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10/5/2011
10:48 PM
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Oracle Takes Plunge Into Public Cloud Computing

CEO Ellison announces Oracle's move to infrastructure as a service at OpenWorld conference, where most of the emphasis has been on in-house, high end hardware appliances.

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Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said Oracle data centers will soon provide infrastructure as a service (IaaS) for customers who wish to develop Java applications or deploy the new Oracle Fusion applications in a public cloud setting.

It was the final step of a 180-dgree turnaround in which Ellison has distanced himself from previous statements that supporters of the cloud were "idiotic" and the cloud was nothing but "water vapor" or a confused renaming of the Internet. As it turns out, the cloud is something that Oracle wants to sell. And it came on the next to last day of the 2011 Oracle OpenWorld Conference in San Francisco, a show that has been heavily dominated by Oracle's discussion of its latest hardware appliances for on-premises computing.

Ellison tied the availability of SaaS from Oracle to the emergence of Fusion applications that have been in the process of being engineered for six years and "were designed to run either on premises or in the cloud."

Since customers can use either deployment environment, Oracle felt obligated to offer SaaS. "When you need a cloud, then you just need a cloud," he said.

[ Want to see additional reasons why Oracle might be feeling competitive with Salesforce.com? See Has Salesforce.com Graduated To The IT Big Leagues? ]

But the development is also another chess move in Oracle's growing sense of direct competition with Salesforce.com and its enterprise social networking application, Chatter. Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff told listeners on a quarterly earnings call that his firm was headed toward $2 billion in revenue when its fiscal year ends in January 2012.

Ellison juxtaposed what he deemed wrong with Salesforce.com's approach to the cloud to illustrate the features and virtues of cloud computing, Oracle-style.

The contrary-to-Salesforce focus came just four hours after Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff held his own event next to Oracle OpenWorld where he attacked Oracle's "single tenant" approach to selling software and its retro commitment to "Exadata mainframe machines." Benioff complained that his Wednesday keynote slot at Oracle OpenWorld had been cancelled by Ellison at the last minute in a tiff over a Benioff public comment that Ellison "had set the bar low" in his Oct. 2 welcome address. He quipped in a Wednesday morning talk in a restaurant next door to OpenWorld that he had been offered an 8 a.m. Sunday replacement slot on Alcatraz, the island in San Francisco Bay hosting a defunct prison.

Ellison underscored the difference between Oracle's public cloud approach and Salesforce's by saying a Java Enterprise Edition application would run in either Oracle's or Amazon Web Services' EC2 infrastructure, but it wouldn't run in Salesforce's. The Oracle cloud will be "open and standards based," he said. "If you want Apex, that would be Salesforce," he said, referring to Saleforce's proprietary language.

"The Salesforce.com cloud is kind of sticky. You can check in, but you can't check out. It's the roach motel of clouds," he said.

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