Oct
24
2018
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Oracle’s Larry Ellison keeps poking AWS because he has no choice

Larry Ellison gave his Oracle Openworld keynote on Monday and of course he took several shots at AWS. In his view, his company’s cloud products were cheaper, better and faster than AWS, but then what would you expect him to say?

He rolled out a slide with all the facts and figures in case you doubted it. He wrapped it up in a neat little marketing package for the world to see. Oracle has an autonomous self-healing database. AWS? Nope. That much he’s right.

Slide: Oracle

He makes claims that his cloud products are faster and cheaper, claims that are hard to substantiate given how hard it is to nail down any vendor’s cloud prices and speeds. He says they have no disaster recovery, when they do. None of it matters.

This was about showmanship. It was about chest beating and it’s about going after the market leader because frankly, the man has little choice. By now, it’s well documented that Oracle was late to the cloud. Larry Ellison was never a fan and he made it clear over the years, but today as the world shifts to a cloud model, his company has had to move with it.

It hasn’t been an easy transition. It required substantial investment on the part of the company to build its infrastructure to support a cloud model. It took a big change in the way their sales people sell the product. The cloud is based on a subscription model, and it requires more of a partnership approach with customers. Oracle doesn’t exactly have a reputation for playing nicely.

To make matters worse, Oracle’s late start puts it well behind market leader AWS. Hence, Ellison shouting from the rooftops how much better his company’s solutions are and how insecure the competitors are. Synergy Research, which follows the cloud market closely, has pegged Amazon’s cloud market share at around 35 percent. It has Oracle in the single digits in the most recent data from last summer (and the market hasn’t shifted dramatically since it came out with this data).

At the time, Synergy identified the four biggest players as Amazon, Microsoft, Google and IBM with Alibaba coming up fast. Synergy chief analyst John Dinsdale says Oracle is falling behind. “We have seen Oracle losing market share over the last few quarters in IaaS, PaaS and managed private cloud,” he said. “In a market that is growing at 50 percent per year, Microsoft, Google and Alibaba are all gaining market share, while the share of market leader AWS is holding steady,” he added.

To its credit, the company has seen some gains via its SaaS business. “As Oracle works to convert its huge on-premise software client base to SaaS, Oracle grew its share of enterprise SaaS markets in 2016 and 2017. Its market share then held steady in the first half of 2018,” Dinsdale pointed out.

Yet the company stopped breaking out its cloud revenue last June. As I wrote at the time, that isn’t usually a good sign:

That Oracle chose not to break out cloud revenue this quarter can’t be seen as a good sign. To be fair, we haven’t really seen Google break out their cloud revenue either with one exception in February. But when the guys at the top of the market shout about their growth, and the guys further down don’t, you can draw your own conclusions.

Further Oracle has been quite vocal about protesting the Pentagon’s $10 billion JEDI contract, believing that it has been written to favor Amazon over other vendors, a charge the Pentagon has denied. It hasn’t stopped Oracle from filing protests or even bringing their case directly to the president.

At least Ellison might have had some good news yesterday. CNBC reported that the big Amazon Prime outage in July might have been related to a transition away from Oracle databases that Amazon is currently undertaking. (Amazon’s Werner Vogels strongly denied  that assertion on Twitter.)

Regardless, Oracle finds itself in an unfamiliar position. After years of domination, it is stuck behind in the pack. When you find yourself in such a position, you need to have a strong bark and Ellison is going after AWS hard. As the clear market leader, he has few other options right now.

Oct
23
2018
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Oracle delves deeper into blockchain with four new applications

Oracle is a traditional tech company that has been struggling to gain traction in the cloud, but it could see blockchain as a way to differentiate itself. At Oracle OpenWorld today it announced the Oracle Blockchain Applications Cloud, a series of four applications designed for transactions-based processing scenarios using Internet of Things as a data source.

“Customers struggle with how exactly to go from concepts like smart contracts, distributed ledger and cryptography to solving specific business problems,” Atul Mahamuni, VP of IoT and Blockchain at Oracle told TechCrunch.

The company actually introduced a more generalized blockchain as a service offering at OpenWorld last year, but this year they have decided to focus more on specific use cases, announcing four new applications. The blockchain comes into account because of its nature as an irrefutable and immutable record.

In cases where there is a dispute over the accuracy of a particular piece of data, the blockchain can provide incontrovertible proof. As for the Internet of Things, that provides data points you can use to provide that proof. Your sensor feeds the data and it (or some reference to it) gets added to the blockchain, leaving no room for doubt.

The four applications involve supply chain-transaction data including a track and trace capability to follow a product through its delivery from inception to market, proof of provenance for valuables like drugs, intelligent temperature tracking (what they are calling Intelligent Cold Chain) and warranty and usage tracking. Intelligent Cold chain ensures that a product that is supposed to be kept cold didn’t get exposed to higher than recommended temperatures, while warranty tracking ensures that a product was being used in a proscribed fashion and should be subject to warranty claims.

Each of these plays to the some of Oracle’s strengths as a company that builds databases and ERP software. It can draw on the information it tends to collect any way as part of the nature of its business processes and add it to a blockchain and other applications when it makes sense.

“So what we do is we get events and insights from IoT systems, as well as from supply chain ERP data, and we get those insights and translation from all of this and then put them into the blockchain and then do the correlations and artificial intelligence machine learning algorithms on top of those transactions,” Mahamuni explained.

This year perhaps even more so than the last couple, Oracle is trying to differentiate itself from the rest of the cloud pack, as it tries to right its cloud business. By building applications on top of base technologies like blockchain, IoT and artificial intelligence, while taking advantage of their domain knowledge around databases and ERP, they are hoping to show customers they can offer something their cloud competitors can’t.

Aug
08
2018
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Oracle’s database service offerings could be its last best hope for cloud success

Yesterday Oracle announced a new online transaction processing database service, finally bringing its key database technology into the cloud. The company, which has been around for over four decades made its mark selling databases to the biggest companies in the world, but as the world has changed, large enterprise customers have been moving increasingly to the cloud. These autonomous database products could mark Oracle’s best hope for cloud success.

The database giant, which has a market cap of over $194 billion and over $67 billion in cash on hand certainly has options no matter what happens with its cloud products. Yet if the future of enterprise computing is in the cloud, the company needs to find some sustained success there, and what better way to lure its existing customers than with its bread and butter database products.

Oracle has demonstrated a stronger commitment to the cloud in recent years after showing much disdain for it. In fact, it announced it would be building 12 new regional data centers earlier this year alone, but it wasn’t always that way. Company founder and executive chairman Larry Ellison famously made fun of the cloud as “more fashion driven than women’s fashion.” Granted that was in 2008, but his company certainly came late to the party.

A different kind of selling

The cloud is not just a different way of delivering software, platform and infrastructure, it’s a different way of selling. While switching databases might not be an easy thing to do for most large companies, the cloud subscription payment model still offers a way out that licensing rarely did. As such, it requires more of a partnership between vendor and customer. After years of having a reputation of being aggressive with customers, it may be even harder for them to make this shift.

Salesforce exec Keith Block (who was promoted to Co-CEO just yesterday), worked at Oracle for 20 years before joining Salesforce in 2013. In an interview with TechCrunch in 2016, when asked specifically about the differences between Oracle and Salesforce, he contrasted the two company’s approaches and the challenges a company like Oracle, born and raised in the open prem world, faces as it shifts to the cloud. It takes more than a change in platform, he said.

“You also have to have the right business model and when you think about our business model, it is a ‘shared success model’. Basically, as you adopt the technology, it’s married to our payment schemes. So that’s very, very important because if the customer doesn’t win, we don’t win,” Block said at the time.

John Dinsdale, chief analyst and managing director at Synergy Research, a firm that keeps close watch on the cloud market, agrees that companies born on-prem face adjustments when moving to the cloud. “In order to survive and thrive in today’s cloud-oriented environment, any software company that grew up in the on-prem world needs to have powerful, cost-effective products that can be packaged and delivered flexibly – irrespective of whether that is via the cloud or via some form of enhanced on-prem solution,” he said.

Database as a Service or bust

All that said, if Oracle could adjust, it has the advantage of having a foothold inside the enterprise. It also claims a painless transition from on-prem Oracle database to its database cloud service, which if a company is considering moving to the cloud could be attractive. There is also the autonomous aspect of its cloud database offerings, which promises to be self-tuning, self-healing with automated maintenance and updates and very little downtime.

Carl Olofson, an analyst with IDC who covers the database market sees Oracle’s database service offerings as critical to its cloud aspirations, but expects business could move slowly here. “Certainly, this development (Oracle’s database offerings) looms large for those whose core systems run on Oracle Database, but there are other factors to consider, including any planned or active investment in SaaS on other cloud platforms, the overall future database strategy, the complexity of moving operations from the datacenter to the cloud, and so on. So, I expect actual movement here to be gradual.” he said.

Adam Ronthal, an analyst at Gartner sees the database service offerings as Oracle’s best chance for cloud success. “The Autonomous Data Warehouse and the Autonomous Transaction Processing offerings are really the first true cloud offerings from Oracle. They are designed and architected for cloud, and priced competitively. They are strategic and it is very important for Oracle to demonstrate success and value with these offerings as they build credibility and momentum for their cloud offerings,” he said.

The big question is can Oracle deliver in a cloud context using a more collaborative sales model, which is still not clear. While it showed some early success as it has transitioned to the cloud, it’s always easier to move from a small market share number to a bigger one, and the numbers (when they have given them) have flipped in the wrong direction in recent earnings reports.

As the stakes grow ever higher, Oracle is betting on what it’s known best all along, the databases that made the company. We’ll have to wait and see if that bet pays off or if Oracle’s days of database dominance are numbered as business looks to public cloud alternatives.

Aug
07
2018
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Oracle launches autonomous database for online transaction processing

Oracle executive chairman and CTO, Larry Ellison, first introduced the company’s autonomous database at Oracle Open World last year. The company later launched an autonomous data warehouse. Today, it announced the next step with the launch of the Oracle Autonomous Transaction Processing (ATP) service.

This latest autonomous database tool promises the same level of autonomy — self-repairing, automated updates and security patches and minutes or less of downtime a month. Juan Loaiza SVP for Oracle Systems at the database giant says the ATP cloud service is a modernized extension of the online transaction processing databases (OLTP) they have been creating for decades. It has machine learning and automation underpinnings, but it should feel familiar to customers, he says.

“Most of the major companies in the world are running thousands of Oracle databases today. So one simple differentiation for us is that you can just pick up your on-premises database that you’ve had for however many years, and you can easily move it to an autonomous database in the cloud,” Loaiza told TechCrunch.

He says that companies already running OLTP databases are ones like airlines, big banks and financial services companies, online retailers and other mega companies who can’t afford even a half hour of downtime a month. He claims that with Oracle’s autonomous database, the high end of downtime is 2.5 minutes per month and the goal is to get much lower, basically nothing.

Carl Olofson, an IDC analyst who manages IDC’s database management practice says the product promises much lower operational costs and could give Oracle a leg up in the Database as a Service market. “What Oracle offers that is most significant here is the fact that patches are applied without any operational disruption, and that the database is self-tuning and, to a large degree, self-healing. Given the highly variable nature of OLTP database issues that can arise, that’s quite something,” he said.

Adam Ronthal, an analyst at Gartner who focuses on the database market, says the autonomous database product set will be an important part of Oracle’s push to the cloud moving forward. “These announcements are more cloud announcements than database announcements. They are Oracle coming out to the world with products that are built and architected for cloud and everything that implies — scalability, elasticity and a low operational footprint. Make no mistake, Oracle still has to prove themselves in the cloud. They are behind AWS and Azure and even GCP in breadth and scope of offerings. ATP helps close that gap, at least in the data management space,” he said.

Oracle certainly needs a cloud win as its cloud business has been heading in the wrong direction the last couple of earnings report to the point they stopped breaking out the cloud numbers in the June report.

Ronthal says Oracle needs to gain some traction quickly with existing customers if it’s going to be successful here. “Oracle needs to build some solid early successes in their cloud, and these successes are going to come from the existing customer base who are already strategically committed to Oracle databases and are not interested in moving. (This is not all of the customer base, of course.) Once they demonstrate solid successes there, they will be able to expand to net new customers,” he says.

Regardless how it works out for Oracle, the ATP database service will be available as of today.

Mar
20
2018
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Oracle’s cloud biz heading in the wrong direction right now

Oracle announced its quarterly earnings last night, detailing that its cloud business grew 32 percent to $1.6 billion in the quarter. That might sound good at first blush, but it’s part of three straight quarters of reduced growth — a fact that had investors jittery over night. It didn’t get better throughout the day today with Oracle’s stock plunging over 9 percent as of this writing.

When you consider that enterprise business is shifting rapidly to the cloud, and that the cloud business in general is growing quickly, Oracle’s cloud numbers could be reason for concern. While it’s hard to nail down what “cloud” means when it comes to technology companies’ earnings because it varies so much in how each one counts infrastructure, software, or platform; the general trend from Oracle seems contrary to the eye-popping growth numbers we have seen from other companies.

Oracle against the world

Oracle’s cloud revenue broke down as follows: SaaS, up 33 percent to $1.2 billion, and platform and infrastructure revenue combined up 28 percent to $415 million. To put those figures into context, consider that last quarter Alibaba reported overall cloud revenue of $533 million,which was up a whopping 104 percent year over year.

Looking purely at Infrastructure services, Canalys reported that in the third quarter of 2017, Microsoft grew at around 90 percent year over year, while Google grew around 75 percent YoY. Even market leader Amazon, which controls over 30 percent of the market, had around a 40 percent growth rate, fairly remarkable given its size.

All of that suggests that Oracle, which came to the cloud late, should be on a higher growth trajectory than it’s currently showing.That’s because it’s generally easier to grow from a small number than it is from a big number to bigger number (as Amazon has had to do).

The company’s on-prem software revenue continues to grow (which includes lucrative license and maintenance revenue from existing customers), and still accounts for the vast majority of its top line. However, at this point, you would think Oracle would want to see that revenue growth shifting away from on-prem and towards its cloud business.

What’s worse is that co-CEO Safra Catz predicted in the earnings call with analysts that the cloud growth could dive even further next quarter. “Cloud revenues including SaaS, PaaS and IaaS [all cloud business combined] are expected to grow 19% to 23% in USD, 17% to 21% in constant currency,” she told analysts this week.

Oracle co-CEO Safra Catz Photo: KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/Getty Images

Looking for a brighter future

Chairman Larry Ellison tried to point to the fully automated cloud database product announced at Oracle OpenWorld last fall as a proof point of a brighter cloud future, but so far the numbers are not bearing that out. It’s worth noting that he did also indicate that more automated cloud products are on the way.

Oracle has spent the last several years putting a lot of cloud pieces together, and as Catz pointed out, they don’t have to invest further to handle additional capacity in their SaaS business, but with the numbers heading in the wrong direction that may not be the problem.

Oracle certainly has enterprise credibility, and that should bode well for its cloud business, but as a late comer to the market we should be seeing much brisker overall growth than this. Over time that may happen, but for now Wall Street was not happy with Oracle’s results and the firm probably has to show more from its cloud products before they can change investors’ minds.

Feb
12
2018
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Oracle to expand automation capabilities across developer cloud services

Larry Ellison, chairman of Oracle Corp. Last fall at Oracle OpenWorld, chairman Larry Ellison showed he was a man of the people by comparing the company’s new autonomous database service to auto-pilot on his private plane. Regardless, those autonomous capabilities were pretty advanced, providing customers with a self-provisioning, self-tuning and self-repairing database. Today, Oracle announced it was expanding that… Read More

Oct
04
2017
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Splunk is latest company to take exception to Larry Ellison’s slams at Oracle OpenWorld

 Larry Ellison was at it again yesterday, making friends, influencing people and pissing off rivals. It was AWS in the keynote earlier in the week. Yesterday, it was Splunk, a seemingly innocuous logging software company, which somehow fell into Ellison’s marketing cross-hairs. The company took serious exception. Splunk is best known for logging all events related to IT. Ellison announced… Read More

Oct
04
2017
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Cloud computing has demanded a kinder, gentler Oracle

 Oracle has always had a swagger that reflects the public persona of its bombastic leader, Larry Ellison, but over the last several years, as the company has transitioned to the cloud, it has required a transformation to one that is softer and more customer-centric. Mind you, this was a company that was the poster child for vendor lock-in the 90s and early 2000s. They knew you were looking for… Read More

Oct
02
2017
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AWS fires back at Larry Ellison’s claims, saying it’s just Larry being Larry

 When Oracle chairman Larry Ellison announced his company’s new autonomous database product at the Oracle OpenWorld conference keynote, he took several minutes to disparage AWS, one of his chief rivals in the cloud market. As market leader, Amazon stands firmly in Ellison’s crosshairs, but AWS took exception to his comments, and decided to issue a public rebuke. Read More

Oct
02
2017
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Oracle adds AI development service to platform offerings

 Oracle came late to the cloud and it’s been playing catchup in recent years trying to add a wide range of services that customers are going to be demanding from a cloud vendor. To that end, the company added artificial intelligence as a service to its dance card today at Oracle OpenWorld. The company has been busy today with a flurry of announcements including a new autonomous database as… Read More

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