Larry Ellison will go down in history for many things: the database that dominated computing’s second era, his Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous way of living, and his rhetoric. He’s clearly a powerful man.

And while it’s tempting to let the power of his rhetoric and personality overtake you, don't forget to check the facts.

Last week, in his opening keynote at OOW, Ellison showed up true to form, throwing verbal daggers at not only longtime rivals IBM an SAP, but also at younger vendors such as Salesforce, Workday, Amazon Web Services and Tableau.

“One can always tell what concerns Oracle by the targets it attacks,” noted Gartner analyst Merv Adrian in a tweet.

From Cloud Denier to Cloud Evangelist

Ellison also tends to reframe history at times. Consider the pinnacle announcement he made at OOW San Francisco last week. It centered on Oracle’s intent to dominate the cloud market via infrastructure, platform and applications. According to Ellison (vintage 2015), it’s something that he and his team have been working on for the last decade.


It’s a little hard to take Ellison at his word when he very publicly ridiculed the mere notion of the cloud in 2009 saying:

“The cloud’s water vapor …. Cloud computing is not only the future of computing, it is the present and the entire past of computing .… Everyone is cloud computing …. Everything is in the cloud now …. It’s this nonsense.

"But it’s not water vapor. All it is is a computer attached to a network. What are you talking about? I mean, what do you think Google runs on? … water vapor? It’s databases and operating systems and memory and microprocessors and the Internet!

"Our industry is so bizarre. They just change a term and they think they’ve invented technology …. You can’t just come up with a [slogan] like 'Let’s call that ‘cloud.'' [But] it sure beats innovation.”

This is the very same person who told the 60,000 Oracle enthusiasts at OOW that the transition to the cloud is “a generational shift in computing that is no less important than our shift to personal computing when mainframes and minicomputers dominated our industry.”

Jab at SAP

Now that Ellison is in the CTO, rather than CEO, role at Oracle, he apparently makes sales calls. That, seemingly, gives him insight into the competition. At OOW he told his devotees that when he checks out his competition, neither SAP nor IBM make the list anymore.

“Our two biggest competitors, the two companies we watched most closely over the last two decades, have been IBM and SAP, and we no longer pay any attention to either one of them. It is quite a shock .… I can make a case that IBM was the greatest company in the history of companies, but they’re just nowhere in the cloud. SAP was certainly the largest [enterprise] application company that has ever existed. They are nowhere in the cloud.”

Both of these companies, mind you, are in the cloud — their visions might just be a little different than Ellison’s. 

Take SAP, for example. Its cloud portfolio includes SAP Cloud for Analytics , SuccessFactors “Cloud Solutions for Human Resources”, SAP Business ByDesign, SAP Cloud for Customer, and the SAP Hana Cloud Platform, for a start. These were built to help customers transform for the digital world. 

SAP doesn’t talk about lobbing client server solutions into the cloud. That’s not transformational, as Steve Lucas, president platform solutions at SAP might put it. 

It’s also worth noting that in calendar Q3 2015, SAP grew its core software license business by seven percent and its cloud revenue by 116 percent. Compare that to Oracle’s cloud revenue growth of 29 percent.

Incidentally, the day after Ellison’s keynote, SAP announced that it won a deal to help long-time Oracle customer Lloyd’s Register in its digital transformation.

Unless Oracle didn’t want to retain its client, which is doubtful, that’s called losing to the competition.

Right Hook at IBM

IBM has a host of cloud solutions, ranging from Softlayer and IBM BlueMix, to all kinds of goodness based on its Cloudant acquisition. In its earnings call last month, the company said its annual run rate in the cloud was $4.5 billion. Oracle’s is at about $ 2.4 billion.

Not just that, but IBM CEO Ginni Rometty has also made it very clear that her vision for the future is around “cognitive computing.” Cloud plays an important role in enabling that, but IBM isn’t trying to be Amazon Web Services.

Does Oracle Stand Out in a Cloud?

So while Ellison had a good time ranting that these vendors were “nowhere in the cloud,” Oracle doesn’t seem to be in the cloud itself, according to most experts.

In fact, it didn’t qualify for inclusion in Gartner's MQ for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service

Gartner MQ cloud

Think Again Larry, Says Salesforce

Though Ellison acknowledged that Salesforce was still ahead of Oracle in cloud-based CRM, he let it be known that Oracle was on the road to overtaking them. 

While we’re not sure where his facts came from, Ellison told the OOW audience that Salesforce is betting that it will get a billion dollars in SaaS business by the end of the year.

“Oracle expects to do $1.5 billion or more,” he added.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff was apparently expecting Ellison to say something like this. He offered proof to the contrary via Twitter.

Prettier than Tableau?

Everyone knows that a picture’s worth a thousand words, so Oracle probably should have been wiser than to mess with Tableau. But Ellison’s lieutenant, Oracle co-CEO, Mark Hurd, couldn’t keep himself from doing that either.

When Hurd announced that Oracle will be introducing the Oracle Cloud Visualization Service, he said,”It’s better and more modern than Tableau.”

You make the comparison. Here’s what Oracle’s visualizations will look like. Here are Tableau’s. The picture tells the story.

It was also sort of ironic that Tableau’s CEO Christian Chabot made the stage at OOW via video during a keynote address by Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka. 

Too Late? Too Much? Too Old?

Whether you love Oracle, or not, you can’t discount its dominance of the enterprise database market. However, it’s facing competition from NoSQL databases like MongoDB and DataStax’s Cassandra

And though enterprises are choosing the latter two — and others — to solve problems and create solutions in the modern Internet and big data world, few are booting Oracle out the door.

“Let’s be honest, companies don’t switch to new applications all that often,” said Kelly Stirman, VP of strategy and product marketing at MongoDB, in a recent conversation with CMSWire. “They are not going to replace their legacy systems where nothing’s broken.”

But things are breaking in a web-scale world. Netflix, for example, booted Oracle out the door because it literally couldn’t handle the volume, velocity and variability of data coming at it.

There are other forces in action as well. 

Developers prefer modern, open source, flexible technologies and Oracle, in many cases, does not fill their bill. In fact, this new generation of developers doesn’t even keep it in their toolbox. 

Oracle is also late to the big data, self-service and advanced analytics games. 

Consider that Tableau had a whopping 10 thousand visualization makers at its user conference in October. They are a passionate crowd. “Like a cult,” an industry analyst told me at the conference.

Ellison and company also announced a data blending play; here they’ll be competing against the likes of rapidly growing Alteryx which has spent the last five years defining the market. 

When it comes to advanced analytics, Oracle doesn’t have much of a play either according to Gartner. Once again, it didn’t make it into the Magic Quadrant.