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10/5/2011
10:48 PM
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Oracle Takes Plunge Into Public Cloud Computing

CEO Ellison announces Oracle's move to infrastructure as a service at OpenWorld conference, where most of the emphasis has been on in-house, high end hardware appliances.

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Oracle will make additional services, such as an Oracle database service, available in its cloud and plans to provide Dun & Bradstreet credit worthiness and business reporting data in its cloud, along with data aggregated off social networks. "We plan to provide useful data. … You can repurchase this data from us," he said.

The Oracle software as a service will also offer elasticity, or the ability to expand to meet a workload's demand and then contract again. Salesforce.com is not elastic. It is willing to cancel a customer's resource-gobbling report that threatens to slow its systems, he said.

Ellison also reverted to an attack he first made on Salesforce at the start of Oracle OpenWorld 2010 in which he said Salesforce was "mixing" customer data in a single Oracle database in its multitenant architecture.

"That's a very bad security model--putting everyone's data in the same database. It's called multitenancy. It was a good idea 15 years ago. Today it's a bad idea unless you want to see who your competitor's leads are," he said. In the Oracle public cloud, customers will be given their own database systems to run in a virtual machine, which will maintain the boundaries around the database.

Benioff earlier in the day had specifically rebutted the charge that Salesforce.com's approach to data management was in any way hazardous to the privacy or security of its customer data. Banks routinely load data from different customers into a single database and it doesn't end up exposed to a neighboring customers' view, he said.

Ellison didn't mention Salesforce.com in another area where Oracle wishes to compete via cloud computing, social networking for enterprises. That may be because Salesforce's Chatter application has gained currency among its customers as a form of social networking oriented to the corporation.

"Over the last two years, social networking has been a critical new technology. … We built the Oracle Social Network" and integrated it with Fusion applications so that data gathered throughout the organization can be brought forward when new teams are forming, new customers are being approached or new products being launched.

A session offering more technical detail on Oracle's approach to infrastructure as a service was supposed to follow Ellison's address but was cancelled as word spread that Apple CEO Steven Jobs had died. The announcement of an Oracle public cloud coming late in Oracle OpenWorld was a surprise saved for last. To some extent, the elastic, x86 cloud infrastructure is a distraction or even competitor to Oracle's main desire to focus customer attention Oracle's specialized hardware appliances.

Like other clouds, Oracle's IaaS will be a self-provisioning service where users decide on virtual machine size and are charged by the hour, avoiding upfront capital expenses. The Exadata, Exalogic, and Exalytics appliances are the opposite--they involve large upfront capital for hardware and software license expenses. The fact that Oracle is now offering both is an indication that it's serious about offering customers choices--and Oracle customers are serious about cloud computing.

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