What Oracle wants: more small companies, non-tech users for its enterprise technology

Oracle products always required a very particular set of skills to fully master. The vendor is trying to change that.

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For the decades its been on the planet, Oracle has been known as a company providing enterprise-grade products -- databases and ERP systems -- that required a very particular set of skills to fully master. Lately, however, the vendor has been seeking to emphasize its ease of use to a more non-technical crowd, and not necessarily with the large organizations which form its core base. Can Oracle pull this off and become a platform of choice within the startup culture? 

I recently sat down with Steve Daheb, senior vice president of Oracle's Cloud Business Group, to discuss Oracle's intentions in the effervescent small business, startup and low-code space. The Oracle Cloud platform is the vehicle that the vendor is targeting at new, less IT-centric digital sectors. Essentially, Oracle positions its cloud stack at all three levels of delivery - Software as a Service, Platform as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service. Oracle's IaaS offerings are directly competitive with those of Amazon Web Services, though it's unclear how many non-Oracle customers are running non-Oracle apps on the IaaS portion of Oracle Cloud as an alternative to AWS.

At the same time, Oracle Cloud is already attracting new types of customers -- even startups, Daheb says. "Cloud is the great equalizer -- it has democratized access to technology," he says. "Startups can't afford staffs of DBAs or data scientists. They need to be able to only pay for what they use."  The company even maintains nine startup incubators across the globe.

The vendor is also building in artificial intelligence and machine learning into its database and ERP products, with the intention of making them simple enough for a non-tech business type to use. 

There will be impacts on the jobs of database administrators and IT professionals as enterprises move to more autonomous cloud environments. "We've been working with DBAs for four decades now, and they're all looking at it as an opportunity," Daheb says. "The average DBA spends 90 percent of their time in maintenance, managing 50 databases each. They're shifting now to higher-value tasks, from tuning and provisioning to focusing on business analytics."

For example, Daheb says, using cloud services, "we had a marketing intern provision and run an autonomous database in two minutes. Now DBAs can focus on all these important things the business has asked them to do."

It's not just DBAs and IT professionals who may see their capabilities elevated through cloud-based AI, he says. Oracle's plan is to open up to non-technical business users as well. "The marketing person is responsible for performance, the HR person wants to get into analytics. That becomes game changing." 

To succeed with AI and data science, "you do not need a room filled with 20 Ph.Ds to figure out how to use this," Daheb continues. "Technology should deliver outcomes that allow me to find the best freight values for supply chains, or recommend the next-best offer. We've brought it down from two weeks to eight minutes to two minutes to deploy something."

Whether or not the startup around the corner becomes an Oracle shop, or a company's CFO can be seen launching his or her own AI algorithms without the assistance of IT, remains to be seen. But it's certainly a recognition of where future opportunities lie in a data-driven economy.  

(Disclosure: I have conducted project work for Oracle in the past year in my role as independent analyst.)

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