What kind of company is Oracle?

As Oracle gets bigger and bigger, one question remains unanswered: what type of company is Oracle?
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

The formalities of Oracle's OpenWorld conference are done; Larry Ellison has delivered the last keynote of the event and covered a wide range of technology and topics. Yet after three days of conferencing, one question remains unanswered: what type of company is Oracle?

It's not the same database company from a decade ago. The company has clearly moved on and diversified beyond its core product. As witnessed by Ellison being able to deliver a multiple hour keynote without once mentioning the Oracle database product.

It could be a hardware company — once the Sun merger is approved. Ellison continued to take great delight in making jokes at IBM's expense, and reinforced many times the fact that he is willing to part with $10 million should anyone fail to double their performance on the new Sun/Oracle Exadata hardware.

Ellison humorously pointed that Big Blue has challenged his claim that Exadata is 16 times faster than its hardware — IBM says it is only six times faster, according to Ellison. "They might be right," said the Oracle CEO, and proceeded to take further delight in reiterating IBM's greater power consumption.

Oracle could easily be an enterprise resource planning/supply chain management company after Ellison dedicated the second half of his keynote to unveiling the company's new Fusion product. After a long wait, it's the result of a combination of technologies gained through acquisitions such as PeopleSoft, BEA and Siebel was on display. Even though Oracle will support legacy applications in this space for a decade, it is clear that Fusion is the path that Oracle wants its customers to traverse.

It could be that Oracle is partially a Linux company. According to a HP survey, 65 per cent of respondents said that they are running Oracle Enterprise Linux as their distribution for running Oracle Database (37 per cent said Red Hat with 15 per cent responding with Novell's SuSE Linux). BT has chosen to standardise on Oracle Enterprise Linux.

After years of acquisition action, Oracle has a software portfolio that few companies can match — and that is the power the company is starting to bring to the fore.

The Sun acquisition and new Fusion products allow Oracle to offer a complete stack for many enterprise needs. One of the themes for this conference was integration; however, what was not said was that while integration was possible with third-party products, it was naturally going to be easier and run better with Oracle products. Or to put it another way: all product integrations are equal, but some product integrations are more equal than others.

It's increasingly going to be hard to pigeonhole Oracle in any category as it now has so many fingers in so many pies. Had the Oracle and Sun merger been approved by regulators, it would have been interesting to see what McNealy and Ellison would have unveiled.

McNealy said in the opening keynote "I think Larry will like his new toy", and I think it is the observation to take from this conference. Oracle's database appears to have taken a back seat, with the excitement and attention of the company now focussed elsewhere, and is unlikely to ever return to the levels it once did.

Chris Duckett travelled to OpenWorld as a guest of Oracle.

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