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Larry Ellison, Oracle’s co-founder and CTO, speaks at Oracle OpenWorld 2018. (Oracle Photo)

At some point, it starts to get a little sad.

Oracle co-founder and chief technology officer Larry Ellison uncorked another barb at Amazon Web Services Monday following the release of his company’s second fiscal quarter earnings, which were tepid at best. However, instead of his usual broadsides against the cloud computing market leader and Andy Jassy, its CEO, the 74-year-old Ellison chose to insult people who have decided to move their database workloads to AWS rather than the company itself.

In response to a softball from Credit Suisse’s Brad Zelnick about the “competitive dynamics for database,” Ellison said “…in terms of technology, there is no way that someone can move — a normal person would move from an Oracle database to an Amazon database,” as transcribed by Seeking Alpha.

It’s a little hard to figure out which part of that statement is the most absurd. First of all, there are lots of people who have moved their databases from Oracle to AWS — one of AWS’s databases, RedShift, was actually named after Oracle’s trademark color — and while any database migration is definitely a big and at-times painful undertaking, “normal” people seem to be figuring out how to do it.

The line is actually a little too on the nose: Ellison is basically celebrating the fact that a lot of Oracle’s current customers are still with the company because database migrations aren’t easy. Those customers are not sticking with Oracle after years of brutal licensing audits so they can see an aging rock star play Oracle OpenWorld next year, they’re still using Oracle because they are scared to break applications that might be outdated but are working.

Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy speaks at re:Invent 2018. (GeekWire Photo / Tom Krazit)

IT executives at large companies that years ago built mission-critical applications around Oracle databases when they were the best of a relatively small number of options — companies such as Amazon — are cautious by nature, because issues with those applications can cause major problems for important parts of their business. But younger companies unburdened by legacy tech have more choices than ever when selecting a database for their application across cloud service providers or open-source projects, and more and more big enterprise companies are becoming comfortable with cloud services for new applications.

If you’re a company that still manages its own data centers and has used Oracle products for years, sticking with Oracle makes a lot of sense; the company’s new Oracle Autonomous Database was well-received by Gartner in a recent report. The problem for Oracle and Ellison is that there are fewer and fewer of those customers every year, as the public cloud continues to rewrite the manual for computing at massive scale.

And at some point Oracle is going to need to come up with a strategy for this new world. Years of trash-talking AWS don’t seem to have had much impact other than some ready-made headlines that mask Oracle’s flat financial performance and decision earlier this year to obscure how much money it is making from its own cloud services.

AWS is becoming a huge power player in enterprise technology, and that’s a real issue that one day down the road could limit competition and innovation in this exploding market. But until he introduces something that vaults Oracle way ahead of cloud providers in either database or infrastructure cloud computing, a “normal” person making decisions about how to best spend their organization’s technology resources will find it really hard to take Ellison seriously.

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