWorld is slated to open Monday in San Francisco to 20,000 users at a time when Oracle is determined to convey the power of grid computing, and succeed in its bid to acquire rival PeopleSoft.

OracleWorld 2003 opens Monday at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, Calif., and the five-day technology event comes at a time when Oracle is under intense scrutiny within the IT industry.

With federal and state investigators across the country focusing on whether Oracle's plan to acquire PeopleSoft Inc. violates federal antitrust regulations, Oracle has spent recent weeks deflecting criticism and hyping its largest annual user event at the same time.

More than 20,000 users -- a mix of consultants, partners, buyers, DBAs, developers and other Oracle devotees -- will descend upon the Moscone Center to learn about the company's latest technology.

If last year's overriding theme was about saving money, then this year's is about the changing nature of computing.

Last year, the company's chief financial officer kicked off OracleWorld and talked about tight budgets and stretching IT dollars. This year, the company's executive vice president, Charles Phillips, will deliver the Monday morning keynote. He'll talk about the data center, and how modular systems can provide mainframe quality. Oracle can save you money, he'll tell attendees, but the company can also guide you through the new enterprise architecture.

Of course, Phillips and most likely the other seven keynote speakers will be talking about grid computing. Oracle plans to unveil its newest database release, 10G, named as a tribute to grid computing, at the show.

CEO Larry Ellison, who skipped last year's OracleWorld to race in the America's Cup tournament, will address attendees Tuesday afternoon in a talk titled "The Power of 10," in honor of the company's database release.

"This is probably the biggest announcement we've made in many years," said Robert Shimp, Oracle's vice president of database product marketing. "Basically, the broadest value proposition is the idea that your computing services should be available on demand, just like water and power, and you shouldn't have to worry about how they run," Shimp said. "It's just there when you need it to run."

It's the drill-down, technical sessions that are the biggest draws at OracleWorld, and DBAs flock to hear authors and experts tell them how to tap the most of out their database systems.

The man Oracle calls its Dr. DBA, Ken Jacobs, is the company's vice president of database server technologies, and among the keynote speakers. He'll be advocating the use of Oracle Enterprise Manager (OEM) and telling users that the entire grid environment can be managed using just a Web browser throughout the whole system's life cycle.

Other keynote speakers include Michael Dell, chairman and CEO of Dell Inc.; Carly Fiorina, chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co.; Craig Barrett, CEO of Intel Corp.; and Scott McNealy, chairman, president and CEO of Sun Microsystems Inc.

OracleWorld attendees aren't likely to hear much about Ellison's push to acquire PeopleSoft, seeing as investigators are currently pouring over corporate e-mails to determine whether Oracle acted legally and ethically in plotting to build an e-business powerhouse.

"The truth is, most of these Oracle users don't care about PeopleSoft," said Michael Schiff, an e-business analyst at Sterling, Va.-based Current Analysis. "It really doesn't affect the Oracle people. They go to OracleWorld to hear about new technology."

Some of them also come for the parties. This year's musical entertainment includes the rock band Train and, in a tribute to the '80s, the Violent Femmes.

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