Larry Ellison

AGE: 58

CLAIM TO FAME: Founded Oracle Corp., today the relational database market leader, in 1977.

WHAT HE'S DOING NOW: Has been running the company ever since as chairman and CEO.

What do you think we'll be talking about five years from now in the IT business? I think we'll talk about a computer industry that's maturing. This is an industry that's been dominated by hundreds of little companies, lots of start-ups, venture capitalists. The whole Silicon Valley scene will be gone. It's been "winner take all" in mainframes, and "winner take all" in desktop computing, and I think you'll see a similar consolidation in -- whatever you want to call it -- enterprise computing, infrastructure, data center computing. I think for enterprise computing [software], we're a survivor, SAP's a survivor, and IBM and Microsoft can be put in that realm to some degree. That's a pretty complete list.

Larry Ellison, chairman and CEO of Oracle Corp.
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Larry Ellison, chairman and CEO of Oracle Corp.
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Will that be a positive change for IT managers, or will it reduce their choices? It definitely will reduce their choices. I think that what's going to happen is the same thing that happened with Microsoft [in the desktop applications market]. Now there are no choices; you go get Microsoft Office because it's cheaper, and it works better. Yeah, there's less choice, but it's not clear that consolidation hasn't always delivered better reliability and better economies. I just don't see how highly specialized [software vendors] are going to survive.

What do you think corporate IT departments will have to do to prepare themselves? They really should be information or knowledge organizations, not IT organizations. The I is very important, and the T should be something that you let somebody else worry about. Corporations should be very good at understanding their business and the information they need to run their business. Understanding the details of technology is a silly thing for every company to have to be able to do well. I think what the world is going to look like is you'll have a lot more outsourcing where you'll buy your application software as an online service. You don't know what computer it's running on, you don't know what operating system it's running on. But you do know what information it provides you. You just focus on the business requirements being met, rather than the technology.

People have been talking about utilitylike computing for a long time. Do you think it's finally coming to pass? I think it is. We have 200 customers right now under contract for us to provide them with all of their applications, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. We can do it for a lot less than our customers can support the systems. It's very expensive. Why should every company have to figure it out for themselves?

How long will it take for that to become mainstream? We have 12,000 ERP customers, 200,000 database customers and 200 outsourcing customers. This is just the beginning of it. It's going to take a little bit of time to catch on, but I think it is definitely going to catch on. In five years, it will be conventional wisdom that you want an expert to [manage your systems] for you.

So what will a typical IT department look like? They'll become very conversant on how to use information and automation to make their companies successful. I think there will be a lot of internal analysts, people who look at the information and try to understand it and figure out what kind of information you need and don't have. But a lot less hands-on people [writing software] in C. You know, you don't generate your own electricity.

Where do you think Oracle will be in 10 years? First of all, I think Oracle is going to be a survivor, and I don't think there are a lot of survivors. And in an industry where there's a very much smaller number of companies, being one of the survivors is pretty cool. Our two big competitors on technology infrastructure will be IBM and Microsoft -- making databases, application servers, stuff like that. Our big competitor on the application side will be SAP. We're No. 1 in databases and No. 2 in applications. I think that gives us enough throw-weight to survive in both those businesses.

Do you see any radical changes ahead for Oracle? No, not radical, other than surviving.

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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