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Oracle finds future in McNealy's antique jalopy

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OpenWorld 09 Oracle's power presidential duo of Charles Phillips and Safra Catz have channeled the spirit of Sun man Scott McNealy to explain their company's four-year, multi-billion dollar acquisition spree.

Catz, speaking with Phillips at OpenWorld, said software vendors like Oracle had let customers down for years by shipping "little pieces of technology" and leaving it to customers to make them work together.

Her cutesy metaphor: the car.

"If we all bought cars they way all of you have bough technology... you'd order thousands of little pieces and have them shipped to our garage, and hire a mechanic or a welder and figure out a way to put this stuff together. You'd be on your own," said Catz.

Cue flash back to 2003 when McNealy - whose company is now being bought by Oracle - took issue was the industry's obsession with building their own bits, making IT more complex and expensive than it needs be.

His metaphor: the faithful old jalopy.

Gusting ironically at Oracle's OpenWorld 2003 conference, Sun's then chief executive said: "Everyone is building their own jalopies."

McNealy said the IT industry was fixated on components like operating systems, application severs, and network switches. At the time, he was railing against people making and fiddling with Linux and open-source components - components that were challenging Sun's Solaris systems and middleware businesses. According to McNealy, it made more sense to leave all that fiddling to a systems company, like Sun Microsystems, so you - the customer - got a hassle-free, integrated package or data center.

"It's like throwing a piston ring on the table and saying, 'Drive to L.A.,'" he said of the industry's supposed obsession. "Each child should be unique, but not every computer."

Speaking six years later, Catz said Oracle had figured out how hard it was for customers when Oracle underwent its own "IT transformation." Catz said the acquisition strategy was designed to let Oracle deliver a stack so customers don't need to integrate hardware and software themselves.

"The [acquisition] strategy really gelled when wed did our own IT transformation and realized most of the hard work is with you...it turns out us and all the other software vendors were sending you little pieces of technology all these years and it was at your site that you had to make it all work together," Catz said.

Over to Charles Phillips, who stepped in with his custom re-assurances to continue to develop and improve products from companies Oracle bought.

Pointing to continued development of acquired software such as JD Edwards, PeopleSoft, and BEA Systems' WebLogic, Phillips said: "Look at that track record - when people are worried about what we will do with Sun hardware and MySQL. We have a bit of a track record." ®

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