5 Things To Watch For At Oracle OpenWorld


Oracle's mega-conference comes amid a shaky stretch for the software giant.

Over the last year, the Redwood Shores, Calif.-based enterprise technology powerhouse has confronted complaints from customers about aggressive auditing practices that artificially drive cloud deals, and from investors about misrepresentation of its actual cloud sales figures.

The viability and direction of Oracle's all-important cloud business remains an open question. Wall Street certainly hasn't yet been convinced Oracle is on the right track—the company's stock hasn't climbed since the summer of 2017.

This year's OpenWorld will be another ambitious attempt to showcase Oracle's cloud business and make the case that it deserves to place among the industry's hyperscale leaders.

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Here are five things to watch for at OpenWorld that could shed light on Oracle's future.

Product Leadership

Oracle could have handled better the exit of Thomas Kurian, its president and product leader.

After Oracle representatives repeated several times that Kurian was just taking a leave from the company, even when internal communications to his team suggested otherwise, the highly respected Oracle veteran in charge of its cloud strategy finally revealed he wasn't coming back.

An employee who recently left the company told CRN that Kurian had been at odds with Oracle Chairman and CTO Larry Ellison. The two disagreed over Oracle's larger cloud strategy as well as how to address technical challenges resulting in migrating Oracle's ERP applications to its second-generation cloud infrastructure.

In recent years, Kurian delivered a major keynote at OpenWorld that laid out the company's product roadmap. It looks like his prime-time speaking spot has been filled by Edward Screven, Oracle's chief corporate architect. Whether Screven will also be assuming some of Kurian's duties remains to be seen.

App Game

Oracle's Software-as-a-Service business is its most successful, powered by strong sales across its Fusion suite of business apps and its NetSuite products.

During Oracle's last earnings call, Chairman and CTO Larry Ellison told investors that Fusion and NetSuite have positioned Oracle to be the world's largest SaaS company.

Ellison's keynote Wednesday will focus on Fusion Applications, which is a product in transition.

Sources tell CRN that Oracle has been pushing hard to migrate the app suite, currently hosted on dedicated infrastructure, to its second-generation, bare-metal cloud infrastructure. But technical challenges have slowed completion of that migration.

It'll be interesting to hear if Ellison updates the status of that migration effort, and anything else he discloses about the future of Oracle's SaaS business.

Infrastructure Inroads

Oracle was late to the public cloud game, but once it finally entered the Infrastructure-as-a-Service market it looked to differentiate its offerings with a next-generation cloud that delivers unique bare-metal capabilities and optimizations to efficiently deploy and run large databases.

Despite Chairman and CTO Larry Ellison's boasts in OpenWorld's past of taking on industry leader Amazon Web Services, Oracle has yet to make a strong impact on the IaaS landscape.

As Ellison delivers his first keynote Monday, he'll be highlighting Oracle Cloud features like security, ease of migration from on-premises environments, and its enterprise-grade capabilities.

Will Ellison succeed in keeping Oracle's public cloud efforts in the spotlight?

Jedi Mind Tricks

In a keynote on Tuesday, Oracle co-CEO Mark Hurd is joined by an impressive coterie of national defense experts, including former CIA and NSA Director General Michael Haydon, former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, and former Chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service, John Scarlett.

With that kind of national security expertise beside him on the stage, Hurd may be tempted to revisit Oracle's bid submitted last week for the Department of Defense's massive JEDI cloud computing contract—one that Oracle has vigorously protested through official channels and in public statements because of what it sees as a process rigged in favor of Amazon Web Services.

Autonomous Database Adoption

Ellison's keynote focused on Oracle's second-generation cloud will likely dive deep into the development and deployment of its expanding line of autonomous database technology.

Since Ellison debuted the 18c database at last year's conference, the rollout of various self-driving databases has been a focal point over the last year.

Now that some of those products have been on the market for a while, will Oracle point to actual customers running the technology in production and share any adoption metrics?