Oracle OpenWorld 2018 - Oracle customers discuss bringing the cloud inside their own data centres

Jessica Twentyman Profile picture for user jtwentyman October 24, 2018
On-premise cloud services are helping IT decision-makers cope with the complexity of managing today’s enterprise systems

Oracle customers at cloud
Left to right: Steven Chang, Tim Lantz, Henrique Nomura

Forget the dream of a cloud-only future. For most CIOs, today’s reality is a mix of public cloud and on-premise systems and that’s unlikely to change any time soon.

That was the message to attendees at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco this week from Holger Mueller, an analyst with Constellation Research and a regular Diginomica contributor.

Introducing a panel of Oracle customers at the event, Mueller was keen to stress that investment protection remains paramount for IT decision-makers, which means that operational systems should be able to run in both environments and workload portability between the two takes top priority. As he put it:

Legislative, data residency, privacy and performance concerns are the main drivers behind this capability, apart from better resource utilization and flexibility.

Hence the need, perhaps, for Oracle Cloud at Customer, a set of offerings designed to enable organizations to use Oracle’s cloud services, including software-as-a-service (SaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) in their own data centres, behind their own firewalls, but with day-to-day operational management handled by Oracle. In other words, if a company can’t move to the cloud, for whatever reason, then the cloud can come to them.

Agtech, healthcare and property

One such company is Brazilian agricultural technology (agtech) company Solinftec. It focuses on IoT-based farm management systems, including onboard computers for tractors that can integrate with any machine brand and report on the status of machines, their location and current activities. Its technology is used on around 14.8 million acres of farmland, according to head of IT Henrique Nomura, and data is collected from around 30,000 pieces of agricultural equipment.

That data arrives at quite a clip, with around 7,000 writes to the underlying database every second, so that Solinftec can apply machine learning to it and then serve it up to farmers with advice on how they might boost productivity and efficiency. A recent technology refresh in order to support the rapidly growing company led the company to invest in Oracle Cloud at Customer, running on Exadata machines. Said Nomura:

The Solinftec solution core is based on Oracle’s Enterprise Edition database and because of compliance, security, reliability and scalability, along with support, this cloud approach works well for us.

Another company using Cloud at Customer is Sentry Data Systems, a healthcare specialist that provides a SaaS platform for managing patient data to hospitals and retail pharmacy chains including CVS and Walgreens. Sentry brings in more than 18,000 data feeds per day from these facilities, explained Tim Lantz, the company’s senior vice president, and the 12-year old company runs one of the US’s largest healthcare drug databases in the country, covering some 120 million patients. It is also using Exadata Cloud at Customer.

From a performance standpoint, if we go down, then our hospitals in many cases lose the ability to order drugs for their patients on a daily basis, so system performance, uptime and scalability are huge for us.

With HIPAA compliance, we wanted an on-premise cloud solution. We’re just not at the point yet where we’re ready to take 120 million patients worth of data and throw it up into the public cloud, regardless of how great the security is. It’s a leap of faith we’re just not ready to take. Exadata Cloud at Customer has allowed us to have our cake and eat it too.

Meanwhile, for Steven Chang, CIO at China-based real estate and property development company Kingold Group, Cloud at Customer is how he sold cloud computing to his bosses in what he admits is a fairly conservative, risk-averse company.

Data sovereignty is really important to us. Our obligation and responsibility regarding the data we collect on our customers, it’s really important that this is in a very secure place.

As part of Kingold’s digital transformation, Chang and his team are doing a ‘lift and shift’ project, whereby legacy systems are being migrated to Oracle Cloud at Customer. More specifically, the company is moving its database workloads to Exadata Cloud at Customer and building an analytics platform on Big Data Cloud at Customer.

Word of warning

According to Mueller, a big competitive differentiator for Oracle is the way it enables customers to move workloads back and forth between cloud-based and on-premise systems. In other words, it’s offering that all-important workload portability.

But that’s not to say the company doesn’t face some challenges, as he points out in a recent market overview report of on-premise cloud offerings from a range of vendors, including Amazon Web Services, Google, IBM and Microsoft, as well as Oracle.

Oracle’s challenges are less on the technical and functionality side of its offering and more on the side of its commercial behavior and history. Many CxOs do not like to do business with Oracle and Oracle often only wins business if it’s the only feasible, viable option. CxOs esteem Oracle for its technical ability, but Oracle could do much better if it became more customer-friendly.

However, he concludes, the introduction of a credit model that can be used for consumption across the Oracle PaaS portfolio has been a step in the right direction, as has the addition of ‘bring-your-own-license’ abilities for database licenses to Oracle Cloud at Customer.

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