Ellison sets sights on an all-Oracle cloud

CEO Larry Ellison has unveiled an ambitious cloud strategy built around an all-Oracle IT stack, but has failed to give evidence at Oracle Open World of performance or cost advantages over rivals.
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

Oracle wants to build a cathedral of cloud services, while all around it its competitors are building slums.

The company's chief executive, Larry Ellison, outlined the database giant's cloud strategy on Sunday at Oracle OpenWorld. His vision was that Oracle customers will use both a public and private cloud entirely based around the company's software and hardware. 

"We're adding a new line of business, cloud computing, to our traditional business of selling software and selling hardware... and we're going to sell it on the fastest computers in the world," Ellison said on Sunday. "It makes a lot of sense for Oracle to be in all three tiers of cloud services."

Larry Ellison
Larry Ellison wants Oracle customers to use both a public and private cloud entirely based around the company's software and hardware. Image: Jack Clark

Those three tiers are software-as-a-service (SaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS). In other words, Oracle wants to be the Salesforce, Heroku, and Google, Microsoft, Amazon and HP of the cloud.

"The infrastructure that we're offering isn't conventional infrastructure," Ellison said. "What we're offering is our OS, our VM, compute services and storage services on the fastest, most reliable machines in the world — on our engineered systems — all networked together with a modern Infiniband network."

In other words, Oracle's cloud is one that is built with its overarching 'software and hardware, engineered together' philosophy.

Different approach

The approach differs markedly from that of Oracle's competitors: Amazon Web Services (AWS) is known to use vast amounts of low-cost commodity servers to run its cloud, while Google has gone as far as to design and build its own stripped-down servers. Neither of these companies sell on-premise hardware.

HP, which via its significant hardware business is perhaps the closest company to Oracle in terms of form, has opted for a more open cloud strategy. Though the IT giant sells cloud-specific hardware, it uses the open-source OpenStack cloud software for its own cloud effort.

Oracle, on the other hand, is choosing to sit its relatively expensive engineered systems at the heart of its cloud. The company is gambling on the fact that existing customers will want to run their private clouds on the same Oracle infrastructure that the company runs its public cloud on. This similarity will make it easier to port applications between the two clouds, Ellison said.

Cathedral vs slum

From my end it seems as though Oracle wants to erect a self-contained cloud which gives customers few reasons to go to other vendors for other technology. This is the 'cathedral' attitude, compared with Amazon and Google's less proprietary 'slum' free-for-all.

Oracle's is the 'cathedral' attitude, compared with Amazon and Google's less proprietary 'slum' free-for-all

Though Oracle talked up a new range of engineered systems (and snubbed EMC in the process), Ellison did not give any concrete figures to show why using an all-Oracle stack both inside a customer's datacentre, and in the cloud that it bursts up to, would give a company performance advantages greater than mixing and matching vendors.

As yet, the company has presented no clear reason for why non-Oracle customers would want to go for Oracle's infrastructure-as-a-service over another provider's. For there to be a reason, Oracle needs to give detailed pricing and performance information on its cloud. It hasn't done so yet.

All in all, it seems that Oracle's cloud vision is one designed for companies already dependent on Oracle's software.

My take is that Oracle's cloud cathedral has been built for the believers, and if you are not one of the faithful, there's no clear reason yet for you to come in from the Amazon, Microsoft or Google slum. Over the next four days at Oracle OpenWorld, the company will need to make these reasons clear. 

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