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Egos clash in Larry's Oracle locker room

Clouds, sails, and literature

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OpenWorld Two of techs biggest names - and egos - traded shots on Wednesday over clouds and books.

Oracle chief Larry Ellison roasted Salesforce.com's chief executive Marc Benioff and slammed his service-as-a-service poster child, saying that the company runs "old" technology and that it polices customers' data using a "horrible" security model.

In a Wednesday OpenWorld keynote billed as being about Oracle's Fusion applications, Ellison devoted plenty of time to attacking his protégée - Benioff was a 13-year Oracle employee before leaving to found Salesforce - and a company Ellison has invested in.

"The CEO of Salesforce said: 'Larry doesn't get it - clouds don't run in a box'," Ellison opened, warming up. "OK... so what does he think Salesforce runs on if not a box? Salesforce runs on 1,500 Dell servers, which are Dell boxes!"

Earlier, Benioff had told OpenWorld during his keynote: "Clouds don't come in a box."

He also Tweeted from his Blackberry: "A cloud is many things - easy, efficient, low cost - but it is NOT a box! There is no cloud in a box."

Benioff was responding to Ellison's launch on Sunday of the Oracle's Exalogic Elastic Cloud - a combined server, storage, networking, and software box.

Ellison framed the Exalogic launch by roundly criticizing the Salesforce model of cloud computing, and dismissing the services as "one or two" applications on the internet.

Two years back, Ellison called cloud computing complete gibberish. "I don't understand what we'd do differently in light of cloud computing other than change the wording on some of our ads," Ellison said.

Now he's a convert, endorsing an Amazon model of elastic compute resource allocation and virtualization to build and deliver applications.

It wasn't just clouds and hardware causing CEO-sized waves, though. On Sunday, Ellison used the Exalogic launch to take a swipe at Benioff's vanity book Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of Salesforce.com Went from Idea to Billion-Dollar Company-and Revolutionized an Industry.

That's a heck of title, Brownie.

On stage at OOW, Benioff said: "We're not attacking anyone's book here. We're here to motivate you, excite you, open doors for you and show you the potential of a new world - cloud computing."

Ellison has a few vanities of his own. One is the America's Cup, and on Wednesday, he took the chance to play the heroic video story of his Oracle-BMW sponsored boat winning the America's Cup not for Oracle-BMW, you understand, but for all Americans. The film features hero shots of Ellison looking into the sunset and his corny one-liners on the eternal mystery of salt water.

It's the same film, by the way, he played Sunday night. And at other Oracle events. He told OOW on Wednesday that he never grows tired of this film and that though he was offered an alternative video for OOW delegates prior to his afternoon keynote, he'd opted to play - yes - the America's Cup film. Again.

OpenWorld is Larry's locker room, the place where other the CEOs show up to take snaps to the butt with a jocular grin. But apparently, Benioff didn't get the memo.

So Ellison got his chops in during the Wednesday afternoon follow-up session to his Sunday opener.

"He [Benioff] really got upset because the Exalogic box... he was really offended the box was taller than he was... OK do you think those 1,500 Dell boxes are low to the ground?"

Ellison called the Salesorce.com multi-tenancy model 15 years out of date - apparently that didn't seem a problem when Ellison first invested in Salesforce - and said it has a security model that's "horrible" because it merges customers data in a single database - an Oracle database.

This was Benioff's second OpenWorld keynote. Surely, Salesforce can't allow a third - unless it really enjoys such spectacles. Or, unless, Larry's stake in the company is too big or came with some regrettable fine print. ®

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