October 4, 2011
In the good old days, computer industry trade shows were bigger than life events – booths with barkers and actors, ice cream and espresso bars and games in the booth, magic acts and surging crowds gawking at technology. In recent years, they have for the most part become sad shadows of their former selves. The great SHOWS are gone, replaced with button-down vertical and regional events where you are lucky to get a pen or a miniature candy bar for your troubles.
Enter Oracle OpenWorld. Mix 45,000 people, hundreds of exhibitors, one of the world’s largest software and systems company looking to make an impression, and you have the new generation of technology extravaganza. The scale is extravagant, taking up the entire Moscone Center complex (N, S and W) along with a couple of hotel venues, closing off a block of a major San Francisco street for a week, and throwing a little evening party for 20 or 30 thousand people.
But mixed with the hoopla, which included wheel of fortune giveaways that had hundreds of people snaking around the already crowded exhibition floor in serpentine lines, mini golf and whack-a-mole-games in the exhibit booths along with the aforementioned espresso and ice cream stands, there was genuine content and the public face of some significant trends. So far, after 24 hours, some major messages come through loud and clear:
- “Big Red” has aspirations to replace “Big Blue” – Unapologetic about its strong (some would say arrogant and oppressive, but let's not spoil the mood of this post) relationship with many of its customers, Oracle is not backing off one iota in its quest for dominance and ubiquity, and seeing its entire software portfolio in one place is an impressive spectacle, and probably somewhat unnerving if you are a competitor. The demo areas for Oracle software alone took up what I would estimate as several hundred thousand square feet, larger than most entire trade events these days.
- Oracle is not simply digging in its heels and protecting the status quo. In addition to new applications and an expansion of its engineered systems (see my post on engineered systems), Oracle also announced their first foray into “big data” and non-SQL database territory in an attempt to head off new challenges at the pass.
- Leveraging partners – Huge emphasis on partners, from a joint keynote including Joe Tucci, president of EMC, to a dense showing of partners in the exhibits, Oracle is highlighting its partner ecosystem, which ranges from major integrators to boutique shops with specialized expertise, and whose existence serves as a powerful barrier to potential competititors.
- Engineered systems are here to stay – From the original Exadata, Oracle subsequently added Exalogic, a recent low-end database appliance, and now the new SPARC SuperCluster and the Exelytic system for big data, shown for the first time at the show.
- While now competing directly with them, Oracle is also still important to its traditional hardware partners – all the traditional hardware vendors where there, including Dell, EMC, HP (with the notable exception of its Itanium servers), and IBM. Lots of clouds and clusters on display.
Getting ready for day two, will be spending more time in the exhibit halls and meeting with more Sun execs. Next couple of posts will look at SPARC systems, sexy I/O hardware (which may say something about my social life), and maybe conversations with several panels of large Oracle customers.