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Oracle Takes Aim At Rivals With Cloud Platform Launch

By Drew FitzGerald Oracle Corp. (ORCL) unveiled a long-awaited suite of cloud-based software, entering a fast-growing market fueled by businesses demanding nimbler enterprise technology. The platform, called Oracle Public Cloud, will be ubiquitous and more secure than competitors' offerings, Chief Executive Larry Ellison said Wednesday, touting more than 100 applications now available for the platform on web browsers or mobile devices. The launch capped a six-year overhaul of Oracle's software to prepare it for distribution through the cloud, a catch-all term for computing provided online rather than inside a device. Cloud computing cuts companies' costs by essentially allowing them to rent software and computing power instead of investing in their own infrastructure. "It's been a long time coming," Mr. Ellison said at the platform's launch event in Redwood Shores, Calif. The longtime CEO had dismissed the cloud in earlier years as overhyped, but he later described Oracle's embrace of the technology as "a step-by-step progression, moving complexity off the desktop into the network." Oracle's new Public Cloud platform turns up the heat on rivals like Inc. (CRM) and SAP (SAP, SAP.XE), which provide products to manage companies' human resources needs and customer relationships. Smaller startups have also joined in, offering a range of collaboration and analytics tools. Mr. Ellison said Oracle's Public Cloud will offer a distinct advantage over competitors by allowing companies to move data and applications seamlessly from the public cloud to private networks controlled by the customers. Oracle's offering also segregates its customers' data to keep it from mingling with competitors'. "We decided to go with the Oracle Database," Mr. Ellison joked, referring to an element of the new platform's underlying architecture. "We got a good price." The company revealed an array of companies it said have adopted parts of the new platform, including Accenture PLC (ACN), Credit Suisse Group (CS, CS.VX) and Macy's Inc. (M). Oracle has said it aims to reach $1 billion in cloud revenue this year, a target it might achieve because of its existing Fusion online business and recent acquisitions. The company recently bought human-resources software company Taleo for $1.9 billion, months after acquiring customer-service provider RightNow Technologies for $1.5 billion. Oracle's fusion offerings on the cloud include customer relationship management tools as well as human capital management products for HR deparments. Mr. Ellison said the platform will allow developers to use its Java language to create customized applications, while the Public Cloud also features simpler drag-and-drop tools designed to be used by employees outside companies' information technology department. The Oracle CEO also said the company's software suite will be more complete than any competitor's. "In a sense, nothing's changed," he said. "We just have to do more than we did before." Oracle shares were up 10 cents at $27.63 after hours. Write to Drew FitzGerald at (Steven D. Jones contributed to this article.)

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