Mixed Message for Oracle Users

Ellision delivered his keynote while sailing.

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When Oracle CEO Larry Ellison delivered his OracleWorld keynote this month via satellite while sailing off New Zealand, it suggested a desire on his part to be the center of customers attention without going out of his way to be in touch with them. We hope some of the other developments we noted during that conference turn out to be a more accurate signal of his and his companys intentions.

Oracle has long been floating on the rising tide of demand for database capacity and performance—while giving more attention to doing well than doing good, as infamously demonstrated last summer in scandals that involved overselling and that spanned the continent from California to Toronto.

To its credit, the company has built a solid record of reliability in large-scale applications, a record that makes its vision of defining the enterprise IT platform not absurd but merely ambitious. Even so, a technology enterprise cant succeed indefinitely by doing what it has always done. Leadership requires engagement with customers changing ideas about the role that a technology should play.

It makes sense that database systems should evolve into focal points of enterprise application integration based on the Web services model. That evolution, though, depends on developing new strengths in security and real-time capability. Microsoft is coming up fast in the former, with row-level security for more finely grained access control in Yukon, its planned 2003 update to its cost-effective SQL Server. Oracles equivalent is an option only for its high-end enterprise edition. Meanwhile, IBM in DB2 and Microsoft both could be stealing a march on Oracle by developing real-time analytics for incoming data.

As enterprise applications become more database-centric, enterprise buyers look harder at cost-effectiveness. The basic products offered by Sybase, IBM and Microsoft all do more for less than Oracles entry-level offering.

Offsetting the remoteness of Ellisons absentee keynote were announcements at OracleWorld regarding partnerships with Sun and Dell and the promotion of Java-based standards for application development tools. Well and good—and, we hope, signs of a company thats ready to do more than sail into the sunset.