From Pot Shots To Praise: Ellison-Benioff Make Nice7:45 AM EST Fri. Jun. 28, 2013
Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, the co-founder of the database software market leader, and Salesforce.com founder and CEO Marc Benioff, a one-time 13-year Oracle veteran, have taunted and trash talked each other's companies often through the years. The barbs turned to praise this week as Salesforce.com inked a nine-year pact to standardize on Oracle's database software, Linux operating system, Java middleware and Exadata Database Machine servers. The one-time foes also agreed to integrate Salesforce.com's CRM and other cloud applications with Oracle's Fusion HCM (human capital management) and Financial Cloud software-as-a-service applications. Here's a look at some of Ellison and Benioff's biggest trash-talking hits in the last four years.
In his Oracle OpenWorld keynote session on Sept. 20, 2010, Ellison charged that Salesforce.com's cloud prowess was highly exaggerated. Salesforce.com may bill itself as the cloud computing company, Ellison said, but "is really only one or two applications that run on the Internet."
While Salesforce offers the Force.com development environment for building cloud computing applications, Ellison dismissed it as a proprietary system "for doing little add-ons or little interfaces to Salesforce's applications. But it's really not a platform." Ellison charged that Salesforce is "not elastic" and has "a very weak security model." And while cloud computing generally means paying for resources on an as-needed basis, he said Salesforce bills according to the number of users, not the amount of usage.
Only two days after Ellison questioned Salesforce.com's cloud cred, Benioff returned serve on Sept. 22, 2010, taking a jab at Oracle's new Exalogic Elastic Cloud server, a massive piece of hardware that Oracle is positioning as a private cloud in a box. "I'm not going to show you new computers that are taller than I am, and I'm not going to show you a cloud in a box, because clouds were not meant to be in a box," Benioff declared, triggering a wave of giggling through the audience of roughly 1,000 OpenWorld attendees.
Benioff also took aim at Oracle's mantra of software that's optimized for the underlying hardware, which reflects the company's ongoing integration of Sun Microsystems. In the cloud, Benioff said, "You don't have to have hardware and software engineered to work together."
After Oracle canceled Benioff's speech OpenWorld 2011, the Salesforce.com founder took the podium at a restaurant several blocks away blasting Oracle for what he called "proprietary mainframes" and "closed systems" that ignore the cloud computing revolution. "You can see this is a different message than Oracle OpenWorld," said Benioff in an address on Oct. 5, 2011, at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco. "It is not a message of proprietary mainframes. This is not a message of closed systems. This is a message of open systems, of a cloud-based world that is social, that is mobile."
Salesforce.com used Facebook and Twitter to inform customers and OpenWorld attendees of the change in time and place for Benioff's address. "Now Oracle is saying that we can go on tomorrow at 8 a.m. when the show is over," said Benioff. "I want to thank Oracle for that. They also offered an 8 a.m. slot on Sunday at their new Alcatraz Americas Cup facility," he said, in a swipe at Ellison, who is a member of the Americas Cup sailing team.
The same day that Benioff blasted Oracle's "proprietary mainframes," Ellison fired back in his OpenWorld keynote session on October 5, 2011 by referring to Salesforce.com as the "ultimate vendor lock-in" and the "roach motel of clouds."
Ellison maintained that Salesforce's use of "proprietary" technologies make it impossible to develop applications in a data center and move them to Salesforce's Force.com platform, or move data and applications off Force.com to other platforms. "You can check in, but you can't check out. I like to think of it as the roach motel of clouds," said Ellison to laughter.
Salesforce.com CEO Benioff took the gloves off again at his company's Cloudforce event on Dec. 1, 2011, saying simply he could not make heads or tails of Oracle's cloud strategy. "They have been announcing these cloud strategies for quite some time," Benioff said of Oracle. "I don't know what they're doing, honestly. I think they're just selling computers."
Benioff also hinted that Oracle would discontinue its CRM On Demand offering and shut down that unit to focus on its Fusion suite. Oracle rebuffed Benioff's claims, however, saying that Oracle CRM On Demand isn't going anywhere. And, Oracle, in fact, is still selling Oracle CRM On Demand.
In a quarterly earnings call on March 20, 2012, Oracle CEO Ellison said that Salesforce.com comes up short on security when compared with what he called Oracle Secure Cloud. "Salesforce.com doesn't offer this kind of security in their cloud," he said of the CRM SaaS competitor. "This is a key advantage for us going forward." The Oracle Secure Cloud, Ellison said, is aimed at larger companies that "want the simplicity and convenience of cloud computing, but are unwilling to accept the security risks inherent in [the] multitenant, public Internet cloud."
Ellison's comments came after Piper Jaffray issued a report showing partner dissatisfaction with Oracle's cloud strategy. The report said 47 percent of partners have not seen Oracle's cloud approach gaining traction with customers, while 38 percent said they see limited progress. "Most partners are confused by the strategy thus far, and see only slow progress while thinking it will be 'a hard sell,'" the report said.
With Salesforce.com standardizing on Oracle database software, Benioff on the Thursday conference call said there's simply no better database in the "world" than Oracle's. Salesforce.com delivers over "a billion customer transactions every day" thanks to the Oracle database that is at the "heart" of the Salesforce.com infrastructure, he said. "Larry, the Oracle database has been a key part of Salesforce's infrastructure from the very beginning of our company 14 years ago," said Benioff directly addressing Ellison. "Absolutely the best decision we ever made was to go with Oracle. Now that Oracle has focused on the cloud, they have made a number of improvements to the database technology that are extremely important to us. We are delighted now to commit through this incredible partnership to another 12 years of using the Oracle database. We think that the combination of Oracle's new 12c database, Oracle's new Linux, Oracle's Exadata allows us to improve our overall system security, reliability, performance, and it cuts our database server costs in half. That is great for our customers. It is great for us. I couldn't be more thrilled to make this announcement with you Larry."
Ellison returned the high praise for Oracle's database by referring to Salesforce.com as the "world's largest cloud company."
"Thousands of customers use their applications and their platform," said Ellison, referring to Salesforce.com. "We are committed to working very closely with Salesforce.com to continuously improve our database and our Java middleware technology so we can help Salesforce.com deliver the highest level of security and reliability to their cloud customers."
Ellison said the two software maker's work to "jointly develop out-of-the-box integration" between Salesforce.com and Oracle will "enable customers to buy cloud applications from both Salesforce and Oracle. These pre-integrated applications will automatically share data and work together. That means faster, lower cost implementations for all of our joint customers."
In response to a question on whether the new partnership meant an end to the "fun entertaining pot shots" at each other, Benioff said he expects the fun to continue as Oracle and Salesforce.com work together on the third wave of computing. The Salesforce.com CEO also praised Ellison for navigating the treacherous technology market transitions with "more clairvoyance" than anyone he has known over the last 30 years.
"I certainly hope it is not the end of the fun," said Benioff. "That is one of the things that I enjoy most about our industry. Larry and I have worked together for 27 years since I first started at Oracle in 1986. We have always enjoyed working together and having fun with each other. Hopefully it will be the end to us getting a little too-revved up at times, which occasionally has happened, but the vast majority of those 27 years have been epic and created so much value for our industry and our customers -- that has been the ultimate fun for both of us."
Responding to Benioff's comments on the fun ahead in the fast-paced cloud computing software business, Ellison said: "I am sure both Marc and I are going to continue to try to be entertaining, while again making sure that the entertainment never distracts from our commitment to work together."
Ellison, who also accepted an invitation from Benioff to appear at Salesforce.com's Dreamforce conference in November, said that he hopes the landmark deal is not "the last announcement" from Oracle and Salesforce.com. In fact, Ellison said he sees potential partnerships around Oracle's Java software.
"Personally, I'm looking forward to working with Marc and Salesforce for years to come to tackle some of these exciting challenges and help the future arrive a little bit sooner than it otherwise would," said Ellison closing the conference call.