Oracle's Ellison flip-flops on in-memory databases

Larry Ellison loved to trash SAP's in-memory technology, but now he's all excited about Oracle's alternative.

This is a very busy week for Oracle here in San Francisco, what with its America’s Cup boat trying to complete a huge comeback, and the start of the company’s huge user conference, Oracle Open World. The event is so big it closes a major downtown street for more than a week and takes over Treasure Island for a giant rock concert (this year featuring The Black Keys). Heck, the party got so out of hand last year that a local strip club is suing Oracle for a company employee’s unpaid $33,540 credit card tab!

In Memory Is Worthless… No, It’s Great!

But as usual, the biggest news comes from Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s keynote last night, where he announced a new in-memory option for the company’s database that promised “ungodly” speed improvements of up to 100x for analytics queries and 2x throughput for transaction processing.

That’s pretty cool, but also something of an abrupt turnabout from Ellison’s equally ungodly bashing of everything about competitor SAP’s HANA in-memory products just last year. He noted in a quarterly earnings call that SAP “must be on drugs” if they thought HANA would steal customers from Oracle. And here’s a video of Ellison dissing not just SAP’s HANA but the importance and viability of in-memory databases:

Here’s the money quote:

There is no in-memory technology anywhere near ready to take the place of a relational database. It’s just complete nonsense… I know [SAP chairman] Hasso [Plattner] has this little R&D group in California that’s supposedly developed this in-memory database that’s just going to change everything. I don’t think so.

The Cloud Computing Precedent!

None of this should be too surprising from the man who famously bashed cloud computing for years until suddenly getting religious when Oracle finally had a cloud product – or at least a product he could somehow call the "cloud," even if it wasn’t what most people mean when they use the term. Last year’s big Open World announcement, the Oracle Private Cloud, for example, runs entirely inside the customer’s firewall.

It remains to be seen how Ellison’s newfound love for in-memory computing will play out, but you’ve got to give Oracle credit for adopting new technologies even if they don’t originally seem to fit the company’s narrative.

So let’s listen carefully this week. Whatever competitors and technologies Oracle bashes most fervently could be precisely the ones that get a starring role at next year’s Open World conference.

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