The feud between Amazon's cloud and Oracle may have its roots in a failed meeting between their leaders in 2013

Michael Bradley/Getty ImagesLarry Ellison
  • Amazon CEO Andy Jassy does something that no one else at Amazon every does: he publicly, and regularly, trash-talks a competitor.
  • That competitor is Oracle, and Oracle’s founder Larry Ellison – who is, himself, the king of trash talk, and not shy about his disdain for Amazon.
  • The acrimony has its roots in the fierce competition between the two companies.
  • But it may also have been inspired by a meeting around six years ago between Jassy and Oracle’s then-president Mark Hurd, reported by the Information.

There’s nothing the ultra-competitive executives at Oracle like better than an old-fashioned trash-talking feud with their industry rivals, as decades of barb-throwing remarks has taught the tech world.

But Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has always insisted that his company stay above such behaviour. When asked to comment on his competitors, Bezos and most other Amazon executives will almost always say they’re focused on customers, not other companies.

There’s been one big, fat exception: Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy is happy to dish on Oracle and its famous billionaire founder Larry Ellison.

Read: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella describes 2 new kinds of software that will change everything for businesses

His lobs at Ellison have become somewhat of an institution over the years, particularly during his keynote address at AWS’s annual customer conference in Las Vegas. He’s also been known to discuss Oracle on a rare television interview or to respond to a slam by Oracle with the occasional tweet.

Part of this tactic is practical: AWS has mounted a direct challenge to Oracle and its database empire – Amazon offers its own databases as a service, hosted on its own behemoth cloud computing service. These barbs remind the world that Amazon wants to be considered a serious alternative to Oracle, even as Oracle has dominated the enterprise database market for many years.

Amazon Web Services is already the most profitable part of Amazon, and its database offerings have been some of its fastest-growing and most successful products.

On top of that, enterprise customers are used to, and enjoy, such trash talk between big tech companies, in much the same way that sports fans get a kick out of trash talk between star athletes ahead of a big game.

Safra Catz and Mark HurdJustin Sullivan/Getty ImagesOracle co-CEOs Safra Catz (left) and Mark Hurd (right)

But the ongoing nature of the feud may have had its origins in a meeting that happened around six years ago between Oracle exec Mark Hurd and Jassy, before they were both promoted into their respective CEO positions, reports the Information’s Kevin McLaughlin.

Cloud computing was very young back in those days. Although it was popular for startups, most IT professionals were pooh-poohing it back then, believing it wasn’t safe and reliable enough for their use. In 2009, Ellison even famously bashed the idea, calling it a fad and a buzzword. He has long since done an about-face and Oracle today is racing to grab a piece of this enormous and growing market that is dominated by AWS, with Microsoft and Google widely considered to be in second- and third-place, respectively.

But back in 2013, AWS was just beginning to emerge as a force to reckon with. In 2012, Amazon launched some of its most popular database products, including DynamoDB and Redshift.

It was around this time that Hurd went to Amazon’s Seattle headquarters to meet with Jassy, someone familiar with the meeting told the Information.

And the meeting didn’t go well, with Hurd downplaying AWS, insisting that Oracle’s customers – which included most of the world’s largest businesses – were not asking much about Amazon’s cloud, the Information reported.

That kind of talk in the enterprise world is akin to a man sniffing and brushing specs of dust from his suit coat shoulder.

And the cloud wars, and its war of words, took off from there.

Neither Oracle nor Amazon immediately responded to our request for comment.

Read the full Information story here.

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