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End users mostly indifferent to Oracle hiring former HP CEO Mark Hurd

Former HP CEO Mark Hurd brings much needed hardware experience to his new job as co-president of Oracle, but most customers don't tune in closely to the game of musical chairs being played in the executive suite.

Oracle’s decision to hire former HP CEO Mark Hurd as co-president adds someone with considerable hardware and services experience, two areas where analysts and customers say the database and business applications giant is lacking.

Oracle announced on Monday that it would hire Hurd as co-president, dropping Charles Phillips at the same time to make room. Phillips and Oracle’s other co-president, Safra Catz, came mainly from financial backgrounds, and during their tenure Oracle set a blistering acquisitions pace. Meanwhile, former HP CEO Hurd has decades of experience in server hardware and services – and in particular led NCR’s Teradata division at one point before joining Hewlett-Packard Co.

“I think it’s a smart move on both Hurd's and Oracle’s part,” said Eric Guyer, an Oracle architect at IT consultancy Forsythe. “He’s a closer cultural fit within Oracle to run the Sun hardware business.”

Sun’s hardware division has struggled in recent years, and particularly in recent months. Recent figures from Gartner have Oracle sitting fourth in server revenue and fifth in server shipments, where it has just over a 2% share of the market. A recent TheInfoPro survey also found that almost half of Oracle-Sun hardware customers are leaving the platform or considering doing so.

End users like Tom Becchetti, a Unix and storage engineer at a large manufacturing firm in the Midwest, say that confidence in Sun products has eroded over the last 18 months and that Oracle has a lot of work to do if it wants to regain the confidence of IT buyers. Hurd, with his extensive background in server hardware and Unix, will take on that challenge.

Hurd resigned from HP in August amid allegations of sexual harassment of an HP employee and discrepancies of up to $20,000 on Hurd’s expense reports. Upon the news, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison lashed out against the HP board for forcing the resignation of Hurd, who often plays tennis with Ellison.

“The H.P. board just made the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago,” Ellison wrote in an email to The New York Times. “That decision nearly destroyed Apple and would have if Steve hadn’t come back and saved them.”

Other end users don’t really concern themselves with the game of musical chairs that sometimes takes place in the executive suite.

“Since I don’t know him or know about him, it probably doesn't matter to me,” said Bob Storey, a DBA at the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office in Tennessee.

Storey, like many IT buyers involved with Oracle and HP, doesn’t care that much about Hurd’s transgressions at HP. IT pros running HP gear said last month that Hurd’s resignation wouldn’t affect their decision to buy or not, with one saying that the likelihood of his company boycotting HP servers “based on the personal antics of their CEO is pretty low." Another IT virtualization pro said that if there is to be any kind of boycott of HP gear, the decision would be made way above his head.

That sounded about right to Brady Reiter, general manager of enterprise architecture and application strategy at NaviSite, a hosting company that runs Oracle-Sun servers and software.

“I do care,” Reiter said about the Hurd hiring. “Not because of the scandal causing him to leave HP, but more because he’s done a great job at HP, and I hope there are more good things in store for Oracle.” 

Mark Fontecchio can be reached at

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