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Commentary

Oracle OpenWorld: 5 Rants And Raves

Oracle OpenWorld delivered big news and a consistent message. It also repackaged old news, bashed big data tools and avoided license cost and complexity issues.
Rant: Big Data Window Dressing

Oracle was talking big data at every turn at OOW'13, but it just couldn't resist falling back on its old relational ways. During his Monday keynote general session, "Oracle Database 12c -- Engineered for Clouds and Big Data," Andy Mendelsohn certainly mentioned the Oracle Big Data Appliance, which runs Cloudera's Hadoop distribution as well as the Oracle NoSQL Database, but he didn't have many nice things to say about Hadoop.

Hadoop is "good at ingesting large amounts of information," Mendelsohn granted, but "the tools are all primitive and batch oriented," he added. What's more, "data scientists really want interactive responses," he said, and "you need a relational database for that."

This led into a highly unfavorable demo comparison of a risk analysis handled on Hadoop versus Oracle Database 12c. Mendelsohn wanted to make the point that a new SQL extension added by Oracle can look for patterns in stock trade data, clickstreams or sensor data, and a demo shows such an analysis requiring 600 lines of MapReduce code and hours to run on Hadoop versus seconds to run on Oracle Database.

[ Want more on an important Oracle partnership? Read Microsoft And Oracle Say: Come To Azure Cloud. ]

Mendelsohn was confirming the worst stereotypes about Hadoop 1.0 performance, but he made no mention of Hadoop 2.0 and the promise of its YARN component to help move beyond batch limitations. Nor did he mention improvements to Hive, the SQL interface for Hadoop, or the battery of SQL-on-Hadoop tools emerging this year. These options include Cloudera Impala, which is presumably compatible with the Oracle Big Data Appliance.

Oracle has checked the big data box, but it's performances like these that leave the impression that it doesn't really have its heart (and R&D work) in it.

Rant: Avoiding The Real Issues

License cost and complexity isn't a topic that many conventional software vendors bring up at conferences, but times are changing and cloud competition is resetting customer expectations. Amazon is regularly announcing price cuts, and Salesforce.com has been touting its all-you-can-eat enterprise license deals.

Oracle customers, meanwhile, are frustrated with the licensing status quo, according to John Matelski, CIO of DeKalb County, Ga., and treasurer of the Independent Oracle User Group (IOUG).

"Our first priority is to make Oracle contracts simpler and more customer friendly," Matelski told InformationWeek in a pre-OOW'13 interview. "I'm not so much concerned about price -- although that's a big issue -- but it's just so complex. Right now I have eight different contracts with Oracle that I would love to get consolidated, but that has really been a challenge."

Matelski has been told he can get "like for like" licensing when consolidating applications, for example, but he says he's unclear on what that means in terms of true cost, what carries over from old licenses and what his upgrade costs will be down the road. Compounding that complexity, Matelski says he gets different answers depending on who he talks to.

"I understand that Oracle is a global-scale vendor that has had acquisitions left and right, but at some point after the acquisitions, there needs to be some kind of knowledge transfer to the customers so they can understand the process and what it takes to move from one product to another," Matelski said.

Big vendor events are always showcases for products and services, but some vendors (like Amazon and Salesforce, to name just two) do bring up customer terms and policies from time to time. Given Oracle's acquisitive history, it would seem to be a good idea for high-level executives to at least acknowledge the concern, if not mention concrete steps being taken to make it easier to do business with Oracle.