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Global CIO: Is Larry Ellison Hurting Oracle By Hammering Competitors?

Excellent industry analyst Josh Greenbaum says Ellison's recent words and deeds are doing damage to Oracle, but I believe the opposite is true.

Bob Evans

December 14, 2010

5 Min Read

Global CIO: SAP: The Top 10 Reasons We'll Beat Oracle In Applications. Oracle and IBM compete savagely in databases and will begin to do so in high-end systems—but Ellison has also taken, as mentioned above, to praising IBM for its technical achievements and for its status as a "fantastic" integration partner for Oracle—so I don't see much change there.

As for the flaming new romance between SAP and HP, I recently wrote a column called Global CIO: Are HP And SAP Perfect Match Or Train Wreck? in which I explored how the limits of that relationship will be defined by HP wanting something that SAP has (world-class enterprise applications), but that SAP can't give to HP on an exclusive basis. They'll be great partners, but they're already great partners—can they forge new levels of collaboration and innovation that will transcend their current relationship? Absolutely—but they might well have done that even without Ellison's tirades against Apotheker and the HP board. Look at SAP's brilliant new Hana analytics machine: HP's a key hardware partner, but so are several other hardware companies.

5) Was the SAP trial a circus?

Josh wrote, ". . . the shenanigans surrounding the circus atmosphere preceding and during the trial against SAP was an unfortunate distraction from the business of actually building and selling innovation. . . . Meanwhile, I have yet to find a single customer who thinks more highly of Oracle since the trial, or for that matter, less of SAP. I do know a number of customers who have really been scratching their heads at Oracle’s conduct, and I personally worry that the lawyers seem to be running Oracle more and more, to the detriment of the people at Oracle who actually develop, market, and sell product."

I agree wholeheartedly that most customers have mostly glossed over the trial as something that happened several years ago and will likely have little or no effect on how Oracle and SAP interact with customers in the here and now. But I'm curious if Josh is arguing that Oracle should not have pursued the trial—and recall that SAP eventually said it would not contest its responsibility for the IP thefts and the resulting financial compensation. Or that it was okay to pursue the damages, but not too aggressively—maybe kinda/sorta make a fuss in court but then say what the heck and drop it?

Take a look at which company's original damages estimate turned out to be closer to the final judgment rendered by the court: Ellison said Oracle deserved $4 billion, and SAP said the damages should not exceed $40 million. The court ruled for $1.3 billion—that makes Oracle's request off by a factor of 3, and SAP's off by a factor of 35. Either IP is worth protecting vigorously or it's not—and the court's ruling (and it's certainly subject to appeal or other possibilities) came in much, much closer to Oracle's sense of justice than to SAP's. So I just don't get how Oracle's assertive and aggressive efforts to protect its intellectual property was "an unfortunate distraction" or bundled up in "shenanigans" and a "circus atmosphere."

So folks, please bear in mind that Josh Greenbaum has probably forgotten more about enterprise software than I will ever know. And in spite of my disagreements with some of his points herein about Ellison and Oracle and the dynamics swirling around them and SAP and IBM and HP, I continue to believe that Josh's analyses of enterprise software are indispensable for anyone seriously involved in this business.

I just happen to think that a lot of what Larry Ellison's doing right now is having deeper, wider, and more-enduring impacts on the IT industry and its customers than most of us are willing to acknowledge.

RECOMMENDED READING: Global CIO: Larry Ellison Vows To 'Go After' HP; Is Alliance Dead? Global CIO: Larry Ellison's Heightened Attacks On HP Doom Alliance Global CIO: Larry Ellison Puts HP In Crosshairs Via Slap At New CEO Global CIO: In Larry Ellison's Legal Battle With SAP, HP Is Collateral Damage Global CIO: HP CEO Apotheker Has Deep Expertise But Checkered History Global CIO: Are HP And SAP Perfect Match Or Train Wreck? Global CIO: Hewlett-Packard's Missing Link Is Analytics Global CIO: Burying Mark Hurd: Hewlett-Packard And Its Future Global CIO: Hewlett-Packard's CEO: The Top 10 Challenges Global CIO: Has HP Found Its Next CEO? Global CIO: Larry Ellison And Mark Hurd: The Job Interview Global CIO: Resurrecting Mark Hurd: Larry Ellison's War With IBM Global CIO: Gunning For IBM And Oracle, HP Plans Optimized Systems Blitz Global CIO: HP's $130-Billion Gamble Global CIO: An Open Letter To HP CEO Leo Apotheker Global CIO: Top 10 Most Influential Vendors, Part 2 (Microsoft And HP?) Global CIO: Can HP's CEO Survive? The Board Talks It Over Global CIO: HP CEO Leo Apotheker's Agenda: What Will He Do First? Global CIO: IBM Details Raids On Customers From HP And Oracle GlobalCIO Bob Evans is senior VP and director of InformationWeek's Global CIO unit.

To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page.

For more Global CIO perspectives, check out Global CIO,
or write to Bob at [email protected].

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Bob Evans


Bob Evans is senior VP, communications, for Oracle Corp. He is a former InformationWeek editor.

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