Oracle’s OpenWorlds

If there are things that Oracle OpenWorld 2013 will be remembered for, it’s probably the record number of 60.000 attendees flooding the city and – of course – Larry Ellison’s unapologetic absence from his Cloud keynote as things apparently got a bit too exciting around the America’s Cup.

To me, more striking than ever was the variety in people visiting the event, ranging from database administrators, infrastructure engineers and hard-core Java hackers all the way to marketing managers, sales directors and CXOs. It inevitably gave this year’s conference two very different faces, reflecting the delicate balancing act Oracle is involved in nowadays.

On one hand there is – arguably – Oracle’s comfort zone of high-performance, maximally optimized infrastructure and platform technology. Ellison indulged himself in explaining the mechanics of row- versus column-based indexing when introducing powerful in-memory options for the Oracle 12c database during his welcome address. It’s the Oracle OpenWorld of engineered systems, Exalytics, Exalogic and and Exadata machines and Big Data and Big Memory appliances. It’s the Oracle that breaks speed records, pulverizes benchmarks and humiliates the competition. It’s also the Oracle that brings organizations all the hardware, software and virtualization to set up their own private, on-premise or public cloud services.

On the other hand, there is the business face of Oracle, this year particularly driven by Mark Hurd and Thomas Kurian, showing how Big Data, mobility, cloud applications and social technologies enable organizations to create compelling customer experiences, improve corporate performance, change business models, even save lives. It’s the OpenWorld of  a growing portfolio of excellent Cloud-based business applications and nothing less than 10 different ‘as a service’ announcements, including a Compute Cloud, a Storage Cloud, a Java Cloud, a Documents Cloud, a Business Intelligence Cloud and even a brand new directory of applications that run on the Oracle Cloud: the Cloud Marketplace. This is the Oracle OpenWorld that couldn’t care less about shiny machines, database speed and performance tuning. It’s the world of using the Cloud as a catalogue of powerful business change tools, without being bothered by what’s inside.

Two Oracle OpenWorlds going on at the same time. Almost as in parallel universes. It will be fascinating to see how the balance will shift in the forthcoming years. Personally, I have a pretty good feeling about what the direction might be. But then again, a race is only over when it’s over and unexpected things happen in the meantime.

Much like sailing, really.

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