Global CIO: Oracle's Larry Ellison Gets Served By Netezza CEO Jim Baum

At Oracle Open World, Ellison got called out by Netezza's CEO who told him to start focusing on the priorities of the people whose purchases fuel Oracles' $25 billion in annual revenue: CIOs.

Bob Evans, Contributor

October 15, 2009

5 Min Read

The other day, I wrote about how "you gotta love" Larry Ellison for challenging IBM on the performance of high-end systems and betting $10 million that Oracle's Exadata could double the speed of any comparable system from IBM. I stick by that sentiment.

But in another recent piece—"An Open Letter To Oracle CEO Larry Ellison"—I wrote that Ellison's sniping at his competitors might be entertaining or even interesting but it's also largely irrelevant: what should matter most to Ellison, and what he should talk about most passionately, are his customers, not his competitors. Competitor bluster can be fun and sound-bitey, but tales of customer value are enduring, relevant, and in these days essential.

And last night at Oracle Open World, Ellison got called out by a high-end database competitor who nailed Ellison in no uncertain terms by telling him to stop the yapping about the dodgy inferiority of other software/database companies and start focusing on the pain, the challenges, the needs, and the priorities of the people who put out the money that makes up Oracles' $25 billion in annual revenue: CIOs.

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In my "Open Letter" to Ellison, I talked about the benefit he could gain by focusing his considerable public-speaking skills on Oracle's future vision and value for its customers, rather than on how he was kicking the various arses of IBM-SAP-Salesforce-Teradata-Netezza-Microsoft and every other software company in the universe. Here's one of the points I made:

"In another instance, Larry, you seemed to be on the verge of making a strong customer connection when you said that while the Oracle/Sun combo will have no interest in "the plain old running of Windows on x86's," you are conversely "very interested in running airline-reservation systems, and we're very interested in running banking systems, and telecommunications systems." But, that was it—and I think people who see that comment must wonder if that means you're only interested in driving Oracle/Sun more deeply into those markets where Sun had established a strong base: financial services and among telecom companies."

But that's mealy-mouth fluff compared to the perspective offered by Netezza CEO Baum at this week's Oracle Open World after Ellison, in a public address, criticized Netezza and other companies:

"Absent from Oracle today was any vision for a future rooted in advanced data analytics," Baum said in a statement sent out by Netezza's PR agency. "The future of data warehousing isn’t about system-vendor consolidation. Organizations want to do more than 'keep up' with growing amounts of data. The future is about moving from the data center to the desktop—delivering previously impossible analytics on massive amounts of data to everyone that needs it. Companies want to learn something. Predict. Adapt as fast as possible, without supercomputers and without great expense or a single massive check to a systems vendor.

"Once you get beyond reducing cost, the priorities of today’s CIOs all trace back to a revolution around strategic, advanced analytics on massive amounts of data to not only better the business, but also transform it. Really know each individual customer. Understand what’s happening instantly. Adapt. Predict. That’s the future---and any vision of that future was noticeably absent as Oracle merely tries to remake itself in IBM’s image," Baum's statement said.

Yeah, it's all kinda funny to see Ellison zing IBM and say the sorts of things that probably many CEOs would like to say about the market, or their competitors, or the stock market. And as I said in the recent piece about him calling out IBM, I think Larry Ellison and his aggressiveness and his technological advancements help increase the value of the IT industry and its participants by making everyone Oracle competes with have to operate at a higher level.

But at a point, the bluster loses a bit of its luster, and all the spy-versus-spy stuff that was cool a few years ago is now rather out of date as customers are laser-focused on business value rather than vendor-versus-vendor grinding in which Ellison seems to revel.

So I say hats off to Netezza's Jim Baum for pushing back, not from the perspective of database-speed benchmarks but rather about what CIOs want and need to succeed in today's difficult economy.

You've been served, Larry.

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About the Author(s)

Bob Evans


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

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