Oracle and Salesforce: Gearing Up for Battle?
By Tony Kontzer
Two weeks after Salesforce.com's resounding "social enterprise" message dominated the company's Dreamforce conference, Oracle used the same location—San Francisco's Moscone Center—to deliver a much different message to IT departments.
Not that Oracle isn't touting social capabilities: It announced a new social platform for folding such capabilities into all of its applications. But Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and his business partners emphasized the fact that because large corporations are not about to abandon a wide range of legacy technologies and applications, they need a deeply integrated and flexible approach to cloud computing.
Along those lines, Oracle expanded its fast-growing cloud menu by adding seven new services ranging from storage and messaging to financial reporting, planning and budgeting, and it now claims to have the widest assortment of cloud applications in the industry. In a clear attempt to differentiate Oracle's cloud offerings from those of Salesforce.com and other cloud-only providers, Ellison stressed that customers can commit to the cloud at their own pace once they've adopted the company's lineup of Fusion applications, all of which are designed to run on premise, in hosted environments or in the Oracle cloud.
As an example, during his keynote address on Oct. 2, Ellison cited restaurant operator Red Robin International, which has a suite of Fusion applications (ERP, supply chain management and human capital management) running in a hosted instance in an Oracle data center. He said that with the way Oracle's cloud services are architected, Red Robin can move its apps to and from the cloud—or migrate them to its own data center—without changing anything.
Meanwhile, during their own keynote talks, EMC CEO Joe Tucci and Infosys CEO S.D. Shibulal complemented Oracle's cloud strategy with their own companies' visions. Tucci's cause was the "software-defined data center," a virtualized architecture that lets companies run cloud services and legacy applications on the same hardware. Shibulal, in turn, introduced the Cloud Ecosystem Hub, which enables companies to quickly provision infrastructure and platforms in hybrid cloud environments.
To further separate Oracle from the traditional approach to providing software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, Ellison cautioned corporations looking to migrate applications to the cloud to carefully consider the platform they're adopting, not just the application itself.
"When you acquire a SaaS application," he said, "you also acquire the underlying software—the database, the programming language—because you may have to connect that application in the cloud to another application in the cloud from another supplier, or to an application you have on premise."
Ellison also unveiled Oracle's Social Relationship Management platform, a suite of social services designed to let companies embed such capabilities as traditional social networking, data analysis, engagement and monitoring, and social marketing across all of their Oracle applications, whether on-premise, hosted or in the cloud.
This is in contrast to Salesforce.com's approach, which centers on its Chatter family of applications, which pulls data from other Salesforce apps, but doesn't embed social capabilities within those apps.
"We implemented our social technology at the platform layer," said Ellison. "That means every application you build inherits the benefits of social technology."
Which company's approach—to both cloud computing and the social enterprise—will be more successful remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: Oracle is not handing over either market to Salesforce.com without a fight.