Oracle OpenWorld wrap-up: Announcements, proclamations, and promises

My first experience of Oracle's OpenWorld conference was an eye-opener. Here's a wrap up from the event.

Oracle OpenWorld 2015 recap announcements
Chairman and CTO Larry Ellison gives a speech at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco on Oct 27, 2015 Credit: Oracle/IDGNS Screencap

Oracle is kind of like the vendor that people love to hate. Its founder and CTO, Larry Ellison, is something of a divisive figure: one of the richest people in the world who owns an island and spends his time sponsoring big yacht races.

However, one thing Ellison is not is a shrinking violet. And Oracle itself, while powering a huge proposition of enterprise IT, is seen as a bit of a "bad boy" in the industry: slow, demanding, expensive, and litigious. Much of those perceptions, while having a basis in truth, are a little unfair - Oracle is a massive organization and simplifying it down to a few cliches just doesn't paint the true picture.

So for all of these reasons, I was fascinated to experience OpenWorld up close. So, what did Oracle announce, and what does it mean? Well, first, some context. In a pretty bullish talk early in the show, Mark Hurd, co-CEO of Oracle, made a number of pretty amazing predictions:

  • By 2025, 80% of production apps will be in the cloud.
  • By 2025, two suite providers will combine for 80% of the SaaS apps market.
  • 100% of new dev/test will be in the cloud by 2025.
  • By 2025, virtually all enterprise data will be stored in the cloud.
  • By 2025, enterprise clouds will be the most secure IT environments. Oracle is there today.

The company announced an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offering, nearly a decade after Amazon kicked off a revolution by introducing EC2 and showing the world the benefits of cloud computing. The Oracle Elastic Compute Cloud (and, make no mistake, the fact that it shares the exact same name as AWS's IaaS offering is a clearly thought-out strategy) comes in two flavors: Elastic Compute and Dedicated Compute. Elastic Compute, like AWS's EC2, enables customers to leverage elastic compute capabilities to run any workload in the cloud in a shared compute zone. The Dedicated Compute offering is similar to AWS's Virtual Private Cloud offering and also offers customers elasticity but with added capability, such as CPU pinning and complete network isolation. Oracle's EC2 supports Linux and Windows and is, in the often repeated words of Ellison, "enterprise-grade."

Alongside the Elastic Compute Cloud, Oracle announced a new Archive Storage service, a File Storage service, a Network Cloud service, and the Oracle Container Cloud for deploying applications packaged up in containers, as opposed to the more traditional virtual machines. Oracle also has a bunch of big data offerings, all with appropriately complex names: the Oracle Big Data Preparation Cloud Service, the Oracle GoldenGate Cloud Service, Oracle Big Data Discovery Cloud Service, and the Oracle NoSQL Database Cloud Service.

The interesting things in all of this are pricing, traction, and focus. Hurd said that the company already has 20 data centers within which to roll out its cloud offerings. Executive Thomas Kurian described "significant traction" for its existing cloud products, increasingly from customers who are new to Oracle and Ellison himself gave strong guarantees that Oracle would be cheaper than everyone else in the cloud space when compared like-for-like. That is a guarantee that I have trouble with - Oracle has a massive cost base (those stories of scores of sales execs driving fleets of Porsches are only slightly exaggerated). Compare that to AWS, which has, under CEO Jeff Bezos's leadership, brought the notion of razor-sharp attention to costs to a whole new level.

A real concern would be if Oracle pulls a stunt in order to make the sticker price cheaper than AWS but then backs that up with a whole lot of complexity around licensing or add-on services. It is an approach that, frankly, most people are expecting, so it will be interesting to see what Oracle does here - watch this space.

Oracle is a massive company and hence there were dozens of announcements across a raft of different product areas. Oracle announced new SaaS products, new infrastructure offerings, a broadened Platform as a Service (PaaS) portfolio and more. But it is the cloud infrastructure offerings that, in my view, best highlight both he opportunity that Oracle has for growth and the fundamental changes occurring in the industry. The next few years are going to be fascinating, that's for sure.

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