Is Oracle Now the Second Largest Enterprise Software Company?

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by: Dennis Byron

For years Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) has claimed to be the world's largest enterprise software company, a claim I could never fathom. But as of Wednesday January 27, 2010, it doesn't matter. Oracle can claim to have moved a couple of billion dollars closer to number 2 enterprise software provider IBM. Of course, number 1 Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) still sells more software into enterprises than IBM and Oracle combined as measured by worldwide revenue. And Microsoft is possibly three or four times larger as measured by instances or other census-like metrics, and brings the advantage of uniquely being able to combine IT for the consumer and the enterprise.

But that isn't the real message in the Sun-Oracle combination, which is being previewed in detail at Redwood Shores by Larry Ellison, Chuck (I'm sorry, Charles) Phillips and a supporting cast of thousands.

Charles spoke over lunch east coast U.S. time. His message: Now we're IBM. What he actually said was that it took 30 years for a company--Oracle--to achieve the integrated system stack footprint that IT users want. A couple of users confirmed that need. But to be accurate, it took 30 years to get back to where IBM was before the U.S. broke up its stack.

One of the other lunchtime speakers also explained the Oracle/Sun partner strategy and demonstrated how fully Oracle has chosen to be a technology provider. That makes Oracle more like Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) and unlike the IT-enabled management consulting firm that IBM is becoming and the technology-enabled IT services company that Microsoft is becoming.

What this all means--although it will take 10 years at least to mature--is that the IT industry is going back to where it was in the 1960s and 1970s. But instead of IBM and Snoopy, Loopy, Sneezy, etc., the market will consist of Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), HP (NYSE:HPQ), Microsoft, and perhaps SAP (if it is not acquired--but note that its CEO told Charlie Rose in January 2009 that SAP would most likely be selling hardware within the decade). IBM and other IT-enabled management consulting providers will use products and services from companies such as Google, HP, Microsoft and SAP. In turn, companies such as Google, HP, Microsoft and SAP will acquire technology from companies such as Cisco, Intel and Oracle.

Which means the industry has gone full circle back to where it was 40 years ago when I started in it.