Oracle CEO Larry Ellison may have got his heroes mixed up, but there was no mistaking his message at Oracle's OpenWorld on Wednesday as he challenged IBM on business software performance. "IBM, you are more than welcome to enter," he said in his keynote speech. "If you'd like to take us on, make our day."
The line comes from actor Clint Eastwood's portrayal of Dirty Harry in Sudden Impact, but Ellison was joined on stage by actor and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. At least Ellison didn't say, "I'll be back," Schwarzenegger's line in The Terminator.
Schwarzenegger came to tout California as a technology hotbed and praised Oracle's planned $7.4 billion purchase of Sun Microsystems. "Technology's impact is flesh and blood," Schwarzenegger told the conference, according to an Agence France report. "I've seen the infinite limits of technology. Even though we're going through tough times, I've never been more confident about the future."
$10 Million Dare
IBM and Hewlett-Packard have been attempting to steal business from Sun while European antitrust regulators decide whether to approve the purchase. Sun has lost more than a percentage point of market share, while IBM has increased its lead as the number-one seller of servers, according to IDC.
IBM has released numbers indicating that twice as many Sun customers migrated to IBM in the second quarter than in the first quarter, IT analyst Charles King said in a telephone interview.
Ellison put his money where his mouth is, offering $10 million to anyone who can prove that Oracle software doesn't run twice as fast on Sun systems as on IBM's. That dare came after Oracle incurred a $10,000 fine for "jumping the gun" by announcing the latest performance benchmarks from the TPC-C (Transaction Processing Performance Council), King said. Oracle announced the news in a Wall Street Journal ad ahead of the official announcement.
Apples and Oranges
"Ellison is comparing two very disparate systems," King said. "The Oracle/Sun system is a clustered system with 400 cores versus the IBM Power 595 -- a single system with 64 cores. Moreover, that IBM system was released in December 2008, while the Sun system won't be out until this coming December."
"Larry Ellison's a bright guy who's used to using very aggressive language publicly," King said. "It's good for a headline, but until we see customers moving back from IBM to Sun, it's an empty threat."
Amid questions about Oracle's ability to compete in the enterprise hardware space, Oracle disappointed King by announcing delays in the Fusion application suite. "The fact that they're being kicked out until mid-2010 was surprising," King said. "I was expecting major news to arrive at OpenWorld. Instead, we got, 'Give us more time.'"
Even so, King said, in software, Oracle is in "as strong a position as they have ever been."
But the $7.4 billion question is, can Oracle compete in heavy iron with the likes of IBM and HP? "Sun has been hemorrhaging cash and seems to have gone on a spiral downward," King said. "The big question is, can Oracle be an effective, believable vendor in the hardware space, and can they stem the bleeding at Sun? Those are some very big ifs. I'm not convinced they can."