My mate Larry Ellison

Larry Ellison on stage.

Larry Ellison on stage. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Each year I say I’m not going to go this time and each year I end up going. It’s not that I don’t enjoy Oracle Openworld. San Francisco is a fantastic place to visit and the conference, with over 60,000 attendees, is impressive in scale and ambition. But it’s another long haul flight; another weekend up in smoke; another week away from home. Once the novelty wears off, it loses its lustre.

The fact that this year’s conference coincided with the Americas Cup finals in San Francisco bay added more pizzazz and I looked forward to grabbing an opportunity to see the boats. The bay makes an impressive backdrop, with Alcatraz sandwiched between the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge (arguably the prettier of the two). The boats make an impressive spectacle, but the race itself is impossible to fathom from ground level. Where it really comes into its own is on a big screen with overlaid graphics showing speeds and the distance between the two boats.

Probably more impressive still is Larry Ellison, the gregarious founder and CEO of Oracle. Just like Steve Jobs, he was both adopted and a University drop out. Today he is the world’s 5th richest man and a self-declared legend. One of the most often hear jokes about Larry; “What’s the difference between God and Larry Ellison?  God doesn’t believe he’s Larry Ellison.”

His keynote speeches are something to behold. Full of superlatives about how amazing his new software, hardware or combination thereof happen to be. These claims are typically outlandish and difficult to disprove. If Steve Jobs had a reality distortion field, he bought it from Larry.

One thing that tickles me is his inconsistency. I remember watching him one year denouncing cloud as a ridiculous fad. The very next year, Oracle were more cloudy than a cumulonimbus! One year, he was on stage with his counterpart from HP telling the world what strong partners they were. Shortly afterwards, Oracle announced that support for HP’s Itanium machine would soon cease. Shortly afterwards they ran a highly publicised cash for clunkers campaign persuading people to trade in HP hardware for shiny new Oracle machines.

There is no doubt who’s in charge. He reportedly cancelled one of his keynotes because it clashed with an Americas Cup race! But my favourite Larry story came from one of my fellow delegates. Apparently he once spoke to Larry and asked him what his favourite exercise was.

“Basketball.” said Larry. “I like to play it on my yacht.”

“But doesn’t the ball keep flying off the side?”

“That’s OK, I have a guy in a speedboat who zips around collecting the balls!”