October 13th, 2009 by Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal, Beagle Research Group

By Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal, Beagle Research Group

Oracle OpenWorld most resembles Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates in that there is such variety you never know what to expect. At any given moment, there is an equal probability that you will be dazzled, challenged, delighted, or perplexed.

This being journalism, however, perplexity reigns as a dominant topic — and perhaps the most perplexing aspect of the event thus far is the show floor, which includes large booths from the heavyweights in the industry, such as SAP and Microsoft — a.k.a. Oracle’s greatest competition and greatest customers. The booth for Salesforce.com — another competitor-customer — sits long and narrow, moored on the show floor like an aircraft carrier in a crowded harbor.

By the time most of you read this, Salesforce.com’s Marc Benioff will have made his presentation here, and we will at last have an answer to the question haunting the halls of the Moscone Center:

Why would Benioff speak at OpenWorld, the user meeting of one of his staunchest competitors?

You can make all of the arguments you want about how Salesforce.com relies on the Oracle database to serve its million-plus subscribers. Or you could choose to invoke arcane game theory to explain this apparent cooperation among competitors — after all, this year’s Nobel Prize in Economics was just awarded to two social scientists who studied this phenomenon. Still you are left with an irreducible Why?

Benioff takes the stage at 1 p.m. PT today, and may provide an answer.

[More after the jump…]

Elsewhere at OpenWorld, in CRM, kudos have go to Anthony Lye [Oracle’s senior vice president for CRM] and his team for their top-to-tail work with the Oracle CRM On Demand and Siebel suites and the dogged determination to prove the necessity — even desirability — of hybrid premises-based and on-demand approaches to CRM. (In deference to my hosts, I will not digress into a discussion of my oft-repeated belief that this is a transition state on the way to full Cloud Computing — I only wish they would give up the sophomoric assertion that cloud computing is simply vapor.)

Oracle’s CRM team is bristling with innovations for customers large and small — 12 new products, 80 customer-driven enhancements, 31 new features, a REST API, CRM availability in Microsoft Outlook, and a new Siebel version coming this year. (I think there’s more, but my note-taking may be slightly lacking.)

Larry Ellison spoke on Sunday night — a cameo in Scott McNealy’s keynote. Ellison made the expected (and highly believable) assertion that, rather than letting Sun sink into the…uhh…sunset once the merger is completed, investments in Sun systems would increase beyond the hefty level that Sun had achieved on its own.

Oracle’s stewardship of PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards, Siebel, and (according to Oracle Co-President Safra Catz) 55 other acquisitions provide the needed street cred here. Ellison even had fun poking IBM about an internal program called Sunset, reminding all that one man’s sunset was another’s sunrise. He then proceeded to announce significant benchmark superiority over Big Blue. Some things never change — benchmark competition is one of them.

Ellison is scheduled to speak again on Wednesday to conclude the event, and my contacts keep telling me that my questions — such as those about integrating the sprawling software suite — will be clarified then. We’ll see.

But Sunday was McNealy’s time to shine. The justifiably proud Sun CEO rattled off a slew of Sun’s leading innovations in CPUs, memory and file management, operating systems, and, of course, Java. Many of us forget how many devices run on Java code — without any “Java inside” branding — but it’s a lot, and McNealy was happy to provide a glimpse.

The end of McNealy’s speech also provided perhaps the most interesting moment of the show for me so far. He showed a slide meant to sum up his experience at Sun as well as the operating philosophy that guided the company. The slide said that the people at Sun

  • kicked butt;
  • had fun;
  • didn’t cheat;
  • loved [its] customers; and
  • made money.

(I’m not 100 percent sure on the last bullet — blame my note-taking again.)

McNealy concluded by saying of the merger of Sun and Oracle, “Larry’s going to like his new toy.” The statement immediately put me in mind of Isaac Newton’s famous summation of his own career, when he said the following near the end of his life:

“I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

I can’t think of a better description of why these very bright people work so hard to make electrons dance. Sure, it’s profitable — but, at the end of the day, it’s even better if the ride has been fun.

Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal of CRM market research firm and consultancy Beagle Research Group, has been writing about CRM since January 2000, and was the first analyst to specialize in on-demand computing. His 2004 white paper, “The New Garage,” laid out the blueprint for cloud computing. A CRM magazine columnist, he often guest-blogs with us at destinationCRMblog.com, but his own blog can be found here. (His Reality Check column on Marc Benioff will appear in CRM‘s November 2009 special issue on Salesforce.com.) He can be reached at denis@beagleresearch.com, or on Twitter (@denispombriant).

Great post, Denis. I appreciate the summary of Sunday (which I missed), and I’m right with you as far as Anthony Lye and Marc Benioff are concerned. Marc stayed on the right side of respectful, and Anthony is a major draw for anybody who cares about CRM—server based or otherwise.

I just posted something similar of my own here: http://www.3rd-idea.com/?p=171

Comment by Marshall Lager — — October 14, 2009 @ 1:48 pm

[…] press and analyst people such as @lager, @ekolsky, @pgreenbe @brentleary, and @DrNatalie. Check out Denis Pombriant’s dispatch from OpenWorld on our blog and be sure to read Paul Greenberg’s coverage of Oracle and Social CRM on […]

Pingback by CRM Magazine Blog » A Keynote That Will Pump (Clap) You Up — — October 14, 2009 @ 4:51 pm

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