I was expecting a lot from Oracle Open World, and so were some of the other people I spoke to about their reasons for attending. The feeling was that this is the start of a game changing moment in the industry, both in terms of the technology, and in terms of the competing players. Apparently we weren’t alone in thinking this as 40,000 people decided to come, and that’s a huge investment in time and money from a lot of IT shops. A pretty good summary of the awesome statistics and expectations was posted in advance by Adrian Bridgewater on his open-source-insider blog.
So what happened? Well, I suspect it’s difficult to meet the expectations of so many people at every level in an IT department and with every specialisation. I have tried in this post to highlight the general feelings by using blogs that managed to capture what seemed about the right comments in different areas. Then at the end I have introduced what was the big discussion issue in the bars that nobody else seems to have addressed. However at this stage let me just say that personally there was a puzzling lack of focus on how the products delivered value to business, and how to deliver that value, which was, for many senior IT folks at the CIO level, was their core expectation. It’s definitely there delivered by some great new and updated capabilities, but you had to work it out for yourself from the dazzling array of products, rather than through Oracle’s explanation as to what they were now able to enable you and your business to do with their ‘red stack’ of products. This I suspect is the issue that underlies every blog on Oracle Open World.

Brian Summers on his Enterprise Irregulars blog did a good job of summarising some big announcements in his post ‘lots of questions at Oracle Open World’ stating he liked a challenge and the announcements were certainly making him think! The general run of blogs were somewhat disappointed with Larry’s lack of focus on the ‘big picture’ on the software side, and /or the over focus on the insignificant details on the software side in expert sessions, and this was probably best summed up by Joshua Greenbaum at eMatters. It certainly did seem that the focus was on the excitement of what Oracle was able to do, and would be doing over the coming year, with the hardware from the Sun acquisition. And that also included the software directly associated with the hardware.
I personally do think this focus on hardware and associated software, or infostructure, is important if we define it in a different way. I define it by considering the whole question of ‘stacks’; meaning the move by Oracle to have a complete vertical technology stack. We are not used to having to make competitive comparisons and decisions on the basis of integrated vertical stacks, but we will need to do so as we shift into running ‘cloud style’ operations with thousands of services, and that also includes Fusion Apps. So who are the players? It’s not just the long established and well known names of IBM and HP, because as we look down the stack from the direction of what we will be consuming as users, meaning services, rather than from the traditional direction up the stack from the distribution of compute power, that brings Microsoft, SAP, and Cisco into the game plus some new players such as Google and Amazon! I only saw one blog that did a good job of capturing some of the key points on this topic in my humble opinion and that was Chris Mellor at The Register.
Having, hopefully, provided a reasonable ‘feel’ and overview of the event through other critical eyes let me take head on the one topic that I heard repeatedly; Oracle is trying to lock us in at every level with their ‘red stack’ of fully integrated products. Well certainly you can argue that it felt that way with Oracle presenting how they covered every thing you need, and even Larry’s example of value being Apple with their closed or walled garden approach. But hang on, didn’t that just prove to be what the consumers really, really, wanted? They spoke with their money, and it seems their love and loyalty too! Ah yes you may say but that’s consumers and not enterprise buyers, different game all together. Is it? I wonder. More and more we talk about the consumerisation of IT, and the users’ expectation shifting towards them having choice because of their experiences with consumer technology.
Just reflect on what is really meant by the term ‘cloud’, and Larry went to some pains to define it in his first keynote. Actually as I have said before the iPhone environment is a perfect metaphor for what we are going to create using clouds in business. I.e. a simple way to create capability for software, as all the difficult stuff is taken care of by the platform, and the ability for users to drag the services they choose onto their devices from a catalogue without needing to know or understand what, and how it all works (ie its in the cloud). Plus a financial method to ensure users pay, creators are paid, and operating costs for the platform are covered by a levy on these transactions.
Looked at that way, and not with traditional IT thinking, extensively integrated vertical stacks make a lot of sense! Do they cause you to replace your existing IT estate? No I don’t think so, after all its there for a very different reason, and on a very different model. Though in time you may choose to buy computing capacity on a different model anyway that will start to replace actually purchasing the stuff. Is it lock in, or a redefinition of what is required to support a very different business model using technology in a very different way? Now there’s a question I would like to see the answer to! Unfortunately I couldn’t find it anywhere!