Oracle & the enterprise carousel

Oracle's powerful offerings leverage the cloud's merger with mainstream enterprise computing, but their relevance are open to question
Written by Oliver Marks, Contributor

I was struck at Oracle OpenWorld today by how similar their new private cloud focus messaging is to Apple's recent closed ecosphere successes.  Like Apple, Oracle have a deep history in the creation of top of the line, high quality hardware which runs their proprietary operating system and stack. Apple's recent blaze of global glory has been spectacular and formed much of the style underpinnings of the frequently misunderstood and hype ridden rise of free social networking between individuals.

Where Apple have historically enjoyed a fanatically loyal fan base which has recently grown into the global recession's luxury goods mass market must have, Oracle have a much patchier relationship with past users. You could make a strong case that the rise of cloud computing was directly caused by enterprise vendor lock in frustrations, along with license and maintenance contract negotiation pain.

A couple of weeks ago Salesforce painted the center of San Francisco cloud blue: this week the much larger Oracle presence - which cleverly bleeds over into CNBC live network financial television on site - has turned the city red. The only constant is the children's carousel embedded on the west side of the Moscone Center, which the hi tech business often emulates as trends come and go.

According to the dictionary Oracle means an utterance, often ambiguous or obscure, given by a priest or priestess at a shrine as the response of a god to an inquiry. The opposite was true last night and today as various Oracle execs crisply articulated why the world should get on the new carousel, which is much faster and has much more capacity than the old one. 

The hopelessly soft focus word 'cloud' effectively means a behind the firewall private 'cloud' in Oracle speak - but the idea of 'behind the firewall' doesn't necessarily mean landlocked, on-premise anymore in our connected word. The world is so networked now, Oracle's deep engagement from servers to the sophisticated Fusion app layer and pluggable databases means something very different to how the enterprise world felt a couple of years ago. The degree to which you use the public internet to move data as needed can be finely calibrated with any security, governance and compliance issues under lock and key in your 'private' world.

The bigger question is whether there is still the appetite for an Apple style closed Oracle ecosphere in the current climate of utility computing. The bigger, faster, better messaging around Oracle hardware announcements - 100x faster, 20x wider etc - may be a fit for a handful of giant business entities that need to crunch colossal amounts of big data, but they are surely a minority. It somehow feels like an anachronism for the era we are moving into, like some end of the industrial revolution announcement of a gigantic static steam engine at a time when Trevithick had just figured out how to make steam powered locomotives propel themselves around on rails.

 We must surely be entering the end of Larry Ellison's career running Oracle. His close friend Steve Jobs defined Apple's brightest periods, but Apple have arguably now peaked, losing steam around operating systems and software. While last night's announcements of in memory big data crunching must have been a cause for alarm at SAP, I have a sense that the monolithic enterprise era is coming to a close. 

To be fair we haven't had any application announcements yet, so perhaps there will be compelling reasons for all the Exadata heft and brawn that will make sense for cash strapped companies, but the 'take what you need, month by month' business logic of Software as a Service fits our economic times for good reason. Apple fans may stand inline for overnight personal digital devices , but will businesses swoon over these latest and greatest Oracle offerings despite past frictions in their relationship over licensing and maintenance surprises? 

~ Video: 1906 earthquake era carousel currently located at Yerba Buena Center, San Francisco

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