Greenberg: Not Long Ago Oracle's Ellison Mocked 'the Cloud'

SAN DIEGO (TheStreet) -- When Oracle (ORCL) execs rang the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange today, the banner behind them read, "Engineered for the Cloud." A few hours later the company was planning to host something it calls "The Oracle Cloud Forum."

But roll back the clock to an analysts' day in October 2009 and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, nobody's fool, wasn't waxing so philosophically about "the cloud."

After being somewhat sarcastic about the brewing euphoria over the word "cloud," he said:

...As far as the Cloud, I make jokes about Cloud computing because obviously Cloud computing is something totally different really. Does it use Intel microprocessors? Those aren't new. Does it use memory from Samsung? That's not new. Does it use Cisco networking? That's not new. Does it use Linux and Solaris and Oracle and MySQL? None of those are new.

Someone's got to explain to me this new technology called Cloud computing. From what I can tell it's just renting computers, and that is not the greatest new technology that's ever been invented. It's kind of like a financing idea. But if you can explain it to me, I'd -- I'm -- I'd love to listen.

But... will Cloud computing destroy our business? It will just -- well, if there are no microprocessors and no memory and no networks and no databases and no operating systems, it's going to destroy everyone's business. It's just -- but, it's just some silly notion.

He went on to say:

And building the cloud is nothing more than building a lot of data centers, secure data centers, fast data centers, cost-effective data centers, and we want to be the technology supplier for the people and the organizations who are building those data centers. That's where we -- that's what we're good at. That's where we want to join the battle.

At an analyst's day year later he elaborated:

I've objected to the term Cloud computing for a long time because so many people use it to mean entirely different things. It's as if every color was called red. It's confusing. Look at the sky. It's this beautiful shade of red. Look at the ocean. It's a fantastic shade of red. It's a different shade of red than the sky but it's still red.

I believe in a modern era of Cloud computing and the company that really invented the term and really invented the technology was Amazon (AMZN) with their Elastic Comucloud. That has very specific characteristics. It's a platform that lots and lots of customers can share. Now how do you get away with that without one customer damaging another? Well, you provide each customer their own virtualized environment.

In the name of the Amazon Cloud is the word elastic. It's such a fundamental characteristic of Cloud computing that as you need more capacity, one of the real virtues of Cloud computing, as you need more capacity you get it automatically from the Cloud and you only pay for what you use. So as you need more capacity you get for the next four hours and you pay for it for the next four then it shrinks back down. That's very different, very different than salesforce.com which has got much older technology.

They're a very successful company. They've done a nice job, but they're not Cloud computing, certainly not Cloud Computing in the sense that Amazon.com is Cloud computing or in the sense that the Exalogic Elastic Cloud is Cloud computing. We mean entirely different things. If you want to call them both Cloud fine but understand they're entirely different technologies. One is relatively new and one is relatively old.

Reality: I'm sure Marc Benioff of Salesforce  (CRM) would have a somewhat different view, but Ellison's point is well taken: The cloud has become perhaps too ubiquitous. (And on Wall Street, you know what that means! Everybody suddenly lays claim to the fad du jour.) To Ellison's credit, Oracle didn't get its heels dug in too deeply, and embraced its own version of the cloud. Lesson in there somewhere.

-- Written by Herb Greenberg in San Diego

Herb Greenberg, editor of Herb Greenberg's Reality Check, is a contributor to CNBC. He does not own shares, short or trade shares in an individual corporate security. He can be reached at herbonthestreet@thestreet.com.

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