Say this for Larry Ellison. He can sometimes shoot off his mouth and piss people off, but when things get tough, he'll do whatever it takes to push Oracle forward and set things right for his company.
That may be biggest takeaway from Oracle's just-announced alliance with hated rival Salesforce.com, a nine-year partnership that will put Salesforce.com's cloud-based customer-management software atop Oracle apps and infrastructure. That includes using Exadata systems, Oracle's database, Oracle's Java middleware and Oracle Enterprise Linux.
This partnership may be the clearest sign yet that Oracle is under intense pressure from customers who are more interested in "alternative" but fast-growing database-related technologies such as non-relational NoSQL databases and commodity storage like Hadoop.
The success of those technologies is probably the number one reason that this deal happened in the first place. The world is not a friendly place for companies like Oracle anymore, and it needs friends wherever it can find them. Even if that means turning to companies it's long poked with sharp sticks, like Salesforce and Microsoft (with whom it struck a related sort of partnership earlier this week).
Ellison had been promising a big announcement that would blow away the tech community. Many observers, including me, regarded this as so much Ellison jive, especially after the "big" Oracle-Microsoft partnership turned out to be little more than Oracle databases running on the Windows Azure cloud service. In this case, we were way off the mark.
I Now Pronounce You Marc & Larry
Today's announcement is the real deal: two huge cloud and data service providers who have been sniping at each other professionally for years setting those differences aside and getting a deal done.
But to actually see it happen, to hear Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff actually say nice things about Oracle's services after so many public potshots was just, well, weird.
For Oracle, this is a good deal all around. It needed a big boost to showcase its database and cloud offerings, which were increasingly being eclipsed by the white-hot spotlight shining on Hadoop, NoSQL and other big data technologies.
The fact that Oracle will be using Saleforce.com as its customer relation management (CRM) platform could be the biggest benefit for Salesforce.com. That in itself is a pretty big deal, especially after Oracle bought Siebel, then the world's biggest CRM company, back in 2005.
One thing is for sure—Ellison must have cut Benioff one hell of a deal.