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Oracle's Latest War Of Words

It's brilliant theater and vintage Oracle as Ellison swings at Autonomy, HP, and Salesforce

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Oracle, the reigning champions of instigation, started the week still talking about a dustup with Autonomy and ended it with a Salesforce smackdown.

In its fight with Autonomy, Oracle's real target was HP, its erstwhile whipping post. While ridiculing HP's latest acquisition during an earnings call, Oracle's Chief Brawler, Larry Ellison claimed his company had given Autonomy the once over, found it highly overvalued, and took a pass.

Autonomy denied it, and Oracle quickly put the Autonomy presentation materials on its web site. Never content to let an opportunity pass, the target URL includes the words "please buy autonomy," and one of the documents--a statement from Oracle--is entitled "Another Whopper from Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch."

There's no truth to the rumor that Ellison originally suggested the URL include the words "I-Own-MikeLynch."

This is brilliant theater and vintage Oracle. Even the documents the company files in court read like a verbal barrage of hyperbole. If there were Pulitzer Prizes for legal filings, Oracle would win every year. In an opposition to HP's motion to seal records in the ongoing legal battle between the two companies, Oracle calls HP's tactics "vintage McCarthyism," and alleges that HP's suit is based on the "equivalent of a paper napkin."

In one particularly juicy passage Oracle's filing said: " ...short of burning an Oracle flag in public, HP could not have done more to destroy any so-called 'partnership' with Oracle than it did by hiring Leo Apotheker."

Oracle plucked at Autonomy just in time to announce its own strategy for unstructured data at this week's Oracle OpenWorld--its Big Data Appliance and Hadoop data-management software. And as HP quietly finalized its acquisition of Autonomy, Oracle has served notice that it will fight its rival on every terrain, even if its Hadoop technology is a distant reality.

Not quite satisfied unless it is engaged in multiple skirmishes all at once, Oracle also took on To be fair, even Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff admitted he started this week's war of words, calling Ellison's OpenWorld keynote a "low bar." Ellison likened Benioff's cloud to a "roach motel."

Suddenly Benioff's keynote was moved to a Thursday slot, the morning after a concert featuring Sting and Tom Petty; in other words, when Oracle Open World attendees were either heading home or nursing hangovers.

The real war of words--or at least the one that matters --was about the viability of multi-tenant clouds. Ellison reclaimed Benioff's speaking slot to announce the company's own wide-ranging cloud efforts. InformationWeek's Charles Babcock analyzes how Oracle's public cloud is different, saying: "Oracle has made a commitment to cloud computing and it sounds serious."

Short of burning a flag in public, Oracle will have to show this commitment.

We'll leave the light on for you.

Fritz Nelson is the editorial director for InformationWeek and the Executive Producer of TechWebTV. Fritz writes about startups and established companies alike, but likes to exploit multiple forms of media into his writing.

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