'Larry Ellison Just Doesn't Get It'
The Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL) CEO was mumbling to himself between sentences of an anti-cloud rant. Ellison was on stage yesterday, closing out a five-hour strategy exposition for media, analysts, customers, and partners, in which Oracle described what it's going to do after the pending acquisition of Sun Microsystems Inc. (See Oracle/Sun Expresses Telco Ambitions.) (Light Reading wasn't there, but we caught the Webcast.)
Ellison took questions that gravitated toward light topics -- his America's Cup bid, his attempt to buy the Golden State Warriors (they're a basketball team, theoretically), whether he's going to run for public office (no). Inevitably, cloud computing came up. And Ellison, known for being, er... passionate about certain topics, got revved up.
"We already run our applications for our customers. We've been doing that for about 15 years, so we've been in cloud computing for at least 15 years. As far as I can tell, cloud computing dates back to the first ENIAC, built during World War II. Anyway, the 'cloud' name just drives me crazy. It really does," he said.
He went on to point out that Oracle is already in cloud computing, as its database and middleware are being used by Salesforce.com Inc. and countless other cloud-related businesses.
"Now that we have this new name, 'cloud,' will we suddenly become unprofitable because of the word 'cloud?' Or should we change our business model? The only thing that's new is the word. We've been doing this for a very, very long time."
At this point, the audience -- many of whom probably agreed with Ellison -- giggled quietly and a little uncomfortably. And he kept going:
"If there's something else in the cloud that I'm missing, would someone tell me? If I don't get it, I'd like to know now and quickly change... Please, someone, tell me now. Seriously!"
On the Webcast, the cameras switched to the audience at this point. Lots of people smiled, but none volunteered an answer.
Actually, you could argue the cloud does offer something more, in virtualization. Servers are being made generic, able to run arbitrary applications, and storage can be spread out more widely, geographically, than it used to be.
But Ellison has a point that "cloud" tends to be overused. "Now, data centers are feeling bad that they weren't in cloud computing, so they rename their data center a 'private cloud'. "
Ellison eventually 'fessed up that the world has changed due to Internet connectivity. He's just irked that "cloud" gets the credit for some very old ideas. Gmail, for example, gets cited as a "cloud" application even though Hotmail did the same thing about 10 years ago.
And don't forget that Ellison himself, back in Hotmail's day, tried to pioneer something related to the cloud: the network computer. It would have been like a netbook but without personal storage; all applications were to run somewhere in the network.
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading