Global CIO: Larry Ellison And The New Oracle Rock The Tech World - InformationWeek

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8/3/2010
12:53 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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Global CIO: Larry Ellison And The New Oracle Rock The Tech World

From optimized systems and new Fusion apps to slashing CIOs' integration burdens, Oracle promises to redefine not only product categories but also customer expectations.

If you think Larry Ellison and Oracle are developing complex and byzantine schemes to turn the computer industry upside down, consider the reaction of Oracle executive VP John Fowler upon meeting Ellison and coming aboard as the highest-ranking former Sun executive.

"I didn't know Larry before the acquisition except by reputation," Fowler says, "so, like most executives in this situation, I spent a little time familiarizing myself with my key financial numbers so I could try to seem particularly intelligent when we met.

"But in the very first discussion Larry had with me, he wanted to know the cache sizes of all my processors. He wanted to talk about clock rates and cache sizes!" Fowler says with a laugh. "And every single meeting with Larry since then has been identical on these broad topics: How do you make the products better, where do we need to be investing more, how do we make all the products work better together, and how do we deliver them better for customers?

"And so it's actually kind of a simple place in that regard -- and it all flows from Larry."

It's no news to anyone with even a remote familiarity with the IT business that Oracle's founder and CEO has been an outspoken and high-profile executive for many years, and that his personal exploits in sailboat racing, movie acting, NBA team near-ownership, and personal wealth have made him a larger-than-life figure in an industry where most leaders go to great lengths to keep low profiles.

But for all of Oracle's vast successes in databases, applications, and middleware, the software stage was simply not expansive enough for Ellison. Not that he grew bored with software and went off looking for some new diversion to soak up his vast levels of energy and curiosity. Rather, the software-only toolbox possessed by Oracle before it acquired Sun half a year ago was simply becoming insufficient to drive the profound computing industry changes and disruptions envisioned by Ellison and demanded by some cutting-edge customers.

So Ellison -- the same radical thinker who rattled the elite global sailing community by coming to the America's Cup late last year with a revolutionary hull design (three-hulled trimaran) and an even more audacious 223-foot-tall, airline-wing sail -- went out and acquired a broad-based hardware company. But not just any hardware company, of course. Rather, the iconic Sun Microsystems:

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