Oracle likes cloud computing after all

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Larry Ellison angrily dismisses suggestions that Oracle’s business will be harmed by the rise of cloud computing.

Many misinterpret Ellison’s remarks to mean he (and by extension Oracle) thinks cloud computing is a dumb idea that Oracle won’t pursue. We are now learning that Oracle does, in fact, intend to pursue cloud computing. But we're also learning that Oracle's strategy is more limited than those of IBM and Microsoft, its large-vendor competitors.

I attended the San Francisco Oracle Cloud Computing Forum on February 25, 2010 -- one of 51 such events Oracle is running worldwide. Oracle described a strategy that is pragmatic for Oracle, but not well-articulated and missing key pieces.

Pragmatic

Oracle’s approach to cloud computing has three major parts:

  1. If you want an internal, or private, cloud, Oracle will sell you the hardware and/or middleware to build it.
  2. If you want to use Oracle’s software on a third-party cloud, Oracle supports Amazon Web Services and Rackspace Cloud today, and will support other clouds in the future.
  3. If you want to rent rather than own Oracle’s business applications, Oracle will provide those apps under a hosted subscription model.

This strategy seeks to adapt Oracle’s current business modes and products to the concepts of cloud computing. To Oracle, internal clouds are a new data-center architecture, public clouds are a new sales channel, and cloud-based applications (SaaS) are new business terms.

There’s no new operating system (a la Microsoft Windows Azure), no new development model (a la Salesforce’s Force.com), no commitment to provide public cloud platform services (a la IBM and Microsoft).

Oracle described a two-step process to move from today’s typical architectures to internal clouds that makes sense (see figure) -- and starts with adoption of Oracle's "grid" products. This progression makes sense, but not as easy as Oracle makes it sound. To be fair, most vendors understate the difficulty of transition from today's datacentres to internal clouds.

Oracle's 2 steps to cloud

In my opinion, the most innovative aspect of Oracle’s strategy is the Oracle Private PaaS (platform as a service).

This offering is Oracle’s database and the middleware components most commonly used for development wrapped in a design concept for cooperative development. Using Oracle Private PaaS, application development and delivery pros create shared application services, components, application patterns, a self-service portal, and automated deployment routines.

Business analysts then assemble, deploy, and manage their own apps--primarily departmental and temporary apps. This is a great idea, but it looked to me like Oracle's offering required too much "IT assembly" to be practical for many organizations.

Not well-articulated

Oracle’s two steps to internal clouds are clear enough (if simplistic), as is its understanding of the pros and cons of today’s cloud computing offerings. But the next level of detail at the session was messy.

The problem: Oracle was selling only gear and software kit for cloud computing – not solutions. Customers have to work too hard to get to a solution. And there are too many choices without enough context. Why should customers start with Oracle RAC instead of Oracle VM and WebLogic Virtual Server Edition? That’s just one question, there are many other choices built into Oracle’s strategy.

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