Earlier today, Larry Ellison, chairman Oracle kicked off the company's 'biggest and most significant' Platform as a Service (PaaS) launch of 24 new products from the company's conference facilities in Redwood Shores. While there is plenty to digest from a technical standpoint, it is the event itself that caught my attention.
Oracle commissioned Silicon Angle's Cube team to top and tail the event with their live video feed and Crowd Chat. I am a huge fan of this form of ESPN style of programming and enjoy participating in the chat sessions. They provide a sense of engagement without the hassle of having to be physically at the event. Presenters John Furrier and Dave Vellante do a bang up job of asking a swathe of participants the same question 20 different ways which helps to get some degree of nuance into the conversations.
On this occasion, Oracle put up a good bank of knowledgable, deeply committed customers who could talk to different aspects of why they are buying into the Oracle PaaS and cloud propositions. For example, Michael Kuban, director IT solutions delivery at Pharmavite had this to say:
The thing about data is this: if you’re not driving value then it’s just data. We need to get information to any device, anywhere. We need to get transparency baked into our architecture. To see the real value has proved difficult for us but I believe it is possible with cloud.
Fari Ebrahimi, SVP and CIO at Avaya added:
We need to be prepared for small failures...[but it is essential] to put the user at the center of what you’re doing.
The only problem I had with the customer comments was that they often seemed a little too heavy on aspirations sold by the marketing and a little light on the real value they are or expect to achieve.
I should not be too harsh because as is often the case, reality on the ground is almost always 12-18 months behind the analyst/media rhetoric. Even so, getting strong, unscripted endorsements from customers and live on camera is always a good way to gauge that reality. To that extent Oracle did a fine and surprising job.
I say surprising because while Oracle is not shy of showcasing customers, it usually exercises a lot of control over what is scripted into the conversations. That was kind of evident from the later on stage panel discussion but seasoned show goers are perfectly able to read between the lines.
The real surprise though was seeing Larry Ellison kicking off the main event. I cannot recall the last time that happened outside of an Oracle Open World announcement and even then I'm scratching my head. That aside, his presence tells me one thing: Oracle PaaS is hugely important to Oracle's future.
Ellison's delivery was by far the best performance I've seen or heard from him in many a year. Let's be clear: Ellison doesn't need lessons in delivery from anyone and even though we got the usual list of competitive comparisons, they were delivered in a measured, matter of fact manner rather than as the scything swipes that often pepper his presentations. That made for compelling viewing, even if you have to double take some of the ways in which Oracle selects its comparative statistics.
It all gets wrapped up in three sentences:
I’m now able to say we have a complete suite of services for running modern applications. All the major boxes are filled in. So you can move any application into the Oracle cloud. This is a really big deal.
Well yes it is and seeing the architecture slide that shows social topics underpinning all the SaaS apps was certainly a knockout punch for me since it serves to validate what I have been saying for many years:
Content without context in process is meaningless
Another surprise came when Ellison said that Oracle is prepared to compete with Amazon Web Services Glacier offering on price. Who would ever imagine Oracle coming up with that one but the slide used to demonstrate it says it all (see below.)
I have no idea how Oracle plans to make this profitable and no doubt competitors will come up with all sorts of calculations to show why Oracle is comparing apples with oranges but that's not the point. Oracle has put a stake in the ground and all the main competitors are going to have to play catchup. To that extent, I would be more worried if I was IBM or EMC because for the first time, we have a slide that makes direct comparisons with other, more traditional enterprise offerings alongside Oracle.
Of course the devil is always going to be in the detail and as the event was wrapping up, question marks remain over just how complete Oracle's PaaS really is, just how strong the claimed integrations really are and just how the company's 'one click' cloud switching and provisioning will work out in the real world.
Others who are better qualified than I can pick holes in that one. But what cannot be denied is Oracle's insistence that it is offering an easy way for customers to move to the cloud and for developers to get up and running with modern architecture designed to work at cloud scale.
And in thinking about that, I can't help but contrast with SAP's 'run simple' messaging that still has to find a means of expression that people fully understand.
Time and again Ellison repeated that Oracle's full stack of cloud solutions (SaaS, PaaS, IaaS) are standards based using Java, the most popular language for web scale development. But he also acknowledged that not everything is or will follow that path.
In clear nods to other technologies and the broader developer community, Ellison announced increased support for Hadoop, NoSQL and reiterated platform support for a bevy of non-Java languages.One that caught my eye? The ability to blend Oracle SQL with Hadoop. Yes, I know this is nothing especially new but still remains an important part of the overall messaging for developers.
Overall there was much for a CIO and CTO to chew upon. The technology chips will fall where they will on a detailed analysis of functionality and capabilities of Oracle's PaaS.
But if I choose to believe that in adopting Oracle's cloud, I can achieve a relatively high degree of standardization accompanied by solid governance alongside the freedom to develop pretty much as I wish, then I should be able to translate that into a solid ROI and TCO case. Yes, it is a form of lockin, but I still have a good menu of choices that should not restrict my ability to get stuff done the modern way. In a world of ongoing budget constraints, that could be a big win for Oracle customers both large and small.
Disclosure: Oracle and SAP are premier partners at time of writing