Oracle suddenly have a lot to say about ‘cloud’, certainly in comparison to a year or so ago when Larry blustered about what nonsense the whole cloud movement was. ‘Gibberish’ was the technical term he called upon.
Oracle is predictable in its messaging these days and its PR ‘cloud’ barrage at OpenWorld recently fitted the usual three step model;
1. Re-badge the old stuff
Although Ellison is very good at being right and can defy markets more than most of us, he ultimately can’t stop trends and hence, like King Canute, he has failed to stop the tide and is now embracing the ‘cloud’, i.e. riding the hype.
In practice, this means cynically re-badging the stuff he wants to shift as ‘cloud in a box’. This trick fell to Exalogic - the six-fingered son of the Oracle/Sun unification, as it is failing to meet the sales expectations of the analyst community. Calling this bundle of tin, OS, App Server, database and system management ‘cloud’ is classic Ellison genius, and will have Oracle competitors and clients in a spin.
2. The wild card, maverick, playboy, aggressor rant - who is the target?
Ellison’s victim list isn’t a bad place to be as he doesn’t pick on the weak or needy these days. In fact, his recent or current battle list includes; SAP (over TomorrowNow), HP (universally targeted with particular focus on Leo Apotheker ex CEO), US Dept of Justice (settled a week or two ago for $200m after whistleblower Paul Frascella claimed that Oracle systemically overcharged the US government), Larry Page and Google over alleged Java infringement (outcome pending) and Seth Ravin (CEO of Rimini Street) who has dared to suggest that clients could have a choice in where they get support for Oracle products (Larry says no).
With so few meaningful targets, it was always going to be Mark Benioff that took the position of ‘target’ for Larry. Benioff himself is no softy, but looked visibly shaken as Ellison kyboshed his keynote speech apparently rattled by the cloud credibility afforded to salesforce.com and Benioff's claims that Oracle hype is false cloud.
Although true to form, this particular aggressor strategy misfired as Benioff came out with a greater platform for what is a fantastic message and one that Oracle cannot respond to; that the cloud should be characterised by ‘data’ and ‘logic’ portability.
3. Announce something new and better than everybody else’s stuff (as they did with Fusion, if you can remember that far back)
Hence the revelation that Oracle will release the ‘Oracle Public Cloud’. Although it isn’t in production yet, it would appear that it will offer CRM in the cloud, and HCM/HRMS in the cloud, and social networks in the cloud, and Oracle database cloud services.
If this sounds like what salesforce.com, Amazon and Workday have been doing then the quote from Larry should clear things up; "The ‘Oracle Public Cloud’ is a little different." He goes on to say, "The ‘Oracle Public Cloud’ is both a platform as a service and applications as a service. The key difference is the ‘Oracle Public Cloud’ is based on industry standards and supports full interoperability with other clouds and your data centre on premise." As long as it’s all red on red of course.
The real difficulty for Oracle will be that the ultimate successor of that cloud will be the provider that really does offer price and performance advantage without the propriety lock-in that Oracle increasingly relies on (commercial and technological).
Time will tell, but the ‘cloud’ future will be more democratic than Larry would prefer and we don’t see Oracle changing.