Ora-gel

Oracle, as always, has a good game plan, though they have not thought out everything under the Sun.

I attended Oracle’s outbound communication extravaganza concerning the completed swallowing of Sun.  In the time from initial purchase to the final approvable by European Union regulators, Oracle has been busy deciding what parts of Sun to keep (pretty much everything), how to integrate to company (interestingly) and where to create real market value (specific).  In an event short on surprises — unless Larry did something quirky, which I missed by having to leave early — OraSun changes the game, which is the entire point of marketing.

Aside from seeing “Sun” positioned over “Oracle” on all the event branding (the last time this will undoubtedly occur), the basic market strategy of the merger can be summarized as “We are your IT hub, we are specializing the center of your operations, and don’t look at that man behind the curtain labeled ‘cloud computing’.”

The first and recurring OraSun gestalt was that Ellison owns a stack, from iron to apps.  They are not kidding either.  Ignoring technology religion, Oracle now provides a solution for servers, storage, virtualization, middleware, databases, applications and the management of the two major strata (systems/apps).  They may have nothing in the networking realm, but they will next year when Oracle buys Cisco (that was a joke, but I heard you gasp).

This is an interesting turn of events.  As one OraSun exec noted, the IBM of the 1960’s offered head-to-toe solutions, insinuating that Oracle was the IBM of the new millennia.  Given how close to financial death IBM came to in the 1980s, we should add an Outlook entry for 2030 and retake Oracle’s financial pulse.

History is its own recycling bin.

OraSun’s marketing strategy is to be one-throat-to-choke for the hub of datacenters.  They rightly recognize that mission critical work is both ill-suited to cloud computing and that by tightly cross-tuning the OraSun stack, they will create a market domineering solution set.  Much of OraSun’s presentation spun tales of how the database, Solaris, SPARC and flash-enhanced storage are being co-designed.  The end goal is to assure that the OraSun stack is inarguably the most technologically effective data hub.  HP can’t compete as their Itanium solution is rapidly evaporating and their database offering almost isn’t.  IBM has a shot, but with fat margins in services, declining acceptance of DB2 and a post-Gerstner reluctance to centralize authority, they likely will not challenge the throne.

OraSun positioned themselves very well.

Oracle’s (wo)men in black — black suits and white shirts were the corporate executive uniform — repeated the manta of removing the systems integration task from the datacenter.  Oracle’s messaging was pointed like a revolver at CIOs and CTOs, claiming that systems integration is a major headache for these folks and that no other vendor offers all integrated points.  Granted, Oracle artfully ignored some plumbing products necessary to even a data hub (routers and network management), but their point was compelling assuming that the top of the stack — applications — met customer needs.

One OraSun spokesperson was somewhat defensive on the subject of cloud computing.  Obviously Oracle understands the issue and also understands that they do not have a clear market advantage at present.  He struggled with the concept of saying “grid” computing is “cloud” computing before tossing up a hit-piece slide on VMWare, which does own the cloud space.  For now it will be an uncomfortable stare-down:  OraSun is willing to own and dominate the hub of the data center on specialized Sun hardware, and let VMWare handle less-critical cloud computing with generic hardware.

For now.

Since OraSun gives away virtual machine solutions, they have the ability to buy cloud management tools that lost to VMWare and integrate those into OraSun systems management utilities.  After Sun is completely integrated into Oracle and together they dominate the datacenter hubs, expect Larry’s Legions to make a cloud play.  The market exists, is important, complements OraSun’s virtual desktop products, and is acquirable.  OraSun is merely talking-it-down for the moment.

Heads-up VMWare:  Larry will gun for you next.

The prelude is a hiring binge.  OraSun is vacuuming the salesperson market and adding 2,000 head to their global sales squad.  Ellison understands his “unified stack” position in the market is unique but not impenetrable.  Alliances will be formed and cloud computing offers some alternatives to raw central-server and grid approaches.  OraSun’s mission is to move as many customers to their combined solution as quickly as they can, because the switching cost of disengaging from a stack as complete as OraSun’s will be huge.  Lock-em’ in rapidly while working out the cloud initiative, then dominate the remainder of the datacenter market.

OraSun’s wildcard was not as wild as expected.  No real news was released about MySQL aside from OraSun integrating controls for their infrastructure management tools into the almost universally popular and largely free DBMS.  This is less of a commitment than a loss leader.  MySQL has invaded the enterprise in much the same way as Linux did.  It is not ready to be in the mission-critical hub, but it needs to be managed more effectively than most current tools permit.  By adding MySQL to the OraSun infrastructure management suite, Oracle is blocking alternatives and thus avenues of escape for customers.

From a marketing standpoint, Oracle shows once again that old lessons should not be ignored.  They have taken the enduring one-throat-to-choke market demand and amplified it.  CIOs — aside from the rightfully paranoid ones — will be hard-pressed to argue against adopting Oracle.  Marketing is first and foremost about identifying and satisfying needs, and OraSun is aggressively doing just that.

Let’s see if the scheme works.  Oracle likes buying successful companies, but Sun was nearing fiscal death when Larry swept in.  Larry’s also trying to buy one of the worst basketball teams on the planet, so maybe he has simply run out of good investments.


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