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OpenWorld 09 After years of fighting and trading shots, Salesforce.com has signaled a time out in the Web 2.0 switching and culture war with Oracle.

Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com's chief executive, has not just guested at Oracle's OpenWorld event with a speaking turn: He also delivered a message of co-existence with his business-applications and software architecture rival.

Benioff, who's ridiculed the idea of on-site software in the past and whose company has became a pin-up for Software-as-Service evangelists, also praised Oracle and chief executive Larry Ellison. He noted the companies had a "fantastic relationship."

"Thank you Oracle Corp. for allowing us to be here and have a booth at the show," Benioff opened. "We've always had a fantastic relationship with Oracle as key supplier and partner. Larry was our first investor and first board member and I worked at Oracle for 13 years."

"Thanks to everyone at Oracle for being so magnanimous and letting us be here today," Benioff said.

During his OpenWorld presentation, there was also a shift by Benioff against attacking the idea of installing software on premise - Salesforce.com's slogan is an unequivocal "no software."

Benioff talked of letting customers run systems for themselves and add additional systems, presumably SaaS, that "add additional value."

"A lot of customers with Oracle products - database, financials, companies like us that use the Oracle system - can also find benefit in cloud computing in rapid application development of find productivity in core systems like sales and services," Benioff said.

From the very start, Salesforce.com's argued customers should not install the kinds of applications built by Oracle on their desktops and servers and should instead consume them as ondemand services. Salesforce.com started with customer relationship management (CRM) as SaaS, a core Oracle application.

Meanwhile, Ellison regularly beats up on Salesforce.com during Oracle quarterly financial calls by boasting about customer wins. The week before Benioff's OpenWorld turn, Ellison was reported to have boasted about a customer that is de-installing Salesforce and replacing it with Oracle Sales on Demand.

It's not clear whether it was pragmatism that brought Benioff to the heart of darkness or a commitment to Ellison given his lead investor status in Salesfore.com.

But Salesforce.com has come to rely on applications from the likes of Oracle. Half of Salesforce.com transitions are integration transactions with software such as Oracle, Microsoft, and SAP, running in the old world of desktop and server.

"I understand there are companies running Oracle and Salesforce.com," Benioff said.

Clearly, it's in Salesforce.com's interest to maintain a decent working relationship with Oracle, in case it suddenly becomes harder to integrate and suck out and re-import all that important data. Also getting in front of Oracle customers must have been worth the corporate and personal price of admission to OpenWorld. At least we hope, for Benioff's stake. ®

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