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Larry Ellison – A Cloud's Best Friend?

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The cloud is here, but some experts argue big software companies like Larry Ellison’s Oracle don’t “get” this new technology. Ellison is an easy mark – he’s criticized cloud technology loudly and for all to hear, but now changed his tune and claims Oracle’s solutions will be game-changers. Will the real Larry Ellison please stand up?

Conflicting Views
Midsize and small business IT hear more and more about the cloud from companies like IBM, Microsoft and Salesforce, along with startup providers looking to carve out a niche in the market. But for software giant Oracle, the cloud is a contentious topic, largely because of its CEO, Larry Ellison. In 2008, he called the cloud “complete gibberish,” arguing that so far as he could tell it was “everything that we already do.” In 2012, he changed his tune and now calls cloud computing a “charismatic brand,” as Oracle gets set to release its newest, cloud-optimized database product.

But according to a recent Mercury News article, Ellison doesn’t really “get” cloud computing – author Chris O’Brien argues the company looks vulnerable because it spent too much time trying to salvage their investment in Sun Microsystems rather than developing a proactive cloud strategy. Bob Evans at Forbes, meanwhile, takes issue with this assessment, pointing out that Oracle’s annual software as a service (SaaS) revenues are headed for the $1 billion mark and their new database offering works on not only private clouds but public and hybrid clouds as well. So where does the truth really lie? Is the 68 year old Ellison a technology dinosaur who’s spent more time polishing his ego than developing the cloud, or a realist who pierces cloud computing hype?

The Bottom Line

For small and midsize IT, the truth is that what Ellison says doesn’t really matter. Instead, the controversial CEO makes an excellent cloud computing metaphor; just like the cloud, he’s hard to pin down. Technology providers have a vested interest in convincing users that their vision of the cloud is the “right” one, and like Ellison, change their tune as the market evolves.

There are few hard and fast rules when it comes to cloud computing – in many respects, Oracle’s CEO was correct in his assertion that much of what the company already does falls under the “cloud” heading. What unifies any public, private or hybrid cloud model is a combination of non-local data storage, increased redundancy and extremely high uptime: the “four 9’s”, or 0.9999%. Everything else about the cloud is malleable, subject to user needs and provider choice – for IT admins, that’s the key to remember when considering a move or a service provider switch. Just as Ellison can say whatever he wants about the cloud and change his mind when it’s best for his business, so can IT pros get the service they want – choice, not hype, is the cloud’s hallmark.

Doug Bonderud is a freelance writer, cloud proponent, business technology analyst and a contributor on the Dataprise website.

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