Oracle ‘the dinosaur’ still a major tech player
The enterprise services giant is striding ahead in cloud technology, the next frontier in data storage
Oracle’s “old-school” reputation isn’t helped by chief executive Mark Hurd (40), who is of the traditional “suit and tie” generation of company heads. Photograph: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
Oracle may continue to endure a reputation for being the T-Rex of tech giants, but that hasn’t stopped the world’s second-largest software manufacturer from making significant strides in cloud technology, the next frontier in data storage.
This time 12 months ago, the “cloud” was front and centre at Oracle OpenWorld 2016, albeit in more vague and at times, clueless, ways. At this year’s event, however, held at the Moscone centre in downtown San Francisco, Oracle has returned with more confidence, offering fully integrated, and easily defined, cloud services available to everyone from the smallest startup to the largest state department.
An estimated 60,000 attendees were made privy to the significant strides Oracle has made in cloud-based storage which it is integrating into enterprises – small and large – principally through advanced machine learning.
The controversial “blockchain” – platform for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies – also made its surprising debut at the event. However, when pressed on the details of how and where blockchain technology was being applied by Oracle, this reporter got the same sense of ambiguity felt last year about the “cloud”. Stay tuned till this time next year for more details on the Oracle blockchain.
With almost half a million enterprise customers in 175 countries, though, Oracle is holding on to its position as one of the world’s leading b2b tech providers. “I think the ‘dinosaur’ image stems from the fact that our main customers are often other large organisations, like public sector departments,” says John Donnelly, country leader for Oracle Ireland. “When you work with customers of this size, timelines are longer and so progress can appear to move slower. Companies that work directly with consumers are seen as having much faster results. Our business relationships don’t tend to advance rapidly but that doesn’t mean progress isn’t being made. Besides, Oracle customers have habit of staying loyal, regardless of the timeline.”
As many continue to grapple with cloud storage tech itself, Oracle has positioned itself to be ahead of the game for many of its existing clients who may only be considering migration while already having Oracle embedded into its operating systems: “This allows us, in some cases, to be in a position to define the direction some clients will take with cloud storage as we have put so much time and resources into providing a range of of fully integrated cloud based services readily available to enterprises before migration has even been considered.”
While only 40 years old, Oracle’s “old-school” rep isn’t helped by chief executive Mark Hurd, who is of the traditional “suit and tie” generation of company heads. Mark Zuckerburg and Co might be willing to host the world’s media in shorts and a T-shirt, but Hurd still opts to sit in a large executive chair behind a desk during his keynote speeches at the annual OpenWorld event, despite speaking to an audience several thousand strong at the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco.
The company has always engaged in more trendy projects above and beyond providing software services to smoky old government departments, thanks in no small part to its executive chairman and chief technology officer, Larry Ellison. For example, Bloodhound Project is a global engineering initiative that will attempt a 1,000mph world land-speed record to try and inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers and technologists. Oracle is working with Bloodhound to “ensure the data the car generates is shared with students around the world to inspire them into pursuing careers in STEM subjects. Oracle is also providing the Bloodhound team with cloud, augmented reality and AI technologies, used to analyse the massive amounts of data being collected from the the car as it travels at 1,000mph.
Less welcoming news surfaced days before this year’s OpenWorld 2017 when Silicon Valley-based publication, TechCrunch, ran a story reporting how three female, former Oracle employees are suing the company for allegedly paying women less than their male counterparts in similar jobs across the board. The class-action law suit taken by Rong Jewett, Sophy Wang and Xian Murray, is attempting to represent all other women who have worked at Oracle in the four years prior to the filing and through the date of the trial, about to begin in California.
According to the report, “Oracle discriminated against women by systematically paying them lower wage rates than [the company] pays to male employees performing substantially equal or similar work under similar working conditions.” No one at Oracle OpenWorld 2017 was prepared to comment about the case.
But even the hippest and youngest of tech giants, such as Google, have found themselves dealing with similar discrimination accusations. Clearly the age of a tech company has little to do with its ability to deal with gender equality in the workplace. The dinosaur with its head in the cloud is no different. And thinking any differently should be considered ageist.