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The Prince

Larry Ellison Buying Time or Buffoon?

For those of you that haven’t seen it, one of the titans of our industry, Larry Ellison (Oracle, early investor in Netsuite, Salesforce) recently was filmed explaining rather humorously that the concept of “cloud computing” is essentially just marketing hype.

I’m of the opinion that Mr. Ellison didn’t get to where he is by completely misunderstanding or arbitrarily dismissing major trends in the marketplace.  The value proposition of cloud computing is clear and significant.  Because my firm, WorkXpress has delivered the value first hand, I would even go so far as to say that it is undeniable, and possibly disruptive.

You can view his standup routine here;  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmXJSeMaoTY

Therefore, my curiosities about his words were, of course, rather significantly piqued.  The obvious question being “is Larry Ellison a buffoon?” (which would probably be great news for me and my own personal prospects as a software executive) or otherwise “Is Larry Ellison more aptly named Larry Machiavelli?” (in which case, I need to understand what he’s really up to, so that I can know how it may impact me).

Larry basically made two points throughout this video.  First, he made the point that the cloud probably doesn’t replace the need for things like servers, databases, routers and processors.  The companies that make those will continue to flourish, even “in the cloud”.  The second point he made was that there are some companies out there today doing nothing differently than they were yesterday, but all of the sudden they are now doing it “in the cloud”.

He rather humorously mentioned saleforce.com by name, and correctly pointed out essentially that the only thing different about them post-cloud versus pre-cloud is their website.  Quoting Mr. Ellison on salesforce.com;

“You change a term and they think they’ve invented technology.”  And famously speaking as if he were a salesforce executive; “Let’s call that ‘cloud’, it sure beats innovation!”

I was super impressed with Mr. Machiavelli’s sense of delivery.  He has timing, tone and messaging all down solidly.  But what is his motive?  I’m going to assume that Larry understands the value proposition of the cloud all too well.  After all, his own organization is aggressively defining a cloud strategy, retooling their offering to be delivered as a service and all the while generally losing work to companies like salesforce.com, which now capture over a billion dollars a year in revenue that…well…had to come from somewhere.

At the end of my analysis, I am left only with questions here, as must be the case when trying to understand a domain so complex that only a person like Larry Ellison can ultimately master it;

· Was Mr. Ellison just trying to buy time while his organization scrambles to establish a game-winning offering?

· Was he attempting to blunt the very rapid growth of salesforce.com by educating a market that they really are not “cloud computing” per se, as if to say “if you want true cloud computing, you will need to buy Oracle”?

· Or, was he trying to alleviate some sort of internal fear or pressure he faces for not yet delivering a competitive cloud solution?

· What are the other possibilities?

Of course, there is always the possibility that Mr. Ellison is not at all like The Prince, and was simply trying to be funny.  But then that would make me paranoid…

More Stories By Treff LaPlante

Treff LaPlante has been involved with technology for nearly 20 years. At WorkXpress, he passionately drives the vision of making customized enterprise software easy, fast, and affordable.

Prior to joining WorkXpress, Treff was director of operations for eBay's HomesDirect. While there, he created strategic relationships with Fortune 500 companies and national broker networks and began his foray into the development of flexible workflow software technologies. He served on the management team that sold HomesDirect to eBay.

During his time at Vivendi-Universal Interactive, Treff was director of strategy. In addition to M&A activities, Treff broadly applied quantitative management principles to sales, marketing, and product line functions. Treff served as the point person for the management team that sold Cendant Software to Vivendi-Universal. Earlier positions included product management and national sales trainer for Energy Design Systems, an engineering software company. Treff began his professional career as a metals trader for Randall Trading Corp, a commodities firm that specialized in bartering and transporting various metals and coal from the then-dissolving Soviet Union.

Treff received his MBA from Pepperdine University and a BS in chemical engineering from The Pennsylvania State University. http://www.workxpress.com

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