SAN FRANCISCO-In a perfect world, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer would have been on the cloud computing panel moderated by Tim O'Reilly at the Web 2.0 Summit here Nov. 6.
They would have been able to defend themselves from the stinging digs from Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff and Google Enterprise President Dave Girouard. Indeed, it would have been the kind of contest reserved for males over cloud computing and SAAS (software as a service), where software providers host applications and infrastructure for customers.
Instead, the jibes went uncontested. Benioff said that when Ellison dismissed Salesforce.com and cloud computing, Ellison was leveraging the Sun Tzu "Art of War" strategy-"when weak, feign strength"-and that that was the "right approach for him." Oracle specializes in on-premises database systems.
In answer to O'Reilly's question about margins for cloud computing being lower than traditional software businesses, another claim made by Ellison, Benioff said it's unfair to compare the cloud model to "mature, dying models like Oracle or SAP, which may be already dead. ... It's a little bit apples and oranges."
Benioff, looking worn out from his company's Dreamforce event this week, also welcomed Microsoft to the cloud, with a caveat:
"I think it's fantastic that they're coming in and saying they're going to have something one day," he said, referring to Microsoft's announcement of its Azure cloud computing platform at its Professional Developers Conference last week. Azure is not expected until 2009.
Girouard was more diplomatic, but picked up where Benioff left off with the fruit metaphor. He welcomed Microsoft, which is building Office Web, an answer to Google Apps, by saying that Microsoft will eventually be able to go apples-to-apples with Google, but "we think our apples will taste better."
VMware President and CEO Paul Maritz (who once oversaw Windows, Office, Visual Studio, and other key platforms and applications for Microsoft, and now runs an EMC-owned business focused on providing virtualization infrastructure to enable companies to run their computer systems on the cloud) and Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch were also on the panel, though they did not partake in the spear throwing.