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Sun 29 Oct 2006 04:00 AM

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Oracle soothes customer fears at OpenWorld event

Oracle began its annual OpenWorld conference this month by announcing yet another acquisition, but there was a different tone to the event in contrast to the one held last year.

Oracle began its annual OpenWorld conference this month by announcing yet another acquisition, but there was a different tone to the event in contrast to the one held last year.

Much of the gung-ho, go-it-alone bravado that has come to be expected from the software developer’s charismatic chairman and founder Larry Ellison was replaced by a rather more soothing approach to addressing the 41,000-plus attendees at the event in San Francisco, US.

Oracle did announce that it was buying MetaSolv Software, which specialises in products for the telecommunications business, for US$219million.

The telecom sector is a key focus area for Oracle, which has already made a number of acquisitions in this space.

With the purchase of ten companies in the last year and the ongoing integration of the likes of PeopleSoft, Siebel Systems and JD Edwards, Ellison and co had a lot of hearts and minds to win among the firm’s dramatically increased customer base.

One of the key messages Ellison tried to get across in his keynote was that there would be no pressure put on customers to upgrade to Oracle’s much-anticipated Fusion line of applications when they start to appear in 2008, stating “we have no interest in moving anyone” who wasn’t ready.

The vendor’s Fusion strategy focuses on the integration of the best components of all the technology it has gained through its many acquisitions with the best that Oracle has to offer into a new product.

Ellison also made a point of reassuring customers it had acquired through the purchase of PeopleSoft, Siebel and JD Edwards that Oracle was committed to the applications and their future development.

He even pledged not to pressure users of older versions of those and Oracle’s own applications into upgrading when the latest versions are introduced.

Another area where Oracle seemed to be backtracking was in its openness to working with other companies, even competitors such as IBM.

Through its recent acquisition spree Oracle has found itself in possession of a lot of applications and software that work on competing systems, such as Big Blue’s DB2 relational database and WebSphere line of software.

“It surprised a lot of people we intended to certify our applications” for DB2 and WebSphere, Ellison said at the event, admitting that there had been a fear Oracle would “force, coerce” customers into using the vendor’s own middleware and database.

A key pillar of Oracle’s newfound fondness for teamwork is its Fusion middleware and open-standards Java technology that allow customers with a range of disparate applications and software to work together.

“Maybe you built a bunch of your own applications. We intend to preserve that investment for you by allowing those applications to co-exist with our applications,” Ellison added.

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