After weeks of saying that longtime Oracle exec Thomas Kurian was taking some much deserved time off and was “expected” back, Oracle on Friday announced that Kurian has resigned.
We understand that last week, Oracle elevated T.K. Anand to take over many of Kurian’s responsibilities, telling employees at the time that his promotion was temporary until Kurian came back. Oracle declined comment on Anand’s ongoing role at the company so it’s not clear if he’s permanently got the job or is just on trial.
Oracle’s indicated that multiple other execs have been assigned bits of Kurian’s responsibilities, too. That would make sense, since 35,000 people in 32 countries, or about one-quarter of the company, had reported to him, Kurian’s LinkedIn profile said.
T.K. Anand is an interesting choice to lead Oracle’s most important engineering unit, as he’s an Oracle outsider. He joined the company in June after a 22-year-career in engineering at Microsoft, working himself up to a general manager role in Microsoft’s cloud unit, according to his LinkedIn profile.
We can understand why Oracle might like his background. Microsoft, like Oracle, is doing head-to-head battle with Amazon in cloud these days. And Microsoft is widely considered to be competing well, the No. 2 player, and is a particular favorite among large corporations, which are also Oracle’s key customers.
An outsider is also a complete about-face from Kurian who had been with Oracle since 1996 and was so close to Oracle founder, chairman and CTO Larry Ellison that Kurian was once rumored to be in the running to become CEO if Ellison ever retires.
The company says that Kurian’s resignation officially occured on September 28 and that he left to “pursue other opportunities.” But no one inside of Oracle is surprised.
Kurian was one of Oracle’s longest-serving engineering executives who was in charge of Oracle’s all-important cloud business and his exodus was revealed earlier this month, first reported by CNBC’s Jordan Novet.
Although his leaving was described as an “extended” leave of absence, Business Insider published a copy of his email to the troops and it seemed to use language that sounded like a final goodbye.
Within the company, no one among the rank-and-file employees expected him back, an insider told us. This, even though Mark Hurd repeatedly held the official corporate line with analysts on the quarterly conference call last week, saying a couple of times about Kurian’s departure: “He’s taken a break. We expect him back.”
Kurian reportedly left because he was butting heads with his boss, Ellison, over the direction of the company’s cloud-computing business, which, as we previously reported, makes a lot of sense.
Oracle’s cloud is years behind market leader Amazon’s in terms of features. It will take Oracle billions of dollars and possibly several years to catch up to Amazon, if it can.
Amazon isn’t sitting still, but is adding features at an ever-increasing rate, hundreds or more per quarter. And now Amazon has begun a direct attack to pull Oracle’s customers away, not just from Oracle’s fledgling cloud, but from its all-important database, the technology upon which its entire empire is built.
All of this put Kurian and his team in the hot seat.
Although some parts of Oracle’s cloud business are doing extremely well, there are signs that the cloud overall is not doing as well as the company wants.
As Business Insider previously reported, there were people among Oracle’s massive salesforce using tricks to make cloud sales, even to customers who weren’t interested and wouldn’t ultimately use the cloud, prompting the head of North American sales to write an email essentially telling them all to knock it off.
Meanwhile, although Oracle’s customers tend to love its products, they also complain that Oracle uses contractual tricks to shake them down for money.
Back in 2015, Business Insider reported on a tactic, where Oracle audits a customer to verify the customer is using Oracle tech in accordance with the software license. If it finds something out of whack, it can send a big bill. An Oracle rep may then tell the customer that to reduce the bill, the customer needs to buy some cloud services, even if the customer doesn’t want or need the cloud service.
Such audits are still occurring, an Oracle insider tells us.
On top of that, top Oracle execs didn’t earn certain performance payments tied to cloud goals, and they stopped openly reporting cloud revenues and Oracle missed analysts’ expectations for its last quarter.
None of this means that Oracle is in a sandpit of despair, but things are looking bumpier than it would prefer to admit.