Oracleâs new data centers are intended to power a cloud-computing network to compete with the established services provided by the likes of Google, Amazon, Microsoft and IBM. And the NetSuite acquisition could help Oracle pull even with smaller, cloud-focused companies like Salesforce and Workday, which provide their own technology to manage business operations like sales and human resources.
Mr. Kurian would seem an unlikely person to play such a key role in one of Silicon Valleyâs iconic companies. Born and raised in a middle-class family in Bangalore, India, Mr. Kurian ended his first day in the United States in his freshman dorm room at Princeton University, which he shared with his identical twin, George, who is now chief executive at NetApp, another Silicon Valley company.
âThe day we left India was the first day we saw a computer,â said George Kurian, who after graduation worked at Oracle while Thomas Kurian was a consultant at McKinsey. The two also went to Stanford Business School together.
Mark V. Hurd and Safra A. Catz, Oracleâs co-chief executives, manage Oracleâs sales and finance. Mr. Ellison, who is 71 and shows no inclination to retire, counts on Mr. Kurian to run the core of any big tech company: thousands of engineers.
The NetSuite deal is something of a coming-out party for Oracleâs global cloud, possibly signaling the start of a new round of acquisitions, along with hefty spending to keep building out this network. But spending upward of $ 2 billion a year on building a cloud network, Mr. Kurian said, is table stakes for the biggest tech companies.
In NetSuite, Oracle saw a cloud company whose sales of e-commerce and manufacturing software to smaller businesses were stalling as it tried to move into international markets. Oracle figured it could distribute that software efficiently over its cloud. It also hopes to reach smaller companies that canât afford Oracleâs traditional high-cost, high-maintenance product.
Mr. Ellison played no role in the acquisition of NetSuite, according to Oracle, since he owns about 40 percent of that company. Mr. Ellison, who is already worth $ 45 billion, according to Bloomberg, will reap another $ 3.7 billion on the NetSuite deal. He still attends regular corporate strategy sessions, along with Mr. Hurd, Ms. Catz and Mr. Kurian, grilling each on their respective portfolios.
Oracle has hundreds of different types of software for businesses, but more than anything it is known for powerful databases. Many global airlines, banks and manufacturers wouldnât function without them.
Customers treat the big, Oracle-strength software like sacred objects that should never be altered, while theyâre happy to experiment, for example, with a new offering from Amazon. Thatâs one reason Oracle has a hard time moving toward new technology, said Steve Miranda, Oracleâs vice president of applications development.
âNew companies have what is called âa minimum viable productâ they can sell,â said Mr. Miranda, a 24-year veteran at Oracle. At his company, Mr. Miranda said, that minimum is in reality a fairly high-end product.
Mr. Kurian, who has been at Oracle for 20 years, is known to move quickly in meetings, seeking slides ahead of a presentation and immediately zeroing in on the one slide where he spots a problem. If there are no problems, the meeting is canceled. Soft-spoken or not, he will let rip a profanity-laced tirade if he sees too many problems.
âI wonât comment on the language, but we are very honest with each other, very hard on ourselves and very direct,â said Mr. Miranda. âIf youâre striving to be the best of the best, it comes with the territory.â
As fast as Mr. Kurian moves Oracle down the technology field, the competition keeps moving the goal posts. Soon after the NetSuite deal Thursday, Amazon announced that its cloud business had second-quarter revenue of $ 2.9 billion. Just the amount Amazonâs cloud segment grew from the previous quarter, $ 320 million, was $ 90 million more than all NetSuiteâs revenue for the second quarter.
Much of that revenue comes from selling bare-bones computing that Oracle doesnât care about. But increasingly Amazon is offering its own databases, and customers are signing on. It targets Oracle directly at its promotional events, and offers something called âserverless computing,â which charges for applications per line of code rather than monthly fees or upfront licenses â another potential threat to Oracleâs profit margins.
Oracle has built a large operation in Seattle, paying big for cloud talent from Amazon and Microsoft. (Google also has operations there, making Seattle something of the nationâs cloud town.) But local hands there say Oracle isnât yet a noticeable presence.
âRight now, I go to all-day meetings, and their name doesnât come up,â said Matt McIlwain, a managing director of the Madrona Venture Group, a Seattle venture firm.
The next big competition in cloud computing also involves artificial intelligence, fed by loads of data. Soon, Mr. Kurian said, Oracle will offer applications that draw from what it knows about the people whose actions are recorded in Oracle databases. The company has anonymized data from 1,500 companies, including three billion consumers and 400 million business profiles, representing $ 3 trillion in consumer purchases.
âMost of the worldâs data is already inside Oracle databases,â said Mr. Kurian.
Thatâs the kind of hold on peopleâs information that perhaps only Facebook can match. But Mark Zuckerberg doesnât sell business software. At least, not yet.