I attended the Oracle OpenWorld Conference in San Francisco last week. It was very interesting. I had not realized just how big Oracle had gotten and this conference really opened up my eyes. The conference took up the entire Moscone Center – North, South, and West – as well as about 5 or 6 hotels.

Oracle has made many acquisitions and now has a very large number of products in the enterprise space. It was interesting to hear Oracle President Charles Phillips speak. Phillips is an ex-marine and he walked and spoke with tremendous authority. One comment he made was that today Oracle is the IPO market for enterprise software companies. Basically, Phillips was inviting enterprise software companies who felt they had an interesting value proposition and who were interested in going the IPO route to instead come show their stuff to Oracle. If the enterprise software or technology was any good, Oracle would buy the company. Phillips claimed this is good for Oracle customers because Oracle gets to see everything out there and have a good shot at buying anything that is good. This was a very interesting take to things that I had never realized before. Oracle is positioning themselves as a willing and able buyer. Strong positioning indeed.

I also attended a keynote by Andy Mendelsohn – another very interesting keynote. I did not realize that the Oracle database has a 47% market share – ahead of the next two competitors combined (IBM – 21% and Microsoft 17%). Very powerful indeed.

Oracle’s strategy seems similar to Microsoft’s. Dominate one or two businesses and use that to build/buy market share so you can dominate another business. Reminds me of Jack Welch at GE. Be the dominant player in a particular industry and earn high profits. If you are not the dominant player, the profits will be low, so exit the particular line of business and deploy the capital where you can be dominant.

One other interesting theme at OpenWorld was that Oracle is doing lots of good in the world. Oracle went out of its way to show off many of the company’s philanthropic efforts. I do applaud these.

Of course, I cannot mention Oracle OpenWorld without mentioning Larry Ellison. Mr. Ellison was the keynote on opening night and did a lot of reminiscing about the start-up days at Oracle. It definitely takes a different kind of player to be an entrepreneur and work in a start-up. It also takes a very good player to build a company from start-up to one as successful as Oracle. Congratulations to Mr. Ellison and Oracle on your 30 year anniversary.