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Softwar: An Intimate Portrait of Larry Ellison and Oracle
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Softwar: An Intimate Portrait of Larry Ellison and Oracle

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  280 ratings  ·  17 reviews
In a business where great risks, huge fortunes, and even bigger egos are common, Larry Ellison stands out as one of the most outspoken, driven, and daring leaders of the software industry. The company he cofounded and runs, Oracle, is the number one business software company. Perhaps even more than Microsoft's, Oracle's products are essential to today's networked world.
Paperback, 528 pages
Published September 7th 2004 by Simon Schuster (first published September 23rd 2003)
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Nov 08, 2014 rated it liked it
3.5 stars.

A fun book with a longer blog post (with all my notes) certainly coming soon. I picked up Softwar after Ellison stepped down as CEO of Oracle a couple of months ago.

The most important thing I picked up from Softwar was how often historical trends repeat themselves — fundamentally, the battles we're currently witnessing with SaaS stacks are just iterations of wars that existed between database stacks and enterprise systems in the mid-nineties. Oracle and Ellison were in the thick of
David Kopec
Aug 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Great Read, but Flawed

True to its subtitle Softwar does indeed deliver an 'intimate portrait' of billionaire business leader Larry Ellison. Unfortunately, although the book is enthralling and features an incredibly interesting format including written responses by Ellison to points raised by Symonds, it falls short in two important areas for biographies.

Firstly, Symonds is not objective - he clearly worked very closely with Ellison and certainly paints a more rosy picture of the complicated man
Tech Historian
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
I always wanted to read this book, and now a decade later I finally get to it...

Good news
- There's some great reporting embedded in what is really a ~500 page PR piece for Ellison
- The Ray Lane story was worth the read
- Ellison at the emergence of the Internet and struggling (like others) to see the future is a great historical read

Bad news
- Giving the subject of your book permission to have a running commentary on the bottom of each page of your text, makes a mockery of the word journalist.
Oct 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Silicon Valley has a tendency to forget even recent history, so it was fascinating to see the parallels in leadership, marketing, and competitive dynamics just a few decades ago. Selling enterprise software never seems to change. That said, the rest of the book was dull, unendingly detailed about unnecessary areas, and failed to paint a clear portrait of its subject.
Jul 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
If you're in the software business, this is a must-read. This book was last updated in 2004, which makes it very dated given the breakthroughs and changes over the past decade, but in a way that makes it even more interesting. A lot of Ellison's predictions - particularly about software-as-a-service and the Internet as the dominant backbone for business applications - were spot on. His belief and foresight about the relational database as a commercially viable enabler for organizations was ...more
Keith Brodhead Jr.

I work for Oracle and I'm amazed and thrilled to be led by Larry Ellison. I now understand how the culture developed.
James Gingerich
Sep 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
If you have ever worked with Oracle or competed against them; this book is a must read. It captures the competitive spirit of Larry Ellison and the resultant culture of his firm. The book highlights the "Perfect Storm" of Oracle's infamous encounter with the State of California and details Ellison's gamble in shifting the company from a vendor of client-server software to the E-Business Suite. Whether or not Symonds intended to draw analogies between Ellison's yachting "hobby" and his business ...more
Aug 18, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: borrowed, library
"I was most interested in the information on Oracle and Larry's theories on computing. This was dominant in the book, though it wasn't complete. I think I'd like to find a less complementary biography to balance this because I thought the author seemed more than friendly with him. I'd also like to find an update to cover the last 5+ years since the book was printed. For example, I know that the PeopleSoft and Seibel purchases have happened since then, and I'm curious on his take on why these ...more
June Ding
Mar 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
A surprisingly very good book, not because it reads well ( not as great at story telling as many of the biographies I read), but because the insight it offers about Ellision and how he made those revolutionary decisions. It feels real and so relevant even though the book was written more than 10 years ago. What Ellison sai'd and believed at the time have been proved so right, which proves him a true visionary. What also amazes me is that throughout the book you read him readily admit his ...more
Aug 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: software executives
Great biography on Larry Ellison. I've worked in the IT industry for over 10 years some of which focused on implementing software packages. I've seen Larry give keynote speeches and usually came across as an arrogant, self-righteous person. However, after reading this book and contemplating his ideas for the software industry, I now understand his actions and consider him to be one of the geniuses of the industry. At times the book comes across as a sales pitch, but at least it is a very ...more
Mar 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Working for Oracle makes this book not mandatory to read, for sure. However, I was surprised how it helped me to understand business strategies of today. This book gives an autobiographical insight as well, but not more than I expected.
In my point of view the editor sometimes seemed to be too dependant and is lacking to be objective. But overall reading this book was a pleasure due to the unique live comments and footnotes of Larry himself.
Mark McGranaghan
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
A surprisingly interesting look at the life and work of Ellison. Not the person I expected.

The book benefited from Symonds' close access to Ellison. One could not have written this book well from a distance.

Unfortunately the book is getting out of date. It's 10+ years old now, a long time in the industry.

Scott Cederberg
Mar 17, 2008 rated it it was ok
While this book fanned the flames of a brief obsession with Larry Ellison, it was overly fawning and did not provide much insight into the reasons for Oracle's business success. I suppose I got what I deserved for reading a book whose cover quotes reviews marveling at the "access" obtained by the author.
Julian Bu
Apr 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
not the best written book, but probably the best book about larry ellison
Oct 12, 2014 rated it it was ok
Enjoyed the beginning but got repetitive and boring
May 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Liked it...what can I say, I work for the man.
Eric Burns
Jul 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Hilarious that they let Ellison comment on the text with footnotes. He needs his own show.
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“Although he always talked about technology and Oracle with passion and intensity, he didn’t have the methodical relentlessness that made Bill Gates so formidable and feared. By his own admission, Ellison was not an obsessive grinder like Gates: “I am a sprinter. I rest, I sprint, I rest, I sprint again.” 0 likes
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