Arik Hesseldahl

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Oracle CEO Ellison Promises “Startling” Cloud News Next Week

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison previewed a series of announcements next week concerning the company’s aims in the cloud computing and software-as-a-service business.

During a conference call with analysts to discuss Oracle’s Q4 earnings results, Ellison said Oracle will next week make a series of “startling” announcements with several companies, including Microsoft and

“Next week we will be announcing partnerships with the largest and most important SAAS companies in the cloud, and they will be committing to our 12C technology for years to come,” Ellison said. He went on to name Salesforce and Microsoft among those companies.

That Salesforce would be willingly participating in an Oracle announcement might imply that the simmering feud between Ellison and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is waning. Remember the day a few years ago when Ellison ordered Benioff yanked from the stage of an Oracle event in San Francisco where he was about to give a speech?

Oracle and Salesforce compete directly in several key areas, not the least of which is CRM, or customer relationship management software, which both now provide on a subscription, or “software as a service,” basis.

However, Oracle is also the world’s leading provider of database software, and it’s kind of hard for a company like Salesforce to operate without a good database at the heart of its offerings. Ellison in his comments listed Salesforce as among the companies that will be committing to use 12C — Oracle’s latest cloud-friendly version of its database software — for “years to come.”

Oracle was reported earlier this month to have closed a “nine-figure deal” with Salesforce. But last year Salesforce was said to be working on a “big project” to reduce, if not eliminate, its reliance on Oracle databases. No comment yet from Salesforce, but next week’s releases from Oracle should if nothing else be interesting.

Earlier during the call, CFO Safra Catz said Oracle sees sales growing in the range of three percent to six percent. She also said new software sales and subscriptions will land in the range of flat to eight percent in the current quarter. She blamed a sales shortfall that brought the company’s shares down by nearly nine percent in after-hours trading on weak sales in parts of Latin American — specifically Brazil — and Asia.

Another interesting point: Catz said Oracle expects to start seeing growth in hardware revenue in the current quarter. That would be a change. Hardware sales have been on the decline pretty much since Oracle closed the deal to acquire Sun Microsystems in 2010.

Ellison said that in setting its expectations, Oracle expects only its Exa line — so-called engineered systems that combine computing hardware with database appliances — to grow. “Our engineered systems business alone will drive our hardware business to growth,” he said.

Oracle president Mark Hurd also made a point of name-checking Workday, the cloud-based human resources software company, and SAP a few times. “Our cloud business is bigger than that of Workday and SAP combined,” Hurd said.

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