Ellison: Oracle Plans To Be No. 1 In On-Demand Software

It may take 10 years, the CEO acknowledges, noting that Oracle is currently only "a little bit" involved in cloud computing.
Oracle's on-premises software continues to be its cash cow, however, and that's primarily because of maintenance fees. For its fourth fiscal quarter ended May 31, Oracle reported that new software sales fell 13% from last year's fourth quarter, to $2.7 billion, while the company's software maintenance business rose 8% to $3.05 billion.

In the call, Oracle co-president Safra Catz said that new software application license revenue for the current quarter is expected be anywhere from flat to down 10% over last year's first fiscal quarter.

Catz noted that "we delivered the highest Q4 operating margin in our history, crossing the 50% mark for the first time." She later remarked that "the margin story really has to do with the fact that we have an enormous installed base of customers that renew their agreements with us every year, and the bigger that number becomes ... that's really the main issue."

In addition to on-demand software, Ellison focused much of his discussion on a data warehouse appliance product co-developed with Hewlett-Packard, called Exadata, that Oracle released last fall.

Ellison views Exadata as an example of the good things Oracle can do when it mixes hardware and software, a product trend it plans to continue with its planned acquisition of Sun Microsystems. "Exadata is really our first experiment in that area, and it's going very well," Ellison said.

Customers for Exadata include Research In Motion and a "well-known California smartphone and computer manufacturer," he said. Oracle sees Teradata as its biggest competitor for Exadata.

Meanwhile, in terms of software sales, middleware has been the "star all year long" for Oracle, said co-president Charles Phillips. Next week, Oracle is rolling out a new version, Fusion Middleware 11G, at an event in Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, some customers of BEA Systems, which Oracle acquired in 2008, have started to invest in other parts of the Fusion Middleware suite, including Costco, Comcast, and Erickson, Phillips said.

Business intelligence is proving to be a popular application during the recession, and Phillips said Oracle has had some good wins against IBM Cognos and SAP Business Objects, including American Express, Southwest Airlines, and Capital One. Wal-Mart and Kroger have signed on for the company's enterprise performance-management software, Hyperion.

When financial analysts asked about IT spending for the remainder of the year, Philips didn't offer any guarantees.

"I talked to a group of CIOs on this just last week; it's difficult to say," Philips said. "They didn't spend as aggressively in the first half, because they were kind of in a wait-and-see mode. ... So most of them sounded like they wanted to start moving ahead the second half of the year, but we'll see what they do."

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