"I'm drunk on power...and loving every minute of it!"
Larry Ellison and his Oracle cohorts haven't actually said that in so many words—not publicly, anyway. But their actions as of late display a spectacular combination of bulbous wealth, shrewd negotiating skill and a grandiose, Oracle-centric view of what companies will use for IT.
And, oh yeah, they've also showed a dangerous amount of hubris.
The technology and business worlds have come to grudgingly accept the Ellison Doctrine: an acquisition strategy that supplants Oracle's technology holes by swallowing promising ERP, CRM, BI and database technology vendors; a take-no-prisoners business mentality in which hated foes today can be loyal supplicants tomorrow; a financials-driven software vendor that places more emphasis on shareholder value than customer value (see, for example, Oracle's devotion to those lucrative maintenance fees paid by its cash-strapped customers).
Oracle's announced purchase of Sun Microsystems has led to turmoil in the Java community: The latest fear-inducing observation, from Sun's JavaOne developer conference, is an Oracle employee's remark to a Sun staffer: "We're not a nonprofit company like you guys."
The future for Java? Who knows.
And then there was Ellison hinting that Oracle may get into the netbook business, or perhaps just the netbook software business. As one PCWorld.com article pointed out, quite correctly, "While it makes little sense, with Ellison anything is possible."
And herein lies the problem: Oracle's penchant for devouring new vendors and new segments (say, becoming an OS and hardware vendor, in addition to its database and enterprise application businesses) poses a huge distraction not only for the company, but for its customers. (Nevermind the fact that pulling all of this off from a technology perspective would be a Herculean task in itself.)
Just look at the infamous delays and resulting customer confusion and frustration that have hindered Oracle's Fusion Middleware 11g portfolio (finally, after years of delays) and its next-gen Fusion Applications Suite (hmmm, years in the making and we're still waiting on that one).
Oracle Netbooks?! C'mon.
Enterprise customers want simplification from their vendors right now. They want clear road maps that give them a clue as to where their monies are being spent to help them and their businesses—not ways to enrich Oracle shareholders.
Now, Oracle execs have and will continue to spin these latest moves any way they want—providing an integrated, "applications to disk" IT system offering customers one-stop shopping.
But let's not confuse "one-stop shopping" with "vendor lock-in."
Oracle customers, and CIOs and IT professionals: Consider yourself forewarned. Oracle's grand vision could ultimately lead to a hostage-type situation—blindfolded, disoriented customers locked into their Oracle cells, banging their heads against the wall.