Oracle’s Larry Ellison Belittles Amazon and Microsoft

March 16, 2017, 12:07 AM UTC
Photograph by Getty Images

Larry Ellison doesn’t mince words when it comes to his competitors.

The Oracle (ORCL) executive chairman on Wednesday described Amazon (AMZN) and Microsoft (MSFT) as defeated rivals in cloud computing—at least when it comes to the quality of their technology.

On an earnings phone call with analysts, Ellison said that Oracle now has “a huge technology lead” over Amazon Web Services and Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing service. Several times, he bragged that Oracle’s revamped cloud computing service is both cheaper and faster than the competition, and that it will eventually become Oracle’s crown jewel.

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The Oracle co-founder is known for his grandiose statements and prodding of his business adversaries. But his comments on Wednesday entirely glossed over the fact that both Amazon and Microsoft’s cloud businesses are growing rapidly—and inconveniently to Oracle, exponentially bigger.

In the latest quarter, Microsoft’s cloud business sales rose 8% to $5.9 billion. Meanwhile, Amazon’s cloud business jumped 47% to $3.6 billion during the same period, with the bulk of its revenue likely stemming from the selling of computing power, based on analyst projections that AWS is by far the biggest cloud computing provider.

Oracle, on the other hand, said that its total cloud sales were $1.2 billion its latest quarter, a fraction of the size of its top two competitors. Although its quarterly cloud sales rose 62% from the previous year, Oracle still has a long way to pass Amazon and Microsoft—two companies that don’t appear to be slowing down.

Oracle’s cloud software and developer tool business accounted for the bulk of its overall cloud sales with combined quarterly sales of $1.01 billion. But selling on-demand computing power to customers is where Ellison really wants Oracle to dominate.

Currently, so-called infrastructure-as-a-service is merely a speck compared to Amazon’s. Oracle’s quarterly sales in that category was a diminutive $178 million in the latest quarter, although it was up 17% from the same period a year earlier. As of now, Oracle’s cloud infrastructure business represents 2% of the company’s overall revenue.

A big concern for Ellison is if customers switch their existing Oracle databases to AWS, something Amazon has been heavily encouraging. Doing so makes those customers more inclined to use Amazon’s portfolio of cloud services rather than Oracle’s.

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At several points during the conference call on Wednesday, Ellison said that Oracle customers should run their Oracle databases in Oracle’s cloud. Citing no source, he said that AWS can only handle “relatively small databases” compared to bigger ones that he claims will run “ten times faster in the Oracle cloud versus the Amazon cloud.” Of course, Amazon would refute Ellison’s description. And, in fact, Amazon has a long list of big customers who use its servers as a home for their huge databases.

It’s unclear if big businesses will buy Ellison’s sales pitch, but for now at least, investors seem to be.

Oracle’s shares (ORCL) rose 5.34% in after-hours trading on Wednesday to $45.38

Update Thursday 10:00 AM PST: Story corrected to say Oracle’s infrastructure business rose 17% and comprises 2% of the total revenue.

4:40 PM: Updated with revised AWS analyst estimates.

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