So Marc Benioff treaded onto Larry Ellison's turf at Oracle Open World yesterday and acknowledged that sometimes, customers use both Oracle and Salesforce.com. Well, unless you're completely gullible to the attention-loving drama kings of the software industry, this shouldn't come as a surprise. Cloud and traditional computing will forever coexist in an IT architecture world that is far more grey than black and white, and both Larry and Marc know it.Yesterday, conference attendees packed into a room in excited anticipation of some trash talk, but what they heard was Benioff talking about Oracle and Salesforce.com's "fantastic relationship." That may be an exaggeration, but it's closer to the truth then all this staged war mongering between Salesforce.com and Oracle. For one thing, Ellison was an early investor in Salesforce.com (a reported $2 million) and is still a shareholder. While the story goes that Benioff kicked Ellison off of his board a few years ago after a falling out, it's clear Benioff still has a lot of respect for his former boss. And the guy in the "no software" character suit walking around Salesforce.com's booth at Oracle Open World? Come on, that's just silly. (SpongeBob and Patrick characters would've been funny, though.) As Ellison has pointed out, what's running in Salesforce.com's data centers that run the Force.com cloud computing platform? A lot of Oracle databases.
Still, it's also clear that Ellison has a nagging fascination with cloud computing, or he wouldn't be talking about it so much. In a fireside chat-type interview with Ed Zander at the Churchill Club recently, Zander asked about cloud computing, and Ellison went on an unstoppable rant, saying that cloud computing was nothing but a new name for processors, storage, databases, operating systems, and other software delivered over the Internet. "What are you talking about?" he shouted. IT's as bad as the fashion business, he said: "Chanel last year had fuchsia, now it's called puce." But that was Ellison being Ellison, delivering the type of combative rhetoric his audience has come to expect, and squeezing some guffaws out of what might otherwise be a yawn-inducing discussion of the tech industry.
The truth, as usual, is somewhere in the middle. Licensed, on-premises software, run by internal IT, will remain a mainstay of most organizations, but it'll be complemented by alternative models such as software-as-a-service and the broader idea of cloud computing. In some cases, it'll be replaced by them. It's not about software CEO rivalries and silly "no software" characters. It's about making software cheaper, simpler, more flexible, and more accessible. You can read more analysis on this topic, and CIOs' views on it, in this week's InformationWeek cover story.