While a handful of IT companies are hoping to play the dominant role in shaping the business-technology landscape in the coming decade, Oracle and CEO Larry Ellison stand alone in their willingness to state that strategy publicly in blunt, uncompromising, and stop-me-if-you-can terms.
IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and SAP are the other major contenders—and we'll dig into each of their broad approaches and corporate visions in forthcoming columns—but none has been as forthcoming as Ellison in spelling out what they'll do, when they'll do it, how they'll do it, and to whom they'll be doing it.
Of course, in a business that changes as rapidly and sometimes radically as the enterprise IT market—until a year or so ago, did anybody really think Oracle would ever become a hardware player?—these battle plans need to be recalibrated and refined in the face of major new developments, and we're sure to see more than a few of such overhauls among the major players here in 2011.
But, as the year kicks off, here's our first in-depth look at Oracle's strategic vision for the coming year, and, inspired by the stated ambitions of Oracle's founder and CEO, we're calling this installment "Larry Ellison's 10-Point Plan For World Domination." The core arguments from Oracle executives come from my transcription of the company's December 16, 2010 earnings report and conference call with analysts.
I've laid out these 10 pieces in descending order to follow the ways in which Oracle's moves in 2009 and 2010 have fostered the company's compelling and comprehensive approach to the world of enterprise IT.
1. The Exadata Phenomenon: the power of optimized systems. Noting that in competition for data-warehousing deals "it's not uncommon for our Exadata machine to be 10 times faster than the best of the competition," Ellison stressed that the new competitive battleground in corporate IT will be centered on optimizing the performance of hardware-plus-software systems that have been specifically engineered for superior performance, speed of installation, and minimum of integration:
"We expect overall that our new generation of Sun machines—Exadata, Exalogic, and Sparc Superclusters—will enable us to win significant share in the high-end server market and put us into the #2 position behind IBM very, very soon," Ellison said. "Then we'll fight it out with IBM for the #1 spot."
Clearly, Ellison and Oracle believe that their spectacular success with the Exadata Database Machine—its annual run rate is now pushing $2 billion—will pave the way for the Exalogic Elastic Cloud machine and the newer Sparc Supercluster machine, all three of which are predicated on ground-up engineering of Sun hardware with Oracle software to yield world-class performance: Oracle claims its machines are three times faster than IBM's top of the line, and more than seven times faster than HP's biggest servers.
And that is precisely the leverage point Ellison extends to exploit aggressively in 2011: "I think in terms of the halo effect, it's a general recognition now that when you buy these high-end servers, you usually buy them to run specific software," he said in response to an analysts' question. "And we believe that if we do a good job of engineering the software and the server at the same time and make sure they work well together, we have a huge competitive advantage over HP and IBM."
2) Customers Want Game-Changing Technologies—and Oracle is pumping them out.
President Mark Hurd was given significantly more air time in the Dec. 16 earnings call than he received when participating in the mid-September call shortly after joining Oracle, and Hurd focused on Oracle's growth opportunities. While he amplified some of Ellison's comments, Hurd also spoke of the future potential that Oracle's new strategy is generating in the marketplace: