Oracle OpenWorld 2010 – The Final Word

Last week’s Oracle OpenWorld was the biggest one yet, with increased attendance resulting from the addition of Sun and Java topics.  More than 41,000 attendees joined Oracle at their annual showcase event.

There was a lot of news, coupled with some missteps and high-level corporate bickering.  Here’s my take on the conference highlights:

  • What is a cloud anyway?

There was a lot of highly publicized back-and-forth between Larry Ellison and Marc Benioff about whose vision of “the cloud” is clearer (or cloudier).  For the most part, this was a lot of bluster about things that don’t really matter (other than posturing).

So, what does matter?

  • Oracle made a big splash with their Exalogic announcement, but for the most part, only very large customers will ever be able to buy one.  For more than 90% of attendees, Exalogic will not be a factor in any upcoming purchasing decision (at least in its current form).
  • Oracle also announced a new, bigger, faster version of their Exadata appliance.  Again, most enterprises can’t afford this kind of hardware, so it won’t matter for most customers.
  • Meanwhile, SalesForce made a big splash with the opposite view: cloud computing is all about small up-front costs, elastic expansion, and invisibility of where the resources actually reside.  That value proposition provides something most customers would certainly want to take a look at.

In my opinion, Benioff is right and Ellison is wrong.

  • Fusion Applications

It looks like this ambitious suite of products is getting close to reality.  It’s a shame that Fusion got so obscured in the keynotes by the over-emphasis on new Oracle hardware and by the “cloudier than thou” arguments.  When they did talk about Fusion, Oracle spent too much time explaining how difficult it was to build, and not enough time explaining the benefits customers will realize.  If Oracle can actually deliver on the Fusion Apps promise, those benefits will be real – customers won’t care about Oracle’s self-congratulatory “you wouldn’t believe how much work this was” comments.

Still, I have to step back and wonder how quickly most customers will be able to see that value.  Oracle spoke often about the ability to have Fusion Apps co-exist with Applications Unlimited products (EBS, PeopleSoft, Siebel, etc.), but it’s not clear to me how practical that will be for a customer.  Unless a customer does a whole lot of custom integration, the data won’t be shared, the interfaces won’t be shared, and the BI foundation won’t be shared.  I’m still skeptical about whether customers (other than a handful of new implementations and early adopters) will actually get real value from Fusion Apps before close to the end of 2012.

  • Oracle BI EE 11g

I attended a lot of sessions on Oracle BI EE 11g.  Overall, I was very impressed.  They’ve done a lot of good work making their flagship BI suite more “enterprise ready”.  There are still some shortcomings, along with some fundamental tenets that are limiting and (for customers) frustrating.  I’ll write more about OBI EE 11g in a future blog post.

Before the event, I made some predictions about OOW and then proceeded to grade myself on those predictions.  I assessed a few of them last week, but wanted to take another look at them now:

  • Ellison won’t mention Phillips at all, but he will emphasize how well Catz and Hurd will complement each other.
    • A-.  I was completely accurate on ignoring Phillips, but Safra Catz and Mark Hurd seemed to be completely separate and distinct entities.  Other than introductions, they never mentioned each other and Ellison never talked about Safra and Mark together.  The Oracle co-presidency continues to be a curious organizational structure.
  • He’ll be nice to HP, instead aiming his barbs at IBM (with some well-placed insults directed at SAP, because he just can’t resist the temptation).
    • A.  Ellison ignored HP (even in the Sunday keynote which immediately followed the HP presentation).  He directly attacked IBM and SalesForce.com, along with SAP.
  • It’ll be all love and kisses between Oracle and HP…at least on stage.
    • A-.  HP was 100% positive, while Oracle seemed to ignore HP completely, so I suppose in a way that is positive, as well.
  • I expect that they’ll make some significant announcement [about Exadata type hardware devices], possibly including a medium-sized acquisition.
    • B+.  The major announcement was Exalogic. [As I noted last week, the big acquisition announcement wasn’t Oracle’s – it belonged to IBM, who announced the planned acquisition of Netezza.]
  • They’ll announce a release date for Fusion Apps, but it’ll be vague (as far as what apps will be included).
    • B.  GA in Q1 2011, with a list of more than 100 apps that will be delivered.
  • They’ll also be vague about interaction with existing apps – there will be lots of platitudes about “Applications Unlimited” promising eternal support for the legacy applications coupled with more platitudes about “co-existence” and “gradual migration” and “SaaS architecture providing flexibility.”
    • C+.  It was not vague at all, so I missed the mark on that one.  Still, there was lots of talk about “Applications Unlimited” with commitment for continued support and development.
  • In the end, lots of customers will leave still scratching their heads.
    • A-.  Many weren’t scratching their heads in confusion, but a lot of attenedees came away shaking their heads, incredulous at the displays of inanity.
  • This (OBI EE 11g) will be impressive.  However, once we look under the covers, it won’t be quite as impressive as Oracle wants us to believe.
    • A-.  It is impressive, but many of the features Oracle touts as “innovative” simply allow Oracle to match features already offered by Cognos, Business Objects, or MicroStrategy.
  • Salesforce.com slams Oracle – selling ‘false cloud’; Benioff to speak at OOW. Fireworks coming?  [that one was from my tweet the Friday before OOW]
    • A+.  I couldn’t have been any more prescient!

There you go – nine predictions, nine grades.  If they were all weighted equally, I’d have a 3.52 GPA.  Not too shabby!

For now…I’ll leave you with this thought:

Don’t believe everything Oracle told you at Oracle OpenWorld 2010.  It is, after all, their biggest  marketing event of the year.

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