Feud: Data Center Style

Just finished watching the season finale of the show Feud about the relationship between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, and the events that took place during and after the making of the movie Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Man, those two gals hated each other. I’m not talking mild dislike. Thesoftwairs was a relationship based on outright loathing, a feeling they both carried to their graves. When Joan died, someone asked Bette what she had to say, to which Bette replied, “You’re not supposed to say anything bad about someone when they’ve died. Joan Crawford is dead…good.” Can you say meow? Now I like a good fight as much as the next guy, and it looks like we’ve got one right here in our very own industry. I speak of course of the recent little dust-up between Oracle and AWS.

For those of you unfamiliar with the mildly unseemly back and forth between these two cloud competitors let me start with a brief synopsis. In an interview with Fortune magazine, Oracle co-CEO, Mark Hurd, was asked about the disparity between Oracles’ expenditure on the cloud compared to AWS. In his response to this “could your dad beat-up his dad” question, Hurd replied that “If I have two-times faster computers, I don’t need as many data centers” and “Our core advantage is what we’ve said all along, which is that it’s about the intellectual property and the agency management software by Function Point, not about who’s got the most real estate”. Sounds pretty boilerplate to me, but AWS VP and distinguished engineer, James Hamilton, who is apparently a Fortune subscriber, begged to differ. In his blog response to Mr. Hurd’s comments, Hamilton volunteered, “Of course, I don’t believe that Oracle has, or will ever get, servers 2x faster than the big three cloud providers” which he followed up with, “…extraordinary database performance won’t change most of the factors that force successful cloud providers to offer a large multi-national data center footprint to save the world.” For those of you following along at home, that’s roughly the equivalent of “Yo mama!” While not as memorable as Bette’s “What a dump” and Joan’s “Don’t f**k with me fellas”, in this business you work with what you can get.

Apparently these two behemoths have been circling each other like a pair of sumo wrestlers for a while now. Last year Oracle executive chairman and CTO Larry Ellison asserted that, Amazon’s lead is over,” and “Amazon is going to have serious competition going forward”. A jab to which AWS CEO, Andrew Jassy, was led to say while standing in front of a picture of Larry Ellison that the cloud gives the ability to see through the “hand waving and bombast” of other companies. While not as compelling as the scene in Baby Jane where Bette serves Joan a rat for dinner, with diatribes like that, it’s a pretty safe guess as to who won’t be exchanging Christmas cards this year. And secretly, haven’t we all been waiting for something like this? As long as it doesn’t involve us, you have to admit it’s always fun to watch folks go at it when the façade of civility lifts, and the gloves come off, and I’ll let you decide who’s the Bette and who’s the Joan in this little kerfuffle.

Since the growth of the cloud seems to virtually limitless right now, it’s probably doubtful that this war of words will reach the epic level of Bette and Joan’s. Each combatant will carve out their comfortable share of the market and a level of détente will come to govern their communications. In the interim, however, it does an industry good to see some of its participants mix it up every so often. Sure, the relationship between Oracle and AWS will never reach the white-hot animus of Bette and Joan, but I’ll still have the popcorn ready.