What is Oracle?
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Published: 30 November 2023
Contributors: Molly Hayes, Amanda Downie

What is Oracle?

Oracle is a U.S.-based information technology company that offers a wide range of business-oriented products and services that include Oracle Database, a relational database management system (RDBMS). 

The company was founded in 1977 in California and is among the largest software and hardware companies in the world.1 Since its inception nearly fifty years ago, Oracle has developed a vast number of information technology (IT) solutions and acquired an extensive portfolio of companies. It is particularly renowned for its cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) offerings in business intelligence and financial services, as well as for systems such as Solaris, Java and Oracle Linux. Oracle also manufactures and sells purpose-built servers and network solutions to run its platforms and databases. Its Oracle Database was the first SQL-based relational database management system (RDBMS) released commercially in the United States.2  

The company invests heavily in open source technologies, lending resources to the development and testing of open source products and frequently highlighting that key platforms such as the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) are “open by design.”3 Oracle products and services are used worldwide in government services, telecommunications companies and in healthcare setting where data security, redundancy and complex workload management are critical. 

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History of Oracle

The Oracle Corporation was founded in California by Larry Ellison, Bob Miner and Ed Oats under the name Software Development Laboratories in 1977.4 Inspired by a British research paper outlining a relational database model, the founders believed that there was potential in the system. Two years later, the company released Oracle, the first commercial relational database to use structured query language (SQL).5 The company was renamed after its first product in 1982 and went public in 1986, trading on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) as Oracle Corp (ORCL). 

In the 40 years since its founding, Oracle has acquired a vast number of companies to expand its offerings and services. High profile examples include PeopleSoft, Siebel, BEA, Sun Microsystems, Netsuite and Cerner.  

In 2010, the company acquired Sun Microsystems, a software development company that developed the Java programming language, further enmeshing it in the world of computer systems and software. The purchase also brought the company into a vast hardware business (link resides outside ibm.com), bringing the operating system Solaris and Java under the company’s purview.6 It also acquired the popular open-source database MySQL.  

In 2020, Oracle moved its longtime headquarters from Redwood Shores, California to Austin, Texas. In 2021, it acquired Cerner, a healthcare records company, in its largest acquisition to date. 7 As of 2023, the company had a total quarterly revenue of more than 200 million USD and continued to grow sharply, according to Forbes.8 In the fall of 2023, the company announced it would invest heavily in generative AI use cases across its Fusion Cloud services.9

What is Oracle Database?

The Oracle Database is Oracle’s flagship product. It is a popular database management and warehousing system used by organizations across the globe to manage and store their data.

It uses SQL for manipulation and querying and was the first database of its kind that is offered for commercial release. The Oracle Database can be run on Linux® or Microsoft Windows. 

The Oracle Database features: 

Advanced analytics: The Oracle Database supports big data and advanced analytics. Systems can read and process data and run predictive analytics or automated systems, quickly.

High data availability: The Oracle Database is designed for a high level of operational performance with features like data replication, backup and server clustering.

Scalability: The Oracle Database is capable of running on a single server or on a massive distributed database. 

Security: The Oracle Database has a range of features to protect privacy and integrity with encryption and security risk monitoring.    

The Oracle Database is currently offered10 in four editions, each offering various levels of functionality:   

Enterprise edition: Designed for large organizations, Oracle Database Enterprise Edition supports high-volume online transaction processing (OLTP) as well as query-intensive data warehousing. It can be enhanced with a wide variety of Oracle options and packs11 for advanced analytics, security or functionality.  

Express edition: Oracle Database Express is the free entry-level edition of the Oracle Database. It is simple to install, easy to manage and can be used on any computer. The edition is designed to easily support upgrades to more advanced Oracle Database products.    

Personal edition: This edition of Oracle Database includes nearly all the components of the database’s Enterprise Edition but supports single-use development environments. This edition is a cost-effective way for a software developer to take advantage of Oracle Database’s full functionality.   

Standard edition: Oracle Database Standard Edition provides basic Oracle functionality and is well-suited to workgroup, department-level or web applications. 

Key Oracle products and services
Cloud applications

The Oracle Fusion Cloud Application Suite12 is a family of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications for specific businesses use cases. It includes the Oracle Fusion Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) suite for financials, project management and compliance. The suite also offers specific platforms for supply chain and manufacturing (SCM), human capital management (HCM) and sales. The cloud ERP also offers industry-specific add-ons for sectors such as higher education or customer experience for consumer goods. Using the Oracle E-Business Suite, organizations can simplify data entry and data management with prebuilt templates.

Cloud infrastructure

Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) is a cloud platform that supports traditional business applications as well as leading-edge technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. The distributed cloud platform includes options for a multicloud solution, a public cloud option, a hybrid cloud or a dedicated cloud running entirely on an organization's data centers. OCI offers tools to run applications and analyze data as well as securely store information. The platform supports Oracle applications, custom applications and independent software vendor (ISV) applications for automation, analytics, networking and storage.

Hardware

Oracle offers a wide range of engineered systems that are built with scale in mind. These include x86- and SPARC-based servers, engineered systems for running Java applications and storage and networking solutions. The Oracle Exdata platform13, an engineered system developed specifically to run Oracle Database, combines database servers, storage and networking. 

Middleware   

Oracle provides a range of middleware products and tools to help developers integrate and deploy applications, such as Oracle Application Express (APEX), a low-code web app builder. The company’s Oracle Fusion Middleware, a family of tools for enterprise applications, offers a suite of products for data integration, business intelligence and content management. Fusion Middleware can provide infrastructure for Internet of Things (IoT) functionality, big data integration and content management.  

Software   

Oracle produces and licenses a wide range of on-premises applications14 for businesses, including back-office software to help employees manage their core business functions. Some notable offerings include:

  • PeopleSoft, an ERP for human resources, financial management and campus solutions.
  • The Oracle E-Business Suite, which covers order management, logistics and other business functions.
  • Oracle Business Intelligence (OBIEE) for reporting and analysis.
  • Oracle Enterprise Manager for advanced DevOps data operations in large-scale organizations.   
Oracle Database use cases

Organizations use Oracle Database across different industries and use cases, including the maintenance of sensitive data lakes and the tracking of massive real-time financial transactions. Among the most popular use cases for Oracle Database are:

Business applications and back-office management

Organizations use Oracle Database for applications like ERP, customer relationship management (CRM) and human resources management (HRM), which provide interactive and up-to-date insights on a company’s day-to-day operations.  

Data management and data warehousing

Organizations use Oracle Database as a central repository to store and manage vast troves of structured data, or as a data warehouse to facilitate analysis and reporting.  

E-commerce platforms

Organizations use Oracle's e-commerce platforms that provide back-office solutions to manage product catalogs, inventory and transaction data.  

Financial and insurance services

Financial firms and insurance providers use Oracle’s secure and encrypted database to manage payments, track transactions and audit potential risk.  

Government and nonprofits

Government agencies like the Department of Defense15 and public sector companies use Oracle to securely manage public records and data including classified information.

Healthcare services

In the healthcare industry, organizations use Oracle’s database and solutions to streamline operations, maintain data integrity and optimize multiple workflows with predictive insights. 

Online transaction processing (OLTP)

Organizations, from e-commerce to online banks and telecommunications firms, use Oracle Database’s capacity to execute large numbers of database transactions by large numbers of people in real-time.  

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Footnotes

All links reside outside ibm.com

1 About Oracle, Oracle.com 

2 Introduction to Oracle Database, Oracle Help Center 

3 Leading with Open Source and Cloud Native, Oracle.com

4 Oracle Corporation, Britannica, 25 November 2023 

5 Oracle Corporation, Britannica, 25 November 2023 

6 With Sun, Oracle Aims at Giants, New York Times, 26 January 2010 

7 Oracle to Buy Cerner for $28.3 Billion, New York Times,  20 December 2021 

8 Oracle Made All The Right Moves in 2022, Forbes, 8 February 2023 

9 Oracle's Fusion Cloud CX, ERP, and SCM Get Generative AI Features, CIO, 19 September 2023 

10 Oracle Database Editions, Oracle.com 

11 Database Licensing Information User Manual, Oracle Help Center 

12 Oracle Cloud Applications, Oracle Help Center 

13 Oracle Exadata, Oracle.com 

14 Explore Oracle Applications Software, Oracle.com 

15 Cloud for Government, Oracle.com