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Salesforce Turns Oracle Snub Into PR Coup But Ellison Gets The Last Word

Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, whose keynote address Wednesday at Oracle OpenWorld 2011 was reportedly cancelled by Oracle, moved to a hotel across from San Francisco's Moscone Center to give his presentation anyway. In it, Benioff said he was removed from the agenda because his business model of delivering IT through the cloud and advancing the use of social media in businesses conflicted with Oracle's approach in which "proprietary hardware and software is the future."

Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, whose keynote address Wednesday at Oracle OpenWorld 2011 was reportedly cancelled by Oracle, moved to a hotel across from San Francisco's Moscone Center to give his presentation anyway. In it, Benioff said he was removed from the agenda because his business model of delivering IT through the cloud and advancing the use of social media in businesses conflicted with Oracle's approach in which "proprietary hardware and software is the future." In a late afternoon speech, however, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison got in the last word, unveiling an Oracle Public Cloud platform and dissing the Salesforce cloud computing platform as "the Roach Motel of clouds."

"You can check in but you can’t check out," Ellison said, meaning that a customer can run a Salesforce-delivered application in Salesforce, but can’t move that application to its own data center or to another public cloud. To further undercut Salesforce, Ellison also unveiled the Oracle Social Network, a suite of Oracle solutions that enable enterprises to use social networking to enhance their business.

The day began for Salesforce with attendees crammed into a restaurant at the St. Regis Hotel, at which Benioff delivered his message of the cloud and social networking as an alternative to Oracle’s integrated software and hardware. The direction in which the IT industry is going is "to get away from proprietary hardware, to get away from the proprietary software and to move into something that we call the cloud," Benioff said. "That is why we were cancelled this morning. That’s not the message that Oracle wants. I respect that, but we’re not here to sell more computers."

Oracle denied that it "cancelled" Benioff’s keynote, saying that it had moved the keynote to Thursday at 8:00 a.m. "Due to the overwhelming attendance at Oracle OpenWorld, we had to make several session changes," read an Oracle email reported by the New York Times. Benioff wasn’t buying Oracle’s explanation, but the Salesforce team scrambled late Tuesday to relocate to the hotel, set up its equipment, arrange for live streaming of the event and spread news of the venue change via Facebook and Twitter.

Benioff’s keynote was only a slightly repackaged version of a keynote he gave about a month ago at Salesforce’s own Dreamforce conference, also held at the Moscone, in which he touted the "social enterprise," based on such Salesforce services as Chatter, a social media platform that mimics Facebook but is used by businesses internally. (A recent upgrade expands the networks to include customers.) Salesforce’s business model is software-as-a-service (SaaS), in which a customer pays a subscription fee to access a software application through a Web-browser rather than having it installed in an on-premise server. By using cloud computing, a business saves money on IT.

Most of Oracle’s announcements at OpenWorld centered on new computer systems that are designed from the ground up with Oracle hardware and software engineered to work together. Previously, Oracle introduced the Exadata system for running databases and the Exalogic system for running Oracle middleware and Java applications. This year, Oracle touted its recently announced SPARC SuperCluster and previewed Exalytics, a machine that mines data for business intelligence. Ellison noted the performance, scalability and reliability of these integrated machines in his presentations.

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