Global CIO: Resurrecting Mark Hurd: Larry Ellison's War With IBM
One month after resigning in disgrace from HP, Hurd joins Ellison's pursuit of IBM. Here are Hurd's top 10 challenges.
6) Acquisitions: EMC or NetApp? In the press release announcing Hurd's hiring, Safra Catz is quoted as saying, "As Oracle continues to grow we need people experienced in operating a $100 billion business." In the past several years as the company has evolved for a large and prominent player in databases to the world's largest enterprise-software company to its current profile as all that plus its aspiration to be the global leader in optimized systems, it has grown primarily through acquisitions. At HP, Hurd showed a strong hand for deal-making (EDS, Mercury, 3Com, Palm, etc.), but at Oracle, he'll have to be even better. In the booming market for storage, look for Hurd and Oracle to go big—and that means plays for either EMC or NetApp.
7) Acquisitions: Netezza or Teradata? And since this is Oracle we're talking about, perhaps Netezza and Teradata. Here's Hurd from last night's press release: "I believe Oracle's strategy of combining software with hardware will enable Oracle to beat IBM in both enterprise servers and storage. Exadata is just the beginning." No doubt some new Exadata-type systems will be announced in two weeks at Oracle Open World, but it's not Ellison's style to rely solely in organic growth, and Netezza, while small, has begun growing rapidly as it penetrates more enterprise accounts. As for Teradata, Hurd helped run that business when it was part of NCR.
8) Pushing a cloud strategy. While Ellison has overcome (mostly) his deep contempt for the concept and name of "cloud computing" (see Global CIO: Oracle's Larry Ellison Embraces Cloud Computing's 'Idiocy', Oracle badly needs to articulate its cloud strategy and product lineup more clearly. Hurd—particularly given his new role in leading Oracle's assault on IBM—will need to lead that cloud-definition effort because IBM is pulling away on that front.
9) Keeping and supporting John Fowler. As Oracle's executive vice-president for systems, Fowler is Oracle's highest-ranking executive from Sun who's chosen (and been permitted) to stay. A passionate and brilliant technologist, Fowler's the unquestioned leader of the huge and talented Sun engineering team on which Ellison has already bet so much, with much more to come in the future. Hurd needs to prove to Fowler that he's wanted and needed, and Hurd needs to convince Fowler that he'll retain the authority and autonomy required to meet Ellison's vision for Oracle of becoming the world's preeminent high-end systems company.
10) Does "open" mean open? As Oracle has advanced two strategic ideas at the center of its growth plans for the next five years, competitors have pounced on those ideas as proof that Oracle wants to strip away choice from customers, that it wants to impose vendor lock-in, and that its products and market approach are the very antithesis of open systems. First, Oracle has begun pushing the idea that the solution to 30 years of bloated, inefficient, and horribly complex IT infrastructure is simple: customers should just buy all-Oracle stacks. And second, IBM in particular has said that Oracle's brand of optimized systems again greatly reduce the level of choice and flexibility CIOs crave. While not known for being an overly philosophical or marketing-oriented guy, Hurd's got a large and growing problem on his hands here, and he'll have to lead a compelling counterargument to win the debate with the substantial chorus of competitors claiming that for Oracle, the meaning of the word "open" isn't open.
Short of those 10 chores, the only thing Hurd's got to do is get new business cards.
And speaking of cards, whatever you think of Larry Ellison, this has all the makings of a brilliantly orchestrated slice of high-stakes gambling. But he—and particularly Mark Hurd—had better remember that IBM didn't get to its current position without knowing how to play a little poker itself.
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