IBM has also pursued a vertical strategy, Rymer said, as have many of the other big players.
"Enterprises adopting cloud typically start with AWS and Salesforce, but you do see them starting to branch out a bit," Rymer said. "They're looking to use public clouds for business systems."
It stands to reason that traditional enterprise vendors -- Oracle, Microsoft, IBM and SAP -- would have at least a shot at that new business. But it's no slam dunk, largely because of customers' past experiences with those vendors, Rymer said.
"It's no secret that a lot of people don't like dealing with Oracle, and there are similar relationship horror stories about all the big enterprise vendors," he said. "A lot of folks say, 'We don't want the same kind of relationship we have with them now.'"
AWS, Azure and Google all promise something more flexible, and for some customers the trade-off is worthwhile even if it means more work.
"The big enterprise vendors understand enterprises," Rymer said. "I think they have a chance, but we'll see how that tension plays out."
Growing by acquisition depends on making sure that senior decision-makers "don’t screw it up, and that the people you acquire stay with the firm," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst with Enderle Group.
The odds that Oracle can successfully take on Amazon, Google and Microsoft that way are slim, Enderle said.
Ultimately, an entirely different route may emerge.
"Oracle’s move to the cloud has been almost painful to watch, largely because you know the end game will likely be to merge with Salesforce and put Benioff in as CEO of the new combined company," Enderle said.
For that to happen, though, "Larry would need to get out of the way first, and he appears unwilling to do that, even as the firms draw closer and closer together," Enderle said.
"These interim buys appear to be drawing Oracle in that direction, but far slower and less capably than if this merger had already taken place," he said. "They desperately need more cloud expertise at the top to craft the company Oracle is becoming."
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