Oracle CEO Mark Hurd: The full interview

We sit down with Mark Hurd, Oracle’s co-CEO, to discuss the company’s grand cloud ambitions, its commitment to the Middle East, and its take on competitors' offerings

Tags: Cloud computingOracle CorporationSAPUnited Arab Emirates
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Oracle CEO Mark Hurd: The full interview Hurd: It took us six or seven years to re-write our apps to be ready to do what you see us doing today (Getty Images)
By  Tom Paye Published  February 3, 2015

Since Larry Ellison stepped down as CEO of Oracle last year, his two successors, Mark Hurd and Safra A. Catz, have led the company through a couple of impressive quarters, each posting strong cloud growth. Indeed, while Oracle says it remains committed to its core software and engineered hardware systems, the rhetoric of the last few months has focused squarely on cloud, and how Oracle hopes to be the number-one cloud vendor in the near future.

But is this a realistic goal, particularly with Oracle's nemesis, SAP, looking to achieve the same thing? Speaking to Hurd in Dubai, we drilled down on how Oracle hopes to realise cloud dominance, what commitment the vendor is making to the Middle East, and how it views recent acquisition moves made by SAP. How was your last quarter?

MH: We've had good success, we had a good quarter that we announced at the end of Q2. We grew the company 7% in local currency. We had tremendous growth in our cloud offerings. We had tremendous growth here in this area with our cloud offerings. We had 300 Q1 and Q2 new and expanded cloud customers in this region. This is a big deal that we were able to execute at that level. And I think that we're at the very early innings of it, so I think this is very exciting. 

In terms of other things that I think are important, in the EMEA region, our Q2 growth was huge. And now, the Europe SaaS numbers are coming against fairly big comparisons, because we had a good year last year, so we've got 80% growth and that's a big number. And growth here in the Middle East was materially higher. What's your overall cloud strategy?

MH: If you went back and talked to Oracle a couple of years ago, when we talked cloud, we mainly talked SaaS, we mainly talked about applications. And we've had tremendous success in applications, so let me describe to you our applications strategy in the cloud. One is that we be best-of-breed in every app - whether it's HR, ERP, marketing, or sales. But secondly, that we are the only one with a suite of apps. We believe to the core that companies are not going to have 10, 15 or 20 different companies to provide cloud apps to them - they're going to want to have their apps in suites, where the apps can work together, not just independently. So our differentiation is both in each individual app, but also in the fact that the app behaves within a suite of applications.

In addition to that, we released at the end of September or early October the first general availability of our PaaS solutions. That, to us, is things like Linux, Java, Oracle as a service. So now, you can do your development and testing with arguably the most popular tools in the world. As an example, if you're in a SaaS application, we're going to release about three releases of the software per year. So imagine you've got a SaaS application, you might get 500 features per release. Now, if you didn't get precisely what you wanted in the SaaS features, you can build a module in PaaS, add it to your SaaS app and never change the core app.

Our strategy is also to price our infrastructure as a service roughly the same as everybody else, whether it's Amazon or IBM or whoever it may be. And we think the main consumers of our IaaS will be our SaaS customers and our PaaS customers. Where are your cloud services hosted?         

MH: It depends on which service. We've got 21 data centres around the world. And we pretty much have this situation of each of our cloud in every data centre, meaning that everyone can do PaaS, everyone can do SaaS, everyone can do each app. And that's certainly our design and vision. But it depends still today a little bit on the app as to where those services are hosted. So, in the Middle East, for example, do we have to piggyback on European data centres?

MH: You piggyback on European data centres. Are there any plans to open a data centre in the Middle East?

MH: We are always looking. We've expanded pretty quickly. Just in the past year, we've opened up data centres in Canada, in Germany, in Brazil. We've done one in Australia but that might be a little bit longer than 12 months ago. So we're continuing to expand our footprint. And the more success we have in a market like this, the more likely you'll see us do that here. This is one of those areas we're very much considering expanding with a data centre into. But this is the problem - you're talking about going after big customers, and moving them to the cloud. But with government agencies, and by extension any company that deals with government agencies, the data can't be hosted outside the country by law, or at least outside of the GCC. So if you really wanted to accelerate your cloud growth here, wouldn't it be prudent to open up a data centre here?

MH: Well, I have a couple of points. It's accelerating pretty fast now. But second, I think your point has merit - can we get to levels of hyper-growth? I'll say it one more time, it's in consideration. And I think that, to the degree that the more of this sort of growth we've described continues to happen, the more likely we are to invest in data centres here. Now we have to also make the decision where. And with who. And so there are other dimensions to just putting one here. It also becomes putting one here relative to a priority somewhere else. I would say the growth here is pretty exciting, so without me giving you a commitment, it's something that we're very, very much considering.

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