Its Onward and Upward for a Refreshed Oracle

Reporter's Notebook: With recent acquisitions out of the way, Oracle seems more focused. Good thing, because customers at OpenWorld, hungry for upgrades, have high expectations.

You know how you feel after youve eaten enough to turn your belly into a blimp on Thanksgiving? A bit slow, a bit groggy, and pretty happy with your lot in life, right?

Oracle knows. It has eaten a lot since its last OpenWorld.

The jittery, hunted look is gone from Oracle President Charles Phillips this time around. He got up; he gave his keynote on Monday; he made jokes.

He did that last year, sure. But this year you could see it in the way he walked across the stage, in the way his face didnt look ready to crack: The PeopleSoft battle is over, there are more companies to acquire with nothing near the Sturm und Drang to endure, and Oracle is now settled down into its role as an absolutely huge technology factory.

What a difference a year makes. Last year, the DOJ and the European Commission were working furiously to thwart the PeopleSoft takeover.

Oracle executives looked haggard. Hell, Oracle employees at every level looked haggard.

This year OpenWorld opened a week after an equally enormous takeover announcement—the $5.85 billion Siebel buy Oracle announced last week—and yet Oracle expects no serious pushback from the courts this time around.

Not that they wouldnt be ready for it—theyve learned a lot about courtrooms, Phillips joked.


So now the edge is off. Oracle has acquired or is acquiring an astonishing total of 10 companies so far this year, and we have learned this: If Larry wants to buy you, youll be bought.

Comedian Dana Carvey gave a keynote on Sunday evening. Ellisons put a down payment on Fresno, he joked.

"Does this SAP [pronounced sap, of course] think its safe?" Carvey mused. Then he mimed Ellison calling SAP, cupping the mic and dropping his voice to a tenor.

"Hi, this is Larry Ellison," Carvey purred.

Then he straightened up and mimed SAPs response: "Ve are SAP! Ve are German! Ve vill not be acquired!"

Back to the purring tenor: "OK. Ill give you a call tomorrow."

And what about showgoers? What was on their minds, now that the high wire tension of last year has dissipated?

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Most everybody I talked with—from showgoers at the Oracle Application Users Group meeting on Sunday, to those walking the exhibit show floor and standing in line to hear about new features in 10g R2—are focusing on what Oracle is up to with Project Fusion, as well as gearing up to migrate to 10g R2.

"Im here to see what Oracles coming up with down the line. Fusion and whatnot," said Tim Lee, a configuration management engineer with Syscon Justice Systems Ltd., at the OAUG meeting at Moscone West.

Lee, like lots of Oracle customers, is facing the upgrade scenario.

His company, which makes prison system software thats used throughout the U.K. and in a slew of states, has clients that are running everything from Oracle 7 on up to some bigger clients running 10g.

But now that R2 of the 10g database is out, were finally going to start seeing some serious, rapid uptake. Thats what Mark Farnham predicted, and he would know: hes president of Rightsizing Inc., an Oracle consultancy.

I bumped into Farnham as he stood in line with what must have been practically all of the 35,000 people registered for the show. OK, maybe not that many, but honestly, the line snaked out from room 130 at Moscone South, through the exhibit hall, and on up the staircase between the escalators.

Everybody was waiting to get in to this Tuesday session on new features in 10g R2. Farnham said the biggest attraction of the release is stabilization.

Farnham said he expects R2 to have a rapid uptake, given the emphasis Oracle has put on hardening the release. That means faster, smoother, easier to install and easier to maintain.

Now, I talked with Andy Mendelsohn, Oracle SVP of Server Technologies, earlier on Tuesday, and he was pretty darn happy with the uptake for 10g R1: 24 percent of customers have jumped on board, after 10g being out a year and a half. That compares with 15 percent for R1 of 9i.

But, Farnham pointed out, if his clients are indicative, people havent been using R1 in production. Theyve been waiting for the stability of R2, with his clients only dipping their toes in the water with R1 to make sure it works, he said.

Next Page: Customers have middleware on their minds.