Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. McNeil and Lehrer. Lerner and Lowe. Siskell and Ebert. Rogers and Hammerstein. Peppers and Rogers. All well-known pairs whose accomplishments are memorable because of the success of their partnerships.
It was the importance of partnerships that led Gary Bloom, senior vice president of System Products at Oracle Corporation, and Randy Baker, senior vice president of Worldwide Customer Support Services, to take on the identities of the Lone Ranger and Tonto at a recent Oracle global managers' meeting.
Bloom recalls, "We had the full costumes--with the wigs, with the mask, with the hat, the boots and the guns. We even thought about riding in on horseback, but opted for mountain bikes instead." The purpose of the presentation was to emphasize that just as the Lone Ranger and Tonto had a great partner relationship that was mutually beneficial, Oracle and its business partners, customers and employees need to partner and develop relationships to achieve their individual and collective goals.
Where will this partnering lead? "Oracle's strategy for the twenty-first century is network computing," explains Bloom. Driven by the vision of Chairman and CEO Larry Ellison, Oracle has, according to Bloom, revolutionized the storage and retrieval of data and information. Explaining the advantages of having a leader with Ellison's insight and technical brilliance, Bloom adds, "Through Oracle's dominance in the market, we have increased the access to information and turned the industry toward the lower cost of ownership and toward the concept of expanding access to information to a very broad population of the world."
Building on past computing environments, network computing combines the efficiency of the mainframe environment with the flexibility and multimedia capabilities of client/server computing. In network computing, applications, data and services are stored on a network of servers and downloaded to client devices--personal computers, network computers or any Internet appliance--as needed. Thus, the end-user device is greatly simplified, affordable, and easy to use and maintain. From an enterprise perspective, network computing supports any client, anywhere and moves the complexity of application and data management onto networks that the enterprise can professionally manage. The three-tiered technology of network computing is well established, but up to this point has not been optimal. That is all changing now as Oracle and others provide full support for all enterprise clients; application servers that are safe, reliable and cost effective; and data servers that finally make it practical and economical to store enterprise data in servers rather than the file system. Because network computing is based on open standards, each tier is fully extensible.
Network computing and the dramatic increase in the number of users accessing information will place additional requirements on the database, and Oracle9 will be more network-centric. Says Bloom, "If you're broadening the reach of information to more and more individuals and you do that through lower-cost devices and lower-cost techniques of access, the requirements on the back-end server to handle a larger user base and to process more data increase. Our scalability is outstanding, and we see lots of opportunity to keep making it better. We have a great foundation that meets the availability and scalability requirements that network computing will demand."
Fundamental to the success of network computing is the development and maintenance of Oracle's strategic business partners. "One of my areas of responsibility is partner programs. Looking at our strategy from a partner perspective," Bloom explains, "we recognize that to make a paradigm shift in computing, you have to have partners engaged to help you. One company is not going to change the whole industry, but if we assemble an army of companies working with us and moving toward the network computer model, we can achieve this goal. Our strategy centers on making network computing a reality. We are bringing partners closer to the development cycle and getting them more integrated in our product requirements and our product strategies, making sure that we are giving them better support. We realize that as we begin to shift the paradigm of computing to network computing, we're going to have to engage them, educate them, give them technology and give them access to our development labs."
Developing good partnerships with customers is another integral element of Oracle's plan for the future. Bloom elaborates, "We have a great core foundation of technology in our database, our data warehouse and our tools. We have a wide variety of incredible technology, but until we help the customer leverage that asset, it's just another product on the market." Bloom feels that Oracle is uniquely positioned to partner with their customers. "Most customers today are looking for strategic providers of data and information. They're looking for vendors that are working with them for their success, as well as the vendor's success. Very few companies today are just buying products. They want more. They want a supplier that acts as a partner with them, and our services business gives us an opportunity to do just that."
While at Oracle, Bloom has seen the corporation evolve. "When I joined Oracle, we were just a database company. We had some tools, we got more heavily into development tools, and then we leveraged that technology to enter the applications world. Then when Ray Lane (president and chief operating officer) joined the company, we became one of the biggest service providers in the world as well. We're now a packaged applications company, we're a database company, we're a tools company and we're a services company. And beyond databases, we have a gateway business, a data warehouse business, a data mart business, decision support OLAP technology. We are a lot more than a database company now."
The partnership of employees and their employer is another key element of Oracle's strategy. Bloom came to Oracle in part due to his belief in Oracle's reward, promotion and general recognition system. He explains, "At Oracle, people are rewarded for what they do, not based on their personality or politics or who they like or dislike. You are rewarded for what you accomplish for the company, what you deliver." Additionally, the atmosphere and opportunities at Oracle inspire Bloom. He says, "Oracle, for me personally, is an incredibly motivating place. We produce and release the leading-edge database technology in the marketplace. We're an industry leader, and we're in a position with network computing to actually start changing the industry--the way computing is done. There is certainly an atmosphere of excitement here about what we're trying to accomplish and how the company is growing."
In the eleven years that Bloom has been at Oracle, the company has grown from approximately 500 people to nearly 30,000 today. "Just seeing a business expand to this size is a fascinating experience. If you look at the history of all companies, very few have ever grown at the rate that Oracle has grown. Being part of that is exciting. And, for me personally, it has been a great career path. I started out in our support organization, and today I manage a team of 2,300 people in four major areas: the porting/platform groups doing the optimizations, the alliance organization--partner programs, database/data warehouse products, and then the DSS or OLAP technology." Describing his management style, Bloom says, "To me, management is not rocket science. It's the ability to make decisions, it's the ability to keep focused on the business, it's the ability to stay focused, and it's the ability to treat individuals like they want to be treated--as you would expect to be treated yourself. I think I've been successful at executing that model."
Bloom identifies the depletion of the resource pool of technical individuals as one of the challenges facing Oracle and all companies in the computer science/high-tech areas. "Clearly our ability to attract, retain and motivate our resources is a critical issue for us. But I think we're tackling it really well." He explains, "Oracle is an exciting place to work. We have maintained a lot of our small company atmosphere that enables us to release products rapidly, have an innovative development team and innovative technologies. Those are all of the requirements to attract and retain top individuals. You have to have innovation, you have to be able to motivate with exciting projects, and you have to be making an impact on the market--which we are with network computing. We're changing the industry," he emphasizes.
The phenomenal growth of Oracle has enabled a corresponding growth curve of careers and opportunities for Oracle employees. "There are a lot of careers that have been built at Oracle," Bloom states. And many more are destined to be built. Bloom has advice for those just beginning to build their careers. He says, "Establish a solid technical foundation before you worry about where your career is going to take you. Focus on a foundation of knowledge and information about business and technology, and then use that foundation for the rest of your career." And he emphasizes that the technical foundation is critical.
It is, of course, a strong technology foundation that has enabled Oracle to succeed. Bloom elaborates, "This is a unique time in Oracle's history. We see Oracle's network computing architecture as a supporting model for businesses to expand their use of technology and thereby expand their business. We think Oracle is uniquely positioned to bring all of our technology assets and services to play to solve real business needs in the market. We're having a very successful time integrating our partners into our strategy, and we're creating all the momentum in the marketplace to change the paradigm of computing to network computing. When you get to the year 2005 and look back, this will be the revolutionary change of the twenty-first century--network computing."
Another memorable accomplishment resulting from successful partnerships.
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