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9/23/2010
11:45 AM
Bob Evans
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Global CIO: Larry Ellison Sparring With Marc Benioff? Priceless.

Trading potshots over differing cloud philosophies, Ellison and Benioff reveal some valuable questions to consider in devising a great cloud-computing strategy.

In spite of the regular claims of undying admiration and respect and friendship professed for one another by Oracle's Larry Ellison and Salesforce.com's Marc Benioff, I have never seen two BFF's who take such unrestrained delight in lampooning the other's strategy, mocking the other's approach to the market, and belittling the other's intelligence.

If this were just a matter of contrasting hairstyles or fashion sense or golf game, well, I'd save my breath to cool my soup. But behind the outsized showmanship of each CEO lies a profoundly important issue for CIOs and their businesses: since most companies seem convinced that cloud computing can offer significant benefits, what is the most-productive approach in deploying the cloud for maximum business value?

Is it Benioff's Salesforce.com application-centric approach, which is centered on blending superb software engineering and an absolute minimalist hardware stack to deliver SaaS applications?

Or is it Ellison's all-inclusive model of integrating highly optimized hardware and software combinations in big-iron boxes that include everything from networking fabrics to Flash to databases and applications?

This is probably one of those cases where the answer's not really a matter of either/or but more likely both—they key as always is understanding your needs, your desired outcomes, and your levels of tolerance for risk, new approaches, and greater or lesser degrees of reliance on one IT vendor.

But, while we've covered much of that in detail this week at Oracle Open World (links to all of those pieces and related analyses at the end of this column), I'd be remiss if I didn't share some of the pretty witty repartee that the two industry heavyweights exchanged yesterday because it not only sheds light on their technology approaches but also helps animate a discussion that in the end is about much more than just IT.

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The sparring match started one-sidedly Sunday night when Ellison opened his first keynote talk with a rumination on what "cloud computing" really means, and to illustrate his point he described the very different approaches to the cloud taken by Amazon.com (cloud infrastructure) and Salesforce.com (SaaS applications).

From our recent blog post called Larry Ellison Hammers Salesforce.com On Security:

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