Oracle and Web Services

By Jim Louderback  |  Posted 2003-10-07 Print this article Print

Where does Oracle position itself in the emerging Web services world? So far, it hasnt spelled out much of a strategy. "Can Larry take it to the next step?" asks former board member Joe Costello. "I understand what the next step is at Microsoft, but there is no articulated vision at Oracle."
Recently, Ellison has talked about moving into hosted applications. Instead of buying a suite of software that they have to install, customers would pay Oracle monthly fees to provide and maintain what they need from its own data centers.
"Guaranteed, you will never have to pay for another upgrade. You will never pay for another piece of software. You will never pay for another piece of hardware," Ellison says, predicting that this could be a $1 billion business for Oracle in a few years. Cliff Godwin, senior vice president of applications technology, says Oracle has more than two hundred customers using its hosted solution. "We believe in hosting as a strategy and in software as a service," Godwin says. "We will be putting out a lot of new hosted offerings. We want to build an economy around that and have other partners come in with value-added services, such as those with expertise in retail or banking." So far, however, the hosted business has proved only a drop in the bucket for Oracle, and smaller, nimbler competitors like Benioffs are already there. "Its a pipe dream," says Lane. "Its not in Oracles DNA to work that way, delivering a service month after month. Software development is very different than operating the applications for a customer." He recalls a conversation he had with Ellison in 1999, when the on-line business was getting started. Lane told Ellison he needed to put a strong operational person in charge to make sure customer problems got solved. Ellison retorted, "Well put an NC on-site with a customer," running the same applications. "If a customer calls in, well tell him to walk over to the NC. If the applications working there, go call your network provider. Its a network problem." Its doubtful that many companies would want to entrust their ongoing software needs to a company whose CEO has attitudes like this. "Oracle has had its best days," maintains Meta Group analyst Will Zachmann. "Theres no way they can grow like they did in the 1990s. More likely, they will go into a decline." Hes not as concerned as other observers about the succession problem. "Larry doesnt seem to be going anywhere, so I dont think the cult of personality is the big issue. Its how they respond to challenges from Microsoft and IBM. If they lose their core [database] business, the rest of it will crumble." Zachmann adds that Ellisons aggressive, expansionist management style "works as long as youre winning. It remains to be seen how well it works in a defensive mode where theyre not leading a market. There are no more quick victories." Want to know whats really going on at Oracle? Join author Karen Southwick all week in our forum for the inside scoop!

With more than 20 years experience in consulting, technology, computers and media, Jim Louderback has pioneered many significant new innovations.

While building computer systems for Fortune 100 companies in the '80s, Jim developed innovative client-server computing models, implementing some of the first successful LAN-based client-server systems. He also created a highly successful iterative development methodology uniquely suited to this new systems architecture.

As Lab Director at PC Week, Jim developed and refined the product review as an essential news story. He expanded the lab to California, and created significant competitive advantage for the leading IT weekly.

When he became editor-in-chief of Windows Sources in 1995, he inherited a magazine teetering on the brink of failure. In six short months, he turned the publication into a money-maker, by refocusing it entirely on the new Windows 95. Newsstand sales tripled, and his magazine won industry awards for excellence of design and content.

In 1997, Jim launched TechTV's content, creating and nurturing a highly successful mix of help, product information, news and entertainment. He appeared in numerous segments on the network, and hosted the enormously popular Fresh Gear show for three years.

In 1999, he developed the 'Best of CES' awards program in partnership with CEA, the parent company of the CES trade show. This innovative program, where new products were judged directly on the trade show floor, was a resounding success, and continues today.

In 2000, Jim began developing, a daily, live, 8 hour TechTV news program called TechLive. Called 'the CNBC of Technology,' TechLive delivered a daily day-long dose of market news, product information, technology reporting and CEO interviews. After its highly successful launch in April of 2001, Jim managed the entire organization, along with setting editorial direction for the balance of TechTV.

In the summer or 2002, Jim joined Ziff Davis Media to be Editor-In-Chief and Vice President of Media Properties, including, Microsoft Watch, and the websites for PC Magazine, eWeek and ZDM's gaming publications.


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