5) Salesforce.com Huge step forward here by Ellison in agreeing to at least try to ease up a little on putting customers in the middle of what had become a pretty public pissing contest between Salesforce.com and Oracle. While Ellison is free to continue expressing his scorn for the term "cloud computing" and perhaps much of its concept as well, his company and his customers are going to need to have full access to such technologies and applications and the related integration, and if he wasn't going to be willing to give it to them, then they were certainly going to be happy to go elsewhere for it. So Salesforce.com is a great partner for Oracle.
At the same time, IBM is in the midst of a very major commitment to cloud computing as one of its four strategic initiatives for the next couple of years, and you had darn well better believe that with IBM's expertise in data centers, middleware, and integration, along with its massive investments in business-analytics software, it is assembling many of the platforms and products and know-how to be one of the world's leading cloud players. Salesforce with its Force.com platform can be a big ally for Oracle, but in the meantime it is going to be battling IBM not just in the cloud but also in databases, middleware, high-end systems, and business analytics—should Oracle choose to go there, which seems inevitable.
Advantage: clearly to Oracle.
In Oracle's recent remarks at the Churchill Club, he spoke about competition as a constant test to find your limits, to push your boundaries, to see what you're capable of achieving—a constant act of discovery, as he put it. He has now set himself up to be constantly discovering how well he can compete, simultaneously, against two companies—SAP and IBM—that are quite capable individually, and even more so in the partnerships they've sharpened over the past three decades.
So I would suspect that Salesforce.com won't be the last new best friend that Oracle lines up in the months to come, because as CIOs continue to whittle down the number of strategic partners with which they do business, the company those partners keep will be more important than ever before. Salesforce and Marc Benioff are a good start, but Ellison's going to need a lot more friends than that that to win the vital new game he's started.
Bob Evans is senior VP and director of
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