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It was just six years ago that Larry Ellison famously dissed cloud computing at an analyst conference. But this year's Oracle Open World is all about the cloud and Oracle today made sure all 60,000 attendees knew it.

Ellison himself, now executive chairman and CTO of the Redwood Shores, Calif.-based company, said last night Oracle reached an "inflection point" in the cloud during 2014. Never mind that others reached that point years ago.

With characteristic bravado, he still mocked competitors and proclaimed Oracle as the only company that now offers platforms, software and infrastructure as services. 

Oracle's Turnaround

It was a head-snapping spin for the man who made headlines in 2008 when he said of the cloud, "Maybe I"m an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is it? It’s complete gibberish. It’s insane. When is this idiocy going to stop?"

The reason for all this came into sharp focus this morning as Mark Hurd, in his first major appearance as an Oracle CEO, paraded a long line-up of CIOs who either use or plan to adopt some of those services in the near future. They represented the corporate A-list: P&G, FedEx, GE, Intel, Xerox, Walgreens and others. Simply put, Oracle's customers want cloud services.

"In front of our eyes, this cloud is exploding," said Hurd. He said the sprawling Oracle event, which appropriately got underway today beneath a cloudy sky, includes  "probably the greatest range of products and services we've ever offered at Open World."

Among other things, the new crop includes 49 Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) products, 113 new Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings and hundreds of apps. But the biggest prize may be the company's new Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) database that Ellison said will allow companies to move their apps and data to the cloud -- and back out again if they wish -- without writing a single line of code.

The cloud-based database matches the capabilities of Oracle's on-premise solutions, company executives said, and Ellison is expected to flesh out the details on it Tuesday in a keynote address.

Oracle's late move to the cloud has hurt it financially. Its recent report for the first quarter of fiscal year 2015 came up short of Wall Street's expectations. Its stock, which hit a 52-week high of $43.19 in June, has fallen to $38.67. Among other things, this show is intended to show investors that Oracle is back on track.

Customer Demand

It's not a minute too soon for customers like Xerox, which is in the midst of transforming from a copier company to a technology services company. CIO Steve Little told Hurd the company has 145,000 employees and another 110,000 contract employees worldwide. It also has 150 HR and payroll systems that is now is combining into one.

"It's really a no-brainer to do it," he said. But Little noted it must be accomplished on a smaller IT budget, so he's looking to take advantage of Oracle's growing capabilities.

In B2B marketing, Intel CIO Kim Stevenson said her company had brought the cost of sales leads down to $25 from $300 in two years with the help of Oracle's BlueKai and Eloqua services, which Oracle acquired as additions to its Marketing Cloud suite. "It's been the foundation of our marketing automation platform," she said.

Other CIOs offered similar sentiments as they took their turns. CMSWire also asked some of the company's smaller customers in the audience for their thoughts and found similar confidence in Oracle's new-found cloud expertise.

A Cloud Crowd

"Larry was saying the company is pretty new to it, but it's come a long way in a short time. It seems to be doing the right things," said Darren Greene, who oversees the PeopleSoft operations for the government of Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada.

Sesh Kodavanti, who manages IT for the Adams County 12 school district in Colorado, said Oracle's timing was perfect. "The reason I'm here is to look at the BI model and cloud solutions. We're not on the cloud yet," he said.

"It appears they have a lot to offer with a lot of value," said Michael Schelley, a manager for BAE Systems. He said the defense contractor already had access to the US government's cloud services as well as Amazon Web Services. Whether it uses the Oracle offerings "is up to our client."