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Oracle OpenWorld 2012, Part 1

Every year, I come to Oracle Open World. Almost every year, I leave with a combination of excitement (for technical innovation and the possibilities inherent in the applications) and a vague sense of disappointment (in corporate direction and messaging). As of this writing we haven’t discussed the applications yet—I’ll talk about that in Part 2—but I think my disappointment in the other stuff is over.

Influencers in CRM and customer-facing technology (some consider me a member of that group) have been critical of Oracle’s strategy the past few years, because it hasn’t been terribly clear. We respect the company’s position as a “fast follower” (in Anthony Lye’s words) where applications are concerned, but we expect some kind of leadership and vision nonetheless. The messaging has been focused on hardware and middleware, things that turn on the server farmers but don’t apply directly to line-of-business personnel. This year, the reason for all the investment in infrastructure products was expressed clearly for the first time in quite a while.

Large enterprise applications and infrastructure are expensive. Oracle Database 12c running on Exadata X3 metal and silicon makes that level of power much cheaper and greener. While this is good news for big companies, it also means that smaller entities will have access as well. If—as Larry Ellison and others claim—the new tech has 100 times the power, then it follows that you can have the current level of power with one one-hundredth the infrastructure.

Let me be clear. Oracle is a big corporation, whose customers are one level removed from the ones I’m typically most interested in—the customer’s of Oracle’s customers. But Oracle’s technology combined with its sheer size can drive economies of scale that benefit the person on the street. Trickle-down economics doesn’t work, but trickle-down technology does.

Data management is also getting a shot in the arm. Oracle announced Oracle Database 12c—”the c is for cloud”—which is claimed to be the first multitenant database. Nobody is saying that Oracle invented multitenancy, but all of the databases and other systems that did MT were built on old technology that wasn’t really intended to support it. This new one is designed from the start to be multitenant, allowing better performance and security than one that had to be tweaked to do the job.

ODB 12c is a pluggable database, serving as a database of databases (wow, that’s meta). Rather than managing disparate DBs in their own silos, 12c becomes the management platform for all of them.

Since it’s cloud, ODB 12c is being touted as enabling infrastructure as a service: IaaS, or infrastructure in the cloud. The X3 hardware allows such high volumes of throughput and in-memory computing that more of the computing load can be done remotely.

Does all of this work? I have no idea, but I really hope so. Not only do they have the potential to be game-changing in their own areas, but they extend the capabilities of any software applications you care to develop. Developers have access to a whole new level of processing power and data management, and it will cost users less to access it.

There is always the question of customer lock-in, especially as Oracle has stated its intention to own the business technology environment, from racks to apps. This doesn’t need to be the case; while Oracle will likely get a huge bump as its customers trade their now-obsolete tech for new, they will be buying the tools to let them develop their own tech, which will compete with (and in some cases outperform) Oracle. Yes, Oracle wins no matter what, but they don’t necessarily monopolize the industry.

Tune in next time when we review what this all means to Oracle line-of-business applications and software in general. Expect there to be a lot of interest in how the new toys will crank social data analytics up to eleven.