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Supercomputing Late to Party, Oracle Crowns Itself Compute King

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Everyone’s heard IBM boast that it will capture the genomics market with DiscoveryLink. And you’d have to live under a rock to have escaped similar claims by Compaq, Sun, and Cray. But what’s with Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s recent string of pitches to the field? According to vice president of life sciences at Oracle, Jon Simmons, last year’s reorganization of the company’s life sciences initiatives has led to increased awareness of its existing presence in the field. “We’re [already] the market leader,” Simmons says, citing customers Celera, the Sanger Centre, Incyte, Whitehead, Myriad, GeneProt, and Gene Logic as examples.

Last fall, Simmons and others at Oracle began to look at their customers and realized that though the company had a good chunk of the life sciences market — especially with customers in large-scale sequencing and SNP processing — it had no real, dedicated life sciences force. The question was, “Why aren’t we bringing it all together?” Simmons recalls. So Oracle shifted things around and came up with a life sciences group serving customers from genomics to big pharma. The push is designed to show Oracle’s commitment to the field, Simmons says, as well as its range of applicable products. “We have not only the database technology, but we also have 15 applications that address the marketplace,” he adds.

Right now, Oracle is “very heavily into the partnering stage of our strategy,” Simmons says. The company has gained genomics customers for the past three years and has been aggressively targeting bioinformatics companies for the last year. It expects that with this life sciences initiative and its planned release of a new data integration system, people will recognize Oracle’s dominance.

“The challenge for Oracle is that … people almost take it for granted,” Simmons says. “It’s almost like, well, obviously you’ve got a PC on your desk.” At least with a dedicated life sciences team, it looks like Ellison won’t have to stump alone for the genomics field anymore.

— Meredith Salisbury