The buzz at Oracle OpenWorld 2009

At Oracle OpenWorld, Sunday was all about the partner ecosystem-some some 21,000 strong-and Larry Ellison’s trashing of IBM up and down on the main stage of the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

Ellison, with the comedic assistance of Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ: JAVA) chairman Scott McNealy, was in full-out attack mode, going after his new target: IBM. “We’re looking forward to competing with IBM in the systems (business),” said the Oracle CEO, “and we think the combination of Sun and Oracle (is) well-equipped to compete successfully against the giant.” (That’s the lite version of his comments.)

Never one to shy away from the dramatics or fact-challenged hyperbole, Ellison boasted that Oracle would give $10 million to any enterprise whose existing database application would not run at least twice as fast as on Sun gear. (Can’t wait to see what happens when an enterprise calls him on this.)

Monday morning kicked off with a less dramatic but exceptionally important co-presentation by Oracle co-presidents Charles Phillips and Safra Catz.

Their presentation to the more than 10,000 in the audience might have been titled “The Art of the Possible,” but it was actually more about The Science (well, the computer science) behind Oracle’s strategy to transform the IT landscape “from a bespoke potpourri of components interconnected by consultants to one that is actually delivering ready-to-deploy appliances.”

The message of their presentation, which was aided by mini-presentations on app- and vertical-industry-specific areas, couldn’t have been clearer: Oracle can deliver a fully integrated stack, even if you’re using products not from Oracle’s stack. Attendees were supposed to think One-Stop Shop for application, middleware, database, and infrastructure and management.

At the outset of the presentation, Catz appeared to offer up a mini-mea culpa, saying, in essence: We know you’ve got customization. You’ve got all these technological “pieces” you’re supposed to fit together. And enterprises have been left to do all the “hard work” on the back end.

“We’ve been sending you little pieces of technology all these years,” Catz remarked. “And at your site, you’ve had to make it all work together. This didn’t make sense. To us: We need to take more and more responsibility [for making this work better].”

Catz noted the $3 billion Oracle spends on internal innovation every year, and the $40 billion spent on acquiring the R&D of nearly 60 companies, all in the effort to end the “era of unique and unlimited configurations for each customer,” which was the message from Catz and Phillips. The future, they claim: “Standard, tested, engineered and certified.”

ERP guru Vinnie Mirchandani blogged that while the $15 billion (cummulatively spent during five years of acquisitions) Oracle claims to have spent on R&D was a “good start, we need to see lots more.” The centerpieces of Oracle’s strategy are Fusion Middleware, which is already rolled out and used by 90,000 customers, and Fusion Applications Suite, which is almost ready for prime time. A growing sentiment among attendees at OpenWorld is: Are we going to hear anything specific about Fusion Applications Suite, the next-generation suite of ERP apps? Thomas Kurian, Oracle’s EVP of product development, is expected to deliver the Fusion Apps goods in his Tuesday morning keynote. It should be standing-room only.

After Catz’s and Phillips’ presentation, there is little ambiguity about Oracle’s strategy: “We try to be no. 1 in every product category,” Catz remarked. “But that’s just not enough for us. We want to be number one in the products and do more of the work for you so that you don’t have to.”

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