| BOSTON/SAN FRANCISCO
BOSTON/SAN FRANCISCO Oracle Corp CEO Larry Ellison said he intends to drive growth at the world's No. 3 software maker by promoting its current suite of cloud computing products and not through an acquisition.
The billionaire, who boosted Oracle revenue dramatically over the past decade through a series of purchases, said, however, he would not rule out a big deal "down the road".
"We're not focused on any large acquisitions. We think the organic growth opportunity is in the cloud," he said in an interview on CNBC prior to making a keynote speech at his company's annual users conference in San Francisco.
Oracle was slow to embrace cloud computing, which is a broad term referring to the delivery of computer services via the Internet from remote data centers. Corporate technology buyers like the approach because it is faster to implement and has lower upfront costs than traditional software, which businesses need to install on their own computer systems.
Ellison famously mocked cloud computing as "complete gibberish" in a 2008 tirade after a Wall Street analyst asked him to comment on the trend. He described it as a fad, comparing the computer industry to the fashion world.
But Oracle subsequently introduced its own offerings in the rapidly growing area and also acquired several firms selling Internet-based software as its corporate customers embraced younger cloud rivals including Salesforce.com Inc, Amazon.com Inc and Google Inc.
Oracle unveiled new cloud products at this week's users conference including an updated version of its top-selling corporate database along with high-end computers designed for the cloud. Oracle estimates some 50,000 corporate executives and technology workers are attending the conference.
Ellison said he expects thousands of customers to be using Oracle's recently launched, cloud-oriented Fusion business software suite next year, up from around 400 now.
Customers can use Oracle's software on Oracle's public cloud service, or on their own internal networks, Ellison emphasized, taking a jab at one of his company's rivals.
"Salesforce.com, it runs in one place on the planet earth, on the Salesforce public cloud. That's it. You can't move that in-house, you can't move that into a private cloud behind your firewall," Ellison said. "We think it's very important to give customers choice."
Keen to capitalize on the success of Facebook and Twitter, Ellison also demonstrated new tools to analyze activity on social networks. Salesforce.com has also launched products to take advantage of social networks.
To deliver faster performance, Oracle is increasing its focus on solid-state storage, Ellison said.
Solid-state memory relies on NAND microchips and is more reliable, but more expensive, than traditional hard disk drives made by Seagate and Western Digital.
Ellison opened the conference on Sunday night conference with a preview of a hardware system dubbed Exadata X3. He also showed off a cloud-friendly version of the Oracle database, which is used by virtually all of the world's biggest corporations.
Oracle, which has nearly 120,000 employees, intends to market the new cloud products to existing customers, many of whom use web-based offerings from rivals such as Salesforce and Amazon.
"It took Oracle some time to embrace the cloud," said FBR Capital Markets analyst Daniel Ives. "The stage is now set for them to really head down the Cloud path and be successful in that endeavor."
Oracle's strategy is to become a one-stop shop for cloud-computing products, offering operating systems, databases, computer programs as well as computing infrastructure over the web, said Rebecca Wettemann, an analyst with Nucleus Research.
"They are saying 'Amazon will give you part of it. Salesforce will give you part of it, but we are the ones who will give you the whole thing,'" Wettemann said.
In a rare, wide-ranging interview, the founder of Oracle who has led the company for over three decades, declined to say whether the board has chosen his successor.
Investors widely expect the 68-year-old Ellison to hand the company over to one of two corporate presidents: Safra Catz, a former investment banker who serves as chief financial officer, or Mark Hurd, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co.
He told CNBC that there were "a lot of people" who could take his place at Oracle.
(Reporting by Jim Finkle and Edwin Chan)