Ellison vs. Benioff: we're being played

Oracle has cancelled Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff's keynote at the OpenWorld powwow, as the two companies engage in what appears to be a pro wrestling match.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Oracle has cancelled Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff's keynote at the OpenWorld powwow, as the two companies engage in what appears to be a pro wrestling match.

But, like a pro wrestling match, we're not quite buying the story here. The storyline went like this:

  • Benioff was scheduled to deliver an OpenWorld keynote on the social enterprise; Salesforce.com is an Oracle customer
  • With less than 24 hours to go, Benioff's keynote was axed by Ellison; you can almost see Vince McMahon scheming in the background
  • Ellison plays the bad guy; you're scared of Salesforce.com and the cloud, tweets Benioff
  • Benioff held his keynote at the St Regis; in the early going, Salesforce.com gets all the PR points, and Oracle is portrayed as old world and clueless
  • However, Ellison's keynote has just started now — he'll jab at Benioff and the "false cloud" argument, and He'll also plug the hell out of Oracle's army of appliances used to sell software; even as hardware revenue slides, Oracle is obsessed with its engineered systems
  • For the record, Oracle says that Benioff's keynote was rescheduled to 8am Thursday US time — about the same time that the software giant's customer appreciation party from Wednesday night will end
  • What's in it for Ellison and Oracle's ham-handed approach to the Benioff keynote? Ellison can talk smack, and talk up his appliances and the line that Oracle powers the cloud. What's missing? Fusion. Just like last year, Oracle will tout hardware, and gloss over the fact that most of those folks at OpenWorld are there for the software.

In other words, Ellison and Benioff will deliver a replay of last year. Benioff talks up his cloud case. Ellison talks hardware. Most Oracle customers really want to know what's up with Fusion deployments and any potential pain ahead. Anyone want to bet that Ellison recycles a few lines from last year?

While the customers that actually buy Oracle's wares are distracted, the crowd goes wild.

Arik Hesseldahl at AllThingsD says:

It wasn't for nothing that Oracle, which does a significant business in customer relationship management — or CRM — software, advertised heavily around the time of Salesforce's recent Dreamforce conference. Salesforce, as we all know, does CRM in the cloud, and has a lot of momentum behind it of late. This could just be Larry Ellison's way of expressing his unhappiness with Benioff.

Quentin Hardy at The New York Times says:

While at first saying he was mystified as to why Oracle would bump his million-dollar appearance, Mr Benioff later said he got scrubbed "because Sunday night was such a disaster. Larry was not prepared. The keynote was panned in the blogs and in the Twittersphere. There was concern that we would put on a better presentation. You don't have somebody over to your house to tell better jokes than you."

ZDNet US's Dennis Howlett notes:

Oracle reschedules Marc Benioff, CEO Salesforce.com's keynote, to some g-d awful time of day, which Benioff flips to having been cancelled. Nice when you can get away with it, and, of course, the media are all over the story like a dose of wildfire clap.

Dennis Pombriant at Beagle Research adds:

Of all the bush league things that could be done, this is a topper. If you thought the days of animosity and dirty tricks was over in Silicon Valley because we had somehow grown up — or at least aged out of it — tonight is a sobering reminder that they play by bare knuckles rules out here.

Are we really supposed to buy the storyline that Oracle booked Benioff, thinking he wasn't going to mention false cloud at least 30 times? Benioff's Exadata as false cloud slide is a staple in his talks. We'll overlook that Benioff runs Oracle databases and has a ton of Dell servers in the background.

Add it up, and this Benioff keynote cancellation is good theatre and nothing more. In the end, I think the industry is being played, as Ellison and Benioff duel to see who has the most attendees at OpenWorld and Dreamforce respectively. Like a pro wrestling match, the ring — in this case San Francisco's Moscone Center — isn't big enough for the both of them.

Via ZDNet US

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