Oracle's cloud vision and announcements on key features deserve praise, but we need to see more substance behind the promises and more reality in the claims.
As Oracle Open World 2012 winds down, I'm left with more than a few lasting impressions of what Oracle is trying to do, how it's trying to do it, and what it's saying about itself and its competitors. Here are six praiseworthy and regrettable areas that stood out.
Rave: Oracle Cloud Vision. The big message is that Oracle is taking one, consistent approach to cloud computing, deploying the same engineered systems, development environments, middleware, and, in some cases, applications in the cloud that Oracle customers are using on premises. That means Oracle customers will be able to shift between on-premises and private-cloud deployments, and, in the case of Fusion Applications, between on-premises, private cloud, and public cloud deployments. Those moves won't require changes at any level of the stack because the same infrastructure and components will be used regardless of the deployment approach.
It's a promise to offer choice. You can test and develop in, say, the public cloud and then move into production on a private cloud or on-premises. You might also decide to do backups and run standby instances on the Oracle public cloud while running production deployments in a private cloud. Oracle also announced an option whereby it owns and manages the private cloud infrastructure but deploys it on premises behind the customer's fire wall. That will appeal to those who want cloud advantages but are concerned about data security and compliance.
The overall vision is clear and simple. It's the familiar embrace of Oracle's red stack, and that will be reassuring to Oracle shops that want cloud advantages but still have doubts about how to get there. Tony Vaden, VP and CIO at American Tire Distributors, says he likes the fact that Oracle is giving him options. Cloud-based Fusion Financials and HCM applications are now on the short list to complement the company's Oracle E-Business Suite deployment, Vaden says. What's not to like about having options?
Rant: Oracle Cloud Reality. It's a nice vision, but can Oracle deliver reliable and affordable cloud services? The company has much to do to be a credible player. For one thing, the company will have to build more data centers. I heard conflicting reports on exactly how many cloud-dedicated data centers Oracle has already, but Abhay Parasnis, senior VP of Oracle Cloud, says the company ultimately wants to build 10 such data centers and has specific plans to add more in Europe and Asia.
If Oracle really intends to go cloud on a massive scale, the expenditures will quickly show up, according to independent analyst Vinnie Mirchandani of Deal Architect. "Microsoft has spent billions in recent years building the infrastructure for its Azure cloud, and those capital expenditures showed up in the company's financial reports," says Mirchandani. "If Oracle is committed to the cloud, we should start seeing it in the numbers."
Beyond data centers, Oracle also has to prove that its new infrastructure services are as reliable as those of rivals such as Amazon Web Services. But Oracle's storage and Java services were just announced and released in beta. A compute service announced at Open World won't be introduced until next year. It took Amazon six years to get where it is today in the cloud.
As for costs, Parasnis made it clear that Oracle is not going to be "competing in the commodity compute cycle market" with the likes of Amazon. In short, the Oracle Cloud is being built for Oracle customers who want to work with the tools they know and prefer. Competitors can offer alternatives, but not the same tools. That will dampen pricing pressure.
Rave: Oracle Adapts. Times are changing, and Oracle demonstrated at Open World that it isn't digging in its heels. This was Larry Ellison's "all in" declaration. Never mind that it came more than two years after CEO Steve Ballmer placed all of Microsoft's chips on the cloud. Oracle also fully embraced in-memory computing at Open World with the launch of Exadata X3. Ellison echoed what SAP executives have been saying for two years by declaring that "hard disks are passe."
With the announcement of Oracle Database 12c, Oracle will finally match the hybrid row-and-columnar storage approach that EMC Greenplum, HP Vertica, and Teradata have all previously delivered. And with 12c's promised automatic hot-warm-cold data storage optimization feature, Oracle will match functionality that Teradata has been advancing for years, culminating in a significant release early this year.
No surprise that Oracle didn't talk about what rivals have done on these fronts, but you have to give it credit for not adopting a not-invented-here attitude. Instead it has embraced technologies that are good for customers.
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