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Larry Ellison: Who's the DINOSAUR NOW, cloudy rivals?

'We're just getting started,' Ellison warns incumbents

Artist's impression of thunder-thighs kicking a lesser dinosaur into touch. Pic: UCL

There’s more to cloud than putting an ad on the back of The Economist, as a relatively contrite Larry Ellison and Oracle tried to demonstrate this week.

His PR people rattled out the product news at Oracle’s OpenWorld conference in San Francisco, California, like he, or they, were trying to prove something.

What could it be?

“How do we look today?” Ellison said Sunday, coming to the end of his opening OOW performance with a glint in his eye. “Like a dinosaur, yes or no?”

Ah, that would be it.

More than a dozen pieces of news were marshalled on hardware, software and cloud services launched or refreshed at OOW.

The FS1 hybrid/disk storage system and news of the Sparc M7 chip coming next year – continuing the lineage inherited with Sun Microsystems.

The M7 will have 10x query performance and intelligence to stop malicious code running, by spotting when code exceeds its memory allocation.

A new Exalytics In-Memory Machine and a database recovery appliance to deliver “zero data loss protection for databases was also mentioned.

There was a new MySQL (developed from one of MySQL’s founders), the open-source database bought from Sun and that’s been losing big customers to MariaDB.

MySQL 5.7 includes the ability to provision servers via OpenStack and active replication of MySQL clusters, with MySQL source posted to devs’ favorite GitHib.

This is a long way from the take-it-or-leave-it days, to running and participating in community that put so many open source backs up.

ERP and CRM have been updated; the latter now integrates the BlueKai cloud-based data-management platform for marketing, Oracle bought for a reported $400m in February.

The Oracle cloud app platform saw six new services: Big-Data Cloud using Hadoop, Mobile Cloud for non-technical types to build mobile applications, Integration Cloud, Process Cloud, Node.js Cloud, and Java SE cloud. There was also a business-intelligence cloud service, a subscription-based offering.

The Oracle cloud, meanwhile, has been upgraded to run on Oracle 12c, the version of Ellison’s database crown jewel that allows you run in memory for speed and supports multi-tenant clouds, released in June 2013.

Multi-tenant is Salesforce’s signature architecture, letting it house thousands of customers on the same servers without security breaches or data leaks.

The point of this show? To prove Oracle has been busy — busy closing the gap that’s opened up between it and others in the fast-growing cloud market.

On MySQL, Oracle come out fighting.

Oracle alienated the open-source community by taking on MySQL and deciding it could run the project better than anybody. Since then, it’s run the project in a way that gives itself more control over changes than the community.

However, it's lost Google, Wikipedia, Red Hat and SUSE as customers as a result. Oracle now recognizes it needs friends and is reaching out to devs via GitHub. Chief architect Edward Screven told OOW: “Frankly, when MySQL came into Oracle, MySQL was a bit of a mess.” So there.

Well, you didn’t expect humility, did you?

When it wasn't fighting, Oracle was preaching, trying to persuade Oracle watchers, customers and Wall St that it not only has a plan for catching up on the cloud, but it's been busy executing it, and the best is yet to come. Sunday evening, during his presentation, Ellison said as much.

On cloud, its targeting Saleforce on CRM sales and marketing, and Workday on human capital and financial management.

Ellison positioned Oracle as the entrant fighting against a “15-year incumbent" (Salesforce). Oracle is coming from behind but it’s changing, fast.

Salesforce was “the first wave” of the cloud, Ellison said, but that was 10 years ago. The talk was of catching up Salesforce in some areas and running neck and neck in others.

In a kick to Workday, Ellison estimated Oracle is selling “more core HR than anybody else” – social, human capital management – what he called 21st century HCM.

Ellison tried to put Oracle ahead of the curve, claiming to have identified a “third-wave” of apps moving to the cloud – ERP – one of Oracle’s on-prem staples.

“We are the first company selling mid-market and high-end ERP in the cloud,” he claimed. “We sold 304 ERP SaaS customers in the last two years. That might look like a small number [but] we're experiencing hyper growth."

He also claimed 2,181 new SaaS customers in 2014 so far.

Growth numbers are big and parallel Workday and Salesforce, whose revenue has been growing by about 30 per cent per quarter.

But unlike Salesforce and Workday (and just like SAP), Oracle’s main problem is that its cloud offerings remain measured in the millions of dollars, not the billions.

It's the billion-dollar business in on-prem software that made Oracle – and SAP – and which remains their core. However, they aren’t growing by even a faction as much as the cloud.

Ellison was still bullish, but should he be? Well, there is a little light at the end of the tunnel for his company – if not exactly for Ellison in person.

He relinquished the CEO spot last week to become CTO, handing over to his two deputies, Safra Catz and Mark Hurd – now both CEO.

He did so as the Big O announced its third successive quarterly miss on expected results – a total of four from the last five.

Ever the salesman, this is how Ellison used all those new announcements on Sunday: “2014 is an inflection point for us, a turning point." So this isn't a crisis. It's a plan.

“We are just getting started,” Ellison added. “Database is by far our largest software business and database will be by far our largest cloud business."

“We have so many ISVs who would like to see their apps as multi-tenant and move it on to 12c...Our ISVs and our customers have been waiting for this.”

He claimed 30,000 “computers” (servers) on Oracle cloud, with 62 million “discreet” users and 23 billion transactions a day.

For comparison purposes, Amazon is thought to have at least 450,000 servers at last guestimate, Microsoft has claimed more than one million servers and Google was thought to be at at leaset 900,000. All of which puts Oracle a long, long way behind.

The promise for Oracle is that it becomes the Microsoft of the Oracle camp – that is, giving the company's existing customers a cloud platform without Jeff Bezos’ fingerprints all over it.

“We do a lot of innovation at the infrastructure level. All the way down to the silicon,” Ellison said.

But what of price? Yes, that, too. “We will sell at the same price as Amazon, or Microsoft, or Google or anybody else in the infrastructure business,” Ellison claimed. “Our job is to do it with better security and better reliability at the same price.”

I am Larry Ellison... hear me roar. ®

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