Financially speaking, Oracle has been on an incredible march of mediocrity over the past five years.
In its 2012 fiscal year, the company reported $37.12 billion in revenue. At the end of its fiscal year 2016 last May, Oracle reported $37.05 billion in revenue. Likewise, annual profits have fallen from $9.98 billion to $8.9 billion.
Oracle certainly isn’t in any imminent danger of collapse. But more than a decade into the era of cloud computing, Oracle is still trying to show it can match rivals — including Amazon, Alphabet’s Google, and Salesforce — and return to growth.
This brings us to Oracle OpenWorld taking place this week in San Francisco. This is the large annual gathering in which the company once again attempts to convince everyone it’s making progress in the world of cloud computing.
As VentureBeat’s Jordan Novet reports, chairman Larry Ellison insisted that with the company’s new slate of products, everything is going to be swell. “Amazon’s lead is over. Amazon’s going to have serious competition going forward,” Ellison declared.
Last year, Oracle announced plans to try to match Amazon’s public cloud computing service. I can still vividly recall sitting in the audience for Ellison’s keynote at the OpenWorld in 2012 when he declared that the company was going to become a leader in cloud computing after having mocked and ignored the trend for several years.
“What we offer in the cloud is about to get better, a lot better,” Ellison said that year.
Fundamentally, however, Oracle faces a classic problem — its legacy software business is declining even as cloud computing revenue increases. Any steps forward are offset by the disruption of its software business.
Still, heading into this year’s show, Oracle can boast of some real progress and even some reasons for optimism.
In the most recent quarter, Oracle’s cloud-related revenue rose 59 percent to $969 million. At the same time, its legacy software business was essentially flat. Though the earnings missed analysts’ estimates, the company still posted overall revenue growth of 2 percent. (Oracle is also still fighting declines in the hardware business it inherited when it purchased Sun Microsystems several years ago.)
The problem with that 2 percent is that it pales in comparison to other cloud computing rivals who aren’t having to manage legacy software businesses.
As part of its latest push into the cloud, the company has also announced plans to acquire NetSuite for $9.3 billion in cash. The deal is still waiting to close and has raised some eyebrows, because Ellison holds 41 percent of NetSuite’s stock.
These deals should eventually give Oracle a boost. And the good news for Oracle is that investors seem willing to be patient. Though the company took a hit after the earnings report last week, overall, its stock remains slightly up over the past year.
Ellison made a career of helping Oracle fight back in the face of rivals and shifts in technology before he stepped away from the CEO job two years ago. Cloud computing is proving to be one of Oracle’s toughest fights yet.
And this coming year, between the new products and the NetSuite deal, may tell us whether Oracle has finally shifted out of neutral and back into growth mode.