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Amazon, Salesforce would love to move from Oracle databases, muzzle Ellison, but can they succeed?

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Amazon and Salesforce are getting tired of listening to Oracle CTO Larry Ellison crow about how the two cloud giants run on his database. Amazon and Salesforce want to muzzle Ellison enough that they are reportedly developing plans to move away from Oracle.

According to The Information, Amazon and Salesforce have real efforts to end their reliance on Oracle’s database. The Information cited anonymous sources on how Amazon and Salesforce are developing their own databases.

Now, this effort isn’t that surprising, given that Salesforce has tried to use other open-source databases to minimize its reliance on Oracle. Amazon Web Services has been ramping its database efforts. Nevertheless, Oracle’s database has been serving as the backbone of the major cloud providers.

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Here’s what Ellison said on Oracle’s earnings conference call last month when asked about whether customers were moving away from its database.

Let me tell you who’s not moving off of Oracle, a company you’ve heard of that gave us another $50 million this last — this quarter to buy Oracle Database and other Oracle technologies. That company is Amazon. They’re not moving off of Oracle. Salesforce isn’t moving off of Oracle. Our competitors, who have no reason to like us very much, continue to invest in and run their entire business on Oracle. I don’t know who’s moving off of Oracle. Maybe Mark does. Maybe Safra does. But Amazon — you’d think Amazon would really want to move. Let me tell you someone else who’s not moving off of Oracle. SAP, they have this database called HANA. They’d like to move to SuccessFactors. They’ve been trying to move off of Oracle for 5, 6 years. SAP’s running on Oracle. Ariba runs on Oracle. All SAP large customers run on Oracle. Amazon continues to buy Oracle technology to run their business. Salesforce runs entirely on Oracle. I mean, go ahead. You tell me who’s moving off of Oracle.

Now Salesforce and Amazon are two sprawling companies that are also partners aligned against Oracle. But they’ll likely remain customers of Oracle. Toss in merger and acquisitions and it’s likely that there will always be some part of the two companies running on Oracle. For instance, Whole Foods, now an Amazon company, is a Microsoft Azure customer (at least for now).

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The reality: Aspirations, returns on investment, and technical realities often don’t line up. Salesforce and Amazon would obviously love to move away from too much dependence on Oracle given the competitive stakes. Salesforce has tried to open source its way out of its Oracle pickle before, but in 2013, it renewed with Ellison and the gang. Given the timing, it seems fairly obvious that the latest Salesforce database development news is timed for a contract negotiation with Oracle. AWS could stand to scoop up some of the database workloads from Salesforce.

In the end, Oracle’s relationship with Amazon and Salesforce wouldn’t be a big deal if Ellison didn’t crow so much. What’ll be interesting to see if Amazon and Salesforce can completely move from Oracle even if they wanted to. Rest assured that no matter how this database diversification effort plays out, Salesforce and Amazon aren’t likely to put Ellison in silent mode.

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