Larry Ellison could have been somber – if he knew of his friend Steve Jobs dying he did not let on. He could have been pissy about the Marc Benioff incident in the morning. He could have been lethargic – the Infosys session that preceded his put the lady sitting next to me to sleep. Instead he was in fine fettle – humorous, sarcastic. Probably the most enjoyable OOW keynote I have seen from him in a few years. And instead of a cautionary, cursory mention of Fusion apps as he did last year, he led off with it and wove it into his 30+ minute demo on the Oracle Social Network.
But even better Oracle arranged for several sessions with its Apps leadership team and several of the Fusion early adopter customers. The range and size of the customers was impressive (I spent time with senior IT and finance execs from large aerospace, mortgage, restaurant chain, federal agency, insurance, electronics firms) – as was their pragmatism. The majority were happy to be on-premise liking future flexibility to move to a SaaS or on-demand mode. Their major drivers – instead of doing a major upgrade on an existing Oracle apps platform (JDE, PeopleSoft etc) why not go with a more modern Fusion architecture? And the TLC they have received as early adopters (several joked on a panel Steve Miranda, SVP Applications Development is personally familiar with the bugs they have reported).
I say pragmatic, because Larry got religious when he started talking about multi-tenancy and the Oracle cloud being more industry standards compliant and taking shots at Force.com as “the false cloud” twisting Marc Benioff’s words against him. Larry also invoked Amazon’s elastic cloud early and often and I am not convinced his data centers come anywhere as close in efficiency. In fact when I asked John Fowler, EVP Systems about when we were likely to see enterprise data centers from Oracle, IBM, HP to be as efficient as those of Google, Facebook he answered how Oracle’s customers have far higher safety, statutory compliance needs. Ok, but not his cloud vendor customers who want stripped down, vanity -free servers and are innovating their own cooling and UPS efficiencies. There is no reason Oracle’s data centers cannot aspire for similar efficiencies. They are provisioning services not selling servers or storage arrays to their customers.
Fusion is also inconsistent in its depth – richer in core financials, HRM and CRM functionality than other parts of the enterprise, and the vertical journey to migrate Retek, i-Flex etc has just begun, though Thomas Kurian , EVP Product Development gave me a confident response on the speed at which that verticalization will proceed.
Overall, I was pleased to see Fusion get plenty more exposure. Larry Ellison kidded he wanted his kickoff slide to show Fusion had been in development only 4 years, instead of the reality of 6. It’s been a while coming and it will take a while further to flesh out and mature beyond the early adopters. But symbolically its pole position in his keynote – and in the plans of several customers- was a huge vote of confidence.