Today’s guest blog is provided by Mike Meikle, hope you enjoy:


  • Oracle is at the top of the heap in the Traditional Software market.
  • Traditional Software market is deflating with $7 billion less profit than 2009
  • Software as a Service, a component of Cloud Computing, has a forecasted 26% annual growth rate over the next five years.
  • Oracle Cloud Computing strategy is muddled with bi-polar corporate marketing and platform dependency.
  • Customers feel trapped with Oracle and are looking for alternatives.
  • Oracle is  trapped in a classic Defend and Extend situation.
  • Oracle seems to be following Microsoft in using 1990’s corporate strategy in 2011.

Throughout the 1990’s Microsoft held the dominant position in software.  Firmly ensconced in Corporate and Consumer arenas, Microsoft generated enormous profits.  With an overflowing war chest, MSFT aggressively quashed or bought out the competition – which eventually attracted the attention of the United States Justice Department.  

After a little less than 10 years, Microsoft now fights to stay relevant as multiple challengers have exposed gaping holes in its armor.  The tech giant’s senior leadership appears rudderless as product lines fail to get off the mark (Windows Phone 7) or flounder (Vista).

With this in mind let us turn toward Oracle.  Long viewed as the top Database Management System (DBMS) for the corporate world, its database software underpins much of the global information economy.  It has a large war chest stuffed with the profits created by costly traditional software licensing deals with locked-in customers.  It has used that cash to acquire new lines of business (PeopleSoft, Sun) and competitors (ATG, MySQL).

However there are some dark clouds on the horizon.  The advent of Cloud Computing is a threat to its current licensing model.  How will Oracle adapt to corporations implementing virtual servers and databases in the Cloud?  Traditional software licensing is down $7 billion industry-wide from 2009.  Meanwhile “software as a service” (SaaS) is seeing explosive growth, with a forecasted 26% annual growth rate over the next five years as a natural component of Cloud Computing.

Oracle has made some efforts to delve into the Cloud Computing fray with the Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud, or “Cloud-In-a-Box”, leveraging their SUN and ATG acquisitions.  However this arrives several years behind the Amazon, Google, and Microsoft triumvirate of Cloud Computing products.  Oracle’s Cloud offering will also have to overcome Oracle’s own negative statements about Cloud Computing.  CEO Larry Ellison called Cloud Computing “complete gibberish” in late 2008.

Oracle also has problems with its customers.  Chafing under the steep licensing costs and sub-standard support, nearly half are looking to shift to lower cost alternatives as they become available.  Many have felt trapped by lack of suitable replacements.  MySQL was one such competitor, but with Oracle purchasing SUN and getting MySQL in the bargain, that option disappeared.  So customers have continued to (reluctantly) fork over licensing and maintenance fees to Oracle, creating the bulk of the organization’s profit stream.  

Sound familiar?

Also, the champions of Oracle software offerings, developers, are dissatisfied with the company.  The founders of MySQL and the creator of Java, now key software offerings of Oracle, have jumped ship as a result of disagreements with Oracle’s corporate direction.

Now Oracle finds itself in is a classic Defend & Extend situation.  Nearly all their profits rely on historical licensing and maintenance for traditional software, a market that is rapidly shrinking.  Current customers are unhappy with cost and service; hungry for alternatives and ready to embrace new solutions.  But Oracle has arrived late and timidly to the Cloud Computing maketplace, attempting to leverage recently acquired assets where key personnel have left (and taking who knows how much vital market and product knowledge.)   Not only will Oracle have to struggle to differentiate itself from other Cloud offerings going forward, it will have to incorporate their newly acquired assets (including technologies) into a cohesive offering while trying to ramp up top notch service.

Oracle will have to break out of the “consistency trap” if it is to drive profits toward new growth.  New services that provide value to the customer will have to be developed and aggressively marketed. To grow future revenue and profits Oracle cannot rely on shoehorning customers into poorly fitting licensing and support models based on the fading market of yesteryear.

Or Oracle could choose to not change its old Success Formula.  For advice on that approach Oracle’s Mr. Ellison talk to Microsoft’s Mr. Ballmer to see how well his 1990’s corporate strategy is working as Microsoft stumbles into 2011.

Thanks Mike!  Mike Meikle shares his insights at “Musings of a Corporate Consigliere( I hope you read more of his thoughts on innovation and corporate change at his blog site.  I thank Mike for contributing this blog for readers of The Phoenix Principle today, and hope you’ve enjoyed his contribution to the discussion about innovation, strategy and market shifts.

If you would like to contribute a guest blog please send me an email.  I’d be pleased to pass along additional viewpoints on wide ranging topics.