UPDATE: Bob Evans has just posted a new column about Salesforce and Benioff's challenges and opportunities in squaring off against Oracle, Microsoft and SAP.
Two months after Oracle CEO Larry Ellison told financial analysts his company was whipping Salesforce in head-to-head competition for cloud deals, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff hit back this week by releasing a list of customers his company has taken from Oracle as enterprise customers are, in his words, "replacing those stagnant legacy technology costs." Is this getting personal?In a hugely important development for CIOs, the continued success of Salesforce and its cloud model is accelerating the pace of innovation and widening the range of alternatives for business-critical applications and services. And the increasingly edgy battle between Oracle and Salesforce will only accelerate those developments even more.
In a discussion with financial analysts on Wednesday, Benioff said, "In face-offs with Oracle, Microsoft, and SAP, customers moved to the cloud in record numbers in FY '09. That's because in days like these, when cash is king, liquidity is critical, and credit is scarce, the predictable flexible cost of cloud computing is overwhelmingly the right choice."
Sound familiar? After Oracle's most-recent analyst presentation, we reported the following about Ellison's comments regarding Salesforce:
In the analyst call yesterday, though, Ellison showed no hesitancy whatsoever about talking up a string of victories he said Oracle has racked up at Salesforce's expense. Ellison said Oracle just landed its biggest cloud deal to date and emphasized that it was not only "a competitive win over Salesforce.com" but also "a replacement of Salesforce.com."
"The customer will be de-installing Salesforce and replacing it with Oracle Sales on Demand, so we're very excited about that," Ellison told the analysts. "When we compete head to head with Salesforce, we win more deals than we lose and that's new in the last couple of quarters."
Ellison also said that the quarter Oracle had just completed was "conspicuous" for "a series of competitive wins versus Salesforce.com."
And just as Ellison did in that analyst presentation two months ago, Benioff this week highlighted a significant trend from Salesforce's just-completed quarter:
"There's a common theme in the deals we won in the fourth quarter. Customers are taking a hard look at the maintenance payments that they're making to enterprise software companies and replacing those stagnant legacy technology costs with predictable scalable subscriptions in constant built-in innovation of cloud computing."
Among the customers who've chosen Salesforce over Oracle, Benioff said, are EMC, Canon, CMC, DeVry, Equinox, Corporate Executive Board, Axiom, Cigna Health, Epson, Williams Scotsman, and others.
So, is it getting personal? Sure looks that way. But more important for CIOs, this intense competition will no doubt lead to more alternatives, expanded opportunities, and better prices. Game on.