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Salesforce's Benioff: 'Ellison flunks vision test'

Oracle dreams of a mainframe past

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Dreamforce 2010 Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of Salesforce, has fired back at Larry Ellison and his beloved Exadata for cloud computing, saying that the server fails the cloud test and that Oracle lacks a genuine vision.

Working — and walking — a crowd of 14,000 at his annual Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, Benioff championed a world of hosted services delivered over the internet to smartphones and other mobile devices.

Benioff mocked Oracle's Solaris-based Exalogic Elastic Cloud, launched in September, as a step backwards to the world of mainframe computing running software that's paid for using an expensive license.

He also took the fight to Ellison by announcing a database-in-a-cloud: Database.com. This relational service is the store beneath Salesforce.com, Force.com, and Chatter that's being broken out with its own brand and URL, and with new admin and developer tools planned for 2011. Salesforce.com is built on a multi-tenant version of Oracle's database running on 1,500 Dell servers.

"Databases need to move into the cloud — it's way overdue," Benioff said bluntly.

Rounding on Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud, unveiled at Oracle's OpenWorld conference, Benioff expanded his criticism that — in September — drew an immediate retaliation from Ellison during his own Oracle turn.

"The cloud is not in a box — you don't have to add more boxes to get scalability," Benioff said, flashing a picture of the Sun-Oracle Exadata server on stage as he spoke. Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud combines Sun storage and networking, Solaris 11 Express, and Sparc on Oracle's WebLogic server and caching. The machine works with Oracle Database 11g and Real Application Clusters.

Salesforce.com is hosting Dreamforce at the same San Francisco Moscone conference center at which Oracle OpenWorld was held, where Ellison launched his latest Exadata in September .

Ellison used that event to slam Salesforce.com, saying it's the "wrong" cloud model — unlike Oracle's, naturally. Benioff promptly Tweeted back saying the cloud doesn't come in a box, a Tweet that prompted a follow-up attack from Ellison, who called Salesforce.com's multi-tenancy architecture 15 years out of date, saying it has a "horrible" security model.

You wouldn't think Benioff once worked for Ellison, or that Ellison put $2m of his own money into Salesforce.com as an early investor. Or maybe you would.

This time, though, it was Benioff's turn at the mic. Benioff, who also keynoted at the court of King Ellison during OOW, lambasted Oracle's strategy of buying more software companies.

"It was an amazing conference in this very room," Benioff said, painting a dystopian picture of the future based on Ellison's show at the Moscone. "There were red cubes from here all the way to the end — hundreds and hundreds, each one a different software company that Oracle had bought along the way. It was our whole industry lined up as a series of red cubes."

"I said: 'Is this what our industry is coming to — a series of red cubes? Is this innovation? And we have to run it on that proprietary mainframe that they call a cloud?' That's when I said we need a cloud computing test."

That test: if it needs hardware and software, if it's not scalable, not "democratic", doesn't provide energy efficiency, and if it's not provisioned using an apps marketplace, it's not cloud.

Benioff claimed the environmental cost is 0.002 grams of carbon per transaction versus 1.35 grams for running software on your own servers.

He proceeded to clam that the "old" internet is dying and "rebirthing" itself with social networking and video thanks to sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, plus the phenomenal growth in smartphones to access such services. It's an interesting stance — there's growing concern that sites such as Facebook are actually a threat to the web.

Web-daddy Tim Berners-Lee said last month that sites such as Facebook are killing the open web because they're sucking in people's data and storing it in proprietary silos.

Benioff, though, said enterprise applications could learn from Facebook. When he founded Salesforce.com in 1999, the inspiration was Amazon. Today, it's Facebook.

"The question is no longer why don't we build software that looks like Amazon, it's why do we not build software that looks like Facebook," he said.

That dying web was defined by tabbed browsing, pull-based services, web access from a PC or Mac, and a lack of location awareness, according to Benioff. The new web uses feeds that push data to recipients, provides accesses to information using smartphones and tablets running Android and iOS using HTML5, includes location awareness, and provisions apps via a marketplace,

To ride this new web wave, Salesforce.com is making its Chatter Facebook-like enterprise collaboration service available to more users outside business. Chatter will be released for mobile in February 2011 and be made available for free at Chatter.com, where you'll get access to user profiles, groups, and directories, and have the ability to share photos and view files. ®

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