Oracle's annual OpenWorld conference is less than a week away, and as usual the vendor is expected to make a slew of new product and strategy announcements.
This year's show is set to be bigger than ever, but it's not clear whether OpenWorld's energy level will match that generated by rival Salesforce.com's Dreamforce conference, which occurs in November, said analyst Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research.
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"Oracle's challenge is that it has to figure out how to take its current customer base and help them move to become a more innovative customer base," Wang said. "Salesforce has early adopters and people that believe in the religion, and Oracle has people that are just keeping the lights on and trying to cut costs."
But Oracle is making a series of changes for this year's show, according to Wang. "What they're trying to do at OpenWorld is infuse some sense of innovation," he said. "They're really trying to amp up the marketing and be more relevant to newer buyers."
Here's a look at some of the expected highlights of the show, which begins Sunday.
Database detonation: Oracle CEO Larry Ellison built his legendary career around the company's flagship database, and he's set to kick off OpenWorld on Sunday with a keynote discussing the latest release, 12c, as well as upcoming enhancements for in-memory computing.
Expect Ellison to hit the stage with a full quiver of poison arrows to fire at the competition, particularly SAP, which has been promoting its HANA in-memory database as an alternative for customers now running SAP on Oracle.
It's often said that vendors who find themselves in Ellison's cross-hairs should be pleased, because it means he considers them a viable threat. Still, thick skins are recommended, given past Ellison jibes like his characterization of Salesforce.com as a "roach motel" of cloud services.
Engineered systems: Past OpenWorld events have featured a heavy emphasis on Oracle's "engineered systems," which combine its software with Sun hardware, to the point where it seemed like Oracle was overestimating its software-centric audience's interest in such products.
This year, while one keynote will target engineered systems, it will be a joint effort between software development chief Thomas Kurian and John Fowler, executive vice president of systems.
Their job will be to spell out a future vision wherein all Oracle applications and middleware customers can see themselves one day running substantially all of their operations on Oracle hardware.
Cloud computing: This topic might be the wild card of the show. Ellison's second keynote of the event will focus on Oracle's cloud efforts, which range from PaaS (platform as a service) to enterprise applications. Close watchers of Oracle's cloud strategy will be looking for Ellison to fill in some specific gaps, such as the readiness state of its Oracle Social Network, which was announced some time ago.