Oracle is getting into bed with its rivals

"Co-opetition".

Oracle's integration partnerships with salesforce.com and NetSuite will have some observers scratching their heads. And rightly so. I believe it was our American friends who came up with the word "co-opetition", to describe that slightly perilous state in which competitors agree to work with one another. But never has that word been more apt than in the case of a partnership announced as went to press: Oracle and salesforce.com are getting into bed together in a comprehensive nine-year partnership. Unlikely? You’d better believe it. Not only that, but Oracle announced another integration deal with yet another competitor: NetSuite. What gives?

Let’s recap. Salesforce.com founder and CEO Marc Benioff used to work for Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. Ellison even put in some money to his new venture and sat on salesforce.com’s board. Benioff once proudly told me that he is the only person who has ever sacked Larry Ellison, after he stripped him of his board seat when it became clear salesforce.com would compete with Oracle.

Over the years relations between Benioff and Ellison seem – on the face of it at least – to have gone from bad to worse. During an Oracle OpenWorld conference in 2010 Ellison sniped at salesforce.com, saying, "Salesforce has a weak security model - everyone's data co-mingles on the same platform and if that goes down, everyone goes down. It is not fault tolerant, it's not virtual and it's not elastic."

In October 2001 at another Oracle conference, Marc Benioff was unceremoniously dumped off the speakers’ roster. He said at the time, "Oracle just cancelled my keynote tomorrow. But the show must go on! Everyone is welcome to join me at Ame Restaurant tomorrow to hear about the social enterprise. Sorry Larry, the cloud can't be stopped."

So to say it’s surprising that the two companies announced a nine-year partnership as went to press is an understatement. Salesforce.com plans to standardise on the Oracle Linux operating system, Exadata engineered systems, the Oracle Database, and Java Middleware Platform. Oracle plans to integrate salesforce.com with Oracle’s Fusion HCM and Financial Cloud, and provide the core technology to power salesforce.com's applications and platform. Salesforce.com will also implement Oracle’s Fusion HCM and Financial cloud applications throughout the company.

As Quocirca principal analyst Clive Longbottom told me, "The biggest is issue may well be in having two egos – Benioff and Ellison – in the same place."

"Oracle has struggled to provide a working and compelling on-demand hosted or cloud service in its CRM (or any other) offers.  By tying in to Salesforce, it gets access to an existing customer base, but more to the point gets an offer to make to its own customers," Longbottom said. “Salesforce is at a point of product penetration where its cost of sale must be increasing - the tie-up gives it access to Oracle customers who may be willing to move to Salesforce if it doesn't upset Oracle.

"Salesforce also gets access to new hardware at what I would expect would be pretty decent pricing.  At some stage, the Salesforce platform will need upgrading, and this must be keeping Benioff awake at nights as to the cost and disruption.  With access to the Sun hardware portfolio, the problems can be made less," Longbottom added.

However he concluded: "Nine years is a long time - I doubt the agreement will run that long."

Barely a day went by before Oracle announced another integration deal, this time with NetSuite, the pair forming an alliance to offer integrated HCM and ERP cloud services to mid-size customers.

Under the alliance, Oracle's human resources software will be integrated with NetSuite's services for enterprise resource planning (ERP). The alliance will also see Deloitte work with both the firms to develop specialists in tools and implementation services to help customers adopt the SaaS technologies faster.

Oracle president Mark Hurd said driving the development and retention of the right talent, and getting strategic data around HR practices can help mid-size companies transform their business operations.

"NetSuite and Oracle are now working together to provide access to Oracle's leading enterprise-level cloud-based HR & Talent Management solutions that are integrated with NetSuite's Cloud ERP suite applications," Hurd said. "With Deloitte implementing these integrated solutions, mid-size companies can quickly gain access to an incredible new level of HR management that can help impact their bottom line."

NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson said: "Customers will benefit from the commonality of the products' underlying Oracle-based architecture and the enormous investment in R&D and customer service that both companies bring to the table."

It’s clear that having initially been sceptical of cloud computing, Ellison and Oracle are taking cloud very seriously indeed. So seriously, in fact, that it sees working with erstwhile competitors as critical to building its own ecosystem. It really does feel like a new dawn in the enterprise applications space.

Oracle CEO. Photograph: Getty Images

Jason Stamper is editor of Computer Business Review

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For the Ukip press officer I slept with, the European Union was Daddy

My Ukip lover just wanted to kick against authority. I do not know how he would have coped with the reality of Brexit.

I was a journalist for a progressive newspaper.

He was the press officer for the UK Independence Party.

He was smoking a cigarette on the pavement outside the Ukip conference in Bristol.

I sat beside him. It was a scene from a terrible film. 

He wore a tweed Sherlock Holmes coat. The general impression was of a seedy-posh bat who had learned to talk like Shere Khan. He was a construct: a press officer so ridiculous that, by comparison, Ukip supporters seemed almost normal. He could have impersonated the Queen Mother, or a morris dancer, or a British bulldog. It was all bravado and I loved him for that.

He slept in my hotel room, and the next day we held hands in the public gallery while people wearing Union Jack badges ranted about the pound. This was before I learned not to choose men with my neurosis alone. If I was literally embedded in Ukip, I was oblivious, and I was no kinder to the party in print than I would have been had I not slept with its bat-like press officer. How could I be? On the last day of the conference, a young, black, female supporter was introduced to the audience with the words – after a white male had rubbed the skin on her hand – “It doesn’t come off.” Another announcement was: “The Ukip Mondeo is about to be towed away.” I didn’t take these people seriously. He laughed at me for that.

After conference, I moved into his seedy-posh 18th-century house in Totnes, which is the counterculture capital of Devon. It was filled with crystal healers and water diviners. I suspect now that his dedication to Ukip was part of his desire to thwart authority, although this may be my denial about lusting after a Brexiteer who dressed like Sherlock Holmes. But I prefer to believe that, for him, the European Union was Daddy, and this compulsion leaked into his work for Ukip – the nearest form of authority and the smaller Daddy.

He used to telephone someone called Roger from in front of a computer with a screen saver of two naked women kissing, lying about what he had done to promote Ukip. He also told me, a journalist, disgusting stories about Nigel Farage that I cannot publish because they are libellous.

When I complained about the pornographic screen saver and said it was damaging to his small son, he apologised with damp eyes and replaced it with a photo of a topless woman with her hand down her pants.

It was sex, not politics, that broke us. I arrived on Christmas Eve to find a photograph of a woman lying on our bed, on sheets I had bought for him. That was my Christmas present. He died last year and I do not know how he would have coped with the reality of Brexit, of Daddy dying, too – for what would be left to desire?

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era