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Oracle OpenWorld 2019 - Larry Ellison makes compelling autonomous pitch for buyers grappling with complexity

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez September 16, 2019
Oracle CTO Larry Ellison took to the stage for the first of his two keynotes to talk up all things autonomous. And, of course, do a bit of AWS-bashing.

Larry Ellison speaking at Oracle OpenWorld 2019

Larry Ellison’s Oracle OpenWorld keynotes are always a fun watch. The CTO is always in his element on stage, talking to customers, partners and prospects about the wonders of Oracle’s technology - and taking every opportunity to bash the competition (and there was plenty of that). 

And whilst last year the response to Ellison and Oracle’s Autonomous Database pitch was somewhat tepid, I think this year the enterprise software vendor matured its messaging and made a convincing sell to enterprise buyers that are grappling with complexity in an increasingly daunting digital world. 

What are some of the things that buyers often bemoan - or worry about the most - when it comes to running their business? I’d argue that the four that would feature high on the list include: 

  • Security

  • People

  • Cost

  • Complexity

Whatever the flavour of what a buyer is considering, these four considerations will likely factor in. And this is why Ellison’s keynote will have appealed to some of the largest buyers out there, as Oracle is effectively promising to solve - or at least reduce - the headache of all four of these. 

I’ll preface this by saying that this is only true if Oracle’s Autonomous Technology works as the vendor proclaims. That being said, some of the commitments coming from Ellison were so bold, that I think they’d be foolish to make such public statements if it did not. 

Ellison said that Oracle this year has been working on adding a number of autonomous services to its ‘next generation cloud’, as the company “marches towards” its ultimate goal of delivering the “world’s first completely and truly autonomous cloud”. 

Some of the announcements include: 

  • New security features for the Autonomous Database

  • The ‘world’s first autonomous operating system’, in the form of Oracle Autonomous Linux and an Oracle OS Management Service. 

  • A commitment to launch 20 Oracle Cloud regions by the end of 2020, for a total of 36 Oracle Cloud Infrastructure regions.

We also expect more autonomous announcements as it relates to Fusion Apps and the application side of the business, later on in the week. 

Solving the people ‘problem’

However, going back to the problems facing enterprise buyers, if we think about ‘people’, Ellison took to the stage to boldly state that Oracle’s Autonomous Cloud will help companies to “eliminate human labour”. This plays into some of the other enterprise problems stated above, including cost, complexity and security. 

Ellison said: 

By eliminating human labour and eliminating human error and by eliminating pilot error, autonomous systems are going to save tens of thousands of lives. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, autonomous systems are so fundamentally different to what came before that it marks a new generation in computer technology. 

The benefits are really very simple to remember. Autonomous systems eliminate human labour. And by eliminating human error, you eliminate pilot error. The scale of the benefit of eliminating human labour is enormous when running computer systems. We spend much more on people than we do on storage, on compute, or any of our physical assets. Resource sharing is on top of the savings of human labour. 

Eliminating human error, is much more important to me than the economic savings. If you eliminate human error in autonomous systems, you eliminate data theft.

Ellison rightly points to a number of high profile data breaches in recent months, including the Capital One incident, where a hacker gained access to 100 million credit card applications and accounts. A story that will have put the fear of god into many a C-level exec. Capital One was an AWS customer, which Ellison was obviously keen to highlight. 

However, Ellison’s point is that if you rely on human configuration, you’re always going to get data breaches. He said: 

Amazon takes a very reasonable position and says that if you misconfigure your system, that’s your mistake. As a customer you maintain full control of your content and responsibility for configuring access to AWS services. That’s on you. 

When you use the Oracle Autonomous Database, it configures itself. It’s not possible for customers to make configuration errors, because there are no pilots to make errors. The system configures itself.

And if you had any doubt about where Ellison was heading with this point, he pretty much went as far as to say that Oracle will be responsible for customer data in an autonomous system. He added: 

So in the Amazon cloud if you make an error and it leads to a catastrophic data loss, that’s on you. In the Oracle Cloud if you use the Autonomous Database human beings are not involved, there can be no human error. The system is responsible for preventing data loss. Not you. Us.

Solving for complexity

Sticking with the AWS bashing theme, Ellison also wanted to talk up the benefits of Oracle’s converged database, compared with the variety of databases AWS offers, depending on the use case. 

Ellison compared it to the smartphone. He said that the smartphone solved a number of use cases in one device and that it would be odd to fragment these services across multiple devices in the modern world. He said that this is the approach AWS is taking with its multiple databases, which will bring enterprise buyers complexity. 

Ellison said: 

We think that’s a really interesting idea that leads to lots of problems. We have one converged database that supports all your applications, all your data, that’s autonomous. If Amazon has five different databases, they’ve got to build five different autonomous databases. It’s impossible. 

Each one of [AWS’] databases has a different API, so if you’re running a programme and you are talking to three or four different databases, you have to be knowledgeable on how to use three or four different databases. It makes it much more complex. 

It gets worse. You have to have experts to maintain these databases. If you have seven databases you need seven teams of experts. You need different security procedures. Same thing with scalability and availability and backup and patching - you’re not just patching one database, you’re patching 10. It’s a really bad idea.

Cost cutting

Finally, and whilst often not the *top* concern for buyers when considering their digital infrastructure and footprint, cost is clearly still a factor. Ellison, again boldly, makes the claim that not only is Oracle’s Autonomous Cloud more reliable, more secure, and simpler to use, but it’s also more cost effective. He said: 

It’s the easiest system to run and it’s the lowest cost. If you want all those benefits, you want to eliminate data loss, you’ve got to be willing to pay less. It costs way less to run Oracle Autonomous Databases than it costs to run Redshift or Aurora. 

It’s way cheaper and way safer. We don’t just automate the database, we automate all the infrastructure around the database, the compute, and the storage. And it’s easy to use because there’s nothing to learn, it drives itself. There’s nothing to do because it drives itself. You can concentrate on building the systems that relate to your business. 

Servers fail. Storage fail. Networks fail. Lots of things fail. The Oracle Autonomous Database not only eliminates human errors, but it’s configured in such a way that the memory can fail and the system keeps running. A server fails and the system keeps running, you’re not even aware of it.

My take

As ever, a thoroughly entertaining keynote from Ellison. And whilst I’m sure AWS converts will be horrified by the claims (or at the very least rolling their eyes), it’s hard to deny that Ellison’s speech will be music to the ears of many a CIO/CEO/CDO. Why? Many are scared and they’re confused. By claiming to automate away all these ‘problems’, at a lower cost point, Oracle is theoretically giving a helping hand to those enterprises that are struggling in this new digital world. The promise to remove the threat of a data breach will be enough for many to hand over their cheque books. There’s clearly still a tonne of work to do before Ellison achieves his ‘truly autonomous cloud’, but I can see why, to some at least, it will be a very compelling pitch. 

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