Oracle: Life after Ray Lane

Oracle's number two sets the stage for Oracle OpenWorld. His message: If Oracle can save billions by running its own software suite, so can you

For Oracle, is there life after Ray Lane? Oracle's new number two man, executive vice president Gary Bloom, was out to prove to the Oracle OpenWorld user conference crowd that there is, indeed.

A far cry from ever-fashionable Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison, Bloom, bedecked in an oversized black sweater, paced back and forth for 45 minutes on stage at the Moscone Convention Centre in San Francisco, as he provided the opening Monday morning conference keynote.

Bloom's message to the thousands of live and virtual attendees: if Oracle can save a billion dollars by converting to an e-business by running on a single, integrated platform, you can, too.

Not surprisingly, the consolidated platform espoused by Bloom is the Oracle 8i/9i database back end, Oracle applications and Oracle tools. Oracle is using this week's show to roll out its next-generation clustering database, updated wireless middleware and new caching technology meant to improve the web-page-serving speed of its products.

Bloom, a 14-year company veteran, was appointed to his new post this summer, following the abrupt resignation of former president and chief operating officer Ray Lane. Lane had been considered by many industry watchers as the man responsible for keeping trains running on time, as Ellison engaged in various personal and professional crusades. Lane publicly expressed his frustrations in working for Ellison when he departed to take a job as a general partner at the venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Lane was president and chief operating officer for eight years.

Like Lane, Bloom kept posturing and rhetoric to a minimum, focusing his remarks on the business case for moving toward more centralisation and Internet-based automation.

He reminded attendees that Oracle promised a year ago that it would take $1bn out of its bottom line expenses, simply by moving more aggressively to Web-enable its own back-end applications. He said that tomorrow, on a call with financial analysts, the company would commit to taking another $2bn out of its expenses in the coming year, primarily by improving the efficiencies of its "customer facing" software.

"How will you save?" Bloom rhetorically asked the audience. The punch line: "With a complete suite of software from Oracle."

At the week-long conference, Oracle is divulging plans and strategies for its 9i web-infrastructure building blocks, which include the next version of the company's database, due out in the first half of 2001, the 9i Real Application Clusters facility, the 9I Application Server and 9i Developer Suite of tools.

Oracle also is announcing at the show Oracle 8i Parallel Server, a version of its existing 8I database for clustered Linux systems, and a tool set for building, testing and deploying hosted wireless applications, called OracleMobile Online Studio.

Unlike boss Ellison, Bloom took only one potshot at Oracle archrival Microsoft During a demonstration of a job-search feature on its Oracle Technical Network portal, Bloom searched Microsoft for job openings for those with Oracle experience. An online search yielded an opening on Microsoft's bCentral small business portal site for an Oracle 8i database administrator -- proof, Bloom, said, that Microsoft is "running its business on Oracle".

"I'm not sure why anyone would want to work there [at Microsoft]," Bloom quipped. "That was the desktop era. This is the Internet era."

Ellison is slated to address Oracle OpenWorld attendees Tuesday.

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