Oracle can’t foretell the future, but it helps its customers better manage their way into the future by supporting their business operations. The leader in enterprise software (about 76% of its sales), it also provides hardware and services to help companies improve their processes. Best known for its focus on databases, it offers aid in areas such as managing business data, collaboration and application development, customer relationship management, and supply chain management. In recent years the company has aggressively used acquisitions to expand, such as its entry into the hardware business with the purchase of Sun Microsystems.
While rival Microsoft started as an operating system (OS) software company before horning in on the business process applications business, Oracle has, for the most part, avoided doing the reverse. Its forays into OS territory, with Solaris and Linux, focus on servers and workstations rather than PCs, as a support to its core business.
Oracle's software generally starts above the OS level, going from database to middleware and finally on to user applications. Middleware consists of applications such as Java, virtualization software, and service-oriented architecture that form the bridge between operating systems and user applications. On the front lines are its user applications, which have grown with major brands such as Siebel (customer relationship management), PeopleSoft (human capital management), and JD Edwards (financials).
Formed in 2010 with the Sun acquisition, Oracle's entry into the hardware business was a strategic move to provide a differentiated product by engineering hardware and software that are optimized to work together. Oracle increases its competitive advantage, however, by also working to ensure its hardware systems work easily even with competitor software, like those from Germany-based rival SAP. Hardware offerings mainly consist of servers and storage products, and includes the Solaris OS as well as Linux systems that also support its focus on database, middleware, and applications.
Finally, Oracle's services business offers consulting in a variety of related areas such as business and IT alignment and enterprise architecture, as well as helping customers not only choose, but implement, integrate, and enhance the products they need. The company hasn't been left in the dust on cloud services, either, offering monitoring, security, management, and more, whether remotely through its data centers or onsite.
Oracle has global operations. No single country outside the US accounts for more than 10% of sales, but combined, international customers represent nearly 56% of sales.
Sales and Marketing
The company uses direct and indirect channels to market and sell its products and services. The companies that comprise Oracle's indirect channel network are members of the Oracle Partner Network.
Oracle's advertising expenses, which are included within sales and marketing expenses, were $79 million in fiscal 2014 (ended May).
The company's strong licensing sales and distributed geographic presence have allowed Oracle to grow sales and net income year over year even through the global economic downturn when some competitors faltered.
Oracle's revenues increased 3% and its net income increased less than 1% in 2014 compared with 2013. Net cash flow decreased by $700 million in 2014 compared with fiscal 2013. The company posted gains in software license updates and product support as well as its cloud offerings, software-as-a-service (SaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS), from acquisitions.
In mid-2013 Oracle announced major partnerships with two rivals in an effort to enhance its cloud-based offerings. Under an agreement with Microsoft, the world's top software maker will run Oracle database software in its Windows Azure cloud platform; the collaboration also calls for other mixing of software. Under a nine-year agreement with salesforce.com, Oracle will integrate some of its programs with salesforce.com products and salesforce.com will increase its own use of Oracle products.
Most of Oracle's products are developed internally. The company spends billions of dollars each year on R&D. Much of its R&D (about $5.2 billion in 2014) goes into ensuring its core database products continue to dominate that market, as well as toward investments to ensure that technology from various acquisitions is successfully integrated into its sprawling landscape of products. Still, acquisitions are not a passing fad at Oracle, but an integral part of its strategy.
Mergers and Acquisitions
The company has spent billions acquiring complementary businesses and products, with the majority occurring in the US. In December 2014, Oracle agreed to buy Datalogix, an aggregator of information about consumer sentiment, for an undisclosed amount. The acquisition is to extend Oracle’s data cloud capabilities with Datalogix’s trove of information about consumers and their digital spending. Datalogix, a startup, has agreements with Facebook and Twitter and counts Ford and Kraft as customers.
That wasn’t the only Oracle deal involving cloud, data, and retail in 2014. It bought BlueKai, which develops software that enables marketers track Web-surfing to target ads, and Responsys, fits email marketing to marketers desires. Oracle acquired Eloqua, which provides marketing services, in 2013.
Also in 2014, Oracle acquired MICROS Systems, a development of hardware and software for the hospitality and retail industry. (Think point-of-sale terminals and software for central reservations and inventory.)
In 2013 Oracle bought Nimbula, a provider of private cloud infrastructure management software. Nimbula's product is complementary to Oracle, and is expected to be integrated with Oracle's cloud offerings. It also bought Tekelec, a leading provider of network signaling, policy control, and subscriber data management solutions for communications networks. By combining Tekelec with leading capabilities from Oracle Communications and Acme Packet, Oracle expects to provide the most complete communications offering that will enable service providers to engage with customers, improve operations, control network resources and deploy innovative communications services. (Oracle bought Acme Packet in 2013 for some $1.7 billion.
Acme Packet's Net-Net line of products allow companies to send data securely across the Internet. It was the company's biggest push into the market for equipment that transports Internet data and moves it into the IP networking space (where Cisco is dominant).