Last week was Oracle OpenWorld. It was held in San Francisco at the Moscone Center, which surprised me. I had thought it was closed for refurbishment, as this was the reason VMware had given for holding its annual US shindig in Las Vegas this year.
It seems like Oracle must always have a public enemy number one. Those of you with long enough teeth will remember spats it has had over the years with Microsoft and, more recently, Google and HPE. Well, it seems that Oracle has a new public enemy in its laser sights, and that is Amazon Web Services (AWS). The OpenWorld keynotes proclaimed that Oracle is now a real cloud player and the fastest growing cloud company out there. However, according to The Register, even the usually docile and compliant conference attendees were quite vociferous in denying this.
That said, an 82% quarter growth and continued growth over the last seven quarters is quite easy to understand when you are starting from the position of 1,000 vExperts sitting on Ravello Systems. I would be very interested in seeing how many real users were sitting on Oracle Cloud actually consuming resources, and how much of that sold license count is still shelfware, due to Oracle’s aggressive sales teams and LMS audits.
Some of the numbers that presenters came out with during the keynotes were quite eyewatering. Oracle has spent $5.2 billion on R&D in the last year rewriting applications for the cloud. This sounds impressive until you realize that AWS spends between $3 and $4 billion a quarter. It apparently now employs 10,000 cloud engineers. I refuse to believe that number is new hires and assume that the vast majority never had the word “cloud” anywhere near their job title at this time last year. Even though they are now cloud engineers, their actual job descriptions likely have not changed, but maybe I am just cynical. I do know that Oracle is actively hiring cloud architects. A number of my friends have jumped ship to Oracle (for what must be much more than ten pieces of silver).
One of the biggest announcements was the launch of Oracle Cloud 2.0, Oracle’s shiny new IaaS cloud. It was apparently built from the ground up, designed to prevent the mistakes AWS made when designing its own and to avoid repeating any of the mistakes made in 1.0. (Shock and horror! Oracle’s first cloud was not that good.) In a quick side-to-side feature comparison, Oracle Cloud does not do well. Compare it to AWS on the vast majority of features. Apart from, unsurprisingly, those features that Oracle owns, there is no doubt that version 2.0 of Oracle Cloud is a far finer beast than its lamented older sibling. It is still no Amazon or Azure, though.
Ben Thompson, in his post Oracle’s Cloudy Future, summed it up succinctly: “What Elison was selling is the new Oracle looks an awful lot like the old Oracle: a bunch of products that are mostly what customers want…but with neither the flexibility or scalability of AWS’s infrastructure on the one side, nor the focus and commitment to the user experience of dedicated SaaS providers on the other.”
In other words, Oracle has just put the word “cloud“ front and center on its strategy page, but it is still peddling the same old, tired method of going to market: sell a database or other product that can almost do what a customer needs, but then charge for the ability to customize it to one’s needs. Nice business if you can get it, and it may be acceptable to risk-adverse enterprise customers, but that is not cloud. It is just an outsourced data center.
It is too soon to say for certain if Oracle is in its final days. I doubt it, there have been many occasions when analysts have predicted its demise. Most likely, they are the same ones that have many times predicted the demise of IBM and Microsoft.
Will Oracle actually be able to pull off its latest strategy? That remains to be seen, but it does have one thing that no other company bar Microsoft has, and that is a captive and devout audience. Oracle is seen as a safe and conservative pair of hands for safeguarding the crown jewels. This may just be all that is needed to make it successful. Well, that and an aggressive and driven sales and licensing audit team.