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Larry Ellison Rocks the Oracle Boat

Safra Catz & Mark Hurd Named Co-CEOs

Larry Ellison turned 70 and has decided to turn over the CEO reins at Oracle. Safra Catz and Mark Hurd, both in their 50s, will function as a "Ms. Inside and Mr. Outside" as co-CEOs, at least for awhile.

Serious reverberations will be felt within this highly competitive company and the highly competitive industry in which it makes its money.

Even while guiding his yacht to an America's Cup title, Larry Ellison remained in firm control of the company he founded in 1977. He still has an ownership stake of about 20% of the company--1 billion or so shares of Oracle stock worth about $40 billion. Who can imagine that he'll be a docile, passive Chairman?

Yes, he is returning as Chairman, with Jeff Henley, currently in that role, moving aside to be Vice-Chairman. Ellison reports he will also serve as Chief Technology Officer. So it's clear he's not fading from the scene. But he will not be able to micromanage the company by any measure.

What Does It Mean?
Think of all of the very strong executives over the years who rose quickly and highly in Oracle, only to be banished from the kingdom and/or to start their own big companies. Ray Lane, Marc Benioff, and Tom Siebel spring immediately to mind (with Siebel Systems eventually coming back to the mother ship). There are dozens, if not hundreds, more.

How will today's generation of willful executives develop and fare now that the lion has retreated?

I've already read reports about how Ellison's decision-which was announced after the markets closed, of course-comes at a "difficult" or "momentous" time for the company. This is the era of cloud computing, Oracle was slow to the dance (with Ellison infamously mocking it a few years ago), and is now furiously developing strategies to maintain its grip as one of the key companies in enterprise IT.

The reality is that things have always been difficult for Oracle. In its early days, it had to fight IBM and a group of seeming equals-Informix, Sybase, and Ingres-for early dominance in the then-new era of relational databases. By cleverly marketing itself as the one company that worked on all platforms and by dint of a hyper-aggressive sales effort, Oracle emerged as the clear leader.

Then its stock got plastered in the early 90s when the company showed its first loss. The stock fell to $5 and Ellison himself lost billions and billions of paper wealth.

Buy Stuff & Think of Detroit
I remember him saying a few years ago that he would encourage today's generation of young and newly rich entrepreneurs to buy tangible things like land and buildings and traditional businesses. Paper wealth comes and goes, but tangible things tend to stay that way. He's followed his own advice with several eye-popping real-estate purchases in recent years.

We all remember him saying a few years ago that he saw the future of Silicon Valley perhaps looking like Detroit, given that consolidation was going to extinguish most companies and the innovative spirit that drives them. Certainly Oracle has acquired numerous big companies over the past decade, PeopleSoft and Sun Microsystems among this numerous group.

Then there's the current era of cloud. Oracle's always been in a struggle, and today's era is no different.

I've pinged a couple of Oracle execs for comment, but nothing has returned my way.

Whither the IoT?
have no idea what this move means for the future of Oracle, cloud, Silicon Valley, or the world, but I can imagine fistfights in the cafeteria as execs and divisions jockey for position.

Who knows, it might drive an era of incredible innovation at the company now that Larry's not around to approve every comma in every speech and every line of code in every program.

Safra Catz is known as a hyper-competent operations person and Mark Hurd could sell sand in the Mojave. If they can continue to work splendidly together, as Ellison alleged today they have been doing, Oracle could not only be an enteprise gorilla but dare we say a cool one at that.

My question to Safra and Mark now that they've had a few minutes to adjust to the new job: what are you doing in the IoT? That's your next struggle, and all the other big players area already staking some big claims in the biggest technology market ever.

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Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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