At Oracle Open World
Open World most resembles Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates in that there is such variety that you never know what to expect. At any moment there is equal probability that you will be dazzled, challenged, delighted and perplexed.
This being journalism, perplexity reins as a dominant topic and perhaps the most perplexing thing about the meeting is the show floor which includes large booths from the heavyweights in the industry a.k.a. Oracle’s greatest competition and greatest customers, for example, SAP and Microsoft. Salesforce.com’s booth sits long and narrow moored on the show floor like an aircraft carrier in a crowded harbor.
By the time most of you read this Marc Benioff will have spoken and we will at last have an answer to the question haunting the halls of the Moscone Center. Why would Benioff speak at Open World, the user meeting of one of his staunchest competitors?
You can make all of the arguments you want about how Salesforce relies on the Oracle database to serve its millions of customers, you can invoke arcane game theory to explain this apparent cooperation among competitors if you like – after all the Nobel Prize in Economics was just awarded to two social scientists who studied this phenomenon. Still you are left with an irreducible Why?
Benioff speaks at one today and may have an answer.
In CRM kudos have go to Anthony Lye and his team for their top to tail work with the Siebel and CRM On-Demand suites and the dogged determination to prove the necessity – even desirability – of hybrid premise-based and on-demand approaches to CRM. I will not digress into a discussion of my oft repeated belief that this is a transition state on the way to full Cloud Computing in deference to my hosts and I only wish they would give up the sophomoric assertion that cloud computing is simply vapor.
The CRM team is bristling with innovations for large and small customers –announcing twelve new products, eighty customer driven enhancements, thirty-one new features, a REST API, CRM availability in Microsoft Outlook, and a new Siebel version coming this year. I think there’s more but maybe my note taking is not so good.
Larry Ellison spoke on Sunday night — a cameo in Scott McNealy’s keynote. Ellison made the expected and highly believable statements that rather than letting Sun sink into the, uhh sunset, once the merger is completed, Oracle would increase its investments in Sun systems beyond the hefty investments that Sun had been making.
Oracle’s stewardship of PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards, Siebel and fifty-five other acquisitions (according to Safra Catz) provide the needed street cred here. Ellison even had fun poking IBM about an internal program they call Sunset reminding all that one man’s sunset was another’s sunrise. He then proceeded to announce significant benchmark superiority over Big Blue. Some things don’t change, benchmark competition is one of them.
But Sunday was McNealy’s time to shine. The justifiably proud Sun CEO rattled off a slew of Sun’s leading innovations in CPUs, memory and file management, operating systems, and, of course, JAVA. Many of us forget how many devices run on JAVA code — without any “JAVA inside” branding — but it’s a lot and McNealy was happy to provide a glimpse.
Ellison will speak on Wednesday to conclude the meeting and my contacts keep telling me that my questions such as those about integrating the sprawling software suite will gain clarity then. We’ll see.
Perhaps the most interesting moment of the show for me so far came on Sunday at the end of McNealy’s speech. He showed a slide meant to sum up his experience at Sun as well as the operating philosophy the company has been run by. The slide said we (Sun),
- Kicked butt
- Had fun
- Didn’t cheat
- Loved our customers and
- Made money
(I am not a hundred percent on the last bullet, note taking again.)
McNealy concluded by saying of the merger of Sun and Oracle, “Larry’s going to like his new toy.” The statement immediately put me in mind of Newton’s famous summation of his own career when he said near the end of his life:
“I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
I can’t think of a better description of why these very bright people work so hard to make electrons dance. Sure, it’s profitable but at the end of the day it’s even better if the ride has been fun.