I've just sat through a presentation from Dave Chappell on what he is looking to do at Oracle now he is there. Its a message around data-grids, high availability and scaling. Looks very interesting in terms of how it further takes Oracle away from the database (but not data) being important.
When I meet companies I place a big weight on the people there and the clarity of the vision. Simply put companies that don't have forward looking people will just produce average copies of what everyone else does. The SOA Grid presentation by Dave was a great example of this as it really talked about a problem area in the current generation of technologies (box dependency, operational scaling and database overloading) and a vision of what a SOA Grid would actually look like and what the important parts of that message would be.
One of his points was that the reason people do stateless services (although of course they aren't really stateless) is because that is the way that you are forced to scale applications today. This doesn't make it the only way to scale, just the way that you scale based on the current generation of infrastructure. Dave's proposal is that Oracle will develop in-memory data grid infrastructure that scales horizontally and only offloads to the database as a transactional store and does this asynchronously, rather than as an active datastore the database becomes a record keeper of what has already happened. This means.... LESS DATABASES and also that databases become less important... no news on whether Dave is based in Boston for personal security reasons.
My learning from this is that the vision comes from the individual, and getting it successfully delivered by Oracle will require that clarity through out the delivery process. Oracle have been very successful at hiring the smart people at the right time to help them move from being a database company that did Java badly into a middleware and applications company that does a good database. More on this in a SOA World Article that Dave wrote.
So learn from Oracle and get the people right first, they'll then get the technology right for you.
(Oh and the organizing genius behind the keynotes and the panel's I'm in was Robert D. Johnson who has the word SOA on his business card twice)