Oracle Open Wound Clouds The Annual Gathering

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A spat between Oracle and Salesforce was the highlight of OpenWorld while cloud news took a back seat, says Eric Doyle

The principal of OpenWound High School reported the expulsion of one of his pupils for posting an offensive comment on his Facebook page.

Young Marc Benioff, formerly one of principal Larry Ellison’s star pupils, caused offence when he posted a detrimental report on Ellison’s end of term report at the OpenWound annual conference.

The principal’s speech was greeted with thanks by Benioff for “setting a low bar” which he reckoned he could easily leap at a single bound. This vexed Ellison and he banned Benioff from the school grounds for the duration of the conference.

Benioff was due to update the school on the progress of his Salesforce Chatter project, a social network for business. Instead, his project was handed in on time at a hotel near the school grounds in San Francisco.

Dark Cloud Over The Proceedings

The childish squabble between Oracle co-founder Ellison and’s CEO Benioff marred this year’s OpenWorld conference. There has always been a degree of invective between the two company leaders since Benioff left Oracle, where he was a friend of Ellison’s and widely tipped as a future CEO.

The OpenWorld conference this year was notable for a blizzard of announcements, but also for the backstage bitching. When Benioff criticised Ellison’s keynote, Ellison “re-scheduled” Benioff’s to Thursday morning, after most of the delegates had left.


Benioff was quick to react and arranged an alternative venue for a Webcast press event at the St Regis Hotel, a short walk from the OpenWorld venue in the Moscone Center. His cohorts even found time to stage(-manage) a placard protest outside to the bemusement of passers-by.

The fracas coincided with Oracle’s release of Oracle Social Network, a Chatter-like social channel which could possibly have been eclipsed by Benioff’s keynote highlighting Salesforce’s more mature product. The Oracle CRM-based feature will act as the user interface to its cloud services which were also introduced at the conference. Though I’m quite sure that UI envy had nothing to do with Ellison’s decision to cancel or “postpone”  Benioff’s Salesforce keynote, it was an added sting for those fee-paying attendees who were looking forward to the presentation.

The new interface is simply called Oracle Social Network; the interface allows a company’s employees and business partners to share information. This can be general chat in text and voice, or share videos, images and documents. When working on a project, users can use the network’s integration with Oracle Fusion Applications, business intelligence, and business processes to receive and send real-time information feeds so that business issues can be resolved quickly, including updating these applications and processes from within the Social Network.

The applications behind Social Network in the Oracle Public Cloud includes services versions of Fusion Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Fusion Human Capital Management (HCM), Java, and Oracle Database.

Although Oracle’s existing customers may welcome the new cloud services, there is nothing spectacular or stunning in what Oracle has announced at OpenWorld. It is a catch-up move on all the service providers that have been populating cyberspace with services for over 10 years. Oracle’s involvement so far has been a minimal presence and Ellison’s financial support for companies like NetSuite.

Developer Options

What the systems have in common is that they both add to the rising tide of cloud lock-ins, alongside Apple ‘s iCloud and Amazon’s new Kindle Fire tablet environment. Where Oracle relies on Java as the glue holding the services together and as the tool for developing new features, Salesforce is broadening the choice of languages and environments that can be used by developers to extend and supplement services.

The tying in of a social network and interlinked services puts the web into Web services in an entanglement from which it could be difficult to reverse out. There is a danger that the cost and business disruption involved in any change could be inconveniences that force companies to stay. That won’t affect happy campers but could build up a resentment in those who feel trapped.

When Benioff described this as a “low bar”, he was taunting Ellison but comparing Salesforce’s developed platform with Oracle’s services shows a difference in maturity and spread that takes a long time to develop. The OpenWorld announcements have been fairly low-key in press coverage which reflects what Benioff said in jest and was later forced to retract when Ellison failed to see the joke.

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