As always, it will be hailed as the greatest show on earth, but I think that accolade was long since won, on 25th September, 2013 to be exact. That was the date when Larry Ellison's Oracle Team USA team came back from the sports equivalent of a near death experience to win the America's Cup.
And...Larry didn't show for his final keynote, preferring instead to see his team home in the final deciding race.
Fusion will also attract attention. So far, we have seen little evidence that Fusion is gaining the kind of traction that Oracle hoped. In th past, Oracle said it preferred to keep relatively quiet while it built up a solid portfolio of referenceable customers. Part of the reason for the lack of visibility lays in the fact that Fusion is difficult to implement. Look for statements around customer numbers and progress, especially on the much liked but barely visible HCM front.
In the last three years, things have changed a great deal but the key missing ingredient for me has not so much been the lack of traction. We've seen evidence of that in private meetings and discussions around numbers, the more so in the last year. It's been the lack of walking, talking customers that are doing anything of substance.
Customers - yay!
It looks like 2016, is the year when that finally changes. Based on a pre-show conversation with Steve Miranda, executive vice president of Oracle Applications product development and the person who owns Oracle's cloud applications story, we can expect to be treated with on stage customers from a variety of industries and with names that will be familiar to everyone.
At this point it would be foolish to get into specifics because we cannot know the precise detail of what will be said and by whom. But if Oracle delivers on what I was told, then we will have plenty of interesting reference points cutting across both industries and functional requirements.
Security and product
Unsurprisingly, Miranda told me that issues around security regularly come up as conversation topics. Here I expect the company to hammer home its own security chops as evidence that it really is serious about cloud operations.
Frankly from a sheer investment perspective, it just isn't reasonable for customers to consider the security topic as something they can expect to own on an ongoing basis. Security isn't a one time event but an ongoing requirement and I think we've successfully demonstrated that it is better for Oracle to own that on their behalf.
You won't find any argument from me or my colleagues on that score. But then we're not running massive application landscapes across multiple locations, geographies and regulatory domains.
On the product side, Miranda left me with the impression that the company has spent the last year doing several important things: filling in functional gaps as you'd expect, making its supply chain offering (which was so tempting and yet sorely lacking last year) a reality, and generally expanding the footprint in particular areas, especially HCM, where we already know that Oracle has a competitive mid-market offering and where we have already documented success.
One area I am looking forward to exploring is what Miranda describes as 'adaptive intelligence.' This is something that plays into the commerce story. Here is one way that he described it to me:
Let's say you've been looking around on a Dell site at laptops. I am pretty sure that when you next go on Facebook, you're going to see Dell laptop ads at some stage. That's stuff we're doing.
While my gut reaction is to think: 'Hello Bog Brother' Miranda says that the idea is to use the anonymized data Oracle collects from numerous sites and which is augmented by third party data to intelligently push information to you in which you are most likely to be interested. From Miranda again:
I am not a fan of the term artificial intelligence so I would say this is much more like the application of machine learning but we have to respect the rules of the road. The problem is those rules are evolving and we're making sure that we evolve our technology with that. So for example, the recent critique around bias in some systems is something we take very seriously. We absolutely don't want to be anything like Big Brother, much more we'd like to be a helper. Are we there? Like everyone else we have work to do but I'd say that we have an advantage in that we ingest and process massive amounts of data and can analyze the data very quickly to provide the kind of help we believe people are coming to expect.
This intrigues me. As I explained to Miranda, we have become firm fans of personalization. I can certainly attest to the question of uncertainty in terms of direction and the extent to which personalization currently serves a useful purpose. I shall therefore be ensuring I learn as much as possible about this element of what Oracle is undertaking.
I don't expect Oracle OpenWorld 2016 to contain blockbuster announcements but that matters less than the detail we expect to get on product and the odd new thing. Larry Ellison's keynotes are almost always a source of fun. I just wonder which demo he'll try show this time around?