Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison speaking
Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison speaking

Oracle-SAP Showdown: Is Larry Ellison Crying Wolf over Snatching SAP Customers?

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Claiming yet again without a shred of proof that Oracle is oh-so-tantalizingly close to snatching some large SAP ERP customers, Oracle founder Larry Ellison appears to be auditioning for the lead role in a modern-day version of Aesop’s The Boy Who Cried Wolf.  

You know the story: a bored kid assigned to watch over the sheep does something he knows will draw lots of attention: he screams “Wolf!” and all the local people come running to help. Problem is, there’s no wolf.  A while later, he does it again—same result. So when the big bad wolf actually does show up and attacks the flock and the boy dutifully screams “Wolf!,” the locals ignore him.

I have enormous respect for Ellison and his remarkable achievements, the latest being the stunning rise of Oracle as a big-time cloud powerhouse in not only applications but also infrastructure. 

By doing what just about everyone thought was absolutely crazy—taking on Amazon, Microsoft and Google in the IaaS business with next-generation technology and services—Ellison is on the verge of pulling off a dazzling achievement that perhaps only he could have conceived, let alone executed.

So why in the world is singular visionary Larry Ellison embarrassing himself and his company by continuing to repeat—with zero evidence—that several huge corporations are right on the verge of ripping and replacing their SAP ERP systems with Oracle Fusion ERP?

Ellison began this charade a full year ago during Oracle’s Dec. 12, 2019 earnings call. At that time, he said that within 3 months—that would be March of 2020—the first SAP mega-customer would step forward to announce it had ditched its SAP ERP system and replaced it with Oracle’s. Here’s exactly what Ellison said:

“Importantly, a few months from now, in Q1 of calendar year 2020, one of SAP’s biggest customers will go live on Fusion ERP…. Many of SAP’s largest customers are already working with us to develop plans to migrate to Fusion ERP.”

You can get the full details and more-extensive commentary in Oracle-SAP Showdown: SAP Calls BS on Larry Ellison Claim of Snatching Huge SAP Customer.

So March of 2020 rolls around, and no SAP customer steps forward. But in Oracle’s subsequent earnings call, Ellison again says the floodgates are about to open—they can’t wait to switch to Oracle!—and again, nothing happens. 

But the rumor of this impending migration to Oracle was out in the market to the extent that during an investors conference in the late summer, SAP CFO Luka Mucic was asked about it. Here’s how I opened my analysis of Mucic’s response in an article called SAP CFO Shoots Down Larry Ellison Claim of Oracle Snatching SAP Customers:

SAP CFO Luka Mucic has unequivocally shot down claims made by Oracle chairman Larry Ellison during the past year that a huge SAP ERP customer was on the verge of defecting to Oracle, with many more certain to follow.

“I have checked and we have not lost a single [ERP] customer” to Oracle, Mucic said during an interview at an investor virtual event called Citi’s 27th Technology Investors Conference.

But last week, in Oracle’s Dec. 10 fiscal-Q2 earnings call, Ellison trotted out that totally unsubstantiated claim yet again, saying, “In the coming months, our cloud ERP market leadership will become even more obvious when we announce that several major large-scale SAP ERP customers are leaving SAP and moving to our Fusion ERP cloud. Oracle is the clear market leader in cloud ERP.”

Ah yes—“in the coming months.” 

Now, at some point, there’s a very high likelihood that some SAP customers will switch to Oracle, and there’s an equally very high likelihood that some Oracle customers will switch to SAP. That is the nature of this wildly competitive business, and customers are fully aware of the enormous stakes for which Oracle and SAP are playing and those customers know they have huge leverage in these conversations.

Larry Ellison has accomplished more in his 40+ years at Oracle then most people can even imagine, and he’s on the verge of yet another stunning achievement with his Oracle Cloud Infrastructure surge.

And Oracle Fusion ERP is clearly a huge success, with revenue growing better than 30%. 

So I hope Ellison drops the tired trope about the impending flood of SAP customers that is always just around the corner. It’s run its course, it’s becoming a joke, and it does neither him nor his company any good.

Disclosure: at the time of this writing, Oracle was among the many clients of Cloud Wars Media LLC and/or Evans Strategic Communications LLC.


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