Oracle steps into public cloud

CEO Larry Ellison has introduced Oracle's Public Cloud, which provides a PaaS and hosted Fusion applications for a monthly subscription, in a move that pits it against Salesforce and SAP

Oracle has moved into public cloud provision and built a social network along the way, in an attempt to modernise its applications and the ways businesses can access them.

Larry Ellison

Oracle's Larry Ellison has announced the company's Public Cloud and a new social network. Photo credit: Jack Clark

The Oracle Public Cloud, announced on Wednesday at Oracle OpenWorld, will function as a platform-as-a-service and an application-as-a-service cloud for businesses. It is a pay-as-you-use service by monthly subscription.

"Everyone's got a cloud. We need a cloud," Oracle's chief executive Larry Ellison told the audience in San Francisco. "The key difference is our cloud is based on industry standards and supports full interoperability with other clouds and with your datacentre on-premise."

Oracle's cloud consists of two related parts — a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) that runs applications written in Java EE and is compatible with all data stored in Oracle databases, and a layer on top that powers a social network and Oracle's Fusion suite of applications.

Developers can build applications in either Java EE with Oracle's WebLogic service, or with Oracle Application Express Development Environment (Apex) for building apps backed by databases.

Like Amazon Web Services's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Oracle's cloud can automatically scale up capacity and compute power according to demand.

Oracle has focused on interoperability with its existing products, according to Ellison. "You can take any existing Oracle database that you have and move it to our cloud," he said.

Everyone's got a cloud. We need a cloud. The key difference is our cloud is based on industry standards and supports full interoperability with other clouds.

– Larry Ellison, Oracle

The Oracle Public Cloud virtualises data and stores it in a single-tenant architecture, where one instance of software runs and supports a single user. In multi-tenant architectures, such as that used by rival cloud provider Salesforce, one instance supports many users.

Ellison was quick to criticise Salesforce and SAP's approach to clouds. He took a swipe at Salesforce's service, saying that by writing applications to Heroku, the company's custom PaaS, customers risked being locked in.

"I like to think of [] as the roach motel of clouds," Ellison said, meaning that, like a well-known TV ad, they can check in, but they can't check out. He also called Salesforce's service a "false cloud", echoing Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff's comment a year before, "beware of false clouds".

He said SAP, Oracle's "biggest application competitor", has products mostly "designed to only run on-premise".

Social network

In addition, the Public Cloud supports a social network designed to integrate with other Oracle applications, initially ones concerned with customer relationship management (CRM) and sales. 

"We realised over the last six years [of developing Fusion applications] the biggest thing that had changed was social networking," Ellison said. "We built our own social network and integrated it with all of our applications."

Oracle's social network appears to mimic popular features from Google+ and Facebook — it has document sharing, web conferencing and automated suggestions of people to get in touch with, based on corporate activity. 

Ellison demonstrated how a sales team could use the network to communicate, edit documents and exchange data to get a deal — for example, selling some Exadata appliances to a major bank — through to completion. In the demonstration, the social network displayed identity controls, document sharing, automatic suggestions, a social timeline and a constant social presence through each step. 

Pricing and availability for the Public Cloud was not disclosed. More detail is expected to come in later keynotes.

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