Do many of the headlines from this year's Oracle OpenWorld conference sound like reheated versions of last year's news? You're not experiencing deja vu. This is the cycle of pre-announcements, beta-announcements and actual-release announcements that now dominates Oracle's approach to introducing products and services.
So what's actually new at Oracle OpenWorld 2013 (OOW13)? Filling in for an absent CEO Larry Ellison, who was off watching the America's Cup races on Tuesday, Oracle executive VP Thomas Kurian announced a series of "new" cloud Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service offerings. Here's where the confusion might have set in, as some of these 10 announcements were, indeed, new while others were general-availability or beta-availability revelations concerning previously announced services.
You may recall that Ellison first announced Oracle Database-as-a-Service, Java-as-a-Service, Compute-as-a-Service and Storage-as-a-Service offerings at OOW12. But he didn't announce actual release dates. That was left to some unspecified time in calendar year 2013. (Are you detecting the pattern yet? )
A quick visit to Cloud.Oracle.com reveals that the Oracle Database and Java services are in production release, while the storage and compute services are still in (beta) preview. Where the database and Java (WebLogic application server) services are concerned, Kurian asserted that Oracle is alone in managing the software as well as providing it as a service. That means Oracle handles all the backups, patches, updates and other tasks that are left to the customer by other cloud services.
[ Want more on Oracle cloud applications? Read Oracle Touts Cloud Option For On-Premises Apps. ]
The other six cloud services he discussed were all announced for the first time at OOW13. Among the most important (and the only one available immediately) is the Oracle Cloud Marketplace. This is Oracle's answer to Salesforce.com's AppExchange, and it launched this week with 91 apps from partners including Aria, DocuSign, GoodData, ReadyTalk and Xactly.
Four of the new cloud services are in preview, and Kurian said we can expect production availability in the first half of 2014. A Business Intelligence Cloud offers a place to share and analyze data with visualizations and interactive dashboards accessible via the Web and mobile devices. A Document Cloud is a place to share files and collaboration with desktop sync and security features (think Oracle Dropbox). A Mobile Cloud is designed for mobile application development and data access. A Database Backup Cloud -- based on the new (yes, genuinely new) Oracle Database Backup Logging Recovery Appliance -- will support backups of databases and replications of backups from on-premises Backup Logging Recovery Appliances.
The sixth and final service is a Billing and Revenue Management Cloud designed to help businesses with high-scale subscription-based billing to capture and manage revenue. There's no sign of it in as a preview in the Oracle Cloud, so dare we assume that it, too, will be available in the first half of next year?
Apps And Advantages
Apart from social capabilities (announced at OOW12 and now generally available), there wasn't much new news on cloud applications. But Kurian did make a few announcements about customer adoption and Oracle's unique value in the cloud. The stunning stats on cloud adoption were as follows: 21.5 million users (meaning seats) among 18,000 customers and 21,000 entities (counting partners). Among these entities, roughly 10,000 are using Oracle's HCM cloud and another 10,000 are using the Customer Experience Cloud (which includes sales, service and marketing apps). The ERP cloud (based on Fusion) is finally getting off the ground, with 50 customers live and another 100 in deployment, according to Kurian.
In a jibe clearly aimed at Workday, Kurian said Oracle's ERP Cloud can handle huge organizations with more than 200 million journal entries per hour. Last year Workday CEO Aneel Bhusri said his company hoped to be able to handle companies with 50 million journal entries by the end of 2013 -- roughly equivalent to Fortune 500-league firms, but not the Fortune-50 level Kurian claimed.
In a slam clearly aimed at both Salesforce.com and Workday, Kurian stressed that Oracle is the only company with ERP, CRM and HCM applications in a single cloud (an assertion SAP might contest). "We don't think it makes sense to fragment business processes and data in multiple clouds," Kurian said, alluding to workflows that might span ERP, CRM and HCM. "We think it makes sense to have procure-to-pay and order-to-cash [processes] in one cloud."
Challenging the naysayers who predicted three years ago that "Oracle could never be a real cloud company," Kurian spun a pretty convincing case for Oracle's app, platform and infrastructure services. It's an argument that's been building for years. Elements that were pre-announced a year or two ago are finally becoming available (like database and Java in the cloud). And new capabilities that were announced at OOW13, like the BI, Document and Mobile clouds, are destined to become available -- well, we'll have to wait and see.
Oracle is far from alone in pre-announcing products and services, but it's making a habit of not mentioning release dates and then taking 12 months or even longer to deliver on what it promises.