Oracle, the world's biggest database company, said it will spend $1.5 billion to acquire RightNow Technologies to extends its cloud-based customer service offerings. The move looks intended to compete against Salesforce.com and other rivals.

The acquisition of Bozeman, Mont.-based RightNow is expected to close early in 2012.

Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle reported cash and investments exceeding $41 billion in its first quarter ended Aug. 31. CEO Larry Ellison said the company will use it to compete aggressively.

Last week, Oracle acquired privately held Endeca, of Cambridge, Mass., developer of business intelligence analytics, for a sum estimated by Nomura analyst Rick Sherlund between $750 million and $900 million.

RightNow shares Friday closed at $35.96, giving the company a market capitalization of $1.2 billion and enterprise value of $1.1 billion, an indication that Oracle is paying a hefty premium. Much of that would accrue to founder and CEO Greg Gianforte, who controls about 25 percent of the equity.

Shares of RightNow surged nearly 20 percent when trading opened Monday, to $42.88, slightly below the $43 Oracle offered to pay.

RightNow offferings include RightNow CX, a cloud-based customer-service software suite as well as RightNow natural language search.

RightNow's Customer Service Cloud helps organizations deliver exceptional customer experiences across call centers, the web and social networks.

Oracle has muscled up in the customer service sector by internal growth as well as acquisitions. In 2005, it acquired Siebel Systems, then the foremost customer service management company, for $5.8 billiion after investors including Carl Icahn got involved with the company.