Enterprise hits and misses - Oracle opens, IBM Watsons, and AI humanizes

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed November 2, 2015
Jon's cheeky weekly review of what hit - and didn't - in enterprise software. This week's edition: The best of our Oracle Open World blowout coverage, nuggets from IBM Watson Analytics, humanizing AI, and a truly baffling whiff.

Cheerful Chubby Man
diginomica hit: Oracle OpenWorld blowout: analysis and customer use cases by Den, Brian, Paul, Derek, and Jessica

quotage: "Overall, this year’s event was a clear hit. Customers were happy, analysts were less grumpy than usual and while Oracle will always have a swagger to its step, there are many things going on that imply the changes Oracle itself needs to make are starting to take root and, in some cases, bearing fruit." - Den

myPOV: We had a prolific diginomica team on the ground at Open World, and good thing. Turned out to be a good 'un, with use cases that showed how cloud, data, and better customer experiences are converging. There's typically two camps when it comes to evaluating Oracle: legacy provider struggling against pure SaaS players, or enterprise front-runner with deep pockets and aggressive plans to dominate the cloud. But it's never that simple, ain't it?

If you want the quick hir, do not pass go, jump directly to Den's Oracle OpenWorld 2015 – the verdict. Den can get the grouches at the end of a long event (trust me), so if he ended on an upbeat note, that means Oracle got the job done. Still, he did raise questions, which you can check in The cloudy change management conundrum Oracle must solve, How Oracle addresses the post Safe Harbor limbo and The missing piece, developers. And, in The secure cloud, Oracle style, Den tackles one of the key announcements/debates of the conference - Oracle's M7 chip.

Fancy another angle on the keynotes? Then check Brian's Oracle’s Omni-Cloud and its relevance in today’s digital world, where our omni-event blogger coins a new omni-term (ugh!) The "omni-cloud." That's Brian's way of framing the private/public cloud options Oracle gives its customers. Is Brian sold on this strategy? Sounds like he's on a fence between customer choice (good) and operating costs on Oracle's side to maintain all those choices (not so good). Stay tuned...

There's one more missing piece: a look at Oracle futures. And that's where guest contributor Paul Wallbank comes in, with Oracle’s Catz says, ‘We will be unrecognisable five years from now". Paul shares some frank views of the past and a look ahead with co-CEO Safra Catz, before offering his take:

"For Oracle’s transformation, the shift to the cloud and repelling the twin threats of AWS and Microsoft Azure on infrastructure, while also attempting to muscle out apps competitors will define the company. That challenge is probably as great as the 2001 tech wreck." See more of Paul's OpenWorld coverage for us here. And with that, it's onto:

Oracle OpenWorld use cases galore:

Happy children eating apple
Vendor analysis, diginomica style -OpenWorld hogged the headlines, but IBM ahad a major analytics event last week. As expected, Spark grabbed the bandwidth. Stuart has the story in IBM Insight 2015 – putting the Spark into analytics.

Elsewhere in vendorland, Phil shares workforce insights from Workday product lead Leighanne Levensaler in How HR helps managers be better leaders – a Workday view. Stuart riffed on some big 'ol Salesforce ecosystem projections in 2.5 million jobs and $272 billion GDP impact by 2018 – bold claims from Salesforce (with a clear sense of timing). No outright Oracle Open World bashing but definitely a bit of vendor Judo going on here.

And in a once-big story that became a footnote this week, the ADP v Zenefits – case was dismissed with prejudice. As Den says, "about time." He goes on to note: "Although it is striking that on the day we hear about this result, ADP releases its own global benefits solution." The perils of co-optition, eh? Oh, and HR buffs will appreciate Brian's (not so) Quick vendor highlights from HR Technology Las Vegas.

Jon's grab bag - Enjoyed Chris Middleton's F U to the state of the music industry, Pandora style, in Pandora’s box – why its positive results strike some wrong notes. Chris also scores the quote of the week with: "Unless someone can explain why it’s a good thing for the music industry – which provides the content that streaming services monetize through advertising – that a musician can make more money from standing in the rain for two hours with an acoustic guitar than he can online from literally hundreds of thousands of plays over months." Yup... Blammo!

Also dug Phil's Prezi, on a mission to wean business people off PowerPoint - PowerPoint is the Ford Focus of the enterprise software industry, Prezi the Tesla, and yeah, it costs some bux if you want to use Prezi online (see, the analogy holds). Finally, Martin has dumps cold water all over digital skills hype in Digital skills – who needs them? Why is Martin cynical? Because if you pour new skills into a legacy culture of closed ideas, they just go out the whole in the bottom. (Yup).

Best of the rest

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer
IBM doubles down on cloud, Watson and Spark - by Doug Henschen and Stephen O'Grady

quotage: "IBM Watson Analytics is IBM’s intuitive, cloud-based app with natural-language question-and-answer capabilities and smart, automated recommendation for visualization and analysis. Cognos is, well, the aging business intelligence suite born in an earlier era, but IBM has announced a significant facelift." - Doug Henschen

myPOV: IBM's Insight event was notable for the validation of Spark, cloud, and analytics in general - not that we needed much more validation. In IBM Insight 2015 Spotlights Cloud Services, Spark, Watson Analytics Upgrades, Henschen wades through a boatload of announcements and offers a take on each. I'm particularly intrigued by IBM Watson Analytics, which IBM is promoting as a solution for "citizen data scientists."

The Watson play is intriguing precisely because, well, nobody else has Watson. But as Stephen O'Grady points out in Crossing the Amazon: IBM in an Age of Disruption, Watson has proven beastly difficult to commercialize. IBM's cloudy turnaround is one of the #ensw narratives I find most interesting. As O'Grady points out, IBM is disrupted across is market plays and is responding in kind via internal innovation, open source, and acquisition. A common thread? Bye bye commodity services, double up on value-add. But will it stick?

Other standouts

  • Artificial Intelligence can go wrong, or it can be more human - In Artificial intelligence can go wrong – but how will we know?, Mary Branscombe reframes the AI debate away from good robot/bad robot into a practical look at how AI can go wrong - often with human designers as the culprit. Human biases can be embedded into the algorithms machine learning relieas upon. Example: a CMU study found that ad targeting algorithm showed more high paying jobs to men than women. Related: Wired's If We Want Humane AI, It Has to Understand All Humans asks how we build empathy into machines.
  • Women Technologists Tell How to Succeed at Diversity, Inclusion - Readers liked this nice piece from Enterprise Tech, which profiled career and workforce development tips from some leading women in tech. I especially liked how the focus went beyond just gender - to diversity of thought/experience. On the downside, some recent survey data indicates that the number of young females moving into tech is not increasing, an issue our own Jessica Twentyman takes up in Safra Catz on the tech industry’s female talent pipeline problem.
  • Oracle v. Rimini Street Verdict Clarifies Ground Rules for Third-Party Maintenance - If you're not following the story closely, you might think that the recent ruling in favor of Oracle might be a big setback for third party maintenance. But that's why we have Frank Scavo around for a gut check. Scavo doesn't see it that way - as he points out, Oracle was awarded far less than some expected. Also, the ruling clarifies that, as Scavo puts it, "the legality of third party maintenance is no longer an issue." Sounds like "game on" to me. Hopefully the customers win along with the lawyers.

Honorable mention

Situational Awareness is Key to Tech Sales Success - "Your sales process does not define how customers buy. They do." Did I hear a "bingo"?
Microsoft's 16 Keys To Being Agile At Scale - Don't see many posts from agile fanboys/gals on doing agile at scale. Well, here we go - and it's a dandy. The only thing that isn't agile is the article itself - but I blame Forbes' multi-page clunk for that.
Event Report - Oracle Openworld 2015 - Top 3 Takeaways, Top 3 Positives & Concerns - in case you didn't get enough OpenWorld just yet...
Surviving the eye of the enterprise hype storm - One of the more delightfully curmodgeonly enterprise curmodgeons gets back to his blog-stomping grounds.
Outsourcing is on life support, with many providers failing to invest in As-a-Service - Another big ol' stake in the ground.
Escaping the Superstar Syndrome - A different angle on the future of work from one of the most erudite/annoying/brilliant series of articles we've had on this topic.
Take two in the SI land - Who says you can't go back again? But can you do it better the second time? Early returns say yes.
FRAMEWORK FOR A DISCUSSION OF CLOUD COMPUTING (IN LESS THAN ONE PAGE) - Shame about the all caps headline, but looks to be a very fruitful series.
Why technology spending isn't all its cracked up to be: Study - let's end on a grim note, shall we?

Sidenote: this is probably the strongest collection of honorable mention articles in the 2.5 year history of this column. Well done folks.


Overworked businessman
So I didn't know that the Orwell estate are aggressive copyright enforcers. As in: Orwell Estate Sends Copyright Takedown Over the Number "1984". I don't usually link to "TorrentFreak," but c'mon! I just hope Prince isn't as hostile about using 1999... In a tweet I said:

To which my buddy @greg_not_so replied, "not yet." Let's hope he is right. Moving on, the New York Times is Jumping into Virtual Reality by sending a million Google cardboard kits to readers, in anticipation of an upcoming virtual reality film on Nov. 7. Ordinarily, I'd say, "What could go wrong?" But in this case, I'll ask the reverse: what could go right?

I'm loath to take a whack at David Linthicum, as his cloud blogs usually frame key issues. But a couple weeks ago, Linthicum published a real cow fart, Cloud vs. software? The writing is on the wall. The blog, a critique of SAP (and to some extent other "old guard" vendors like Oracle), is fatalistic to the point of absurdity. "They missed the obvious signs that, had they acted smartly, might have saved them." Yeah, they did miss some signs, but are they beyond saving? Linthicum seems to think so, and is shoveling dirt on SAP's financial grave. But enterprise software is chock full of second acts and second chances.

With a closer look today, I see that "SAP's sad story," as Linthicum puts it, is framed by this: "SAP recently reported its numbers, and it's not good news." The problem? The link is to an earnings report from April of 2014 (!). In fact, SAP's most recent earnings report, Q32015, as parsed by Den, is a "blowout" from expected numbers, with cloud revenue, the very subject of Linthicum's post, growing by "an impressive 116% to €600 million."

Now, I'd make the argument that SAP still has a looong way to go to be the true cloud company it proclaims itself to be. I'd also criticize the public cloud part of the S/4HANA story as being immature and not well articulated. But calling the SAP cloud/earnings situation "sad" is laying it on a little thick, especially when the numbers in question are almost a year and a half old. Linthicum is right that pure SaaS companies like Workday and Salesforce are executing well, and Wall Street is rewarding them for it. But one company's success does not necessarily dictate the failure of another.

Updated text: I don't have to time to research why this baffling thing happened further before I publish, so I'm going to give Linthicum the benefit of the doubt - for now - and assume this was an older article that was somehow given a fresh Oct. 15, 2015 date without a fresh revision (it appeared as a fresh article on my RSS also). The best scenario is a very sloppy look, not just for Linthicum, but for InfoWorld - especially without an update/fix since it was published on October 15th. I won't comment on worst case scenarios until I learn why this happened, but there is an issue of journalistic credibility here if this isn't addressed.

Hits and misses can't give out mulligans. We just try to get better each week - it's all we can do. See you next time... /End update, 11/3/2015, 1am PST.

Which #ensw pieces of merit did I miss? Let us know in the comments.

Most Enterprise hits and misses articles are selected from my curated @jonerpnewsfeed. 'myPOV' is borrowed with reluctant permission from the ubiquitous Ray Wang.

Image credits: Cheerful Chubby Man © RA Studio, Happy Children © Anna Omelchenko, Waiter Suggesting Bottle © Minerva Studiom, Overworked Businessman © Bloomua, Businessman Choosing Success or Failure Road © Creativa - all from Fotolia.com

Disclosure: SAP, Oracle, Infosys, Workday and Salesforce are diginomica premier partners as of this writing.

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