Ellison himself said as much in these comments at Oracle Open World in September 2008, from an audio file on YouTube:
"I have to say that the only way I can understand the computer industry--the computer industry is the only industry that's more fashion-driven than women's fashion. I was reading W magazine and I found that orange is the new pink--and cloud is the new SaaS, or the new virtualization--I mean, it is the most nonsensical--I read these articles and I have NO idea what--and maybe I'm an idiot--but I have NO idea what anyone's talking about! It's really complete gibberish."
But with that, Ellison was only warming up--and next he delved into a bit of existentialism interlaced with some history:
"Then there's a definition: what's cloud computing? It's using a computer that's 'out there.' These people who are writing this crap are out there! They're INSANE--I mean it's the stupidest--I've been through this: 'Open source is going to destroy our business, and there'll be nothing but open source and we'll be out of business.' And minicomputers are gonna destroy mainframes and PCs are gonna destroy minicomputers and open source is gonna destroy all standards and all software's gonna be delivered as a service--WHEN is this IDIOCY gonna STOP?? I've been at this a long time, and there's still mainframes--but it was the first industry that was gonna be destroyed and watching mainframes be destroyed is like watching a glacier melt... What the HELL is cloud computing??"
But whether driven by realism or pragmatism or simply his highly tuned capitalist instinct, Ellison has certainly relented in stages over the past 21 months to the point where he now weaves the terms and concepts of cloud computing into this public comments, as he did six months ago on a quarterly earnings call when he described his vision for the Oracle-Sun systems business:
"And those clusters are now called private clouds--that's the more-fashionable term for clusters--and we're using our software, our operating system--both Solaris and Oracle Linux--and our virtualization--the ability to dynamically allocate and reallocate resources, which is essential for cloud computing--as well as integrated networking and integrated storage to deliver a complete private cloud to our customers." (From our column Global CIO: Oracle CEO Larry Ellison On The Future Of IT.)
So what made Ellison relent--what drove his great metamorphosis? I think it was because no matter how much the idea of "the cloud" offended his own internal logic and experience, Ellison knew that customers sometime want a little fashion to accentuate the big and substantial things they're trying to achieve with the not-so-fashionable world of servers and networks and highly virtualized environments.
And he said as much 21 months ago in spite of his vehement objection to the whole cloud phenomenon when, immediately after he asked, "What the HELL is cloud computing?", he said this:
"But we'll make cloud-computing announcements because if orange is the new pink, we'll make orange blouses! I mean, I'm not gonna fight this thing--but, y'know, yeah yeah yeah, fine, maybe we'll do an ad--I don't understand what we would do differently in the light of cloud computing, other than change the wording on some of our ads. It, it's crazy."
And so it has come to pass that, no matter what your color experts might try to tell you, orange and pink make a golden opportunity for IT.
Bob Evans is senior VP and director of InformationWeek's Global CIO unit.
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