The Tech World Needs More Larry Ellisons

The Oracle chief's recent appearance and hilarious (and spot-on) screed on "Cloud Computing" is evocative of why he's such a gifted business leader.

By Thomas Wailgum
Wed, September 23, 2009

CIO — Larry Ellison's recent Q&A at the Churchill Club was notable for many reasons. The long-time Oracle chief, who hasn't been making too many public appearances lately (even inside Oracle, it seems), brought his A-game.

Ellison weighed in on a multitude of topics, offering up equal amounts of hyperbole and sobering truths, as only he can. For instance, on the delayed Sun Microsystems acquisition, a topic on which many other CEOs might shy away from, Ellison held forth and answered every important question (from Ed Zander and the audience).

Oracle's leader said: "If, just for one dollar, if we could buy IBM, HP, Sun or any of these tech companies, I'm not sure we wouldn't pick Sun." (Hyperbole, perhaps.) And then, added: "Sun is losing $100 million a month—$100 million a month. That's a problem." (Sobering truth.)

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Ellison also seemed to take umbrage at the notion that Oracle's culture somehow didn't value software engineering—and was more focused on sales and marketing efforts.

"We are the largest employer of MIT and Caltech engineers in the world. We are the largest employer of Stanford and Harvard, CMU mathematicians in the world. We are overwhelmingly dominated by engineering at Oracle," he said. "The idea that we are a sales and marketing company, which people will write about quite often, is ludicrous on the face of it," and then added, "The company is all about engineering. It's the only thing that works. "

But it was his outsized and riotous attack on cloud computing ("The Cloud!") that brought the house down (the laughter and applause were noticeable).


Larry Ellison's Cloud Computing Rant

Of course, many, many people disagree with his business strategies, his go-for-the-jugular M&A philosophy, his outrageous compensation, his limitless braggadocio and his technological "politics," most notably those "cloud vendors" who were the target of Ellison's offensive. (Ellison is definitely one of those combatants you hate when you have to compete against him, but surely wouldn't mind having him on your team every now and then.)

But what people can't argue with is his passion or his chutzpah. The 65-year-old I saw in this video from the event seems spry, sharp and combative as ever. And definitely not about to give up those red reins to someone else anytime soon.

His ability to make waves (well, tsunamis, really), speak his mind, tangle with competitors and create excitement in a marketplace that, frankly, can be ridiculously boring at times is underappreciated. And will be sorely missed when the salty sailor finally leaves the Oracle port and heads out for his sunset cruise.

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