2
Jan

PaaS is Oracle’s sweet spot for 2015

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-width During Oracle’s Q2 2015 earnings conference call, Larry Ellison, Executive Chairman and CTO informed his audience of analysts about the importance of platform as a service, PaaS to Oracle’s strategy to grow its cloud business. Per Ellison, PaaS is the differentiator promising to elevate Oracle’s cloud business from the commodity-driven world of infrastructure as a service (IaaS) to something more attractive, meaning a product with more promising return on investment given Oracle’s commitment to product development, general and administrative (G&A) expenses, and sales and marketing.

So what is the core of Oracle’s PaaS offer? Per Ellison, PaaS for Oracle amounts to the combination of the Java software language and Oracle’s database product. Ellison did not mention hardware, but, Mark Hurd, one of the two co-Presidents of the company (Safra Catz is the other co-President) cited surprising strength in sales of Oracle’s SPARC super cluster, and the SPARC database appliance later in the call during an answer to a question.

Leaving aside the highly competitive tone of Ellison’s comments (he mentioned Salesforce.com and Workday as direct competitors at numerous points), his PaaS claim is, in my opinion, credible. Oracle has demonstrated a clear commitment to defend the proprietary nature of its Java language, so it should be safe to assume customers will have to pay a price should they opt to use the language to customize solutions, build tools, etc. There was absolutely no specific mention of individual database products throughout the conference call, so it is also likely safe to assume management is confident in the attractiveness of Oracle’s traditional RDBMS products for its new found customer base for cloud offers. Of course, coming quarterly reports should be carefully reviewed to see if any mention of database product mix pops up. I was eager to hear some mention about the condition of Oracle’s own NoSQL database, but there was no mention of it. The only references to “big data” came up when Ellison spoke about Oracle’s Exalogic and Exadata servers.

The lengthy list of prominent larger businesses already committed to Oracle’s cloud offers, which Mark Hurd referred to as a list of “icons” is impressive, and, further, is also indicative of why a company like Oracle (much has been the case, I would argue, for Microsoft, as well) truly can benefit from expanding the volume of its cloud activity — and get paid for it. After all, each of the companies behind these icons is probably hosting one, or more of Oracle’s on-premises solutions. Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, SAP and EMC each stand to benefit from robust customer interest in hybrid computing scenarios as the result of large installed bases of on-premises computing systems.

In contract, Salesforce.com, Amazon, Google, Workday cannot leverage proprietary on-premises systems to achieve the same advantage.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

29
Dec

Does Google face a difficult internal challenge as it addresses the enterprise computing market with products?

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthPerhaps the biggest obstacle to Google for work improving its success in the enterprise computing market is Google’s approach to marketing communications. Where are the blogs? Is there an easy-to-find repository full of the kind of promotional information enterprise tech consumers have demonstrated an interest in digesting? How do Google’s communications efforts compare to its peers?

The answer to each of the three questions posed above is, unfortunately, not promising:

Where are the blogs?

Unless/until one lands on the Google for work “home page”, Google for Work, it is not likely readers will be able to locate the “for work” blog. The blog is mentioned in a vertical column located on the right of the very bottom of the home page under a curious title, “Keep in Touch”.

A search of blogger (which is now a component of Google, itself) did not produce any “Google” blogs with the content enterprise IT management traditionally has been shown to consume.

Is there a familiar spot on the web where business management can visit to read the latest news on Google’s products for enterprise computing?

If one assumes the Google Work (or is it “for work”?) page to be the online repository for any/all information about enterprise computing products offered by Google, disappointment will likely follow. “Google for Work” maintains a Twitter page, @googleforwork. A quick review of the tweets on the page revealed a lot of content located on Google + pages. All of these entries should be linked to the “Google for Work” home page. But, unfortunately, this is not the case. The Twitter page is a better bet. Though even a search of the Twitter page will not reveal all of the content published on topics related to the Google for work offers.

How does Google’s MARCOM for “Google for Work” compare?

I spend quite a bit of time working with marketing communications material published by Microsoft, arguably, Google’s most formidable challenger in the enterprise computing market. Blogs are a prominent feature of Microsoft’s core web sites:

“Blogs” are accessible via a click on a link prominently displayed on the Office home page. The link, admittedly, is located towards the bottom of the page as is the case with the blog link on the Google for work site.

On the MSDN web site, blogs are accessible via a click on the “Community” tab on the horizontal navigation bar at the top of the page, and then a click on the “Blog” hot link exposed to the site visitor.

Oracle maintains an even more extensive set of blogs than Microsoft and, once again, collects the blog content within a “Community” link. IBM does, as well, though the IBM content is not centralized.

Google should re-architect its marketing communications effort for the “Google for work” product line if it is to succeed. Some thought should also go into choosing a better brand name for the product.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

29
Sep

Putting Larry Ellison’s New Role at Oracle in Perspective

Larry Ellison announced his decision, on September 18, 2014, to step down from the position of CEO Oracle. A lot has been written about the significance of this announcement. But content volume doesn’t mean much when compared to relevance, not to mention accuracy.

The general consensus is Ellison’s change in roles marks the end of an era. Ellison is the last of a list of “first generation” entrepreneurs (including Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs). Regardless of the enormous success all three of these individuals achieved, both Ellison and Gates have been included in what the overall market considers a group of once successful, but, in 2014, out-of-touch business builders. The argument goes like this: Ellison and Gates were great in their time, but times have changed and, now, the massive organizations they built, Oracle and Microsoft, are losing enormous ground to much younger competitors, (Amazon, Facebook, Salesforce.com). This latter group includes Apple, which, despite being a business with the same longevity of serving consumer markets for technology as both Oracle and Microsoft, nevertheless, speaks a different tongue, learned from its radical founder, Steve Jobs.

This argument looks good on paper, but in reality is way off the market. Leaving aside the question of whether or not Microsoft has been eclipsed by Google, Salesforce, Amazon, and even Apple, Oracle does not fit the frame.

As this writer wrote earlier to this blog on a couple of occasions, a lot of the sales effort for Salesforce.com, Microsoft, and Google is now in the management hands of 3 former Oracle sales executives: Keith Block is now the President of Salesforce.com; Judson Althoff is now Corporate Vice President and President of Microsoft, NA; finally, Amit Singh is now the President of Google At Work.

All 3 of these executives held very high level positions at Oracle: when Block left Oracle he held the position of Executive Vice President, North America. Singh appears to have reported into Block as Vice President, North America. Althoff held the position of Vice President, head of channel sales for Oracle.

The importance of this point is to illustrate the actual enormous impact Ellison and Oracle have had on the whole software market for enterprise business customers. Oracle set the bar at a very high level. Their sales team, perhaps better than any other, understood how to implement a complex sales strategy, and had a better history of converting sales efforts into successful deals than any other.

The fact Block is now President of Salesforce.com should act as a reminder on the limitations of “hands-off” selling of cloud subscriptions, and the need for direct engagement (collaboration is a better word) with customers if further sales are to be made.

Ellison had an enormous impact on his peers. It is important to note his new role at Oracle: CTO and head of product marketing. As we have written all along in this blog, product marketing is truly the neighborhood where the real tech winners show their stuff. Perhaps Ellison has something further to show us all. We’ll see as Oracle moves forward.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

8
Sep

It Pays to Spend Time in the North American Sales Team at Oracle

On Tuesday, September 2, 2014, Brian Womack, for Bloomberg, reported a Google announcement of a name change on one of its product lines. “Google Enterprise” became “Google for Work”. The executive quoted in Womack’s article, titled Google Renames Enterprise Unit to Target Growing Market, was Amit Singh, President of Google Enterprise. In this brief report, Singh is quoted as pointing to the market in front of the new product as “one of the big growth opportunities for Google”.

But, in this writer’s opinion, of even more importance than the announcement is the professional background of the announcer, himself, Amit Singh. Readers should note Singh joined Google back in 2010, when he left his position as a Vice President of Sales at Oracle, North America, to become the President of Google Enterprise. A quick review of his public profile on LinkedIn produces more detail about the roles Singh played for Oracle. He was part of the North American sales team, responsible for the Northeast.

So it is safe to assume Singh reported into Keith Block, President of Salesforce.com, when Block held the position of EVP North America for Oracle. Perhaps during his time at Oracle he had some opportunities to work with Judson Althoff, now President of Microsoft, North America, who, from 2002 to 2013 held the position of Senior Vice President at Oracle, Worldwide Alliances, Channels and Embedded sales.

What early stage ISVs should glean from all of this overlapping experience for individuals presently at the top of some prominent lines of business for 3 of the leading mature technology businesses in the United States, today, is the very narrow path, forward, of truly successful sales and marketing talent for the larger business market for software. It is no small fact each of these three executives spent a considerable amount of time in management positions at Oracle.

A successful experience set marketing and selling software solutions to these businesses is very distinct from a similarly successful experience set selling to SMBs, or to consumers. The present positions of each of these three individuals is a tribute to how well Oracle mastered the processes required to attain the position it has held as a premier supplier of software to these markets.

If a business model requires the type of sales and marketing expertise possessed by Messrs Singh, Block and Althoff, then limiting the scope of applicants to Oracle, SAP, EMC, and, perhaps, IBM may make the most sense. The best way of digging deeply into the backgrounds and personalities at hand, of course, would be retained search.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

4
Apr

Gartner Releases Its First Quarter, 2014 IT Spending Forecast

On March 27, 2014, Gartner, Inc. published a press release announcing public availability of its 1Q14 IT Spending Forecast. The release mentioned some report findings:

  1. The top end market for “mobile phones” (Gartner’s term) continues to contract, while most of the growth in overall users is to be found at the low end, with smart phones powered by Android a clear leader
  2. The continued shrinkage in the number of PC users will carry with serve to further define the remaining market. This segment will be “more engaged” (quoted from Gartner’s release), which I interpret to mean more inclined to purchase higher end PCs
  3. The market for tablet computers and what Gartner refers to as “ultramobiles” will be characterized substantial growth (the “Tablet (Ultramobile)” category looks to nearly double in size from 2013 – 2015. This growth is not treated in the release, but is very much the subject of another Gartner release, this one dated March 27, 2014, and titled Gartner Says Worldwide Traditional PC, Tablet, Ultramobile and Mobile Phone Shipments are on Pace to Grow 6.9 Percent in 2014
  4. Enterprise Software sales will grow the most, 6.9% year-over-year, and 12% from 2013 to 2014

1) Continued Shrinkage in the market for top end smart phones

Nothing new here, though I would caution interested readers to avoid the pitfall of assuming this, necessarily means lower sales growth for Apple’s top of the line smartphones. We need some glimpse into iPhone sales into the China Mobile market before we can reach a defensible conclusion on this one.

2) Buyers acquire fewer, more powerful and full featured PCs

If the PC sales forecast included in this report proves true, then a lot of the low end devices PC OEMs have pushed onto the market (as tablet competitors) may end up sitting on shelves. Acer and Asus may feel more of the pain. But HP has made some potentially risky changes in online buying options for the SMB and Home markets, which could contribute to some problems for them, as well (I will write a post to this blog shortly with further detail).

3) Tablet and Ultramobile computer sales look to be very robust for the year

The forecast of the number of new units sold is very impressive, but the actual dollar impact on overall IT spending from this segment is comparatively insignificant. Despite explosive growth, Gartner sees 4.4% growth, year over year from the devices segment. So is there much money to be made in these devices? From these figures I would say it make sense to answer this important question with some caution.

4) Enterprise Software Sales are the fastest growing segment

The big news here, which is to be found in the note at the bottom of the release, is the growing enterprise appetite for databases and analytics. This may very well point to good years for Mature ISVs, including Oracle®, Microsoft®, IBM®, EMC and SAP. Microsoft’s Cloud offers — Office 365 and Azure — may also continue to record very healthy sales figures, while IBM scrambles to increase its cloud real estate in a catch up mode.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved