Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has come a long way in the Cloud. From fulminating at the mouth at the very mention of the word a couple of years ago, he last week finally declared that he liked the “charisma brand” of the Cloud – which is just as well as on Wednesday afternoon he had to talk for an hour on the subject of the Oracle Cloud.
Yes, Oracle Cloud – not Oracle Public Cloud as announced last autumn at the OpenWorld conference in San Francisco. The nub of Ellison’s pronouncements yesterday centred on a claim to have over 100 applications – ranging from CRM through HCM to ERP – in the Cloud.
"We are providing a complete CRM suite, a complete suite for ERP, and a complete suite for human capital management... by far the most comprehensive suite of applications running in the Cloud by any vendor anywhere in the world," he boasted. "We are not trying to be a niche vendor with one, two, three applications in the Cloud."
This would of course be the Fusion range of applications which has taken seven years to get to market. "We made a decision to rebuild all of our applications for the cloud almost seven years ago," he said. "It took seven years of work, thousands of people, billions of dollars, to make the transition from being an on-premise application provider to being a Cloud application provider, as well as an on-premise provider."
It takes time to get Cloud-ready, he argued – prompting a familiar critique of an old foe.”If there's one point I would like to make this afternoon, it's how hard it was, how long it took, how many people were involved, how much it cost," he said.
That’s why SAP won't have anything "for real" in the Cloud until 2020, Ellison claimed. "I don't think they'll make it,” he said. “Our applications will have eight years of maturing. 2020. Excellent vision. 2020. Great news program. 2020. Terrible year to get to the Cloud."
Ellison went to great pains to emphasise the scale of what Oracle has committed itself to. "It was an enormous effort, very few companies cross the chasm from one generation of technology to the next," Ellison said. "It is a very challenging thing for technology companies to do…"This has been a combination of years of innovation and investment combined with key acquisitions. It took both, simply buying things would not have been enough."
What else did we learn? Well, Ellison may have come around to the Cloud, but he’s still having nothing to do with multi-tenancy a la Salesforce.com and others. "We have very comprehensive, fine-grained security in our system," he said. The Central Intelligence Agency was Oracle's first customer, and security "has been very, very deep in our culture for a long time," he said. "Your database is not commingled with other customers' data. It's a big difference between our cloud and others on the market."
At the platform level, Ellison made the bold claim that Oracle’s offering is "kind of similar to Amazon" because they're both elastic clouds, and most other competitors don't "respond to capacity on-demand."
And of course at the heart of it all is a relational database. "We decided to go with the Oracle Database," Ellison joked. "We got a good price."
One new snippet of information came in relation to upgrades. Most SaaS vendors talk up the idea of seamless and ‘invisible’ upgrades to new releases that just happen overnight and don’t need customers to plan schedules around them. But Ellison’s view is that the customer needs more control over this process.
To that end, customers will get about a one-year window to determine when an available upgrade is right for them, Ellison said. "We think a modern Cloud lets you decide when you want to upgrade, not have the Cloud vendor tell you when you have to upgrade," he said. "We think that's a very big deal. We'll allow you, within reason, to decide when to upgrade. We're going to give you a window... within that window, you decide when you want to move towards that version of the software. We don't decide for you."
So all told, a solid enough extrapolation of Oracle’s Cloud strategy and a further demonstration of the seriousness of the firm’s intent in this space, but nothing radically new that wasn’t already in the public domain.
“But it was not the sweeping strategic overview that was expected and although we believe the announcement was to announce the general availability of the Oracle Public Cloud that was not explicitly stated,” notes Angela Eager of research house TechMarketView.
What was missing from the announcement was detail, she argues. “Ellison talked about the Oracle offering avoiding the data and business process fragmentation that arises when using multiple public Clouds but did not give any insight into what Oracle has done to achieve this,” she argues.
“It appears to have a very broad Cloud portfolio and uses standards-based technology, which is all well and good, but has Oracle stitched data and processes together across the Cloud assets or is that left to customers? To what extent has it integrated the Cloud assets? How much do the services cost? And are they generally available, including in the UK? These were fundamental questions that were not addressed.”