Ellison jabs at Salesforce, recaps Exalogic before finally previewing Fusion in closing keynote

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison delivers the closing keynote at the OpenWorld conference, an event that was supposed to be focused on Fusion apps but was more about Larry's battle with Salesforce and talking up - again - Exalogic.
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

Larry Ellison's closing keynote speech at Oracle OpenWorld started with - big surprise - the same video about his sailing team winning the America's Cup back in February. Sure, it was a major milestone for him - but for those at the conference, it was yet another all-about-Larry moment.

"I will never get tired of looking at the video," he said.

Once we got past the Larry Ellison show (with some tweets wishing that he'd bought a pro basketball team instead), the CEO went straight into recap mode, starting with his Sunday night introduction of Exalogic, a combination of hardware and software engineered together.

A recap, obviously, is in order for a closing keynote - to an extent. But Wednesday's keynote was supposed to be about Fusion apps, which have been in the works for five years and, despite the buzz about Fusion at the conference, still aren't available.

Nearly an hour into listening to Ellison speak, there was barely a mention of Fusion. Instead, he went down two paths - one focused on Exalogic and the other focused on discrediting Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

Salesforce's Benioff: "Clouds aren't in a box"

For the most part, it was a lovefest for hardware and software engineered to work together - the best way, he said. How does he know that's the best way? He said:

It's a little bit like the iPhone. Steve Jobs is my best friend, I love him dearly. He's someone I watch very closely, what he does at Apple. He's believed for a long time if you engineer hardware and software to work together, the product is better than if you just do part of the solution.

Oh, that explains it.

The love he has for Jobs, however, doesn't seem to be extending to Salesforce's Benioff, who came out punching earlier in the day to mock Ellison for not understanding that "Clouds aren't in a box."

They're not, he asked?

I have to chuckle a bit about cloud-in-a-box... What does he think salesforce.com run on, if not in a box. It runs on one thousand, five hundred Dell servers, which are boxes.... He was offended that the box was taller than he was.... You can't make this stuff up.

Exalogic, he said, is the ideal kind of machine to run an application like salesforce.com, calling it an application despite Benioff's message that salesforce is a platform. He continued:

I'm sure when Marc gets back and talks to his technical people, they'll let him know that you need boxes.

Clearly, Ellison didn't care for what Benioff said earlier in the day and put the boxing gloves on when he walked on stage this afternoon. The first few jabs at Benioff were worth a laugh, but when Ellison wouldn't let it go, his came across as overly defensive.

Nearly an hour into his keynote, he was still chuckling about Benioff and was still talking about Exalogic, showing the same slides and highlighting the same talking points that we heard on Sunday night.

Just like that sailing video.

Finally, at the tail end, he started taking about Fusion - but not what you might expect. Instead, it was a flashback that offered some insight about the design principles that went into developing Fusion. Ellison said:

We've been working on this for more than five years. We have a lot of experience building erp, crm and hr apps. We had a lot of goals... one thing we wanted to do, which had never been done before, was to use industry standard middleware to build these apps.

From there, he started talking about user interface. He started off by saying, "We all use Facebook. We all use Twitter. Well, I don't use Twitter."

If ever there was a chance for Benioff to jab back that was it. Ellison, who has been accused of not "getting it" or being out of touch, doesn't use Twitter. Salesforce's Chatter, by comparison, has taken some many of its cues from Twitter.

Back to Fusion, Ellison recognized that user paradigms have changed in the last 5 to 10 years. "We wanted to make sure that we exploited, took advantage of the latest user interfaces," he said. The UI will incorporate social networking-like elements in it, "like the stuff you're using on the Web today. It's not going to look like a 25-year-old e-Business suite or 15-year-old SAP technology or 10-year-old Salesforce technology."

Also see: Fusion's pretty, powerful and not quite baked

Finally, 70 minutes into Benioff-jabbing and Exalogic-recapping (and 20 minutes beyond the scheduled end time for this keynote), Ellison turned the stage over to a team to for a demo of some of the Fusion apps.

For the second time in a week, the crowd lost patience with Ellison's rambling, sending a message with their feet as they walked out of the keynote auditorium in droves. By the time it was all over, the one-hour afternoon keynote lasted 45 minutes longer than it was scheduled.

As for the demos themselves, the presentation was largely limited to apps that offered the best visual effects for the large screens but the demonstrations themselves were pretty dry. Talk about a rough way to end the day.

There's definitely some buzz out there about Fusion, but Oracle - thanks to Ellison's long-winded presentation that didn't really offer much new - seemed to have missed an opportunity to rally even more excitement around it.

Not that the five-years-in-the-making apps are available anyway.

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