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Once a basher, now a believer, Oracle chief Larry Ellison has come full circle on cloud computing

Brandon Butler | Sept. 26, 2012
No longer disparaging, Oracle czar Larry Ellison now sings the praises of cloud computing.

On the software side, Oracle now offers more than 100 apps delivered in cloud-based software as a service model, including versions of its two major acquisitions from the past two years, the $1.9 billion purchase in February of human resource and talent management company Taleo and the October acquisition for $1.4 billion of customer service app RightNow. Those, along with other apps for financial management, procurement and social networking are all delivered through the cloud.

Oracle also has a platform as a service offering, in which developers can leverage Java development frameworks and the company's database management and middleware tools to create and deploy applications, all using Oracle's Exadata and Exalogic hardware boxes.

And now Ellison is set to announce yet another leg of its cloud platform at next week's OpenWorld conference, which he hinted would be an infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offering.

So does Ellison have some egg in the face after the seemingly 180-degree turn in his public statements regarding the cloud? "You could say that," says Forrester analyst Andrew Bartels. But in defending Ellison, Bartels says that CEOs, especially the outspoken ones, tend to make strong statements only to find out that the world changes around them. Another view is to give Ellison credit for recognizing the world has changed since his earlier comments he did something about it. Ellison has said, though, that Oracle has spent the last seven years building it cloud platform. By that math, Ellison's Oracle may have been working hard internally on cloud platforms while making those statements about it being "nonsense."

Cloud is a challenge for many software vendors though, Bartels says. While cloud-based software only represents 8%-10% of total software revenues today, Bartels says that's a slightly misleading figure because the total software revenue pie includes maintenance costs that are linked to on-premise licensed software, which vendors don't collect in a SaaS model.

About 40% of new applications, Bartels says, are purchased in SaaS-based models. The cloud, he says, doesn't pose a short-term threat to Oracle, but over the long term it could be a challenging position for companies that have relied on service and maintenance revenues. Perhaps that could be part of the reasoning behind Ellison's past dismissal of the issue, and the company's aggressive moves to be part of the what Ellison once called a fad.



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