Has Oracle's Ellison finally stepped over the line?

Has Oracle's Ellison finally stepped over the line?

Summary: Have Larry Ellison's jibes at competitors and creation of confusion gone too far. I think this time he has stepped over the edge. It will be difficult to get back on solid ground.

TOPICS: Oracle

Those of us who follow the antics of CEOs in Silicon Valley like nothing better than a slugfest. It's even better if Larry Ellison, CEO Oracle is on deck. We've all come to expect that one or more targets will be treated to his particular brand of satire. Mostly it is amusing at one level but in recent times it has taken on a more disturbing and darker edge.

That is a concern. Despite the fact the company behaves imperiously towards any hack or analyst who strays too far from the party line, I am detecting a mood of anger that will not be easy to roll back. Rule by fear works for a period of time but as pretty much all dictatorships have discovered, there is an invisible line over which you cannot cross without there being dire consequences.

It has gotten to a point where certain high level officers among Oracle's competitors have been seriously thinking of taking Ellison on. Whenever they've asked my opinion, the answer has always been the same. You cannot win because Ellison is always three steps ahead of you. Just do what you do best and ignore the rest. The only person I know who has been able to out quip him is Scott McNeally but nowadays he doesn't really count.

Banana skins aplenty

The latest outing - this week's Oracle cloud announcements provide a good case in point. Elsewhere, I commented that there was much goodness to take away from the content, even if it is largely a rehash of past pronouncements. However, I felt that Ellison spoiled the pitch by making statements about competitors that are untrue. That's one of those lines I don't believe you can cross without becoming a parody of yourself. His first tweet was brutal:

As I said in other commentary:

...when you go to the [Oracle] public cloud website and sift through what they are offering there are only 13 Fusion CRM apps and nine Fusion HCM apps on display along with what looks like a solitary social network play.

In the Java section there are is little detail while in the Database area, the company talks about: "The Oracle Database Cloud Service includes a set of business productivity applications. All of these applications are easy to use, support mobile devices, and can be provisioned in seconds."

I don't see how this all adds up to 100 applications and none of them are available now.

This has led to confusion among other analysts. Frank Scavo points out:

Oracle claims 100 Oracle Fusion cloud services but provides no list of the applications. Seeing that Oracle announced five during Open World, it's difficult to understand how it is now claiming 100, unless it is talking about very small pieces of functionality. During the post-event analyst briefing, I believe Tom Kurian did promise to deliver a list--so we'll have to wait for that.

Frank got in touch with me about this post saying that he could not remember ever being so tough on Oracle. I sensed a touch of sadness in that remark and it is sad for the many customers who put their trust in Oracle and the great engineers who have worked for years on Fusion. He concludes:

Oracle has fallen into a pattern in its public events of overstating its successes, misrepresenting its competitors, and touting statements-of-direction as accomplishments. This is unfortunate because it causes observers to discount what is in fact some very impressive technology. I hope that, in the future, Oracle will take a more understated approach that will do justice to its people, products, and services.

Analysts are just as snarky a bunch as anyone but when the remarks made by a company executive blur what is being said in a public presentation you have to start wondering what to believe. In Oracle's case, it has always been a case of reading between the lines, checking in with colleagues, checking in with other stakeholders and then rechecking to make sure your picture is as accurate as you can figure out.

The current disconnects between the picture the company is putting out augmented by some of Ellison's wilder statements is now making it difficult to be certain what is going on. That is a recipe for disaster. When analysts are left scratching their heads about the real story then that is what gets conveyed to customers. Along with a great deal of discomfiture. Oracle has no control over that and therefore runs the risk of being misrepresented but only because its own story is both confused and larded with untruths.

David Terrar, who I know is not given to rising up on his hind legs Tweeted:

Oracle's Behavior Undercuts Its Own Cloud Accomplishments - @fscavo on Larry Ellison keynote bullshit #cloudfscavo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/oracle…

Rewriting the multi-tenant history

Ray Wang, CEO Constellation Research said in regard to Scavo's assertion that Ellison is trying to rewrite history:

Many salient points from @fscavo about#oraclebit.ly/Lht9Pw #oraclecloud#oraclesupport. MyPOV: you can't rewrite history #ensw

Winners get to rewrite history all the time but that usually occurs after they've defeated their enemies. That is not the case here. What are we talking about? Scavo notes that:

At the beginning of his presentation, Ellison claimed that Oracle began to rebuild all of Oracle's applications for the cloud, calling it Project Fusion. But some of us have a long memory, and we've written blog posts on Oracle's Fusion program over the years.

He then goes on to outline the history on this topic, linking to past articles that explain his understanding of Fusion at different times. In trawling through those articles, I was struck by how many twists and turns Fusion has taken. I certainly remember the days when Fusion was being written off as middleware. But then the plot thickens.

An anonymous commenter to Scavo's piece says:

You're wrong about the history rewrite. The main goal of Fusion applications was to combine (not integrate) their acquisitions. But the original design was for a multi-tenant application suite that would run as well in the cloud (or "on demand") as it did on premise. I had a number of conversations with Oracle strategists as a customer on the Fusion strategy council, and I am 100% certain that their original intention was to enable Fusion applications to run in the cloud.

Larry was simply emphasizing a feature that he may not have emphasized in the past. He was not rewriting history.

This doesn't square with my understanding of multi-tenancy or that of SIs I've spoken with. Recent conversations with senior people in Oracle's user community leave me to believe that they are just as confused. The other month I asked one representative if they knew for certain whether Fusion is multi-tenant. The answer was a resigned shrug but accompanied by the statement: 'But we do know it is bloody hard to implement.'

If anything, Oracle's current position is reminiscent of the SAP days of the so-called 'mega tenant' where every customer sat on their own hardware. Those who know that particular history will also know that some of us dragged SAP through the mud saying they'd never get it to work. And they didn't. In Oracle's version, Ellison has been consistent in talking about not 'co-mingling the databases' but talks about virtual instances.

Even then, Oracle is saying that customers will have choice about the timing of upgrades. That heavily implies hand crafting for every customer. As SAP found to its cost, that's a very expensive exercise. It's a far cry from the super efficient world of multi-tenancy practiced successfully by Salesforce.com and Workday, Oracle's current targets for derision. That seems to be confirmed in the last line of this Oracle document on the topic:

Autoprovisioning is not available for the groups.

The best we can therefore say is that Ellison is putting forward a version of multi-tenancy that suits Oracle's architecture argument but is what Marc Benioff, CEO Salesforce.com and others would likely call 'false cloud' and which I do not recognise as valid in the current multi-tenancy orthodoxy among analysts I respect.

When the music stops

There comes a point in any song and dance act where the music stops. Given this latest round of confusion, half truths and FUD one wonders whether this is that moment for Oracle. What I do know is that Bob Evans, late of SAP and recently minted as one of Oracle's communications supremos has got an uphill battle on his hands if he thinks this is going to go away.

In a piece Evans penned: Do Oracle Customers Deserve a Better Choice? on behalf of SAP he referenced a particularly tough analysis by Josh Greenbaum entitled: The Customer Comes Second…..Oracle’s Engineered for Investors Software Stack. It is in the comments that we start to see the genesis for where we are today with Oracle:

Let’s face it Oracle has played its game well …..and rewarded by Wall Street. The real culprits are the industry analysts who if they spoke as you do with plain speak and honest criticism then Oracle would have to play a new game – bringing forward real innovation that helps their business customers not their “close” friends in the IT industry!

Scavo picks up the beat yesterday, others will surely amplify. And then what?

Topic: Oracle

Dennis Howlett

About Dennis Howlett

Dennis Howlett is a 40 year veteran in enterprise IT, working with companies large and small across many industries. He endeavors to inform buyers in a no-nonsense manner and spares no vendor that comes under his microscope.

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  • Larry's ego and behavior has been hurting Oracle for years.

    It's finally caught up to him. A personality disorder of that type is disasterous in so many ways. Public opinion has never been a concern to him but now it affects the bottom line. Many Java developers are up in arms over his patent/copyright antics. Chickens have come home to roost, so to speak. This latest Cloud offering looks to me like a decent attempt to have his bloated database software remain competitive. Can't fault him for that, imo. Sure, directed to those large customers who are stuck with Oracle until they can do open source with reliability.
    • not only it has hurt Oracle

      but Oracle products as well. This is unfortunate because they have great products but Oracle has been very arrogant towards its users, ignoring the ease of use, implementation and support. There were very few choices 10-15 years ago, and the companies got locked into Oracle. Things are changing now, Oracle is not the only game in town, but Larry has a hard time to adjust to this new reality.
      • Oracle Hurting?

        Their stock price has doubled in the last three years.
      • I wouldn't say Oracle had great products

        though the SQL-DBMS is nothing short of not bad.
    • RE: Larry's ego...

      You will have to forgive Larry because he had been under a lot of strain recently. He has the unenviable task of explaining away the bluster oracle presented when it sued Google, and demanded $6B, [b]and may end up with s---.[/b]

      I don't think he expected to have Oracle to have `their asses handed to them`. perhaps the best thing he can do is take a long (possibly a 'round the world') voyage on one of his yachts. We don't need to hear from him for a while.

    • No he's only helped Oracle

      Ellison is a master of finding his competitors' weak points and hammering away mercilessly at them.

      This has been very effective at seeing off a number of potential rivals.
    • Cloud droppings

      The only way this wanker can afford his island is to try to load the 'Ask Toolbar' on my PC every time he makes up a 'security update.' Pathetic. He needs to fall down at a cocktail party until someone steps on his trachea 'by mistake.' Oracle stock would double.
  • It's called Passion

    Passion for your company's products.

    We all don't need to be so PC and schmooze things over. Call it like you see it.

    Seemed to work out fine for Jobs and somewhat for Gates....
    • Why the flag?

      Did the PC Police not like it?

      Don't like what I said, tough.
    • really?

      Bin Laden had passion too. It's not always a good thing.
    • so?

      Passionate people built the Titanic too...
      • LOL - very good {nt}

  • It's called "hype"

    It's called "hype" and Larry Ellison is a master of it. Silicon Valley has always used "hype" to launch products and services. Corporations spend a lot of money for Oracle products and they are not "fools." They know the meaning of "caveat emptor!"
    • Difference...

      ...between hype and outright untruths spoken under cover of Safe Harbor Statements
    • caveat emptor

      Yes, Caveat Emptor. Of course, hype or no hype, Oracle products have worked well for companies for years. In fact IBM is still trying to catch them in DB and WebSphere still lags behind Weblogic (according to Gartner) after 14 years of IBM hype.
      • In which case

        ...talk to the products don't trash talk.
  • Any surprise?

    Oracle in Oracle v Google stated that blogs and tweets of CEOs are personal opinions and do not reflect the company. Therefore anything that Ellison tweets, blogs, or speaks about means nothing unless it comes with a legal statement saying that it is an official company statement.
    • He's only infallible ...

      ...if he's speaking <i>ex cathedra</i> and he <i>says</i> he's being infallible.

      Hey - it works for the Pope.
    • What?

      He's the CEO for goodness sake. Under those terms anyone could say anything and it is all meaningless? C'mon
      • I am with DH on this one BorgX... you make little sense in your statement

        Try to be the CEO of ANY company and then speak/tweet "off-the-record" against it... let's see how long you'll last as CEO. I am sure that the Board of directors, the investors and anyone else with an interest in the company wouldn't consider what you stated as person to be relevant for you as the company's CEO... Delusional! LOL!