Sometimes it’s good to be late. That’s the argument we’ve heard from quite a few technology companies that are tardy to a particular market. They claim that their “lateness” isn’t really a detriment, but actually a positive attribute to their offering.
That’s certainly the case that Oracle is making when it comes to their cloud computing product—Oracle Cloud, which ties together Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, or OCI, with their various cloud, database and application platforms. Right now, Oracle is clearly battling it out for number four with IBM and SAP, well behind Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform, regardless of which market research data provider you choose to believe. Of course, with the group creating OCI primarily based in Seattle, it certainly doesn’t hurt (nor is it terribly surprising) that 90-95% of them are alumni from the Amazon AWS or the Microsoft Azure cloud computing group, according to people who are in the Oracle cloud product development group. As a result, several said that they can learn from the missteps of these companies, and develop a more efficient solution.
Even with this 4th¬-place position, however, Oracle clearly sees an opportunity to differentiate from the others, based on its core database IP and a focus on high-performance applications. As was pointed out yesterday on the first day of Oracle’s OpenWorld event in San Francisco, there are quite a few companies that are interested in migrating traditional Oracle-based database-focused products onto the cloud. So far, the percentage of traditional Oracle-focused companies that have actually done this seems to be pretty small—perhaps high single digits as a percentage—but it’s clear that much of the hesitation is due to the more conservative approach to technology adoption that many Oracle customers have.
In other words, they may be slow, but that’s really just a reflection of where the real market is. Despite what you may read in the common tech press, the truth is, many companies are much slower at adopting these new technologies than the hype would have you believe, especially in the case of cloud or even AI adoption.
During CTO Larry Ellison’s keynote speech yesterday, he focused on both the performance and cost advantages of Oracle’s cloud-based solution, highlighting benchmarks against AWS that were almost too good to be true, with figures like 80x improvements in performance and 100% reduction in costs. Basically, he promised that anyone who could move data-intensive workloads with high performance requirements—admittedly only a portion of typical cloud workloads—to Oracle’s cloud would see a high-quality return on investment. In addition, he highlighted the company’s technology infrastructure offering, which he argued had both more flexibility and more capability than many of its competitors.
The key message in Ellison’s keynote speech, however, was on security-related issues in the cloud. In fact, he said that Oracle leveraged its late appearance in the market to build a newer, more agile and more secure means of creating a cloud platform. In what he termed Cloud Generation 2.0, he said the company built a separate ring of cloud control computers that lived outside of (and conceptually encircled) the standard cloud computing nodes. In other words, it is a network outside of the core cloud computing network that avoids the challenges of having to intermix the cloud control plane architecture with that of a company’s more proprietary data structure. By doing so, he claimed, the company could avoid the security risks of other challengers’ platforms, which co-mingle the cloud control software with customers’ own data and applications.
Conceptually, it’s an intriguing new architecture that looks at the interactions between customers’ data and the cloud providers’ software in very different ways. Plus, given the fact that these cloud control computers would not be based on x86 architecture (the company would not say exactly what they would use, but given Arm’s recent efforts in infrastructure, that seems a likely bet), they add a new twist to the security discussion. To be clear, this architecture opens up potential security and management challenges of its own, such as not knowing what’s happening within the enclosed circle of bare metal cloud computing nodes that have no deployment or management software running on them. However, it simultaneously creates a new type of interaction model between customer and data infrastructure provider that has additional potential security benefits.
Ultimately, it boils down to a question of trust. What companies do you trust, not only from a software perspective, but also from a security, data management, and comprehensive point of view. There isn’t an easy answer to these questions, but it’s clear that, with its new security-focused cloud architecture, Oracle is providing a very different perspective on how to think about cloud-based computing models.