Larry Ellison is the last of the accomplished first generation founder/CEOs to step down. Larry and Oracle’s impact in IT has been remarkable and will persist for years to come. Although IBM was responsible for developing the relationship architecture that made relational databases tick (Codd and Date), Larry and Oracle emerged as the most successful vendor of RDBMS products. IBM, Informix, Sybase, and Oracle competed intensely during the 1990s and marketing messages sometimes got personal. Whether or not nature or nurture was the driving force behind Larry is hard to say but the result was that Oracle established market leadership thorough a combination of continuous product innovation and faster cycle times. The impact was that Oracle rose to become the largest RDBMS vendor in the world.
Oracle continues to drive high levels of innovation into its database which has allowed the company to remain differentiated as the relational market matured while simultaneously justifying a price premium for their product. While Oracle has become a company that customers love to hate, data management is so mission critical to every organization that data management products have an incredible stickiness. This combined with the fact that it’s hard to get sacked by recommending Oracle has helped Oracle gain an amazing amount of account control. As Oracle’s database business began throwing off an increasing amount of cash, this has helped Oracle expand into a variety of related markets through internal development and acquisition. However, this expansion has not been easy. Oracle’s efforts to build an application server largely failed resulting in the acquisition of BEA and their market leading product. While this is a story that would be played out repeatedly regarding technology, Oracle marketing must be given significant credit for focusing attention on the positives. Larry’s obsession with being #1 and making sure there was appropriate market awareness around these facts and claims is legendary. But it’s hard to argue with the results.