Caught in the Crossfire

Management Reorg May Cast Ellison in an Even More Important Role

By Carl Ford, Partner, Crossfire Media  |  November 13, 2014

The phrase “Shadow of the Leader” has been used to describe the personality impact of the leadership of a company on the products, style etc. When Walter Isaacson did his biography of Steve Jobs, he showed Steve’s focus on design. By in large we can see that Tim Cook has been following that drive for great design, even if the iPhone6 resembles the Samsung (News - Alert) Note.

In stark contrast, when Henry Ford, who thought that all cars should be black and one model, passed away, Ford became colorful and expanded the model line.

Larry Ellison (News - Alert), the CEO of Oracle, recently announced his migration to CTO and chairman of the board and named Safra Catz and Mark Hurd to be the new CEOs.  Now comes the question of what happens when Larry Ellison retires from Oracle. Larry’s history was to have an appetite for acquisitions. Unlike John Chambers (News - Alert), who would find a way to acquire and assimilate, Larry was fine with gaining the revenue, expanding the marketing budget, and putting a little red logo on whatever he bought. Sometimes the mix seemed absurd. However, at the end of the day, the company managed the inconsistencies and overlaps by calling attention to where the differences were obvious either in market or application. 

Safra Catz and Mark Hurd being named co-CEOs suggests that change is coming. The exact nature of the change is very fuzzy, but with the company being divided as follows. Safra Catz is oversee all manufacturing, finance, and legal functions. Mark Hurd will attend to all sales, service, and vertical industry global business units. Larry Ellison will preside over all software and hardware engineering functions.

Now it may be that Larry still intends to be his carnivorous self, but the reporting structure seems to indicate otherwise. It seems like we are at an end of an era. 

To me, Oracle looks like it is moving to regroup and rethink the red label on certain products or is about to consolidate some products.

It also strikes me that innovation is going to be looked for internally.  Each CEO’s LOB does not look like a clean area for growth. Mark Hurd has a history of finding a path to performance. The responsibilities he has to manage as CEO strike me as not where the changes need to take place.

Larry looks like he still holds the cards for the delivery of anything new. While he looks like he has given Ms. Catz and Mr. Hurd more of the limelight, his shadow still is overshadowing.

Not only that, but the move comes at a time when technology has changed tremendously. Raj Kanaya, CMO of Aeris (News - Alert), was pointing out to me their migration to open source platforms. (Cassandra for distributed structure and Hadoop for joins and queries) combined with their use of Amazon Web Services had given them economies of scale that they could not achieve in the traditional IT way. 

And make no mistake: Massive scalability is being used and achieved by rethinking processing.

This in part, is part of the rationale of fog computing, which looks to apply the scale of the cloud to internal local services. Cisco, IBM (News - Alert), and Red Hat have all indicated an awareness that IT is going through a major rethink in the design of data management and delivery. Autonomic computing is taking virtualization to a new level of self management.

Larry Ellison has on occasion shared visions that were ahead of their time. His Internet Toaster has grandchildren in game consoles and carrier home gateways.

Ironically, this could all very well be in Larry’s wheelhouse. Cassandra is a Java implementation, and Oracle leads the Java community. 

I’m speculating it could be that Larry shed the operational work to focus on where to take Oracle next. Having Cassandra and Hadoop being open source is probably frustrating to Larry’s normal method of acquisition. On the other hand, it could be exactly the shadow he wants to cast.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

blog comments powered by Disqus