With the Sun Microsystems acquisition still in approval limbo I thought Oracle might be careful about what was said at OpenWorld.  I didn’t count on having Sun Microsystems founder Scott McNealy appear for what might have been his last high profile speech with Larry Ellison then joining him on stage for what morphed into an all out assault on IBM. 

Known for making extreme statements in an entertaining way McNealy did not disappoint.  He began with a melancholy recounting of all the good technical things Sun had done under his leadership.  After bragging about the continuing impact of Java, its inventor, James Gosling, made a brief appearance on the stage.  Gosling’s parting comment speculated about what it will be like for him to work for a software company.  McNealy’s retort was “When we are done with them, Oracle won’t be one anymore”.  The point of this unscripted, politically incorrect comment was that Oracle’s own vision of itself and its place in the industry has already changed dramatically. 

Ellison himself was in rare form as he effectively declared war on IBM.  Clearly the fact that IBM has chosen to launch a FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) campaign on the Sun customer base has really irritated Ellison.  In what sounded at times like a late night infomercial, Ellison and McNealy fought back by quoting the results of a recent benchmark test that showed Sun hardware trouncing IBM running an Oracle workload.  I have no way to assess the competing claims, but it is clear that the fight that has just begun will be highly entertaining to watch. 

On the surface, Oracle seems to be trying to retain some level of rapport with both HP and Dell even though its entry into the hardware space also represents a major attack on them as well.  Both HP and Dell will be making keynote speeches here at OpenWorld. 

Ellison left no room for doubt on many previously open questions:

  • Oracle is in the hardware business to stay.
  • Investments in Sun’s SPARC microprocessor will increase.
  • Solaris will be pushed hard by Oracle as its preferred OS (sorry Linux).
  • Java will be promoted aggressively.
  • The mySQL open source database won’t be killed or sold off. 

It sure sounds like Oracle aspires to be the kind of one stop shopping vendor that IBM was decades ago, this time with a mix of open and proprietary offerings.  

A pattern has clearly been established.  Oracle established leadership in database, moved into middleware, expanded further into applications, and now is extending the empire outward into the hardware realm. 

Many questions have been answered while raising lots of others.  Will a major services acquisition such as Accenture or Deloitte be next?  Will Oracle’s new enemy IBM feel compelled to reverse its self imposed exile from the applications market and make a play for SAP?  Can Oracle’s long-standing friendship with HP last? 

Oracle has thrown the first cream pie in what could turn into a huge industry food fight.  It has many advantages as it tries to conquer the world, but its propensity to base marketing claims on deeply technical arguments may limit the ultimate level of success. 

Stay tuned for more fresh news and commentary from OpenWorld.  Others attending or following some of the presentations on-line are encouraged to add comments.