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Oracle gets a bit touchy-feely as CEO Catz shares a digital transformation bedtime story

Just what is it you lot actually do anyway?

Comment Headlining the recent Oracle OpenWorld Europe gabfest in London, Big Red's CEO Safra Catz says big chages are afoot at the company, though the shadow of its colourful chairman continues to loom large.

Initially appearing unsure of what city she was in, Catz delivered a navel-gazing keynote focused on Oracle's own transformation rather than how the company might make strides in pursuit of those currently at the head of the cloud race.

Having trotted out the company's hope that its customers might "achieve the extraordinary" – in the case of OpenWorld, this was tracking down a power socket – Catz went on to tell the crowd that "the truest transformation never ends."

Remarking that she arrived at the company "to do what we thought, er, Larry thought was an IT transformation" – because, after all, there is no "we", there can only be "Larry" – Catz attempted to build some rapport with enterprise customers by telling the audience that "every bit of our business was sub-optimised."

Certainly, customers feeling themselves on a never-ending treadmill of transformation would sympathise with her, if perhaps not the occasional transformation of the company's licensing model.

"Money," remembered Catz, perhaps a little wistfully, "flew in through the door," but that transformation would not be halted despite the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mantra. Indeed, it appeared Larry was busy inventing the cloud, although: "Cloud had not been coined yet."

So everything, from middleware to applications, was rewritten. Catz acknowledged that the company was well aware that it was the custodian for its customer's "crown jewels" – their data.

"Some people call us paranoid," she intoned. "I call us serious."

Anyone who has had the delight of navigating Oracle's byzantine licence plans will probably have their own pet name for the company.

The keynote and subsequent buddying up with new chum Microsoft, whose Azure platform commands a far higher market share than Big Red's own cloud, showed a less antagonistic and more conciliatory Oracle. This, despite Catz modestly describing the database giant as "an overnight success, 15 years in the making."

Heck, so successful is Oracle that it spanked $6bn on R&D (PDF) last year. Former rival and now pal Microsoft, spent $16.876bn in fiscal 2019.

All told, it was a cuddlier Oracle attempting to at least understand the challenges its customers continue to face. The "yes, us too!" attitude might not have been overly helpful, but beat the "suck it up, suckers!" of some of the more combative elements in the industry.

The final word we can leave to the presenter of the closing day one keynote, Irish comedian Dara Ó Briain, who opened with: "Congratulations to you and whatever the fuck it is you do."

Oracle, at least, seems to be attempting a little bit of empathy in its own efforts to work out just, er, what the fuck its customers actually want from it. ®

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