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After-Action Report: Oracle Open World 2013

So, I’m a few days back from Oracle Open World, and have had time to put my thoughts together. Overall, I can say it was effective in showing what Oracle can do with server technology. Its application prowess could be inferred, but wasn’t given enough spotlight.

You’ve probably heard this from me before, and from any number of people who cover business applications like CRM. The fact is, Oracle is a company with a lot of things going on, and it seems that most of its money and staying power comes from the hardware end of things. As such, I can’t be surprised that the keynotes were focused on server technology—like the powerful new SPARC M6-32 in its various flavors—and the databases that let them use that power. I’m not a hardware guy in any professional sense, but the nerd in me gets excited upon hearing what the newest and bestest can do. Larry Ellison is at his best when talking about servers and databases, and while this wasn’t his finest hour, he got the point across very effectively that the big cabinets with the blinking lights could deliver some serious computing.

While computing power translates into applications power, the connection isn’t explicit. Deeper discussion of how the servers and databases and in-memory computing drive more effective software was needed, but largely absent. David Vap gave us part of the story in regard to CX (that’s both customer experience in a generic sense, and Oracle CX in particular), and Steve Miranda led a Wednesday session  that I had to miss to catch a plane, most of what could be said about CRM-related topics was left unsaid. Breakout sessions by partners and acquisitions covered some of the gaps, but that spreads the message a little thin.

Speaking of partners, Microsoft was a very noticeable presence this year, sharing the stage for a keynote to show off the freshly minted partnership between the two sometimes-rivals. In a nutshell, Oracle will certify and support its product line—applications, middleware, database, Java, and Oracle Linux—on Windows Server Hyper-V and Windows Azure. Microsoft, in turn, will offer Java, Oracle Database, and Oracle WebLogic Server to Windows Azure customers. This is a fairly big deal for infrastructure fans, though it expands existing relationships rather than diving into completely new territory, but again the applications story is left untold.

I understand that the stuff that interests me can’t always be front and center. I would have appreciated a little more of it, but I was mostly content with what I saw. Big computing is the heartbeat of Big Data—a major buzzword for the past couple of years—and Big Data lets businesses better understand and predict customer behavior on both macro and micro levels. Hammering the point home a little harder, maybe with some practical demonstrations of Big Data-injected CRM in action, would have been great.

The thing that was lacking, in my opinion, was vision. As I mentioned before, Larry Ellison shines when he can wax rhapsodic about technology. He absolutely crushes it when he talks about what he wants to develop, and what the future holds through use of his company’s many products. The excitement he can bring to the discussion was not as evident this year; he was more like a proud parent than a supercharged futurist. It was good Larry, but not great Larry.

I’ll mention, but not dwell upon, the fact that he skipped his second keynote to watch Oracle Team USA’s final victory over Emirates Team New Zealand in the Americas Cup sailing race series. It’s a huge deal for sailing enthusiasts, and he’s nothing if not that. It was disappointing to miss him, and some attendees were outraged to one degree or another, but when your personal net worth is greater than some nations’ GDP, sometimes you can do what you want.

Thanks to the OOW event staff, and especially to the analyst relations team, for making my time at Open World enjoyable, productive, and busy. Same time next year?