Oracle's Ellison turns charm on CIOs

Confronted by the man whose company has taken millions of their IT budget dollars, CIOs were more interested in his sailing exploits and grooming than his software.

Given the opportunity to study Oracle CEO Larry Ellison at close range, attendees at a New Zealand CIO magazine lunch at which he spoke earlier this month admitted to marvelling at how he keeps his beard trimmed and the "fall" of his suit. No one questioned him on Oracle or its products.

Ellison spoke for 20 minutes and slated standalone ERP and CRM software in favour of the all-in-one approach of the Oracle E-Business suite. Having got rich from selling countless databases, Ellison said it's time companies got rid of their multiple databases and consolidated to single, do-everything (HR, CRM, ERP, financials, marketing) databases running on computer clusters - hardly surprising given that Oracle charges on a per-processor basis. Data warehouses were dismissed as unnecessary.

CIOs spoken to by Computerworld NZ said they were more interested in Ellison for entertainment value, which he easily delivered, than the technical content of his speech.

But prodded to say what they thought of his IT message, TVNZ IT director Neil Andrew agreed that multiple databases are a problem. He says new architectures based on web services will go some way towards overcoming this. However, he said it would be difficult for a company such as TVNZ, which uses highly specialised software for some areas and SAP, to get to the ideal of one large database for everything. The broadcaster also operates a data warehouse, which Andrew says is necessary as an interim step.

Fletcher Construction IT manager Paul Bougher says Ellison's points are legitimate, even on a small scale.

"We have databases for Africa and we want to make them more accessible and manageable," he says.

After his speech Ellison spent 10 minutes answering questions, during which he reiterated that he is interested in building some sort of R&D facility in New Zealand, confirmed his view that biotechnology is the way of the future and chatted about his America's Cup campaign.

He charmed the crowd by praising New Zealand and revealing that his fiance supports Team New Zealand for the America's Cup (though Oracle for the Louis Vuitton), and joked that the only reason SAP is sponsoring the Kiwi team is because SAP boss Hasso Platner wants to beat him on the water. The two software CEOs are apparently sailing rivals and have old scores to settle out on the gulf. Ellison also said he'd fallen out with his San Francisco yacht club, which is against the commercialisation of sailing and which tried to stop him putting the name of his company on his boat.

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