Oracle and the Vision Thing
“Almost seven years of relentless engineering and innovation plus key strategic acquisitions. An investment of billions. We are now announcing the most comprehensive Cloud on the planet Earth,” said Oracle CEO, Larry Ellison. “Most cloud vendors only have niche assets. They don’t have platforms to extend. Oracle is the only vendor that offers a complete suite of modern, socially-enabled applications, all based on a standards-based platform.” Larry Ellison, CEO, Oracle
Mixing metaphors and technology yesterday Oracle chief, Larry Ellison further defined Oracle’s vision for cloud computing. Years? Billions? Me thinks the man protests too much.
It’s a sure sign that a competitor is coming from behind when he tells you that everything the competition’s been working on and inventing for over a decade has now been eclipsed. The billions and planets and years — not to mention the billions in acquisitions — might have been better spent in competition rather than mounting what amounts to, but no one said, a Manhattan Project to pull your bacon out of the fire because you left your business model to stagnate for too long.
I am a fan of some of the pieces of the Oracle cloud though I see yesterday’s announcement more as a set of checkboxes with “me too” written all over them than words like innovative, groundbreaking, out of the box and the like. Let’s take things in order.
I am a big fan of any infrastructure that can raise everyone’s game from however many 9’s of reliability they have at present, to AT LEAST 7. With seven 9’s you get something like a bit over 3 seconds of downtime per year and that, or better, is what it will take to get us all off the fairyland ideal of cloud to the more prosaic, pragmatic and utilitarian concept of utility computing. The vision has always been computing delivered like telephone, electricity, natural gas or water and those utilities have much better than seven 9’s but seven is where it starts to get interesting.
So, Oracle’s use of all of its Exa-themed Sun devices for infrastructure makes a lot of sense. There’s a good deal of reliability built into Exa but not necessarily enough to deliver the cloud vision unless you also talk about redundancy and failover. They’re expensive too.
The alternative that even an Exa-box supported cloud will need to contend with is a well managed multiple site redundant hardware infrastructure with failover capabilities. Other utility services have failover and IT should be no different. So the hardware is nice but is it cost competitive with the alternatives?
The rest of Oracle’s announcements, which I thought were repeats of earlier announcements, spanned from database services to sites to various developer, analytics, social networking and document sharing services. In short, all the stuff that Salesforce has been dripping into the market for many years.
But what’s missing is telling. The Oracle announcement, while impressive, still lacks vision. There’s no hint of a changing of the guard and no advice to customers that the world that will use these products is vastly different from the one where the previous generation of on-premise Oracle applications held sway for so many years. Instead the message seems to be, here’s our erector set that you can use to approximate the Salesforce.com environment that your users are increasingly asking for. This, plus a bolus of consulting dollars, will help you beat back the barbarians at the gate.
Again, there’s a lot of good stuff in Oracle’s announcement, Ellison’s hyperbole aside. But there’s a widening gap in the market that has nothing to do with technology per se. It’s between vendors that get it and those who are still just pushing product out the door in the hope that customers will figure it out. Real cloud, social and mobile companies are not pushing product.