Oracle's Ellison, Salesforce's Benioff Promote Their Alliance (Gasp!) Together

Larry and Marc were polite. Very polite.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and CEO Marc Benioff, long-time rivals known for occasionally engaging in competitive trash-talking, held a joint conference call Thursday to talk up the alliance the two companies disclosed earlier this week.

And to hear them talk, they've been best friends forever.

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"Oracle, and I want to thank Larry as well, has always been there when we needed them," Benioff said at one point during the call, noting that's operations run on the Oracle database. "There's no company I'd rather partner with to be the heart of our database infrastructure than Oracle," 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. It was absolutely the best decision we ever made, to go with Oracle," Benioff said.

Ellison was equally generous with his praise. "Salesforce has always been an important customer for Oracle," he said. "Salesforce is the world's largest cloud company," he added at one point, overlooking his Oracle OpenWorld 2010 opening keynote when he famously declared that Salesforce was not a cloud computing company.

Tuesday the two companies announced a partnership under which Salesforce will standardize its operations on Oracle's database software, Linux operating system, Java middleware and Exadata Database Machine servers. The two software giants will integrate Salesforce's CRM and other cloud applications with Oracle's Fusion HCM (human capital management) and Financial Cloud software-as-a-service applications, and Salesforce will adopt those Oracle applications to run its own business.

"Our two companies are going to work together to jointly develop out-of-the-box integration between Salesforce's market-leading CRM application and Oracle's cloud applications," Ellison said. Oracle offers its own on-premise and cloud CRM applications, the latter of which competes with Salesforce.

The Thursday conference call offered few additional details beyond the Tuesday announcement. But, it did feature Ellison and Benioff taking turns speaking and answering questions.

"Back to you, Larry," Benioff said early in the call. "Thank you very much, Marc," Ellison responded.

"Back to you Marc," Ellison said a few minutes later. "Well, hey, thanks so much, Larry," Benioff replied.

At one point Benioff went first to answer a question on the call, and then said in response to the next question: "Larry, do you want to start out this time?"

"I think it's always good when you go first, Marc," Ellison said to laughter.

NEXT: Ellison, Benioff Vow Their Competitive Talk Won't Hinder The Alliance

The two executives didn't rule out the possibility of expanding their alliance at some point.

"Sure, Oracle and Salesforce have some overlapping products," Ellison said. "But I think there are more opportunities to work together." Without providing details, Ellison said the two companies, for example, could collaborate more deeply on Oracle's Java technology to make sure it works well with Salesforce's cloud platform.

"I think the opportunities are really endless," Benioff agreed.

"Customers expect us to work together professionally toward the benefit of those customers," Ellison said, citing customer demand for better security and system availability through improved integration. At one point he estimated that tighter integration between the two vendors' software could cut implementation and integration costs by up to 50 percent.

Ellison said the Oracle-Salesforce alliance would not affect Oracle's relationship with cloud service provider Amazon, which also uses Oracle's technology. "We would like to see the Oracle database running everywhere in the cloud," he said, in what could be a neat summary of the alliances Oracle announced this week with Salesforce, Microsoft and NetSuite.

At one point the executives were asked by a reporter whether the alliance meant an end to the "fun, entertaining potshots" the two have become known for.

"I certainly hope it's not the end of the fun," Benioff said, noting that he has known Ellison for 27 years since he went to work at Oracle in 1986. But, in one of the few acknowledgements that the rhetoric has at times become heated, he added: "Hopefully it will be the end of us getting a little too revved up sometimes, which occasionally has happened."

"I'm sure both Marc and I will continue to be entertaining," Ellison said, "while making sure that the entertainment never distracts from our commitment to working together."

Toward the end of the call Benioff invited Ellison to Salesforce's Dreamforce conference, scheduled for November. And, Ellison accepted.

Wrapping up, Ellison mentioned that he would be addressing the topic of "the Internet of things" in his keynote at Oracle OpenWorld in September.

But, he didn't invite Marc.