To hear Oracle President Mark Hurd tell it, the £23.7 billion hardware and software company is well ahead of competitors on any number of fronts, from transitioning customers to SaaS and the cloud, to incorporating social technology into its products. Exuding supreme confidence in Oracle's emerging cloud services, hardware/software combos such as exabyte storage and its latest buyouts, Hurd said in a recent interview with IDG Enterprise that the main thing keeping him awake at night is "customers making decisions and we're not there. We've got to make sure we're there."
To that end, Oracle has recently added 3,300 salespeople and armed them with an increasingly broad product portfolio designed to give customers the choice of hosting and managing their own apps, handing most control over to Oracle or doing something in between. Oracle is fortifying its salesforce by process and subject area, such as human capital management (HCM), but encourages its salespeople to then address customer needs by representing SaaS, private cloud and on-premise versions of its apps.
Hurd, who joined Oracle from HP in 2010, argues that his company offers far more choice than competitors in that it directly sells infrastructure and apps, whereas others such as IBM and constant courtroom foe SAP specialise in one or the other. His only acknowledgement during this interview of companies that do challenge Oracle was of unnamed "boutique" SaaS firms in areas such as human resources, sales automation and service automation that most likely will be acquired, some no doubt by Oracle.
"I hate to say the ships have sailed, but if your ships aren't in the water halfway across the ocean already, you're going to have a hard time catching up," Hurd says.
The ever-acquisitive company, which blasted into the hardware market in 2010 by acquiring Sun Microsystems for $7.4 billion, has focused its purchases of late on social technology firms such as Involver and Vitrue. Exactly what Oracle has planned for its social technology acquisitions remains unclear, but Hurd shed some light on social, which he described more as "a set of capabilities" than as a pure product play.
"It's getting our apps [such as e-commerce servers] to work in that mobile social environment," Hurd says. "It's getting our apps to engage and transact in that environment. It's a big differentiator for us."
Increasingly for Oracle, those apps are being sold via a software-as-a-service model that now generates $1 billion in annual revenue and hasn't caused the company to miss a step profit margin-wise, according to Hurd. The company has been working for six or seven years to build out its Fusion applications on a common middleware layer that enables greatly improved developer productivity and high-level integration across apps, according to Hurd.
"We now have the ability to give you SaaS out of the Oracle cloud, to build a private cloud for you and/or have you use the same applications on-premise," says Hurd, who acknowledges that budget- and innovation-challenged customers are still feeling their way through new computing models and the impact they have on everything from service-level agreements to security and performance. "We will be the only company in the industry that has a suite of capability available."
Oracle CEO Larry Ellison boasted in June that the company would deliver the world's "most comprehensive cloud," and Hurd assures that Oracle will have most of its apps available on the Oracle Cloud by year-end.
Hurd went on to say that Oracle is partnering with ISVs and others who will build on top of the Oracle Cloud through platform- and infrastructure-as-a-service offerings, and that Oracle's Exadata and Exalogic systems will be at the heart of others' cloud services. "We're more than open to partners leveraging our cloud," Hurd says.
Oracle's challenge remains distributing its technologies more widely, putting them into the hands of existing and new customers who need them. Ellison has committed to pumping about $5 billion into R&D this year, and on top of technologies obtained via acquisitions, that will only mean Oracle's portfolio will expand.
"We're building a tremendous stack of capabilities. We just have to make sure they get in front of all the buyers," Hurd says.
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