It wasn’t many years ago that Larry Ellison proclaimed cloud computing to be “gibberish”, “insane” and “idiocy”. To my mind at least, Oracle’s cloud conversion has been astonishing.
At the 2017 Openworld conference in San Francisco a procession of keynote presenters made one thing completely clear above all else: Oracle has now completely embraced the idea that cloud platforms are going to be the inevitable centre of gravity for enterprise IT for the foreseeable future.
With Oracle’s wholesale cloud conversion established, its strategy is simple: make sure that as customers continue their exploration of cloud platforms, Oracle is there with all the tools and platforms they’ll need; that customers can have as few reasons as possible to look elsewhere (at least for big-ticket investments).
As a company that owes its phenomenal initial rise to the client-server computing wave of the late 1980s and 1990s, it seems that Oracle finally understands that the shift to cloud is another generational shift that – if it makes too many significant missteps – risks making it utterly irrelevant.
Its cloud pitch (emphasising investments in extensive platform automation, autonomic/self-healing and self-managing technology and integrated suites that share common platform components) is all about cost, security and simplicity. All about lowering psychological barriers to adoption. Oracle is wholeheartedly pitching at the more conservative part of the mainstream of technology adopters.
This pitch is further strengthened by Oracle offering “six journeys to the Oracle cloud” – including running what it calls ‘Cloud @ Customer’, where you get a private implementation of Oracle Cloud technologies, managed remotely by Oracle but on your premises.
A new Universal Credit system, where you can exchange purchased credits for any mixture of Oracle’s PaaS and IaaS services, again lowers barriers – making costs more immediately transparent. A bring-your-own-license (BYOL) enables customers with existing on-premise database licenses to shift to Oracle’s new Database Cloud.
This is all good.
It makes a lot of sense when your primary concerns are cost, security and simplicity. It makes a lot of sense if you’re thinking about migrating your existing Oracle-based systems of record to the cloud.
At Openworld, Oracle pitched “we’re the only cloud you’ll ever need to run your business”. Given the breadth of Oracle’s rapidly-modernising portfolio of cloud apps and platform, for some customers, this might not be too far from the truth.
What about providing a cloud for changing your business, though? I’m less convinced that Oracle has a strong argument here (against AWS, Azure and all the PaaS players that add value to those clouds).
It’s not because Oracle doesn’t have PaaS products or clear plans that fit many of the requirements that enterprises have. Oracle is rapidly building, enhancing and releasing services in all the categories that are grabbing headlines elsewhere – across low-code web and mobile app development, cloud integration, AI, chatbot development, data integration and governance, function-as-a-service and even blockchain infrastructure. Oracle is not simply working to release ‘just good enough’ services either; in all these areas it’s spending significant time and effort to tick all the necessary boxes.
No, it’s because Oracle gives the strong impression that the role of its PaaS portfolio is purely about helping it extend the functionality and reach of its apps portfolio.
And although that’s perhaps very reasonable given the centre of gravity of Oracle’s core business, it does mean that any organisation wanting to find an opportunity to experiment with new technology-powered business capabilities to change their business is unlikely to naturally look to Oracle’s offerings. Diehard Oracle customers will always consider Oracle’s PaaS offerings but it might not go any further than that.
What all this means is that in the coming quarters and years, although we might well see Oracle trumpeting the success of its cloud strategy as customers travel one of its six journeys to the Oracle cloud, Oracle’s overall business may well stay in the same-sized box.