Oracle's cloud launch: solid takeoff

Oracle appear to be executing very efficiently to serve the cloud era and are accelerating hard, while some of their competitors continue to discuss disjointed constructs, ideas and future plans
Written by Oliver Marks, Contributor

Oracle's public cloud strategy was bought into focus this week, along with their enterprise vision across their vast catalog of products, and my first impressions are that compared to this time last year their messaging is looking very strong and compelling.

I've just spent some time being briefed on Oracle's enterprise strategy at their Redwood Shores HQ in a variety of analyst sessions that covered a dizzying array of topics. After appearing like an out of touch, on-premise anchored dinosaur twelve months ago Oracle have taken the covers off what they have been working on and demonstrated a very rapid ramp up of Fusion, their next generation middleware. Steve Miranda, Senior Vice President for Oracle Fusion Development, said in a round table discussion he was confident that Fusion would prove to be the fastest ramp up in enterprise computing history in terms of uptake by customers, and looking at the momentum Oracle appear to have with their vast client base looks to have a point.

While some of the sessions and individual slides were under non disclosure (including a refreshingly honest and informative five person CIO panel discussing today's realities and Oracle strengths and weaknesses) Oracle today look like a company who have carefully watched, learned from and absorbed the great wave of 2.0 technology and mobile innovation. Their formal move to offer public cloud computing options at Open World last October will be live 'in a couple of months' according to Thomas Kurian, EVP of Oracle Server Technologies Development, and more importantly the middleware available there looks pretty compelling and useful to their vast customer base.

While competitors have been pretty windy in talking about their future plans and aspirations, Oracle have accelerated from publicly dissing the cloud computing movement to offering a well stocked set of enterprise class scalable cloud applications  in remarkably short order.  Enterprise vendors have to support the past, present and provide a compelling vision for the future simultaneously, which is much harder than it looks. Where Oracle look to have really scored is in noting what competitor innovations have been working for business users today and producing feature sets within their offerings. We saw the vision when Fusion was unveiled, and I'll admit to having been dubious about whether what were essentially proof of concepts would ever fly in an Oracle cloud. From the client enthusiasm and rapid uptake of Oracle's Fusion offerings it would appear that the Oracle mothership is enjoying a pretty spectacular launch which should give enterprise competitors who have had plenty of room to maneuver in the cloud until now cause for concern.

Efforts to recapture mindshare from Marc Benioff's brilliant evangelizing of Salesforce - most people now associate the term Customer Relationship Management as being synonymous with their stock ticker symbol CRM - are probably now going to begin in earnest. Oracle are attempting to supercede that term with efforts around 'Customer Experience' just as the word 'collaboration' is now often used as part of a larger 'social computing' vision.

As is the case with politicians, we do well by ignoring what enterprise software companies say and instead watch closely what they do…Vinnie Mirchandani said to me this afternoon as we swapped notes clients have pretty low expectations of what vendors will actually supply. Unusually in the slow moving world of enterprise software Oracle appear to be movie very fast and confidently, and many of the familiar faces I know at Oracle projected a newfound sense of enthusiasm and confidence.

While Engineered Systems can 'move Faster Than the Speed of Thought', to use Oracle's 'parallel everywhere' Open World phrase, the reality is you have to have the relevant thoughts in the first place for that to be useful. A client point came up around the currently fashionable ideas for slicing and dicing 'big data': the tools and speedy computing power is in place but you have to know what you want to extract and analyze and what value that has.

In the same way the Oracle Social Network ('A secure collaboration tool for everyone you work with') has the attributes of modern collaboration tools but not the human intents to use it. Nevertheless, Oracle appear at this moment in time to have excellent timing in positioning themselves 'during innings three' in the cloud game ('it's early yet') with a very solid set of offerings that position them very nicely on the hockey stick of end user capex/opex uptake of cloud options to take out cost and complexity. It would appear that while the competition have been moving a lot of air talking about the future, Oracle have efficiently executed on their vision in remarkably short order and are accelerating pedal to the metal into a suddenly very mature cloud era.

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