Ellison blusters and Hurd disappoints while the lieutenants, and several key announcements, impress.
High point: Mendelsohn details the big data strategy. Like Kurian, Mendelsohn knows his stuff, and he's ready to answer any question. I was critical of a presentation he gave earlier this year to a bunch of financial analysts, but it's clear Mendelsohn knows his audience. In a Tuesday keynote to a more technical crowd, he offered cogent and accessible explanations of big data and the open source Hadoop and R technologies, both key ingredients of Oracle's new Big Data Appliance. During a follow-up press conference, he was objective and downright realistic in saying "the reality is that there are not a lot of people that can use Hadoop as yet."
As I detailed in this story, the breadth of what Oracle announced was impressive. Yes, Oracle is following others, notably EMC's Greenplum division and Teradata's Aster Data unit, as well as the pioneers of the NoSQL movement. And, yes, we have yet to see how soon Oracle's big data efforts will materialize. But Mendelsohn presented a realistic, credible, and understandable plan.
High point and low point: Ellison talks cloud, social networking, and Fusion. Ellison's second keynote, on Wednesday afternoon, started out strong, but it petered out in a long demo that should have been handled by a Fusion CRM product manager. Ellison was back on the safe ground of software, and he did a masterful job of explaining the strategy and the thinking behind Fusion Applications. He was forthright in admitting it took six years rather than four, and he explained the solid technical reasons for leaving things like security and BI to the middleware rather than complicating the applications.
Ellison had the audience eating out of his hands by the time he launched into a comparison of Oracle's new Public Cloud with Salesforce.com's Force.com platform, serving up vintage Ellisonisms like his comparison of the Salesforce cloud to a roach motel: "You can check in, but you can't check out."
Delivered in moderation, these attacks can be effective. Ellison has a bully pulpit, and it's tough for competitors to respond after the fact. It's the sort of attack that led IBM software chief Steve Mills to say of Oracle, "Their perspective is that lies that go unchallenged become the truth. If you scream loud enough, it's hard for anybody to get a word in edgewise."
Is multitenancy really the best choice of 15 years ago, as Ellison disparagingly described it? Doesn't matter. He succeeded in planting seeds of doubt about a competitor even as other Oracle executives were explaining that Fusion Applications were designed from the start to deploy in a multitenant fashion.
I wanted to hear a lot more about the new Oracle Social Network, but Ellison instead launched into a long CRM scenario demo. The demo got into concepts that are well understood, like talent profiles, finding experts with the aid of presence awareness, and securely sharing documents. I wanted to know more about the details of Oracle's social network, including cost, how people outside the enterprise gain access, and how threads are navigated and filtered.
News of Jobs' death led to the cancellation of the follow-up question-and-answer session on Ellison's second keynote. At that point the questions and answers would have all seemed trivial. The news made me think about leadership and communications style and the high points and low points of my four days at Oracle OpenWorld.
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