The 800-Pound Gorilla in the room named Oracle

Change has been the one constant for Oracle over the past five years.  Since 2005, Oracle has acquired over 60 companies that have added both new solutions and technical expertise to what was already considered to be one of the premier software development shops on the planet.  Some you’d heard of, like Peoplesoft, Siebel and BEA, others were less well known, but each brought new capabilities to the Oracle “stack” and has helped to propel Oracle to revenues in excess of $23 Billion during their FY 2009 (ended 5/31/09), nearly doubling their revenues from 5 years ago in an industry many considered to be mature in the middle of the past decade. During this time, Oracle has not-so-quietly put together the go-to, back-office software infrastructure and applications franchise for the current darling of the IT market, software-as-a-service (SAAS).  SAAS is compelling in that all the required systems integration and management is left to a third-party whose job it is to configure and manage industrial-strength systems that are both fast and reliable.  And Oracle appears poised to continue to be the 800-pound gorilla in the SAAS software infrastructure world.  So why are they jumping into the stodgy server and storage side of the business with both feet as their recently approved acquisition of Sun Microsystems seems to indicate?  While the jury is still out on what the consolidated company might look like, here’s what we know today. Larry Ellison has stated on many occasions that he’s not interested in being another hardware vendor.  Instead, he sees the Sun acquisition as an opportunity for Oracle to become more of a “systems” company, not unlike IBM in the early years of the computer age.  In fact, Ellison has said that IBM, even more than arch rival SAP, is in the cross-hairs of the Oracle juggernaut.  While there’s no denying that SAAS is assuming a more prominent role in the IT plans of many organizations (which Oracle also addresses with its On-Demand offering), for the foreseeable future there will be those individuals and organizations who, for various reasons, will prefer to keep their servers and data in-house, as opposed to somewhere in “The Cloud”.  This is particularly true in the public sector. And, for those who are not willing or able to rely on The Cloud for their IT backbone, Oracle is positioning itself as a game-changer for this still significant market.  Oracle’s intention is to offer “Application Systems” that are shrink-wrapped and ready to “plug and play”.  These leading-edge systems will combine server, storage, database, middleware and applications that are pre-configured and pre-tuned to run faster, more reliably and less expensively than their “erector-set” predecessors ever could.  As Ellison likes to say, “If you want your systems to run faster and more reliably, you need to be willing to spend less money”. Only time will tell if Ellison’s compelling vision will bear fruit, but Oracle is one of the few companies around that has the market presence and momentum to pull it off.