Tag Archives: Oracle

Thoughts on Oracle Open World 2014

I’m not sure quite what to say about Oracle Open World 2014 that I didn’t already say in my tweet stream. That won’t stop me from trying, though. It’s my job, and it’s also fun trying to make a picture from all the jigsaw pieces we were handed.

There’s been a lot of talk about “the changing face of Oracle,” with efforts apparently being made to soften the notoriously hard-edged tech monolith’s public image. Whatever you may choose to make of it, there was certainly some of this attitude on display this past week. Not only were executives more numerous and available, they were more present—meaning they seemed to have real interest in sharing their plans with the public, and getting feedback from the 60,000 customers, partners and analysts in attendance. For some of them, this isn’t a change; Steve Miranda, EVP of applications development, has always been an exemplar of what a public-facing exec should be, and now that Meg Bear, group VP of Oracle Social Cloud, has joined the company, he’s not alone in that. You can keep your Safra Catz and Mark Hurd (as long as we can still use the puntastic “herding cats” imagery)—these are the sort of people I want to talk to, and who need to be heard.

Larry Ellison has stepped down as CEO, which should be news to nobody at this point. With him free to focus on technology (at least when he’s not doing chairman stuff), it feels like discussions about Oracle tech are going to be a lot more fun from now on. It’s clear that he likes talking about it, evangelizing, and tossing barbs at the competition, and I get the sense he will be less restrained now. While this means more opportunities for crotch-punching among all those industry leaders—as evidenced by the utter lambasting of SAP HANA this year, in front of the former SAP exec who championed it—I guess there’s the hope that it’ll feel less official coming from the chairman, CTO, and largest non-institutional shareholder.

Another factor is that Oracle is truly starting to embrace cloud computing as a fundamental part of their business. They’ve even stated that moving customers to the cloud is a matter of when, not if—though of course they also say that nobody will ever be forced to give up on-premises deployments. Nobody was forced to give up horses either, but how many people still ride?

The technology on display this year was fine. Nothing groundbreaking in my opinion, unless you happen to be a VAR, in which case you had better make sure the rug hasn’t just been pulled out from under you. Specifically, users now have the ability to move their Oracle apps to and from the cloud by more or less pushing a button or two, and those apps will be modernized and updated automatically, all without having to alter existing code. Furthermore, Oracle claims to have built social, mobile, and analytic support directly into the database, so adding those functions to apps should be much easier. If this works as well as demos have shown, a lot of systems integrators out there will be scrambling to learn new tricks.

Despite seeing the word “innovation” in a lot of presentations this year, I think it’s misleading. What we’ve seen is smart continuation of existing efforts. Oracle is taking all the neato things that are possible with today’s computing power and making them commonly available. Former Oracle senior VP and general manager Anthony Lye was fond of saying the company was not necessarily an innovator, but a fast follower. This is fine by me. I’m getting the sense that there’s enough wisdom in the company to know that it’s not just about providing the hardware and software, but about understanding why their customers want it and how they want to use it.

I’m looking forward to hearing the responses from other vendors in the coming days and weeks—Dreamforce is right around the corner, after all—and watching it all play out in the coming year. I close these after-action reports with some variation on the above every year, but this year it seems more true than ever before.

Open World 2014, open

So it’s official: Unless something bad happens, I will once again be in attendance at Oracle Open World this year. This is the second confirmation on my summer/fall conference list. (The other, CRM Evolution, was set months ago.) More to follow as they come.

Open World 2014 is the last week of September into October, so Big Red isn’t exactly waiting for the last minute or anything. This year’s AR/PR team has some new faces mixed with the veterans, and I know the experience, if not the same, will be just as good. Oracle has traditionally done a very good job with the cushier aspects of making potential critics feel welcome.

I’m looking forward to the conference, as usual, and figure now’s as good a time as any to ask readers and followers if there’s anything specific they’d like me to look for while I’m there. For my own part, I want to see a summary of how the half-score of Cloud initiatives launched last year have fared. Call me lazy—I do it all the time—but while I know how several of them have done, I want somebody to help out with broad context.

For another thing, I have to admit I am still excited by the Big Data and in-memory computing products that were on display last year. Big Data is tired and even a bit inaccurate, as buzzwords go, but the concepts behind bringing supermassive analytics to business users still astounds me. That and in-memory computing really appeal to the geek in me, even though I’m not competent with hardware.

Most of all, I will get to share thoughts and arguments with some of the finest minds in enterprise computing. I always come out of these things energized and enlightened, so I can pass on what I’ve learned.

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?

Oracle OpenWorld, Part 3: The NetSuite Addendum

Oracle OpenWorld got me reacquainted with SaaS ERP and CRM provider NetSuite, as part of a week that was all about making clear that which had been a bit foggy for a while. I hope you’re not expecting me to be writing about how NetSuite has re-emerged, because they never went away. The fault is all mine for not providing more coverage of the company the past couple of years—I let the San Mateo-based company drop off my radar because their primary focus is ERP, while mine is not.

There are two reasons this was a mistake (three, actually, but only two of them matter to you). The first is that NetSuite’s CRM prowess, while not the thing that brings most customers to the door, has been consistently excellent over the years, good enough to rival any CRM vendor’s offering. Second is that the company has found a way of making ERP relevant to customer experience, which is no mean feat—more about that in a moment.

The third reason is that the NetSuite team is composed of some of my very favorite people in the industry, and I’ve done them a disservice by not staying in touch. It has nothing to do with the lovely dinners and bottles of liquor they’ve bought me in times past, not the CES-level swag that often accompanies their conferences and other gatherings. I mention that because it’s always a good idea for people like me to disclose what might serve to bias us in a company’s favor. It takes a lot to bribe me, though; I’m perfectly happy to pee in a vendor’s Cheerios if I think there’s something wrong with their products or strategy, no matter how nice they’ve been to me; the best they can hope for in such a case is that I’ll try not to be mean about it. Fortunately, NetSuite has given me no reason for any cereal micturation.

Here’s what got me back in the business of observing NetSuite. The company showed off a very snazzy e-commerce engine that runs directly on top of the two-tiered ERP system that’s part of NetSuite OneWorld. I say snazzy because there’s nothing basic-looking about it; you get a highly polished front end for the minimal required work of setting a few parameters and telling the system what colors and logos it should use.

The two-tier ERP concept is pretty clever in its own right; the system allows users to run NetSuite OneWorld ERP at subsidiaries and satellite offices, while maintaining the value of its existing investment in on-premises ERP software (in this case Oracle’s) at the home office.

I am probably assuming facts not in evidence, but the sample we were shown seemed superior to anything I’ve used as a consumer—uncluttered, sensible, and minimalist, yet vibrant and friendly enough to draw the user along the buying process. I haven’t had a proper demo—as I said, we’ve been out of touch—but I plan to rectify that ASAP and let you know what’s going on with NetSuite behind the pretty face.

I will caution you not to take my initial enthusiasm as anything more than that; because I have recollections of NetSuite products from just a couple of years ago, and am impressed with what little I’ve seen, I am inclined to think the company’s offerings are still strong. However, I also recall a notable lack of redundant data centers just a couple of years ago, and it appears they still only have the one. It should also be noted that there’s a good reason for NetSuite to be present at an Oracle conference: Larry Ellison owns a consiberable stake in NetSuite, and in fact his money is what founder Evan Goldberg used to get started in 1998. If Oracle wants to buy itself some new toys, NetSuite is always a possible target—and that has to factor into any assessment I make.

Oracle OpenWorld 2012, Part 2

Welcome back to my assessment of this year’s Oracle extravaganza. Last time, I talked (wrote) about the crunchier products—hardware, databases, infrastructure—and how Oracle’s message seemed finally to unify around how it all supported the operational and customer-facing products like applications and analytics. Today, I’m going to dive into those components and what Big Red’s direction is for them.

As long as I’ve known the company, Oracle’s direction has been hard to pin down, largely because it keeps acquiring companies from widely diverse fields. The acquisitions have continued, but I believe they’ve become more focused. I’m happy to report said focus (at least what I’ve been paying attention to) has been social-powered CRM, analytics, and knowledge management. These acquisitions combine nicely with Oracle’s internal development to make a strong case for customers who want to strengthen their B2B and B2C capabilities with social tech.

That said, I can’t say there’s anything truly new on the applications side. New for Oracle, yes; new to me or customers of its new purchases, not so much. For example, the company put a big push behind the kickoff of Oracle CX (formerly RightNow CX) and rightly so—but I’ve seen it all before. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because I love RightNow and the people who work for it, and think its inclusion in the Oracle footprint will do wonders to humanize Oracle’s customer-facing capabilities.

RightNow/Oracle CX has made one notable change in Oracle’s approach to the topic of CRM. To paraphrase Anthony Lye, senior VP of cloud applications, CX is a larger strategy of which CRM is a component. Works for me. I don’t care what you call it—as long as the customer retains voice and agency in the relationship, it’s all good.

Lye illustrated the intersection of CX and CRM with an example from Starbucks. When McDonald’s launched its McCafes, a lower-cost option than Starbucks with good coffee and backed by a ubiquitous brand, Starbucks found itself having to deal with a major competitive force for the first time. It figured that out of every 10 people, 2 would always choose Starbucks and 2 would always choose a low cost option like McCafe. The question, then, was how to get the names of those other 6 people?

The solution was to extend the loyalty program. A free cup of coffee for every 15 purchases and some special direct offers in exchange for contact info. Oracle real-time analytics lets the customer know which local shop has the shortest lines, so they can minimize the wait, and order from home or smart phone and pick up their beverage where it’s most convenient. And the loyalty card has a failsafe policy; if the loyalty card POS fails on you for any reason, you get your drink free. Starbucks is not my favorite purveyor of earthy black goodness, but I have to give the company credit where due; using customer experience in a competitive way is something it’s always done well, and feeding the CRM system with it like this is beautiful.

One net new thing on display at OpenWorld was Fusion Tap, Oracle’s mobile framework for Fusion apps. This is not a dumbed-down mobile UI for tablets and smart phone—it is a mobile pathway direct to Fusion. If you can do it on your desktop, you can do it on your tablet with Tap. Native support is already available for some phones and tabs, with more on the way, supplementing its support of HTML5. Naturally, users can operate offline and cache their work for later upload. A report created in a Fusion application is available in Tap’s KPI area, and any fields changed in CRM are automatically updated in Tap, because it’s all the same data from the same source.

Fusion Tap is essentially free, in that it’s built into the license of whatever Fusion-enabled SaaS products you have. It’s SaaS-only for the moment, and includes recent acquisitions Taleo and RightNow. (No, you can’t have a discount if you don’t want Tap; I asked.)

Certain users, such as the C-suite, field personnel, and salesfolk, can potentially do all their work on a tablet thanks to Tap. An accountant or PR account executive could too, but it’s not likely to be very comfortable or efficient for them. If you have to attach a keyboard, you may as well be using a notebook, right?

In summary, this was the best Oracle OpenWorld I’ve attended in a few years. Critics will say the keynotes and briefings were light on specifics, and they are right. I don’t come here for that—I get deep-dive briefings with executives during the year that answer that need. No, I come to OpenWorld to take the pulse of the customers, see how the endless string of acquisitions are being integrated into the Oracle brand, and get a sense of whether the company knows where it’s going. Those needs have been satisfied.

Tune in next time when I devote an entire post to a company that piggybacked a couple of events onto the conference, and reminded me why they need to be considered in the big picture. NetSuite, I’m talking about you.

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.

Oracle and RightNow get engaged

The usual disclaimer: As I’m at RightNow Summit, you should know the company paid for my flight and accommodations. I am not being paid by RightNow for any comments or analysis I make. I’m also a bit tipsy at the moment, following a very nice dinner with awesome wine pairings. If the pink elephants make this entry less than it should be, I’ll fix it in the morning.

Vendor conferences usually are a good source for industry news, but this year’s RightNow Summit was host to a bombshell before it even started. Oracle announced its intent to acquire RightNow Technologies for $1.5 billion. The deal is far from final, and most of the RightNow employees were themselves still reacting to the news when guests were arriving. The press release is here; you can read news coverage here, and some sharp analysis here.

A lot has already been said on this topic, but I can’t let the opportunity pass me by–I’m at the conference, after all. The phrase on every observer’s lips is “culture clash,” and I must agree. But more than that, there’s a positioning clash as well. RightNow serves CRM from the contact center, putting it in an ideal position to help its users deliver solid customer experience. Oracle’s CRM products cover a wide range of possibilities, but (with some exceptions) its apps cater to the user before the customer. RightNow is a sensible investment for businesses all over the spectrum, from SMBs to massive enterprises; there are not many industry watchers who would recommend an Oracle deployment for anything smaller than a midsized enterprise that’s on a growth path. I’m not saying one is better; I’m saying they serve very different markets.

Oracle is a company that is very good at acquiring what it needs to build out its own solutions. I don’t doubt there’s a good reason for the acquisition, but I am not yet certain what it is. Clearly, Oracle wants the RightNow brand, not just the tech. I’ll be watching to see how this all plays out.

Whether the buyout goes through or not, RightNow is still moving forward. The Tuesday morning keynote, I’m told, will be a vision statement of how customer interaction will look 10 years from now. I’m not going to get any information about the Oracle deal, because any further statements by either company would be illegal, but I can tell the RightNow team is excited–guardedly optimistic, but excited. Greg Gianforte’s presentation will show why RightNow is a strong brand worth the trouble to acquire, and I think it can’t help but come out ahead.

Final thoughts on Oracle Open World 2011

I got back from San Francisco a few days ago, after attending Oracle’s annual conference, and have been ruminating ever since. You can see a summary here (I wrote some news coverage for CRM magazine), but that’s journalism—there’s no place for my own opinions. What follows are the impressions that don’t belong in a neutral-toned article. Nothing horrible, but still inappropriate for news articles outside of the New York Post.

I should point out first, however, that Oracle paid for my flight and hotel accommodations, and treated me to a couple of meals to boot. The Oracle analyst relations people are top notch, and the company is smart enough to allow them to do their job without undue interference.

1. Oracle Is Too Big. This should not surprise anybody. I don’t even think it’s necessarily a problem—economies of scale are important for industries valued in the billions of dollars and touching every facet of life in the developed world. It becomes a problem when you have a diverse array of products to display, but only one opportunity to do so.

OOW11 was two conferences, one for hardware and one for software. Unfortunately, the two conferences were co-located and ran consecutively, so all the hardware people got their content first, and then all the software people got theirs. This was especially evident at Larry Ellison’s two keynotes. The first, on Sunday evening, was a drool session for server wonks, with nary a bone thrown to the applications crowd. The result? A number of walkouts, and scads of Twitter heckling. The second, on Wednesday afternoon, introduced enterprise social networking tools and the Oracle Public Cloud—a big deal for apps people, useless for server people. More walkouts, and probably some heckling as well.

This approach isn’t likely to change, either. Throwing two events would be more expensive than throwing one big one, and Oracle’s new Engineered Systems initiative will bind hardware and software even tighter. Should it succeed, there will be even less reason to separate the shows.

2. Larry Ellison Doesn’t Get People. He’s an extremely sharp fellow, this Larry Ellison. He’s passionate about Oracle technology, and he’s an absolute shark for business. But he hasn’t figured out these flesh creatures around him. Sunday’s widely-ridiculed talk about nuts and bolts—Oracle Exadata, Exalogic, and new Exalytics servers, and the new SPARC SuperCluster general purpose megaserver—was passionate enough to hold my interest for a while, despite being irrelevant to my immediate needs. It made a strong business case for the devices, and was really a love letter to the technology. No doubt about it: Oracle has some very sexy tech, and it runs the world.

But the whole thing was numbers. “Ten times faster than X! One-fifth the power consumption of Y!” Complete failure to engage people, to tell a story that sold these behemoths on anything but raw capability. Attendees of OOW10 said it was like he picked up right where he left off the previous year, with as little regard for the audience as he exhibited then.

By comparison, the Wednesday keynote showed us a different Ellison. His presentation, likely due in part to the poor reception from Sunday and the gaffe of cancelling Marc Benioff’s scheduled Tuesday address, was lively, pojnted, and full of humor and fire. I don’t know Larry Ellison personally, but I’ve observed him over the years and seen him speak on several occasions. This was the first time I felt he was human, and I liked it. He rose to the occasion, introducing a family of Cloud apps whose relevance to individual users as well as the enterprises that employ them was clear.

This second address wasn’t perfect. It was largely devoid of specifics and, coming on the last full day of the conference, left little opportunity to get more information, or even build up much buzz. Introducing the Oracle Social Network and Oracle Public Cloud earlier on would have given us industry analysts and reporters a chance to talk amongst ourselves, dig for details, and basically do Oracle’s PR work for it. Instead, we spent three days begging for scraps, and Oracle leaders like Anthony Lye and Steve Miranda were reduced to telling us “there’s an announcement coming on Wednesday, and we can’t talk about it.”

3. If You’re Going to Give Free Press to the Competition, Do It on Your Terms. If you heard a loud bang on Tuesday night, it was Oracle shooting itself in the foot. Marc Benioff, chairman of Salesforce.com, was scheduled to give an address at OOW11 on Wednesday, as he’d done for at least the previous two years. At the last moment, Oracle (Larry Ellison) cancelled the address—changed the time, actually, to Thursday 8 a.m., after many attendees would have already left. This, combined with Marc having a prior commitment in that time slot, effectively killed the session.

Perhaps inviting Benioff in the first place was a bad move. He’d been critical of Oracle’s strategy and products in years past, and there’s no reason to think this year would have been different. The social tech Oracle was introducing would put the two companies into more direct competition, so providing a podium could be a risk.

As bad as it might have been, blocking the address was a HORRIBLE move. Marc Benioff is a master of the public address. Every word out of his mouth sells Salesforce.com and the vision of Cloud computing. Ellison’s actions removed any constraint Benioff might have had to be a gracious guest; they cast Benioff in the role of injured party and Ellison in the role of jerk; and they cost him money by making him have to get a different venue at the last minute. In other words, shit just got real.

Marc was able to use his time to attack Oracle much more fully than he could as part of the Open World calendar, pitting Salesforce’s fully-formed and successful Cloud model against Oracle’s still-unannounced one. Larry’s rebuttal in his own Wednesday address was intriguing and pointed, but it didn’t have enough meat on its bones. For the first time in history, Oracle was fighting outside its weight class. It’s believed Larry set this debacle in motion on his own initiative, which means there’s nobody else to blame. Stupid move from a very smart man.

4. Follow Your Announcements With Facts. I am really looking forward to seeing OPC and OSN in action. Their introduction alone was worth my attendance, and 2012 is going to be all the more exciting for the social technology crowd because of it.

The old show biz mantra is to always leave the audience wanting more. OOW11 took it to an unreasonable extreme, but it left us wanting anything. I can tell you little more about Oracle’s social and Cloud initiatives than that they exist, and there are some early adopters. I can’t name the early adopters because of NDA. I can’t tell you what the apps do, because the demo was sparse and the people who could tell us more were gagged. I can’t even tell you when to expect to see them in the real world, because the company’s official line is that no release schedule has been set beyond “over the next several weeks.” This is not how a company generates buzz. It’s a great way to make us industry watchers very suspicious of what we’re being shown.

Time spent by top executives deflecting questions could have been spent arming us with the facts we need to get the message out, all by tweaking the announcement date a few days. Now we have to beg for follow-on briefings and demos when available, hoping that satisfying our curiosity will wash this bad taste from out mouths.

5. Please Invite Me Back Next Year. Oracle is an incredibly important company. Even when Open World is a misfire, it provides valuable information, access, and networking. My criticisms are honest, and I offer them in the hopes you’ll make OOW12 much better for us, and thus for yourselves. Prove me wrong about what I perceive as your mistakes. I look forward to it.

Cloudy Computing at Oracle Open World, Day 2

I keep forgetting that there are other settings for San Francisco weather than, “hey, that’s really nice.”

Tuesday at Oracle Open World was the single worst climatic day I’ve ever experienced in California, and in fact the heaviest rain the state had seen since 1962. That’s right—the last time it poured like this, the LA Dodgers were still a relatively new idea, the NY Mets were truly new (and truly terrible, losing 120 games their first season), and working class people could still afford to see a baseball game. If you’re wondering why I keep referring to baseball, it’s because I’ve spent most of my time here in the company of Paul Greenberg, a fine fellow traveler who harbors a passion for America’s Pastime and a deep, uncanny lust for the NY Yankees. For better or worse, Oracle Open World + the Bronx Bombers in the postseason = associating enterprise CRM with baseball whenever Paul’s in the room.

Back to the weather: It’s fitting that the skies opened up and drenched us, because Tuesday amounted to Cloud Computing Day at the show. There are plenty of software-as-a-service (are we still calling it that?) vendors at this convention, and in fact they’ve got their own section of the show floor staked out in Moscone South, but the biggest one of all—Salesforce.com—pulled out all the stops. In addition to their sizable booth presence (not in the SaaS area) and excellent T-shirts, there’s a fleet of SFDC-liveried Mini Coopers circling the downtown area. As a special treat, Marc Benioff himself hosted a session in the nearby Yerba Buena Arts Center.

By “special,” I mean there was a massive queue of people waiting in the drenching rain, with no shelter, for a good half hour. By “treat,” I mean SFDC was giving away HD flip cameras to the first 500 attendees, which probably helps explain the queue. To be fair to myself, though, I didn’t know about the camera until after I was indoors, so my soaked-to-the-skin experience was all about seeing what Marc would have to say in Larry Ellison’s back yard.

If I’m honest, I must say that there was little news to be had at the event, at least for people who track SFDC at all closely. Marc modified his message to play better for the enterprise crowd that comes to OOW, many of whom are less interested in SaaS than his typical audience, and the demos were compelling for those who hadn’t seen them before. As always, Marc brought his considerable force of personality to bear, and made a strong case for cloud computing. He was respectful of his host (a company that has a cloud product of its own) and didn’t step on toes, though I felt the overall effect was toeing the line. SFDC makes all its bones on the cloud, whereas Oracle devotes only a relatively small amount of its efforts in that direction; to make that strong case at the show of somebody who is comparatively weak in that area is bordering on poor taste. Note that I said bordering; Marc and his team stayed classy, but controversial enough for me to point it out.

There are numerous companies here using the appearance of unrest as their marketing approach, arguably with less class. They cover a range, from businesses I’ve never heard of to Microsoft SQL Server, all taking turns on the streetcorner with placards, prisoner costumes, and the rhetoric of a World Bank protest to generate interest. It’s such a common theme this year that I wonder if there was a planning meeting with Oracle to plan it. Phrases like “Better Dead than Red” (stolen from the McCarthy era), “Encryption Shouldn’t Be a Pain in the App,” and “Stop the Spindle Swindle” are stuck in my head, though I doubt any of the associated companies will follow suit. The use of protest imagery by so many organizations dulls the effect of each, so it looks like the sort of picketing you can safely tune out.

On another note, I get a second chance to hear Larry Ellison speak this afternoon, at the 2:45 closing keynote. While it’s too late for me to redeem my Sunday failure (necessary though it was), it will help my sense of accomplishment for the week. More importantly, I get to see one of my idols. Not Larry—Roger Daltrey of The Who will be performing at tonight’s appreciation event. The headliner is Aerosmith, and we’ll also have a shot at Three Dog Night, The Wailers, and Shooter Jennings, but for me it’s all about Rog.

Oracle Open World 2009, Day One

It’s Tuesday, thus time for Monday’s bloggery. I pretty much failed to liveblog Oracle Open World’s keynote, but at least it wasn’t through my incompetence; spotty WiFi and simultaneous Twitter overloads and outages conspired to keep me mostly silent, and the rest of the day had me on the move too much to post for you.

So many things happened Monday at oracle open world, though to be honest I think the day needed to accelerate before it got really good. The morning keynote led by Charles Phillips and Safra Catz was fairly sedate, as it felt like there was no binding force between the many segments. To be fair, I missed the Sunday night keynote due to personal burnout, so it’s entirely possible that Larry Ellison–a man I’ve never heard speak in person–really did the setting of tone last night and Monday was the start of the “business” part of the conference. Esteban Kolsky pointed out that there was an undercurrent of unrest in the room (something you never want when there are more than 10,000 people), and his tweets really captured the flow of the morning. He had much beter WiFi connectivity than I did, and seemed less affected by the problems experienced by Twitter, so I recommend checking out @ekolsky to see all the stuff I wanted to liveblog. Props to Esteban.

There were two stand-out segments, though. One was with Anthony Lye, which (and whom) I’ll come back to in a moment. The other dealt with retail, particularly “fast fashion” as implemented by H&M.

I have no use for the store or its brand, but I must say that the way H&M is using Oracle technology to change the way the apparel industry works. Any apparel business can (and should) use CRM and ERP technologies to make their purchases more efficient, but that still uses the antique method of basing inventory decisions solely on the debut of fashion “seasons” that might be nine months ahead of actual time. Fast fashion is a step beyond. Presenter Duncan Angove and an associate whose name I missed explained how H&M uses it to spot current trends and new products and act on them every month, perhaps even sooner. Combined with dashboards linked to regional maps, this means H&M can put what items will be most likely to sell well in each individual store, change out stock efficiently, and entice customers with promotions as needed to keep sales coming. Smart business and satisfied customers.

Now to Anthony Lye, who gets the other allotment of props for Monday. His part of the keynote delivered what the entire session should have done: a real tactical and strategic sense of how enterprise apps (like CRM) fit into a company’s efforts to increase efficiency and profitability, but without ever forgetting that it’s all about the customers and what you can do to make them not just content to do business with you, but happy enough from doing so that they encourage others to do the same. He didn’t stop there, either; he led two sessions later in the day that drilled even deeper into modern customer engagement strategy, and both were spot-on. His first had him and his team demonstrating how the Siebel CRM family is helping Oracle customers find their way in social CRM via cross-channel, experience-driven business practices. Very sharp. Then he put two powerhouses–Paul Greenberg and Denis Pombriant–together to discuss social CRM and cloud computing. A session with either Denis or Paul is always worth the time; both of them plus Anthony is more than most can hope for. The conversation was lively, though Anthony’s questions did seem (understandably) to support Oracle’s mostly-on-premises model. Regardless, Anthony Lye is everything Oracle needs in a CRM exec: he’s sharp, relatable, works well with the rest of his team, knows the industry, never forgets the customer, and is a pleasure to speak with. This man needs a raise.

More to come after today’s happenings, and I’ll try to post my thoughts in a more timely maner. No promises though; I still owe you my impressions of a great social CRM dinner I attended with Tealeaf last week revealing its latest customer experience survey results. Great stuff, and I want to do it justice, but I feel funny about the time delay.