Ellison sidesteps Hurd spat, shows servers instead
Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison steered clear Sunday of the brouhaha surrounding his most contentious new employee — Mark Hurd — but turned up the heat in his other latest troublemaking tactic: upsetting the long-standing order of the technology world with a plunge into selling computer servers.
Ellison didn't mention the controversy over his hiring of Hurd, the ousted CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co., in a two-hour long kickoff keynote at the Oracle OpenWorld conference for developers and customers. HP, which forced Hurd out last month in the wake of a sexual harassment investigation, is suing to stop Hurd from working at Oracle.
Hurd is scheduled to speak Monday.
Instead of fueling the drama about Hurd, Ellison offered fresh evidence of why Oracle is angering longtime partners and deepening entrenched rivalries.
He showed off a new machine from Oracle called the Exalogic Elastic Cloud, which is a combination of 30 servers and other hardware and software that Ellison touted for its speed and ease of maintenance versus systems that are patched together from different vendors.
The machine is the result of Oracle's $7.3 billion acquisition this year of fallen-idol server maker Sun Microsystems, which made Oracle a heavy player in selling computer hardware. Oracle was already the world's biggest database software maker and a heavyweight in computer applications.
Oracle now competes against HP and IBM Corp. in servers.
Ellison's hiring of Hurd as an Oracle co-president landed the company a starring role in Silicon Valley's latest soap opera, further straining Oracle's ties with HP.
To show that HP's and Oracle's friendship hasn't fallen apart, Oracle invited two HP executives — Ann Livermore and Dave Donatelli, both possible picks to replace Hurd as CEO — to promote HP's products on stage before Ellison Sunday night.
Their presence was intended to be symbolic of the strength of Oracle's and HP's 25-year alliance. But Ellison's own words show how that relationship is straining.
After HP sued to try and stop Hurd from working for Oracle, Ellison called it a "vindictive" act and accused HP of "making it virtually impossible" for the two companies to collaborate.
Livermore may have best conveyed the scope of threat if the companies' clash intensifies and their collaboration suffers. In talking up the depth of the relationship, she noted that Oracle and HP have 140,000 joint customers.