Oracle, Salesforce Feud Boils Over With Benioff Keynote Snub

The long-simmering feud between Oracle and leaped off the back burner into the open Tuesday, when Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff tweeted that Oracle head honcho Larry Ellison had canceled the keynote address that Benioff was scheduled to make Wednesday at OpenWorld, Oracle’s annual conference.

“I don’t know why,” Benioff said.

But Benioff made his speech on Wednesday anyway — at an event held separately by Salesforce at a restaurant — the Ames Restaurant in the St. Regis Hotel on 3rd St. in San Francisco. That’s a stone’s throw away from the Moscone Center, where the Oracle Openworld 2011 conference and exhibition are being held through Friday.

The speech drew avid crowds, which stretched from inside the hotel lobby at 3rd and Minna St. all the way down the block to 3rd and Mission, two or three deep.

A member of’s staff told this CRM Buyer reporter that the company had initially been allotted enough space for 700 attendees but had later cut down the space to accommodate only 100.

The Possible Whys and Wherefores

Scuttlebutt has it that the row erupted after staff attended an Oracle event for CIOs without authorization.

That rumor was denied by Oracle spokesperson Deborah Hellinger. Hellinger also denied reports that Oracle had canceled Benioff’s speech.

“Due to the overwhelming attendance at Oracle OpenWorld, we had to make several session changes,” Hellinger told CRM Buyer. “The Executive Solution Session was moved to Thursday at 8 a.m. in the Novellus Theater.”

Benioff had originally been scheduled to speak at the Novellus Theater, in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

Moving the speech to early Thursday morning could have been another swipe at Salesforce. Thursday is the last day for speeches, and Oracle will host a concert featuring Sting and Tom Petty Wednesday night, which is scheduled to run until 1 AM.

More of the Same

Benioff began his relocated speech with a few swipes at Oracle.

“We had an unusual situation happen to us at 3:30 in the afternoon yesterday … we got a phone call that we had been canceled,” Benioff said. “Now Oracle is saying that we can go on tomorrow at 8 AM when the show is over, so I want to thank Oracle for that. They also offered an 8 AM slot on Sun at their new Alcatraz America’s Cup facility. Thank you also, Oracle, for that opportunity.”

Benioff introduced his mother who “came because she’s very upset with me that I pissed Larry [Ellison] off so badly that he canceled my keynote and I want to apologize to my mother and Larry.

“Oracle OpenWorld has mostly been about a next-generation mainframe computer, and the disappointing bit for me is that, when I was at Oracle, when we put on Oracle OpenWorld, Oracle OpenWorld was about the industry and ideas and what we could get excited about,” Benioff continued.

“This is not the next thing that’s happening in our industry. There’s something in our industry that we need to connect to — to get away from proprietary hardware and to get away from proprietary software and to move into the cloud.

“I think that’s not the message that Oracle wants … but we’re not here to sell more computers this morning. Our premise is to show you a new world … to create jobs in our industry …we need advancement, we need these new ideas, and I want to show you how to do it.”

The bulk of Benioff’s speech Wednesday focused, as his speeches often do, on the inevitability of the coming of the cloud.

He also cited customer use cases.

“Facebook is a tremendous Oracle customer, but you can see that applications that circle and enhance that architecture are built on our platform,” Benioff said.

“Since f8, we’ve seen, what, 150,000 apps built on the platform that we’re now running for our customers with Facebook,” Benioff added.

Facebook held its f8 developer conference in San Francisco about two weeks ago.

Benioff also disclosed that Heroku, which Salesforce purchased in December, now has 400,000 apps.

I’m So Sorry

In at least one point in his speech, Benioff apologized for an earlier comment he’d made claiming that Ellison had set a low bar with the speech the Oracle CEO made Sunday.

“He trained me,” Benioff said of Ellison. “I’m just doing what he would have done in my position.”

Over the past couple of years, Salesforce and Oracle have been taking swipes at each other.

Benioff, who used to work at Oracle and who got Ellison’s blessing and seed funding when he left to start up, has repeatedly spoken about the “false cloud” and included Oracle, which is moving to the cloud, in his list of companies who provide false cloud offerings.

Oracle’s Ellison struck back by emphasizing his company’s CRM solutions and advertising that software heavily during Salesforce’s Dreamforce 11 conference, held last August.

“Oracle started this fight,” opined Krishna Mohan, one of those waiting in line for admission to Benioff’s speech.

It’s all just business, Charles King, principal at Pund-IT, contended.

“I think that clearly what Ellison and Oracle are up to right now is what you might call a concerted strategy to bring their customers home to Oracle and Oracle Online,” King told CRM Buyer.

“The message that came out of OpenWorld this week was that by trumpeting Oracle’s technological superiority, it can somehow lure a sizable number of customers [who rely on other system and software providers such as IBM, HP, Dell and Salesforce] to its own offerings,” King added.

“I think that’s going to be a fairly weak argument — and it’s going to take more than Larry Ellison saying that he’s better than everybody else in order for Oracle to do what they’re hoping to do,” King concluded.

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