Congrats, Team Oracle -- now let's get back to technology

Larry Ellison's OpenWorld no-show was not the vote of confidence customers needed in Oracle's race for in-memory databases and the cloud

Oracle Team USA pulled off a stunning comeback this week to win the 34th America's Cup. Maybe now Larry Ellison can focus on bringing the same passion to Oracle's competitions in the technology arena.

The Oracle CEO's no-show for Wednesday's OpenWorld keynote speech, announced 45 minutes after he was supposed to appear on stage, predictably left attendees fuming and did little for Oracle's customer relations. "While Oracle asks customers to prioritize its products over competitors, Ellison made the decision that racing, his passion and hobby, is more important than customers," said analyst Michael Krigsman of consulting firm Asuret.

While Ellison focused on sailing, Microsoft was throwing down the gauntlet in the race to the cloud, announcing that Oracle's Java SE can be run on Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud service using a new implementation of the OpenJDK called Zulu, developed by Azul Systems.

Using the Zulu OpenJDK build on Azure, users are free to deploy any Java application server of their choice, not just Oracle's WebLogic, pointed out Gianugo Rabellino, Microsoft's senior director of open source communities. While the JVM (Java Virtual Machine) can execute Java code, an application server handles all the external intricacies of running a Java program in a full-scale production setting.

The certification deal Oracle struck with Microsoft back in June may have been designed to fend off poaching of enterprise customers by Amazon Web Services, but Oracle is sprouting frenemies as fast as a leaky boat taking on water.

Before heading off to the race, Ellison had time to promise OpenWorld attendees that a new in-memory option for Oracle's flagship database will deliver "ungodly" performance improvements and target both transactional and analytic workloads. But according to Chris Kanaracus of IDGNS, "What Ellison's speech strangely lacked was any of his traditional attacks directed at competitors, particularly SAP, which has been pushing its own HANA in-memory database as an alternative for customers now using Oracle underneath their SAP installations."

Instead his speech stressed that customers would face little disruption if they use Oracle's in-memory option, which seems like a strangely defensive strategy from such a keen competitor. Apparently he has an eye on keeping customers in the fold, since Microsoft and IBM are also rolling out in-memory database technologies.

On another competitive front, Oracle unveiled at OpenWorld a series of new cloud services to directly target AWS and Salesforce.com, and aim to position Oracle as a "one-stop shop for all things cloud." Oracle announced 10 additional cloud services, including Compute Cloud and Object Storage Cloud, which will compete against similar services from AWS, and a new managed Database Cloud service. In a nod to Salesforce.com's AppExchange, Oracle is rolling out Cloud Marketplace, where partners can list applications.

Oracle wants to present itself as a company that can meet all of customers' cloud-related needs, but as GigaOm notes, "Oracle's reluctance to adjust its licensing and pricing to offer true database-as-a-service has dinged it as it faces increased competition from database options from Amazon Web Services."

Simplified licensing, InfoWorld's Serdar Yegulalp asserts, could be Microsoft's big draw for Oracle on Azure. In announcing at OpenWorld that many of Oracle's biggest products are now supported on Windows Azure, "the most vital question on the lips of many longtime customers for both companies won't be one of application compatibility or migration. It'll be about licensing for Oracle's products."

Whether the challenges come from frenemies Microsoft, AWS, and Salesforce.com or archrival SAP, what's clear is that Oracle has yet to prove it can repeat its database dominance with in-memory databases or in cloud with service, SaaS, and IaaS. Larry Ellison's no-show at OpenWorld is hardly the vote of confidence its customers want.

This article, "Congrats, Team Oracle -- now let's get back to technology," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in business technology news and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld on Twitter.

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