Monday, April 20, 2009

TIBCO CEO worries about Oracle-Sun deal's impact on IT industry

BriefingsDirect contributor Rich Seeley interviewed Vivek Ranadive, CEO of TIBCO Software, on the day the Oracle-Sun proposed deal was announced. Here's his report.

Will there be confusion and even fear in the Java community? Can Microsoft take advantage of that? Will there be disruption in the hardware server business that works to the advantage of Cisco? Vivek Ranadive, CEO of TIBCO Software, sees a lot of question marks around Oracle’s proposed acquisition of Sun Microsystems.

“I’m sure there’s nervousness in the Java community,” Ranadive said in an exclusive interview with BriefingsDirect. “Can they trust [Oracle Chairman and CEO] Larry Ellison? What’s he going to do with this control? Is he going to manipulate Java so he gets an advantage? Is he going to make it less open? Is he going to find ways to start charging customers for it? There are a lot of question marks.”

[Disclosure: TIBCO is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Sun, as a hardware company, was committed to open source and Java, in the TIBCO CEO’s view, whereas Oracle is a software company “that has been notorious at exacting money from customers.”

In Ranadive's view Microsoft is a beneficiary of any fear, uncertainty and doubt about the future of Java and open source.

“It helps Microsoft,” Ranadive said. “If you’re a customer and you’re wondering about Java, you might just say the heck with it, I’ll go with Microsoft.”

Microsoft also has a cloud computing initiative while Oracle has been reticent, he noted.

“Larry Ellison has been on record as saying he doesn’t believe in the cloud,” Ranadive said, “whereas Microsoft jumped on the virtualization bandwagon and is going to head up the parade on that.”

While TIBCO as a middleware vendor maintains “Swiss-like neutrality” between the Java and .NET worlds, Ranadive said he has been impressed with the cloud technology coming out of Redmond.

Noting that in the midst of the recession TIBCO continues to report record earnings, Ranadive said that in an IT market where Java and .NET co-exist in many shops, his company is positioned as the “trusted arbiter in the middle.”

Using the example of the suitor Sun spurned, he notes the TIBCO competes with IBM, works with IBM and runs on IBM servers.

Ranadive said he is not concerned about what Oracle will do with the Sun hardware servers. But he noted that the “plot thickens” for the other server vendors including IBM, HP, Dell, and now Cisco.

“We don’t know what is happening with the server business,” he said. “Is Oracle going to keep it? Are they going to shut it down? Is Oracle going into the hardware business?”

But he sees Cisco possibly benefiting from any disruption in the hardware market.

“We have customers that are looking at Sun, and they may look at this and say maybe we’ll go with Cisco,” he speculated.

Ranadive also lists his own company as a beneficiary from whatever disruption arises from Oracle’s latest acquisition.

“Our customers are already rebelling against putting more eggs in the Oracle basket,” he said. “As the Swiss-neutral party that integrates everything with everything, it helps us a great deal.”

Noting that he got his own start in the businesses with a workstation borrowed from Sun, Ranadive did say he was sorry for the loss of what Sun once represented as the home of the innovators who created Java. But he doesn’t believe Silicon Valley has lost its innovative spirit.

“The innovators will show up at other companies, including ours,” he said. “Innovation is here to stay in the Valley.”

On the lighter side, the TIBCO CEO was speculating that Ellison might acquire Best Buy next.

“He seems to like commodity products that can be accretive,” Ranadive quipped. “So maybe Best Buy will be his next purchase. He could even start selling servers in his shop.”

In a more serious analogy, Ranadive noted that the accretive model has been used before in the software business, most notably by Computer Associates, which steadily acquired mainframe software companies in the 1980s and the 1990s.

“Oracle has become the CA of the present era,” he said.

Rich Seeley provides research and editorial assistance to BriefingsDirect. He can be reached at Writer4Hire.

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