Oracle remains committed to growth via acquisition, according to its president Charles Phillips. The strategy is proving to be a cost-effective way for the company to extend its technologies as well as deepen its knowledge of specific industries, he told attendees at Oracle's OpenWorld conference last week in San Francisco.
Over the past two years, Oracle has opened its wallet on more than 20 occasions to buy vendors both large and small, particularly in the applications and security software markets.
As a way to reassure any customers concerned about Oracle's spending, Phillips says the software vendor can afford to keep making more purchases. He says Oracle can quickly broaden the appeal of the products it acquires due to the company's size as well as easily assimilating the acquisitions into its own simplified back-office systems.
Phillips also explained how making acquisitions benefits Oracle. "We get proven R&D [research and development] that supplements what we've already invested in," he says. "We also get industry experts with decades of experience -- a phenomenal asset for us."
Oracle's current mission is to "redefine how people use and think about enterprise software", Phillips says, with the company's Fusion middleware lying at the heart of that focus for both Oracle's existing applications and its planned new Fusion applications suite, due for release in 2008. He believes the software industry has "never had a true test of what would happen" if a company continued to support and enhance its existing applications as well as debut a brand-new set of applications such as Fusion.
"It's unclear how it will play out," Phillips says. "It doesn't matter; we can afford it."
Oracle is working on new security capabilities beyond simple role-based security for applications, according to Phillips. What the vendor hopes to make possible in the future is the "hot" deployment of patches to its software, in other words, fixing a bug in a program on the fly without requiring any computer downtime.
Phillips previewed two upcoming OpenWorld announcements, the unveiling of Configuration Support Manager and the Oracle Accelerate programme.
Part of Oracle's Premium Support plan, Configuration Support Manager, brings together all the configuration information about a customer's IT set-up – such as the version of the database they're using – into a single place. That way, Oracle support staff can securely access that data to resolve IT issues quickly. Oracle has been beta testing the service with several hundred customers, Phillips says.
Accelerate is a new initiative based on Oracle's business accelerators focused on small to midsize businesses and governments to help speed up software development by providing help in determining system flows.
The liveliest part of Phillips' somewhat down-beat address came at the start, as the Oracle president dribbled a basketball onto the stage and proceeded to score a point. The reason for the basketball hoop was Oracle acquiring the naming rights to the Oakland Arena, home to the Golden State Warriors basketball team. Under the terms of a 10-year agreement between the IT vendor and the National Basketball Association club, the arena will now be known as The Oracle. The parties didn't disclose the financial details of the deal.