SAN FRANCISCO — Oracle CEO Mark Hurd had an untraditional setup for his Monday morning keynote at Oracle OpenWorld. The desk and chair arrangement on stage at the Moscone Center would look more at home on a late night talk show than at a technology conference.

But play the host he did. Hurd brought out a parade of executives from Lyft, Orange and Boingo Wireless to discuss their experiences as Oracle cloud customers. 

The audience heard testimony about the complete cloud solution Oracle provides, the cost benefits and productivity gains these companies saw after moving their solutions to the Oracle cloud. In other words, the audience was treated to an infomercial.

Hurd's pitch was this: the modest but precarious growth in the economy often leaves companies squeezed with limited budgets to invest in innovation. The way to save? With Oracle Cloud, of course.

“In a tough global economy companies really have to innovate, and the best way to innovate is to invest in information technology,” Hurd said. “It’s very important that businesses focus on their productivity. It’s hard to raise prices, to maintain profit margins so you must invest in things that can make you more productive.”

Playing Catch Up in the Cloud Game

Through a series of charts and interactive polling conducted live with his audience, Hurd drove home one message: Oracle is the “fastest growing” cloud company. Its cloud platform can now connect its new Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) to its existing Platform as a Service (Paas) and Software as a Service (Saas) offerings. And its growing through acquisition as well, as with its just announced purchase of cloud security broker Palerra.

Oracle OpenWorld live poll

Of course, “fastest growing” is a hard claim to back up. The fast growth of the Oracle cloud only shows how much ground it needs to cover in order to catch up with Amazon, Microsoft and Google. 

Add to the challenges some grandstanding on the part of rival Salesforce, which chose to announce the release of its new Einstein AI feature on the opening day of the conference.

Shedding Oracle's Legacy Label

So Oracle brought out a number of success stories to make the sale for it.

David Hagan, CEO of Boingo Wireless, noted how his company was able to ditch spreadsheets for metrics measurement thanks to its move to a cloud-based system.

“We used to have a spreadsheet for everything,” Hagan said. “Now it’s all one integrated system and we’re not worried about the accessibility or security of our data anymore.”

Lyft CEO Logan Greene echoed the positive sentiment, saying the move to the cloud allowed his company to scale its operations as needed. 

“We needed something that would scale with our rapid growth and other applications at Lyft,” said Greene.

Oracle faces some hard competition, including Salesforce, whose shiny new Salesforce Tower is going up not too far from the site of the conference. And with major cash being outlaid by Google and Microsoft, shedding the legacy label that many apply to Oracle will be critical. That’s why it’s important to show hip companies like Lyft using the suite of Oracle services.