Eye on Oracle

Feb 1 2010   4:22PM GMT

Oracle’s Ellison adds another episode to the “Larry Being Larry” show

Ed Scannell Ed Scannell Profile: Ed Scannell

In his hour-long Q&A session following the Oracle + Sun press briefing, Oracle chairman Larry Ellison addressed a wide range of topics both seriously and playfully from his brazen confidence about the newly combined company fundamentally changing the way IT will buy products to trash talking competitors to lambasting the press. Some moments of the performance will certainly find their way onto “The Best of Larry Being Larry” DVD.

Much of the trash talking focused on IBM, a competitor Larry continues to have a curious love-hate relationship with. He again said he believes the Sun acquisition will allow him to recreate the IBM of 1960s, a company that delivered seamless hardware-software solutions bundled with great technical support.

But apparently a lot of things Big Blue has done since the 1960s has caused it to drift away from the “IT gold standard” it came to represent, which Larry now believes he can resurrect with Sun’s help.

With one hand Larry gives the old IBM a pat on the back: “Our vision for 2010 is the same as IBM’s in 1960 – deliver seamless systems. That strategy made IBM the most successful company in the history of the world. We like that model.”

And with the other hand Larry gives the present day IBM a backhander: “How many servers can IBM put together for OLTP applications? Umm, one. Just one server attacking really big jobs. They can’t scale out, do clouds or clusters. It fascinates me why IBM didn’t come out years ago with something like our Exadata Database Machine. We have huge advantages over them.”

Or completely dismissing their chances to succeed in the database business: “IBM is so far behind, they don’t have any chance at all. In databases, they are a decade or so behind us. I’m serious.”

Boldly, he believes the Oracle-Sun approach to selling stacks of integrated systems along with support directly to the largest customers will significantly alter IT industry’s approach to how it receives, installs and supports mission critical components:

“At the heart of what we are trying to do, and what customers are really looking for, is to completely change the experience of buying systems from databases to middleware to development tools. No one has ever had all that inside one company and did so with open technologies.”

Some other quotes for the The Best of DVD:

On press reports just prior to this week’s event speculating that Oracle would lay off half of Sun’s workforce:

“The people who reported that should be ashamed of themselves. The truth is we are hiring 2,000 people over the next few months and that will be twice as many people as we are laying off. We will make $1.5 billion (in profit from Sun products) in the first full year. Sun has a fabulous installed base and pipeline of technology.”

On Oracle’s plans for Sun’s MySQL open source database, the product that caused the European Commission to hold up the deal for almost four extra months:

“MySQL will be made better. We will do a better job at improving at it than has been done for the past five years. For instance, we have our own version of Linux that we have added new features to. We also want to make both Solaris and Linux better. Our goal is to make all these systems better technologically because we can make more money for products and support.”

On what he valued more, wining the America’s Cup or winning a deal against IBM:

“I don’t have to choose.”

On whether he plans to buy the Golden State Warriors:

“I’m trying, I’m trying, but unfortunately you can’t have a hostile takeover of a basketball team.”

On whether Oracle is missing out by not competing in the consumer electronics market ala Apple:

“We are not good at a hundred different things, but we are good at a small number of things and that is what we need to do. I am not sure Oracle is the right company to take on Apple in telephones. Instead of making phones we’ll make Java that goes into those phones. It would be very dangerous for us to go into consumer electronics.”

On plans for going after the high end of the market with Solaris-based solutions as opposed to focusing on opportunities at the lower end:

“Unix still does well at the high end, which is where Solaris is going. We won’t be making it for single systems though, but for a cluster of computers. The high end to me is not Intel vs. SPARC, it is more like a cloud of SPARC machines in the data center. It will be a long time before Linux catches up there. I am a Linux fan, but I don’t think the high end is in danger for us at all.”

On whether the acquisition of Sun now makes Oracle too big a company to consistently deliver innovative products:

“Everyone said IBM was in trouble because of its size and that was just nonsensical. This idea that you are too big to innovate is just insane. A long as you have quality people – and we have quality people in quantity – I will never hear me tell you Oracle is too big to innovate.”

I had mentioned in a blog last week that with its newfound power and position in the IT industry thanks to the Sun deal, Oracle might display a bit more humility than hubris. Larry and company might be more humble eventually, but not this week.

But Larry didn’t have all the best one liners. In his opening remarks Oracle President Charles Phillips, under siege from jilted mistress YaVaughnie Wilkins’ billboard campaign highlighting their once romantic relationship said, “welcome to this important day in the history of enterprise computing. Hopefully you have had a smoother week than I did. But on to bigger and better things.”

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