When I was learning to drive many, many years ago, I remember my dad telling me to pay attention to not only where the other driver's eyes were looking but also to where their wheels were pointed. So it was with my search for SaaS at the recent Oracle OpenWorld event in San Francisco. Amid the hundreds of exhibitors and sessions, Cloud Computing in the form of SaaS based applications was being called out, acknowledged and exhibited. There were "campgrounds" of SaaS based applications exhibiting and the normal spread of CRM On Demand sessions. Clearly, Oracle senses the need to position itself as a supporter of Cloud Computing which requires them to encompass and embrace the growing proliferation of SaaS-based services and vendors. Like Levi Straus during the Gold Rush, who made his fortune supplying the miners with clothes and supplies, Oracle has the opportunity to provide the platform and infrastructure that can be a significant enabler in the Cloud Computing story.
But this blog is not about Cloud Computing, it's about where Oracle is with SaaS-based applications. Certainly, they are continuing their efforts to build out their primary SaaS offering, CRM On Demand with new features and social networking capabilities. There were large banners in the exhibit areas for CRM On Demand and a section of the exhibit hall was dedicated to a few dozen SaaS add-on applications like Helpstream, Adaptive Planning and Eloqua. Oracle's decision to allow a huge presence for one of their primary SaaS competitors, Salesforce.com, in the west convention hall was interesting. Even more interesting was the opportunity that was provided to Salesforce.com's CEO, Marc Benioff, to present at an SRO executive session. Marc eloquently thanked Oracle for the opportunity to participate in OracleWorld, talked about the growth of Cloud Computing, their newest offering, Service Cloud 2 and gave away copies of his insightful new book "Behind the Cloud." In comparison to the exhibits of SaaS vendors and the mega-exhibit of Salesforce.com, Oracle's SaaS offerings had a relatively small presence. No new SaaS offerings for key markets like Human Capital Management or Enterprise Performance Management.
So back to my original point, where is Oracle looking regarding SaaS but also, where are their wheels pointing? Gauging by my OracleWorld observations, Oracle definitely feels the need to acknowledge the proliferation of SaaS-based applications. In my opinion, allowing Salesforce.com to present and exhibit is a huge change in course regarding SaaS. Salesforce.com is Oracle's biggest competitor in the Customer Relationship Management marketplace but they also are built on top of Oracle database technology. This is not a unique situation in the Oracle world of co-opetition. SAP, their biggest competitor in the enterprise resource management marketplace, is also built on top of Oracle database technology. SaaS is here to stay and though Oracle is not showing any signs of interest in building out its SaaS offerings, it is very interested in ensuring that its database, middleware technologies and possibly its expansive infrastructure are used in the SaaS gold rush. The question of why Oracle is not looking at SaaS as an application delivery vehicle but has its wheels pointed to supporting SaaS vendors and gets into a discussion of Oracle's business priorities and culture.