But employment deals like this have a way of getting done, so let’s keep thinking about why Oracle wants Hurd (my colleague Victoria Barret raised some questions here.) Oracle wants sweep and scale, and more comprehensive relations with its big corporate customers.
Sooner or later, it wants Dell, among other big acquisitions.
Even with the announcement of Hurd’s job move, co-president Safra Catz praised Hurd’s capability in running a company with $ 100 billion in revenues. As Oracle’s are one-quarter that, it makes you think the always-robust Oracle acquisition machine is ready to run — that is the only way to grow dramatically, when you are at multibillion-dollar scale.
The last big Oracle buy was Sun Microsystems. At the time, people liked the software Oracle got from that deal, but wondered what to do with the hardware. Sure, it could sell high-performing Sun servers loaded with Oracle database and application software, but at what acquisition cost?
That deal makes more sense if Oracle adds to its hardware offerings with a comprehensive desktop and laptop offering. Dell has that, along with servers, storage, and a little network switching. More important, it has extensive corporate relations in selling to different parts of a corporate base than Oracle now touches.
That matters a lot in the current tech world, where corporate tech is in an unprecedented period of consolidation: Companies like HP, IBM, Cisco, Oracle and Microsoft have built and acquired comprehensive portfolios, offering customers one-stop shopping and better value. It makes for a tough, cost-cutting climate, where formerly large companies are cast out as also-rans.
SAP, once a titan, is trying hard to avoid that label with acquisitions like Sybase. Dell, which just lost to HP in the bidding for data center storage company 3Par, may soon suffer the same stigma. Other, smaller companies likely end up as lower-margin suppliers in someone else’s ecosystem. Startups focus on new fields, like social media, and hope to be purchased by Google or Facebook.
Hurd made his mark (ahem) taking HP into that league, consolidating his predecessor’s acquisition of Compaq, and buying assets in networking, services, management software, and wireless operating systems. One of his big allies in making all that work: HP chief information officer Randy Mott, an old friend Hurd brought over from Dell.
Those skills in acquisition and consolidation, along with his personal relations with big customers and industry leaders, are almost certainly why Oracle got Hurd. And of course, why HP is suing Hurd over the job.
The suit is arguably justified, and probably not relevant to where all this ends up. I have to say, any lawsuit that begins by citing some quickie journalism does not seem ironclad, even if the argument is strong: Hurd knew a fair amount about tech from his days at NCR, but everything he knows about big, comprehensive, Oracle-type sales to big business comes from his HP years. Most of his knowledge about big customers and tech-addressable woes were from HP.
Long term that probably doesn’t matter though; the lawsuit is a strategic one, aimed at slowing, not stopping, the next big battle. Inside HP, there are probably some impressive retention bonuses being paid to old Hurd allies, like Mott, for the same reason.
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