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Enterprise IT Context for the CTO

Bob Gourley

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CTO Vision on Ulitzer

My assessment of the Oracle Acquisition of Sun: This is positive for the enterprise IT across the board, but the biggest determinate of what it means for your enterprise is what decisions you make now.  If you are an enterprise CTO, the ball is in your court.

The following provides a bit more context.  First, some opinions/assessments:

1) The joining of Oracle and Sun will deliver what they are promising.

2) The open source software movement remains incredibly healthy and remains a powerful force in the industry.

3) There are things enterprise CTOs really should do right now to ensure the best value is seen out of the new Oracle (I hit on a few of those below).

4) There are new opportunities for enterprise CTOs to exert more leverage over IBM and Microsoft because of this (I expand on that a bit below too).

Discussion:

  • Since 20 April 2009 when Oracle issued a press release titled “Oracle Buys Sun“  the entire enterprise IT industry has been watching both companies.  Like many other folks, I’ve been reading reams of info and trying to assess the meaning of this since then.
  • One source that has been helpful in assessing the meaning of this is the press, but I’ve found better insights from talking to friends and associates in both Oracle and Sun.  I have not detected any issues.  There is a great deal of hard work that must occur in the new Oracle but folks have always worked hard there, and the same is true of Sun.
  • I’ve also had a bit of time to check out new capabilities like the Oracle Exadata, a Sun Oracle Database Machine with incredible, market-changing capabilities.  This first key model is an exemplar that proves this new teaming can produce fantastic results for the enterprise.
  • Like many others, I have wondered how a company like Oracle would deal with the many open source software activities at Sun.  It is natural to wonder about this.  Although Oracle has long been a key mover in the open source software community when it comes to operating systems like Linux and Open Solaris, its flagship products are proprietary.  We have since learned that Oracle will run its open source software offerings under a separate business unit designed to ensure their continued health and growth.  This group is led by Edward Screven, chief architect at Oracle.   The vision I heard him articulate in his 27 Jan 2010 presentation sounded right on for Open Solaris and even for Open Office.  And, what he is talking about for MySQL also sounds GREAT. It’s capabilities will only grow.
  • A key source of information available to us is the online presentations from the 27 Jan 2010 kickoff session where Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and executives from Sun and Oracle outlined their strategy for the combined companies (see http://www.oracle.com/us/sun/044498 ).  You can watch all five hours of the presentations or just hit the highlights of each.   I watched all and took away a few common themes:
  • Oracle considers themselves to be in two businesses now: 1) Best of breed components, and they will continue to excel and grow at delivering best of breed components, and 2) Integrated business solutions, and with Sun they are now in the position to grow and excel there too.
  • MySQL is not being set up to compete with Oracle database.  MySQL and Oracle DB are viewed as complementary.  Keep that in mind, it will lead to a key conclusion/recommendation below.
  • The strategy for Oracle is to continue to build the best components but now deliver business systems that run faster, are more fault tolerant, are much easier to maintain, have much lower TCO, are much more secure, and much easier to operate.
  • They will improve the way that enterprise customers buy, run and manage business systems.  They will provide complete, engineered, integrated systems based on open standards.
  • R&D spending will increase to about $4.3B.
  • 1000’s of hardware engineers are now working with 1000’s of software engineers.  This will result, I believe, in significantly improved capabilities.
  • Oracle depends on Java and that fact should cause all to rest assured that Java will continue to thrive.

Recommendations for the Enterprise CTO:

  • Study.  I strongly recommend you watch the kickoff video presentations.  They go fast and will give you information you can use in your discussions with others and in your decision-making process.
  • Task.  Both Oracle and Sun have long had great teams of engineers that focus on working with customers both prior to a sale to ensure you know the range of possible solutions and after sale to ensure you are taking advantage of everything you bought.  You very likely have services guys from Oracle and/or Sun too, but in this case I suggest you reach out to the pre-sales engineers from Oracle and Sun and invite them in to see you.  As for tailored briefings from them on what they think you need to know about the new Oracle.  Good pre-sales engineers already know quite a bit about your enterprise and your mission needs, and that should mean they are going to be perfect when it comes to explaining to you the relevance of this to you.
  • Influence.  Did you note the large R&D budget?   I would guess that close to 100% of that is being spent to produce new capabilities relevant to enterprises.  So that means Oracle needs to know what Enterprise’s really really want/need.  I bet if you call in your Oracle BD team and ask for a conversation about your mission needs and how R&D may one day help they will produce a great dialog that will result in influencing how they spend that R&D money.
  • Travel.  The BD guys from Oracle can also help you set up visits to Oracle HQ in Redwood Shores.  The last time I went I got to meet Edwared Screven himself.  These guys care about enterprise customers and if you make the trip to them you will find it informative and helpful.
  • Stay on Message.  Oracle has made many promises to you.  I think at this point we have to thank them for their commitment.  It may also be helpful to Oracle to remind them from time to time that you appreciate their commitment to reduce TCO, increase security, increase performance, grow Open Office, grow MySQL, grow Open Solaris.
  • Leverage.  I mentioned above that now is the time to help exert leverage on Microsoft and IBM.  I mean that only in the nicest, most above-board way.  Those are two great companies as well, but both need enterprise customers to continually remind them that in this competitive world the winner will be the one who meets mission needs from the customers viewpoint.  I mentioned above that now is a great time to bring in the pre-sales engineers from Oracle.  Why not do the same with the BD teams and pre-sales engineers from Microsoft and IBM.  Both should be more than willing to come in and help, especially when they see you are so excited about Oracle now.
  • Go Open.  And, although I am really a fan of Windows 7 for the enterprise desktop (I’m not saying it is perfect), I am a huge fan of Open Office and I hope you are too.  And the same is true of MySQL and Open Solaris and Linux and Ubuntu.  The more you use those open source software components the better, in general, your enterprise will be.  And, by the way, the more you use them the more leverage you will have in getting prices down from others.

A Concluding Assessment
This acquisition and Oracle’s integrating strategy which spans from hardware to the entire software stack holds the potential of being very positive for your enterprise. Innovation will increase.  So will security and almost every other measurable dimension of performance.  Not only that, but this may make Microsoft and IBM better/more affordable companies as well.   But the ball is now in your court.  If you want the benefits of this integrative strategy sooner vice later you should dive deep into its meaning, and a key way to do that is to call the Oracle and/or Sun BD teams and get their pre-sales engineering team in your office, right away.

More Stories By Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley writes on enterprise IT. He is a founder and partner at Cognitio Corp and publsher of CTOvision.com

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