Larry Whistles Past the (Cloud) Graveyard
Larry Ellison recently unleashed a tub-thumping tirade against cloud computing covered by Ben Worthen (with further comments from Daya Baran, Giva Perry and Dan Farber) . Here is a quote from Larry:
The interesting thing about cloud computing is that we've redefined cloud computing to include everything that we already do. I can't think of anything that isn't cloud computing... The computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women's fashion.
Now as usual with big whoppers told by people in fear of their checkbooks, Larry's rant has an element of truth. There is much cloud lipstick being sloshed on many a barnyard animal these days. But behind all the buzzwords, a basic shift is occuring - the wholesale outsourcing of core business applications.
Yes, this is a return to timesharing, but this ain't your grandfather's timesharing. It is interesting that Larry was a huge supporter of thin client computing when it threatened his enemy Microsoft but is now a detractor of the son of thin client when it threatens his own rice bowl.
Forrester research has a simple chart that illustrates Larry's dilemma - he paid $30B for a collection of low growth businesses, making Oracle is the Computer Associates of the new millennium (and we know where this strategy got CA).
Larry's rant is an extraordinary example of whistling past the graveyard. Oracle's huge transformation over the last 10 years has been from an infrastructure company (databases & middleware) to an applications company (ERP, CRM, SFA ect). Now, just as this transformation is completed, along comes an infrastructure that will obsolete all the applications Oracle just got done rolling up.
No wonder he sounds ticked - you would be too if you just spent more than $30B (see Oracle acquisitions chart below) on a bunch of wasting assets that are going to be shafted by the Cloud/SaaS shift just as Siebel's market share was eviscerated by SalesForce.
The dead giveaway is that Larry's rant focuses on the metric most important to him - profitability - while ignoring the metric most important to customers - value. Larry knows that customers are deserting him in droves, what really angers him is that he can't make as much money in the SaaS world.