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Global CIO: Why Oracle's Larry Ellison Will Tell The EU To Pound Sand

Larry Ellison wants to compete head-on against IBM. He needs Sun to do that. The EU stands in his way. The popinjays better be sure to buckle up their chinstraps.

It's partly because of the European Union's deadly combination of ignorance and arrogance, and partly because Ellison's already invested so much time and money, and partly because he wants Sun before it must shed several thousand more jobs due to the EU's dithering. But the real reason—in Ellison's own words—is that he's dying to go head to head with IBM, and he needs Sun to do that, and the EU is in his way.

Sure, Oracle has publicly claimed that the hyper-protective bureaucrats of the EU's Commission have demonstrated "profound misunderstanding of both database competition and open source dynamics," and they are dead-center perfect on that call. That's got to be incredibly galling to Ellison, particularly when the ruffled EC bureaucrats shot back by calling Oracle's remarks "facile and superficial" in what could well be the most blatant instance of psychological projection in recorded history.

Yes, Sun's been hemorrhaging not only people but also $100 million a month, and in these challenging economic times that too must be especially bitter for Ellison to swallow, particularly as the combination of Sun's lame-duck status plus aggressive and fully appropriate customer-conversion efforts from HP and IBM and Dell are drawing off hundreds of former Sun accounts. But Ellison is arguably not only one of the world's most-competitive people but also one of its most successful, so he can cope with all that.

(And for a list of related analyses and perspectives, be sure to check out the "Recommended Reading" list at the end of this column.)

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But while those two are going down about as smoothly as a double shot of hemlock, I think Ellison's going to battle the EC to the death on this one because he has vowed quite publicly to take on IBM head-to-head in the systems business—and without Sun and its wide range of technologies that Ellison has praised lavishly, that showdown with IBM's not really going to happen.

This isn't conjecture—let's look at this in Ellison's own words across four essential subjects:

1) Sun's broad technologies;

2) MySQL, a fine intermediate-sized database that the EC sophisticates are absurdly conflating with giant commercial systems;

3) IBM and the one-time reverence Ellison felt for it, which have morphed in his view into the Great White Whale he must conquer; and

4) Ellison's views on competition, and the role that most animating of forces has played in his life.

For all these great insights into this intensely driven and profoundly high-achieving man, we turn to remarks Ellison made about six weeks ago in an on-stage interview at a dinner event at The Churchill Club in the Bay Area during an interview with former Sun CEO Ed Zander.

On Sun's Broad Technologies

"We're keeping everything: we're keeping tape, we're keeping storage, we're keeping x86 technology and Sparc technology and we're gonna increase the investment in it. Sun—if you look around at technology companies, and if for $1 we could buy IBM, HP, Sun, or any of these companies—I'm not sure we wouldn't pick Sun, if they were all the same price—and Sun was selling at a helluva discount. So Sun has fantastic technology—we think it's got great microprocessor technology—it needs a little more investment but we think Sparc can be extremely competitive; [Sun's] got the leading tape archival storage systems—we think Open Storage, their new system, is absolutely fantastic; Java speaks for itself; [and] Solaris is overwhelmingly the best open-systems operating system on the planet. Sun has been a national treasure for the last couple of decades and we think with that combination of Sun technology and Oracle technology, we think we can succeed and compete and beat IBM. And that's our goal."

Catch that last comment? "And that's our goal." And here are Ellison's related comments on MySQL:

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