Beyond Apple and Google: 2012's key enterprise shifts

Oracle, SAP, HP, and VMware all began to reinvent themselves in the past year to better face the new tech landscape

It's that time of year, when everyone is recapping 2012's big stories -- successes and failures -- or prognosticating what 2013 will hold. But with so much attention paid to consumer-oriented heavyweights like Apple and Google, the parade of privacy violations from the likes of Facebook and Instagram, and the ups and mainly downs of Windows 8, it's easy to have missed the key developments from the industry heavyweights that power much of the technology that keeps businesses running.

Those companies -- Oracle, SAP, EMC VMware, and Hewlett-Packard (the part not selling PCs and printers) -- have undergone significant changes in 2012. But they've each done so through seemingly disconnected episodes that, when pulled together, show the real picture of what's going on, and why it matters to businesses and business users.

Oracle: That cloud thing suddenly matters, and the king of software keeps current

Although 2012 started badly for Oracle, with InfoWorld's reveal of a doomsday bug in the Oracle database, the company has been on a roll in software. In Q2 results released this week, Oracle reported that software licenses jumped 17 percent to roughly $2.4 billion in the quarter. Applications, middleware, and database all had double-digit growth in new software license and cloud subscriptions. And Oracle has seen similar results all year.

Oracle's growth comes even as it faces strong challenges from new technologies, such as NoSQL and big data. As InfoWorld's Andrew C. Oliver writes, although NoSQL and big data may slow Oracle RDBMS's long-term growth, they do not threaten Oracle or its RDBMS paradigm in the near term.

Nor the longer term, if Larry Ellison has his way. Oracle's CEO announced at OpenWorld that the next version of Oracle's database will feature "support for multitenancy as a critical feature, providing superior security, control, and efficiency for software services delivered from the cloud. ... It is the first multitenant database in the world." In other words, it is becoming a cloud-savvy database.

There's more cloud computing coming to Oracle than its database. Yes, you read that right: cloud computing. The company that for years pooh-poohed the idea finally unveiled a cloud strategy in 2012, announcing plans to broaden the footprint of its cloud software portfolio with seven new services covering developer team services, analytics, collaboration, and other areas. At its OpenWorld conference, the company boasted that, coupled with Oracle's PaaS and cloud-based applications, "it's the broadest suite of software products available from any vendor through a cloud." Ellison also announced plans to provide an IaaS offering that will compete with the likes of Amazon Web Services.

Oracle's late effort to rival Amazon is helped by its taking a stake last month in PaaS vendor Engine Yard and moving into more "modern" app dev platforms like Ruby. As InfoWorld's Paul Krill writes, "with its new investment in third-party cloud vendor Engine Yard, Oracle is proving it will do whatever it takes to fill gaps it might find in its own cloud strategy. [The move] reveals that the company will spend money and roll the dice on other vendors in the cloud space even as it builds its own capabilities."

Oracle has shown itself adept in adapting to modern technology. For example, despite early fears, Oracle has proved to be a good shepherd of Java. According to an IDC report, "Oracle has navigated most decisions with a deliberate and decisive approach that should inspire the community's confidence in Java's long-term prospects." Oracle can be congratulated for moving Java forward, with its ambitious plans for Java including modular capabilities and cloud computing.

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