Jun 28, 2013 (06:06 AM EDT)
Oracle's Week Of Mega Deals Leaves Questions

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Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff took part in a 45-minute conference call on Thursday to talk about the nine-year strategic partnership announced this week. The stated purpose was to give the press and financial analysts a chance to ask questions, but the two executives spent so much time lavishing compliments on each other and emphasizing the comparatively simple act of integrating cloud apps that they left little time for questions. What's more, some of the questions that were asked weren't adequately answered.

It has been a monumental week of strategic partnerships for Oracle, starting with the cloud partnership with Microsoft announced on Monday, the Salesforce.com partnership announced on Tuesday and the NetSuite deal unveiled late Wednesday. Oracle President Mark Hurd fielded questions for the red team during the joint press calls with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and NetSuite CEO Zack Nelson, respectively. Benioff, the former Oracle employee who often cites Ellison as one of his mentors, was given an audience with his former boss.

The two executives started by revisiting the basics of their nine-year partnership. Salesforce.com will standardize on Oracle Linux, Oracle Database, Oracle Java Middleware and Oracle Exadata; Oracle will integrate Fusion HCM, the Oracle Financial Cloud and other applications with Salesforce.com for rapid implementation and interoperability. Then it was on to the glowing remarks.

Benioff: I want thank Larry, because Oracle is always there for us whenever we need them, and they are a true partner.

Ellison: Virtually every time we buy a company they are running Salesforce.com CRM.

[ Want more on Oracle's deal with Microsoft? Read Oracle Goes All In On Microsoft's Cloud. ]

Benioff: There's no better product in the world in the database area than Oracle.

Ellison: We see Salesforce.com all over the market. They are the market leader, and our customers expect us to work gracefully with Salesforce.com.

Benioff: After so many decades of leading Oracle, Larry's leadership has really ensured that Oracle is the best database product in the world.

You could boil the script down to three key messages: Oracle is a great database vendor that gives us secure, reliable, cost-effective and high-performance infrastructure; Salesforce is the leading cloud company and the CRM leader; We're going to find ways to work better together so customers can integrate our products quickly, save time and money and get better performance.

Largely off the script during this week's conference calls was the question of where these partnerships leave Oracle's strategy. You're left with the impression that it's abdicating cloud platform leadership to Microsoft Azure, cloud CRM leadership to Salesforce.com and cloud ERP leadership to NetSuite.

How does this make Fusion applications more appealing, Ellison was asked?

"We have a lot of customers that use Oracle applications. It's a graceful upgrade from our current on-premises ERP applications to Fusion ERP in the cloud and Fusion HCM in the cloud," he began, but then he returned to the "we're going to work better together" script.

"We don't want each and every one of those customers to have to hire a third-party or to have to spend a lot of money to wire up a Salesforce application with Oracle applications," he said. "That makes Fusion applications much easier to adopt."

At the very least this is a frank admission that Salesforce and NetSuite are much bigger in the cloud than is Fusion, so they're in a better position than Oracle itself to pull along sales of Fusion HCM and Fusion Financials. But if you're a current or potential buyer of Fusion CRM or Fusion ERP, Oracle's endorsements and ready-made integrations with Salesforce and NetSuite have to leave you wondering if they're really in the game.