IDG News Service - Oracle's annual OpenWorld conference kicks off Sunday and is set to be the biggest one yet, both in attendance and in information on future technologies that could have a major influence across the tech world. Here's a look at some of the hottest topics at the event, which runs through next Thursday in San Francisco.
1. Hurd and hardware
Oracle Co-President and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd will speak Monday in his first major show appearance since being named to the post last week.
Hurd, who is now in charge of sales, marketing and support for Oracle, is charged with selling the company's vision for systems that integrate software with servers and storage.
Oracle's Exadata database machine platform lies at the center of the strategy. Exadata boxes are capable of handling both analytic and transactional workloads, and, according to Oracle, do so much faster than machines from rivals like IBM.
It's possible that Hurd himself will unveil expected new Exadata products. Hurd will speak along with Oracle Chief Architect Edward Screven and John Fowler, executive vice president of systems.
2. HP's presence
Public tensions are running high between Oracle and HP, which sued Hurd for taking the Oracle job on grounds he violated the terms of his severance agreement. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has said HP's suit is "vindictive" and jeopardizes the companies' longstanding partnership.
But HP is nonetheless set to have a major presence at the show, with Ann Livermore, executive vice president of HP's enterprise business division, delivering a speech Sunday. But it remains to be seen whether Oracle takes pains to keep Hurd and Livermore separated during the week.
3. Fusion Applications finally arrive?
Oracle has been a little coy with the show's featured keynote on Sunday. At one point, the company's Web site said Ellison and other executives would discuss the long-awaited Fusion Applications, which are to combine the best features of Oracle's various product lines into a next-generation suite.
But as of Thursday, that description has been replaced with something more vague, stating simply that show goers should "join Larry Ellison as he previews the week's announcements and key product innovations."
While it's unknown what Ellison will say about Fusion Applications during that talk, the show is still set to feature many sessions on the software. It's unclear, however, whether Ellison or other Oracle executives will reveal what many observers eagerly want to see: a release date.
4. Calming the installed base
Even as Oracle revs up Fusion Applications, it needs to assuage any fears or concerns customers may have regarding their existing investments in applications like PeopleSoft, JD Edwards and E-Business Suite.
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