Ellison leads Oracle in his own way

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The history of Oracle Corp. is not a textbook example of a successful company. Yet the firm has grown to become the second largest independent maker of software with about $8 billion in sales last year.

Larry Ellison, who has been chief executive officer since co-founding the firm in 1977, is described by longtime Oracle watcher Curt Monash as "one of the great public speakers and showmen of the era."

Ellison has used those talents and his technology sense to help create the relational database market, and to push Oracle to build a high-end ERP suite that quietly became what some observers say is the second largest application operation in the world. And it is an edict from Ellison that forces the developers of those applications to use Oracle-built tools, a strategy that observers say has kept the company's development offerings competitive over the years with some better-known toolsets.

Ellison has shown a penchant for risk-taking with well-publicized but far less successful forays into such wide-ranging fields as video-on-demand and the still-emerging market for Network Computers.

Perhaps most impressive was Ellison's efforts to save the company from near-bankruptcy early in this decade by securing substantial outside investments and replacing his management team virtually overnight. The same industry watchers that blamed Ellison for getting Oracle into such a fix credited him with getting the company back on its feet.

In this issue, we take a look at the position of Oracle today ("The i gets bigger at Oracle,"), with an especially close examination of the company's development platforms and tools. Oracle's embrace of the Internet is an obvious strategy that, despite some hiccups, appears to be quite successful so far. The company has scrambled to have Java become an integral component of its flagship database offering. And substantial savings came with the decision to license the Inprise JBuilder technology for use as the basis of Oracle's JDeveloper Java development tool.

There are still hurdles to overcome, however. Among them are the following questions: What happens to Oracle Application Server as more and more of its capabilities are incorporated into Oracle 8i? Can the disparate tool offerings be somehow integrated to better challenge tool suites from primary rivals IBM and Microsoft? And, will the Internet features now being added to the ERP software overcome a lagging market and still- intense competition?

We examine some of these questions in this issue, and will continue to follow them as the answers become clearer.

Best Regards, Mike Bucken

About the Author

Mike Bucken is former Editor-in-Chief of Application Development Trends magazine.