Top 5 things to watch for at Oracle OpenWorld

If you’re one of the 50,000 people Oracle (s ORCL) expects to converge on the Moscone Center in San Francisco starting Sunday — or even if you’re not — here are some things to look for at the big Oracle OpenWorld 2011 Conference.

1. Oracle will announce its latest acquisition.

It will purchase Hewlett-Packard. (s hpq)

Kidding! Or am I? After the past few weeks, who knows? Much of the news coming out in recently about HP’s buyout of Autonomy was flavored by rumors that Oracle would buy HP itself once the price was right.

2.  The company will finesse its relationships with hardware partners.

As a pure-play software company, Oracle used to have strong relationships with the independent Sun Microsystems, then Dell (s DELL) and HP. Then it bought Sun, and these other companies are now competitors. Oracle is now a proud purveyor of big-iron data center hardware with Exadata, which melds compute, storage and networking functions. That means the company now competes with EMC, (s emc) Dell, NetApp, (s ntap) and HP.

Nonetheless, EMC CEO Joe Tucci and Dell CEO Michael Dell are slated to guest keynote at the Oracle show next week. Will HP CEO Meg Whitman take the stage? Nope. In fact, there’s no HP exec scheduled for the main stage this year.

3.  More specifics on Oracle’s Hadoop/NoSQL strategy.

Oracle has dabbled in Hadoop, promising connectors to pump unstructured data from Hadoop into Oracle databases.  And, it has positioned its Berkeley DB as a NoSQL data store, but it looks like now it will announce a bona fide NoSQL database. Oracle, the world’s biggest database company, has to address big data.  Adding a true NoSQL database will fill in the company’s check boxes and could bring it more credibility in web- and cloud-oriented companies.

4.  Detail on how Oracle database, middleware, apps and hardware will make good clouds.

There will be more detail how Oracle’s database, middleware, apps and hardware make for good cloud infrastructure. Oracle has a tough sale here given that most cloud companies like scale-out, cheap hardware and cheap software, not big soup-to-nuts appliances pre-bundled with software.

5.  The reality vs. the promise of Oracle Fusion applications.

Oracle started talking about Fusion apps more than five years ago and yes, some of that promise is available to a limited few. The idea was to take the best features of Oracle’s legacy application lineup–PeopleSoft human resources, JD Edwards ERP, Siebel CRM plus Oracle’s home-grown apps–and rewrite those features in Java. Then it would repackage and redeploy this code. For customers who really want Fusion apps, they can be had, but it’s been a soft launch and many questions around pricing and SaaS delivery remain.