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Sep 15 2010   4:08PM GMT

Oracle: The world’s scariest software company

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

With apologies to Google and Microsoft,  Oracle may be the scariest software company on the planet.

There are those in the corporate trenches who say that companies of any size absolutely need the Oracle database and Oracle financial applications to do business. That remains true despite the millions upon millions poured by Microsoft into SQL Server.

 Oracle remains king of databases. The main question then is whether those database shops will allow the company to expand its footprint on their servers with Oracle Linux, Oracle VM, and Oracle middleware. Once implemented, all that software brings with it the real crown jewels: Oracle support and maintenance. Oracle co-president Safra Catz has pretty much claimed that support, costing 22% of the software license fee per year,  as the company’s birthright.

Another question is whether Oracle is serious about hardware or just screwing around.  So far Oracle’s hardware forays have been bumpy at best and many say that the vendor is trying to force a hardware business into a software company mold. Whether that move will succeed is anyone’s guess.

Still, Oracle’s gotten everyone’s attention. No lesser an industry titan than IBM CEO Sam Palmisano told several news outlets this week that he believes Oracle will be the biggest threat to IBM over time. The  normally reticent Palmisano also slammed HP and Mark Hurd, its former CEO, saying that HP should not have given nor Hurd accepted a reported $35 million severance package. Oh, and that HP’s decision to buy 3Par was necessary because Hurd had gutted HP R&D.

Ouch.

To be fair, since HP surpassed IBM as the world’s leading IT provider some time back, Palmisano’s got a dog in this fight.

But back to Oracle: Several IT execs with no particular love of Oracle, said that the database is a powerful corporate portal for the rest of Oracle’s portfolio. One even noted that if Oracle mandated that the database be sold only as part of an Exadata-like hardware appliance, pre-bundled with middleware and apps, companies would be forced to buy it that way.

Larry Ellison’s continued leadership is another huge factor. The fact that he hired Hurd, who was embarrassed by an expense-account scandal at HP, shook up the industry and forced HP, now an Oracle competitor, into a tough situation.

His decision to sue Google over Android’s use of Java shows that he has no fear of the consumer software giant. If you think Ellison won’t make hay of the embarrassing Gmail privacy scandal at Oracle OpenWorld next week, you’ve got another think coming.

And, of all the companies that Microsoft has taken on in the past 25 years–a number that includes Novell, Borland, Lotus Development, and others–Oracle alone remained unbowed, robust and unacquired.

By virtue of Ellison’s acquisitions–PeopleSoft (and J.D. Edwards), Siebel, BEA–Oracle is bigger and stronger now than before. (Then-Microsoft chairman Bill Gates once said that Larry Ellison had made his own prediction of industry consolidation come true by spending billions in shareholders dollars to make it true..)

So, going into Oracle OpenWorld 2010 next week, let’s just see if Oracle’s acquisition of Sun Microsystems, and its conversion into a hardware provider will weaken or fortify its scariness.

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