OpenWorld 2010 was supposed to be a place to go to get answers.  I came back mostly with more questions.  A number of them are listed below along with a few side comments.  In the coming months I will attempt to bring more clarity to the issues each raises: 

  • Were Fusion Applications actually announced?  If so, it was the strangest major product introduction ever.  Too little information was provided to make sense out of it.  I plan to try hard to assemble the limited amount of information available into a coherent story over time.  In the meantime, I believe that there will be little if any near term impact on the JD Edwards community.
  • Has Oracle lost interest in the applications market?  It sure seemed like it based on Ellison’s single-minded focus on hardware and the cloud.  I suspect, however, that the impression conveyed was just due to Ellison being his usual eccentric self.  As Hurd takes greater control I expect the mixed and confusing signals to diminish.
  • What is Oracle trying to do with cloud computing?  Ellison twice attacked Salesforce.com, the most successful cloud computing software provider.  Picking on it seemed petty and unnecessary.  He then bragged about hiring IBM’s top cloud computing expert and having her report directly to him.  What she will be doing was completely unclear given his dislike of the concept. Ellison also made fun of the idea of cloud computing then included the word cloud in the strange name of his favorite new product the Exalogic Elastic Cloud.  Is anyone out there less confused than I am about what Oracle is trying to tell us?
  • Did Oracle just reinvent the mainframe?  Ellison used the term “big iron” to proudly describe his new invention – an expensive but exceedingly powerful, physically large computer offered with a free operating system capable of consolidating the workload of many smaller computers. The only mainframe-ish thing it doesn’t yet do is run IBM S/370 compatible applications.  Any bets that it won’t do so some day?  If it is not a new age mainframe I don’t know what it is.
  • How long before Mark Hurd makes a noticeable impact on Oracle?  All we could tell from his brief appearance is that he looks good in a suit and has great stage presence.
  • Did Ellison promise Hurd the CEO job to entice him to join up?  On paper, the co-President job that Charles Phillips left was a huge demotion for Hurd.  There has to be a promise in place to let him do much more over time.
  • What role will Ellison play as Hurd gains power?  Will Hurd leave if Ellison’s fingers cannot be pried off the wheel?  How effectively can the two of them work together in the meantime?
  • What happens next to Tom Kurian?  A month ago I felt that Tom Kurian, the executive in charge of all software development, was the strongest internal candidate to one day take Ellison’s place.  Hurd’s arrival killed any chance of that happening.  In addition, Kurian’s former boss Chuck Rozwat returned from a sabbatical presumably to take over development again.  It is hard for me to see Kurian quietly stepping back into a lesser role.  At the same time, I can picture other major IT vendors making a run at him.  For example, Kurian has to be on any short list if Microsoft decides to replace Steve Ballmer.
  • Is Solaris strategic?  Ellison waxed poetic at great length about his new “Unbreakable” version of Linux – a strange choice for a vendor trying to convince new customers to convert to the Sun Solaris operating system.  Was this just another unintentional message or is Oracle trying to tell us something?
  • Has the rift with HP been resolved?  The lawsuit was settled minutes before the conference started, but will the alliance ever be strong again?
  • Will OpenWorld 2011 be worth attending?  Oracle has a great deal of work to do to convince customers to come back.  I am optimistic that Hurd will make sure that OpenWorld 2011 is much better than this year was.  Without concrete assurances that it will be better, I will not recommend it to customers. 

Others that attended this year, especially those that have a different perspective than mine are encouraged to provide input.