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Empires of the mind: Oracle digs deep on cloud

Back-pedalling fast, but where's the difference?

Larry Ellison laughed off the cloud seven years ago. If anything, cloud meant nothing more than taking out a new full-page ad on the back of The Economist.

Nothing would change for Oracle, he laughed. Nothing.

Well, it’s changing now, with Oracle’s people digging fast to extract their firm from the hole their captain's hubris laughed them into.

While Amazon was building a revolutionary business in the late 2000s, Larry bought a dying one – Sun Microsystems.

At Oracle OpenWorld this week, Oracle co-CEO Mark Hurd envisioned a future where Oracle and one “other” would carve up the enterprise cloud market, like colonial powers from the Victorian age lazily apportioning chunks of Africa or China.

But if OOW has proved anything, it’s just how fast Larry’s crew are shovelling to get Oracle even remotely in shape as a cloud service provider. And not all of their efforts are entirely unique. Rather, Oracle has joined the ranks of others trying to be AWS or like it.

The big data scramble

Oracle yesterday released its Big Data Preparation Cloud Service – Spark-based analytics that it reckoned combine natural language processing with Linked Open Data Sets.

Oracle is following in the footsteps of IBM on Spark and machine learning. There’s a GoldenGate cloud service to move data into Oracle’s database, Exadata and Big Data cloud services. GoldenGate is Oracle’s real-time data replication and integration software for use in heterogeneous environments.

Now GoldenGate will move data between on-prem and databases and cloud-based DBaaS, Hadoop, Spark and a NoSQL data service cloud service, announced at OOW. We'll also see an Oracle Big Data Discovery Cloud Service that uses Oracle’s spatial and graph services, advanced analytics including R and Big Data SQL service.

There was a fleshing out of the Oracle cloud infrastructure as a service. Oracle cloud now has the ability to reserve compute power work in secure isolation – otherwise known as reserved instances. The new service is called Dedicated Compute, with the main service now called Elastic Compute.

Oracle is behind Salesforce, Microsoft and AWS here.

There is also an Archive Storage service, following on the heels of Amazon’s Glacier.

There's also a File Storage service for NFS v4 network protocol access to object and archive storage and a network cloud for secure, high-performance connectivity via VPN – already offered by Amazon’s AWS and Microsoft’s Azure clouds.

There’s a nod to DevOps, too.

Application Performance Monitoring (APM) as a cloud service, Log Analytics as a cloud service and IT analytics as a cloud service to improve cloud management are all in the mix.

Will all this shovelling pay off for Oracle? The company’s prided itself on building complete stacks in the past, thoroughly engineered offerings that meant you didn’t need to bother with other people’s software – and then, their hardware.

It’s improbable that Oracle won’t find success; like Microsoft, Oracle has a deep enough customer base to work, to try to flip into cloud consumers and to stop them floating away to Amazon. Oracle won’t just sell on technology, it’ll sell on licence – offering juicy discounts and bundling to such customers to buy its cloud.

The problems for Oracle, however, are twofold. One: as customers become more sophisticated on the cloud they won’t bet everything on just Oracle. They will, say, put compute on AWS and storage somewhere else.

But the second, bigger challenge for Oracle is that by being more like AWS it actually makes the reason for sticking with Oracle harder to justify.

Oracle must shovel even harder: it'll need to build genuinely new innovations desperately lacking in AWS and to get ahead of AWS while working the softer angles such as licensing and cloud giveaways to get anywhere, never mind carving things up like an imperial ruler of old. ®

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