You have to love Larry Ellison; he really is the Donald Trump of the tech world – always ready with an incendiary comment, more than prepared to make statements that stretch the truth somewhat and totally convinced that his version of the truth is pure and unadulterated. And much like Trump’s successful White House run, Ellison’s modus operandi seems to have stood him in good stead – he is, after all, one of the world’s richest people, buys islands and sporting competitions with reckless abandon, and invests gazillions in an attempt to live forever.
So it should hardly come as a surprise that at the recently held Oracle Open World, the annual conference of the company he founded, Ellison, true to form came out fighting. And, like in previous examples, cloud computing pioneer Amazon Web Services (AWS) was his primary target. Unlike in previous years, however, AWS had a stable mate and Splunk was also in Ellison’s sights. Safety in numbers, right?
The claims of superiority
When Ellison took the stage to announce Oracle’s new autonomous database product at the OOW keynote, he couldn’t keep himself from taking a well-aimed kick in the direction of AWS. Speaking of AWS’ RedShift product, Ellison opined that:
"Now I know it’s called Amazon Elastic Cloud, it’s just not elastic. In other words, Amazon’s database, Redshift, cannot automatically increase the number of processors to run a bigger workload, then free up those processors. Just can’t do it."
And speaking of pricing, a traditional area of concern for Oracle’s customers, long used to nosebleed pricing, Ellison contended that:
"We guarantee you contractually to cut your Amazon bill in half. It’s fairly easy when you’re five to eight times faster. We feel pretty comfortable."
He went on to claim you have to shut the system down, then start a new instance, copy the database to the new storage, then run it, then copy it back to the old one.
And then, deciding on another target, Ellison went on to attack Splunk saying:
"Oracle Management Cloud delivers a complete data architecture through a unified entity model that spans topology, associations, telemetry and threats. In contrast, Splunk has no real entity model and leaves data in many disparate vendor silos. Oracle Management Cloud provides real-time insight through out-of-the-box applied machine learning that is easy to operate and use. In contrast, Splunk provides a machine learning toolkit that requires data scientists. Oracle Management Cloud delivers integrated and automated remediation that helps eliminate human error. In contrast, Splunk has no remediation capability."
Not a whole lot of love lost here. Amazon, somewhat unusually, went on the offensive. Whereas in the past they’ve responded to these sorts of comments (from Ellison or others) with a stony silence, AWS decided to respond in this case saying that Ellison's claims were “factually incorrect.” Even more interestingly, they critiqued Ellison himself saying that:
"Most people know already that this sounds like Larry being Larry. No facts, wild claims, and lots of bluster."
In terms of the specific claims around elasticity, AWS utterly disputed Ellison's claims and reiterated that AS customers can resize their clusters whenever they want and that they can scale compute separately from storage and at will.
Splunk jumps in
Not to be outdone (and, justifiably so since they were also a target for Ellison) Splunk also responded to Ellison’s barbs suggesting that Oracle’s announcement of its Management and Security Cloud product is little more than imitation, and poorly executed imitation, at that. Upping the ante, Splunk said that:
"….despite their attempt at a direct comparison to Splunk, their offering is so little like Splunk, that we’re only a little flattered… This is serious business that requires a community to support those amazing cyber warriors that live on the front lines daily. It’s not time for rhetoric from a company with a record of under serving and gouging their customers. "
Splunk went on to argue with Ellison’s specific claims, and much of the argument centered on what I would suggest is a more modern view of the world – that of integration, but not centralization. Splunk’s assessment is that Oracle, like all database oriented people, sees the solutions to building an integrated view of a complex situation to centralize all the data into a single store. Splunk contends, however, that the scale and speed of today’s data feeds make that approach a non-starter and suggests that:
"Virtual integration is the new path, dynamically integrating data on a just-in-time basis as opposed to collecting it on a 'just-in-case basis.' The data will stay in those disparate silos—the knowledge won’t…"
The analyst perspective.
Paul Miller, analyst with Forrester Research, and a sometimes colleague of mine, is one of the more steady commentators in the industry and is well-known for a steady approach and analysis that avoids the bluster but instead focuses on customer reality. True to form, in response to what he observed at the event, Miller suggested that:
"Social media, peer experience, and advice from analysts make it far harder to simply claim to be ‘best’. We’ve seen a welcome reduction in this behavior across the tech industry, but OpenWorld keynotes appear to remain a last bastion of this behavior. And it’s a real shame. If you claim to be 'best' at everything, no one believes you. Clear strengths, customer wins, and technical advances get lost or ignored, as your audience greets each statement with increasingly healthy skepticism. No one would believe Andy Jassy [AWS CEO] claiming AWS was best at everything, but he doesn’t. No one would believe Satya Nadella [Microsoft CEO] claiming Azure was best at everything, but he doesn’t. Larry Ellison continues to do so, and it diminishes the value of the real and credible successes Oracle should be very proud of. I look forward to the time when an Oracle keynote emphasizes REAL successes… and admits to REAL limitations or weaknesses in their products. Oracle is not “best” at everything. Neither are any of their competitors."
Larry, Larry, Larry. The world has moved on. Despite what is happening in political circles globally, in the tech industry you can no longer bully and bluster your way to a higher stock price. Neither can you own your customers within walled gardens and monolithic platforms. We live in a world of collaboration, of ecosystems, of mutual benefit and, yes, of co-opetition. The sooner you realize that, the better for your customers. Sure your rhetoric will take you along for a while, but the end is nigh, my friend.