There was a lot to ponder at Oracle OpenWorld 2010 aside from the obvious news items: A new Exalogic super-duper Web server that is also–depending on your point of view–a cloud in a box or the return of a DEC VAX. Also Fusion Apps which, pardon the skepticism, have been on their way now for a long, looooong time. There was an intriguing deal with Amazon Web Services under which AWS will use Oracle VM in a portion of its cloud reserved for running Oracle enterprise applications.
All well and good and worthy of discussion. But here are the real questions coming out of the show.
1: Can the appeal of Oracle’s technology overcome customer FUD?
The issue of technology audits was an undercurrent throughout the show. Oracle, like any software company, audits customers. But it gets negative style points in how it does so.
In a quick meeting in front of the Iron Men at Oracle Openworld, a systems integrator and an IT pro with long experience in Sun shops, said they’re seeing more and more audits in Sun hardware accounts, and much heavier-handed ones than in the past.
Audits have ramped up since Oracle completed its acquisition of Sun and the new wrinkle is that customers updating Sun machines running Oracle apps are now, within days of dealing with the hardware sales force, being hit up by Oracle software sales. The message tends to be: You have to buy more software licenses for your new hardware. One customer was told he needed to buy more Oracle database licenses for the apps he already had as he moved them to new hardware. That was not true. His apps had the requisite database power to stay legal. Hey, guess it doesnt hurt to ask.
2: How long will the Hurd-Catz duality last?
Ellison is famous for burning through number two execs. Charles Phillips (or “the fallen” as Marc Benioff referred to him) lasted a very impressive seven years. Safra Catz has been there longer.
On paper, Mark Hurd compliments Ellison well: He’s an operations-and-logistics guy. Ellison is a strategy guy who parachutes in for the odd (and long) keynote or the multi-billion-dollar acquisition. Only thing is that Catz, like Hurd, is also a logician who makes the trains run on time. Oracle is a big company but is it big enough for both these powerhouses? This could get interesting.
3:Will Oracle Exadata/Exalogic signal a return to the mainframe mentality?
Whatever Larry Ellison says, this whole notion of software-and-hardware-designed to work together is a very old notion. Sometimes he even acknowledges the debt Oracle owes the old IBM. To some extent the whole argument of whether Exalogic represents a cloud in a box is beside the point. Sure Exalogic can power a cloud. How much would Ellison love it if AWS powered its cloud on Exalogic instead of zillions of Intel servers?
This is just a return to the age-old big iron vs. distributed computing battle and it’s unclear that folks are really hankering for a return to that big and very expensive iron. Especially when they see the maintenance-and-support costs involved.
Ellison also ripped multi-tenancy as an “old” technology and touted virtualization as the key to true cloudiness. Um, as one colleague noted: “Multitenancy may be 15 years old, but virtualization is FIFTY years old!”
4: Can Oracle curb its impulse to monetize at all costs?
When Oracle raised support prices on Sun hardware, Sun customers were outraged. They’d gotten used to a pretty good thing. The independent Sun Microsystems, as it struggled, was easy peasy when it came to enforcing support policies. Flexibility was the word of the day. Customers and Sun VARs decried Oracle as greedy. But, one naysayer countered: “Is it greed or is it just fair?”
Given that the support clock starts ticking as the Sun-Oracle hardware leaves the loading dock — so customers pay for hardware they don’t even have in house — it’s easy to call it greed.
The costs don’t end with delivery and installation however. Simply moving existing Sun hardware to another data center turns out to be very pricey as well. One company that specializes in data center moves said Oracle quoted a price to unplug and re-certify Sun servers at what amounted to be $6,000 to $8,000 per hour.
5: Can Oracle salve hurt feelings over Java?
Folks in the Java One fold were none too happy to be jettisoned from their usual Moscone haunts to the hotel hinterland this week. And, they wanted to know what happened to the Ellison-and-Thomas Kurian session they’d been promised. They’re already irked that Oracle let James Gosling take his ball and go home. And some (though not all) are miffed about the lawsuit Oracle filed vs. Google.
6: What happened to Ellison un-plugged?
In past OpenWorlds, the best part was the audience Q&A with Ellison. It’s been gone for a few years now and the show is diminished as a result. Sure, corporate message mongers like it that Ellison is more scripted now–one year he “announced” a price change that, apparently, no one else knew about. Truthfully, I can’t even remember if the price change ever happened but things like that differentiated the show and is why it’s time to bring Ellison unplugged back.