Today, Larry Ellison announced he will step down as Oracle CEO, handing over the reins to co-presidents Mark Hurd and Safra Catz, who will now report directly to the board. In the late eighties/early nineties I was a database programmer here at TMC and had to decide between Oracle and Informix – two of the more popular relational databases at the time. I made the decision to go with Informix because Oracle was in the middle of an SEC investigation relating to how the reported forward earnings.
At the time, companies were far more siloed… A database company was a database company. What Oracle was able to do under the vision and leadership of Larry Ellison is nothing short of staggering. They changed the way software companies operated.
Instead of partnering with other software companies, they acquired and acquired and acquired.
They showed a single-function database company could go from one small segment of the market to owning not only much of the software space but with the Sun acquisition, they showed they could sell hardware successfully as well.
Now Oracle is in just about any business you can think of from marketing automation to cloud to session border control.
Oracle isn’t perfect – it is very big which means it is tough for them to move quickly. But what they have shown is they can acquire a massive number of companies and integrate them better than just about any company out there – they have been even more successful at M&A than Cisco which is saying something.
To use a sailing analogy which I think is apt, Oracle has had a lot of wind in its sails thanks to the competitive environment. As the number two software company to Microsoft for much of the time, Oracle seemed to get away with a lot of mergers that might have otherwise been deemed anticompetitive. In other words, there was tremendous benefit to living in the shadow of Microsoft. Especially when it seemed they virtually acquired the entire CRM space in the late nineties and beyond.
Larry Ellison showed companies that they could expand in an almost limitless way and in the process keep customers happy and make employees and shareholders wealthy. He is a man of vision and should get more credit for what he has done. I wish him well in his new role as CTO and executive chairman of the board.