Eye on Oracle

Apr 15 2009   4:41PM GMT

Oracle’s cloud confusing strategy

Ed Scannell Ed Scannell Profile: Ed Scannell

It’s difficult to understand what exactly Larry Ellison’s problem is in using the phrase cloud computing.

Despite the statements made at OpenWorld last September where he said – “maybe I’m an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about (in regards to cloud computing). What is it? It’s complete gibberish. It’s insane. When is this idiocy going to stop?” — Larry Ellison is no idiot. We know you know what it is, Larry, and why it represents a different approach for users.

His reluctance to use the term could have something to do with his belief that he has been there and done that with Oracle’s grid computing initiatives over the past decade. It could involve something more serious like wanting to slow the acceptance cloud computing because it reduces IT shops’ costs which could threaten Oracle’s lucrative maintenance revenues and software licensing renewals.

But that can’t be it. He knows that cloud computing, Software-as-a-Service and some forms of virtualization are an inevitability because they can save users precious dollars in their shrinking IT budgets. He can’t be totally against that.

What has confused people further is Mr. Ellison’s recent lapsing in and out of admitting and then denying Oracle even has a cloud computing strategy. One day he is belittling the idea of cloud computing and that he doesn’t need to go there, the next he is boasting that Oracle has a more aggressive and forward thinking cloud strategy than competitors such SAP.

I am not the only one trying to figure out Mr. Ellison’s word games or if the company actually wants to have a strategy. When I asked an analyst with a top-tier market research firm to help me sift through the tangle of products that make up Oracle’s would-be cloud computing strategy he couldn’t.

“I think the reason you’ve been having trouble is simple: Oracle doesn’t have a cloud computing strategy. They have tactical and experimental initiatives only. My bet: They buy their way into cloud sometime in the future,” he wrote back in an e-mail.

Great. An opportunity to spread rumors about what company Oracle might buy so it can to jump into yet another market. While I am on the soap box, let me just say a merger with EMC, owners of VMware, would be an excellent candidate given its cloud computing initiatives.  Those rumors can swirl around with those that have Oracle interested in buying Sun and Red Hat the last month or so.

But when it comes to making money from users needing solutions involving cloud computing concepts and products, Mr. Ellison has no problem with terminology.

In one notable example, Harvard University last year was shopping around for a cloud-based solution when a scientist there saw a posting on an Amazon Web services Web site from an Oracle executive. The posting asked that anyone interested in experimenting with Oracle data bases in the cloud to contact the company.

Harvard responded and less than two months later it had a cloud-based solution up and working with an Oracle database, Ruby on Rails, and OpenXava. Harvard’s Laboratory for Personalized Medicine is now using cloud computing services to run virtual services to run clinical trials, and is reportedly pleased with the solution. See Larry? Not so hard.

Further evidence that Oracle is interested in putting together a cohesive cloud computing strategy was put on display six months ago when it announced users could license Oracle Database 11g, Fusion Middleware and Oracle Enterprise Manager to run in a cloud computing environment. Not just that but the first available products would work with Amazon’s Web Services’ Elastic Compute Cloud environment.

Maybe we just need to be more patient with Mr. Ellison, there is some evidence he may actually be softening up on the issue. Again in a meeting with analysts a few months ago he talked about wins Oracle had racked up against archrival Salesforce.com describing one as the “largest deal ever of salesforce-on-demand, or cloud computing, or whatever you want to call it.”

Not exactly waving the cloud computing flag high and wide but he seems to be making progress.

Incriminating evidence that Oracle is interested in putting together a cohesive cloud computing strategy was put on display six months ago when it announced users could license Oracle Database 11g, Fusion Middleware and Oracle Enterprise Manager to run in a cloud computing environment. Not just that but the first available products would work with Amazon’s Web Services’ Elastic Compute Cloud environment. So what’s the big deal with all this?

Say it Larry, just say it: Cloud computing.

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