Salesforce.com CEO makes nice to Oracle at OpenWorld

Marc Benioff decided against returning fire after Larry Ellison's recent mocking of Salesforce.com's offering as a 'little itty-bitty application'

Attendees packed into a presentation by Salesforce.com Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff at Oracle's OpenWorld conference Tuesday, but those hoping the executive would deliver some of his trademark trash talk toward Oracle left the room disappointed.

Some sort of throwdown seemed possible, even likely, given that during a shareholder meeting last week, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison mocked Salesforce.com's offering as a "little itty-bitty application" that is dependent on Oracle's own technology.

[ Follow all of InfoWorld's coverage of events at Oracle's OpenWorld conference . ]

But Benioff made no response to Ellison's jibes on Tuesday, instead referring to the companies' "fantastic relationship" and thanking Oracle for being "magnanimous" enough to let Salesforce.com appear at OpenWorld. Salesforce.com is a sponsor of the show.

Ellison was an early investor in Salesforce.com, but left the vendor's board after he and Benioff had a falling out.

Since then, the two executives have repeatedly slammed each other's business model, with Benioff declaring on-premise software a dying model and Ellison famously mocking cloud computing on a number of occasions, even as his own company tests those waters.

Their history caused surprise and curiosity among some observers, who questioned why Oracle would allow such a direct rival to tout its products at OpenWorld.

Indeed, beyond slamming Salesforce.com's technological achievements, Ellison has made it a point during recent earnings conference calls to cite deals it won against the on-demand vendor.

And during the shareholder meeting, Ellison said he could provide a long list of customers who once used Salesforce.com but "chucked it out" in favor of Oracle's own on-demand CRM (customer relationship management) software.

But in the end, Benioff seemed more intent Tuesday on building bridges than burning them.

At one point, he was joined onstage by Dell CEO Michael Dell. The two companies announced a partnership on Monday for selling Salesforce.com CRM and related services to small and medium-sized businesses.

Salesforce.com and Dell already had close ties, having used each other's products for some time. Dell said its experience running Salesforce.com will give it an edge when working with new customers.

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