In his Internet World keynote address in New York this week, Oracle CEO and chairman Larry Ellison once again pronounced the death of client/server in the wake of Internet computing and "network computers" -- which this time included Internet-enabled mobile phones and Palm devices.
However, software as we know it is also part of the road kill, according to the Oracle chief, who cited myriad examples of how Web-hosted software services are alleviating corporate IT and consumers from the "distributed complexity" dilemma created by client/server computing and obese desktop applications.
"I call it 'economies of scale' -- no one in computing's ever heard of it before," Ellison quipped to an amused audience. "Virtually every other network has done it -- the television, the phone -- providing centralised services using low-cost, easy-to-use devices. It is imperative that you get shared applications off of the desktop to save money and truly consolidate information."
Ellison pointed to the dot-com leaders as the business model for this digital future, explaining how Amazon.com sells globally but doesn't host servers in each country it sells to, rather it centralises customer data and sales at one data centre in Seattle -- using Oracle at the back end, of course.
"It's all going away: we decided four years ago to never do any more desktop applications, and we don't," Ellison said. "We have to handle big better than ever -- that's how the Internet works -- and corporations have to adopt the same model."
The rosy picture painted by Ellison was a convenient backdrop for Oracle's announcement on Tuesday in New York of its Oracle Business OnLine (BOL), an online enterprise software services program that will morph the software giant into the services haven Ellison described. Ellison said that because of the client/server model, corporate managers -- including himself -- don't know what's going on at their companies anymore.
"How many employees work at Oracle?" Ellison joked as he explained how Oracle itself currently runs 70 data centres around the world just for human resources. "I dunno, like I really dunno. It's wacky! And being completely ignorant of what's happening in your company is not cheap."
Lastly, Ellison pleaded with developers to think twice before moving forward with Windows software. The explosion of mobile phones and Palms -- along with the wireless Internet services just around the corner -- is forcing the software industry to move away from the "Windows everywhere" model to the "Web everywhere" model, Ellison said. Oracle has also staked a claim in this space with its "portal-to-go" -- a server running Wireless Access Protocol and tools that allow developers to dynamically re-map from a PC format to a cellular format.
"It used to be that an ISV was crazy if you didn't develop for Windows," he said. "Now you will fail because the economies of Windows are losing."