Yes, Oracle is finally serious about the cloud

By adding Elastic Compute and other IaaS options to the mix, Oracle hopes to hang on to its enterprise customers and usher them into the cloud era

Yes, Oracle is finally serious about the cloud
Credit: Stephen Lawson

As Larry Ellison said in his Oracle OpenWorld keynote last week, when it comes to the public cloud, it’s early days for the enterprise.

Amazon Web Services may now enjoy $7.3 billion in annual revenue and 81 percent year-over-year growth, but the proportion of enterprise workloads running in the public cloud remains a small slice.

From that perspective, Oracle’s entry into IaaS last week doesn’t seem as late as it otherwise might. Three years ago the company jumped into SaaS and PaaS. Last week Oracle president Thomas Kurian announced that an Elastic Compute Cloud was on its way, along with two new Storage Cloud services and a Network Cloud. For all you Docker fans out there, a Container Cloud is coming, too.

I realize that Oracle announcements like this inspire eye-rolling. Who will turn to Oracle for IaaS, even if it fulfills Kurian’s promise that it will be cost competitive?

Oracle’s answer: enterprise customers. Here’s how vice president of public cloud Amit Chaudhry described his approach to me last week:

Clearly, what we’re focusing our energy on is the core target market that we already have. Most of our customers are leveraging our platform technologies. That includes both database and WebLogic and a lot of other things... As they decide to move to the cloud, we’re giving them the tools and the processes and the similar experience of a platform in the cloud as well.
For a lot of CIOs, having the familiarity of platform, with the same tools and the same skills, is extremely important. And that’s what Oracle’s strategy has been all along: We’re going to make your journey to the cloud as simple and as easy as possible.

Yet Oracle already accommodates these sorts of core enterprise applications on its PaaS, in particular the Java Cloud Service along with various Oracle Database cloud options.

So again, why venture into AWS territory with a commodity IaaS offering?

My cloud is better than yours

Chaudhry even goes as far as to say Oracle will “go tooth and nail against Amazon EC2 and S3.” The objective, he says, is to accommodate the entire range of applications an enterprise may want to run in a "secular" IaaS cloud that goes beyond Oracle-specific technology solutions:

When you have migrated, and you are looking to build new applications ... we’re going to give you the technology that allows you to do that... If a customer says I have .Net or I have other applications that are non-Oracle, we have a highly efficient infrastructure as a service that alllows you to run those workloads in VMs in the cloud as well. The ability to package all these together and run in a highly secure manner is going to be the uniqueness of Oracle.

There you have it. The typical cloud pattern today is that enterprises turn to AWS to build a fancy new e-commerce platform or a bursty big data application -- and Amazon, as it clearly indicated at its Re:Invent show last month, now wants to lure enterprises to migrate or build core applications on its platform. Oracle, on the other hand, says it already offers a proven enterprise cloud platform and is creating an IaaS platform to accommodate anything else an enterprise might want to build and run, even if the person building it is an LoB user buying some Elastic Compute instances with a credit card.

The intent in both cases is to be able to accommodate the entirety of an enterprise's IT operation. You could even say Oracle can make a more persuasive case for that potential, given its extensive array of enterprise SaaS offerings, from ERP to HR to CRM to all kinds of marketing and BI applications. As Chaudhry says, "we are going after every single workload that exists today in the enterprise customer space."

But what about the capacity to accommodate all this? IaaS buildouts cost billions. Chaudhry claims "we already have a massive investment in data centers around the world -- in fact that number is close to 20," but he won't talk capex, and he acknowledges those points of presence were originally established to deliver Oracle's SaaS applications. At this point I can only believe the IaaS capacity is a small fraction of that boasted by AWS or Microsoft Azure.

Well, it's early days. For the record, we can now officially welcome Oracle as a full-fledged cloud provider -- or rather we'll be able to soon, when Elastic Compute is available in early 2016. "This will be a very different Oracle in the next year," says Chaudhry. "In fact, this year we’ve transformed and changed significantly; next year is going to be a bigger transformation. For us cloud is a very, very serious business."

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