Aaron Levie: no more Game of Thrones

Profile picture for user slauchlan By Stuart Lauchlan June 27, 2013
Summary:
Enterprise software is less Game of Thrones, more Friends thanks to Oracle et al, reckons Box CEO Aaron Levie. But the real winner is the customer.

aaron-levie
Box's Aaron Levie

The enterprise software market is a better place than it was a week ago, according to Aaron Levie, CEO of Box.

Levies sees Oracle's actions this week in reaching out to Salesforce.com and Microsoft as being for the greater good of everyone, not least customers.

In a blog posting, he posits:

In one swift move, the enterprise software world has gone from being Game of Thrones to Friends (or, at a minimum, Frenemies).

Perhaps most importantly, Oracle’s moves this week are not just a blip or even that anomalous; they follow a well-established pattern in the technology ecosystem, of oscillation between interdependent, integrated solutions from a single vendor and openness from a larger set of players.

And with the poster company of consolidation this week embracing a more open world, the industry’s progress towards a new model in the cloud era is accelerated.

He adds:

With this week’s encouraging moves from both Oracle – the leader of monolith era – and Microsoft, a single paradigm of open solutions may fully win out. It’s an acknowledgement that enterprise software is no longer zero-sum; with expanding markets and an internet population of billions, there’s more opportunity than ever before.

A new cloud stack is rising. And this is good for everyone.

Game-of-Thrones-Season-3-1788115
Less of this...

I was fortunate enough to get some time with Levie on the phone Friday  morning when we discussed the week that changed the cloud.

It was clear from the off that he's been taken aback by the speed at which the landscape has changed as much as any of the rest of us.

"I think the entire industry has been surprised at how well orchestrated this has been.

"I had heard no rumbles about this until Larry [Ellison] broke the news on the [Oracle financial] conference call last week."

All the more surprising given what Levie sees as the game-changing nature of the various announcements this week:

"It's one of those events that makes you rethink a lot about the future path we're going to go down.

"If we get used to the idea that these two competitive companies can partner, then this is one of those situations where we're talking about a market that has massively expanding opportunities.

"I can't see a single loser in this deal."

Best-Friends-Ever-In-Tv
...more of this

Levie made the point that last week customers had a stark choice between two competitive paradigms: ‘fully integrated’ suites and the best-of-breed cloud stacks:

"Customers have had to face some pretty big decisions: move to a cloud stack or move to vertically integrated consolidated suite. The latter's been dominated by Oracle and SAP, the former by Salesforce.com and Workday and I'd hope the Box.

"All that's meant  is that customers have had to make a choice in a situation where a choice shouldn't need to be made at all. Customers should be able to mix and match, not make deeply philosophical and pragmatic choices.

"What Oracle and Salesforce.com and Microsoft have done is create a lot more options for customers."

With SAP to date deafeningly silent on the events of the past five days, I wondered if Levie had any thoughts on what its response might be:

"If I were SAP I'd be thinking about this means for a pitch that is purely based around consolidated technology.

"You don't want to be the one company left who's on that lone mission and you look around only to realise that the customers and the ecosystem are now going in a different direction."

When I confessed I'd miss the sparring between the old enemies, Levie left me room for hope:

"Oh, we will always have deeply competitive companies. We won't see Marc [Benioff] antagonising Oracle in the same way, but maybe they will target a different company.

"Frankly the enterprise software industry could use a bit of drama. It's nowhere near as exciting as the social or the consumer guys get."

Verdict

I've got a lot of time for Aaron Levie.

 

Disclosure: at time of writing, Box is a partner of diginomica.