What a difference a year makes. Last September, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison launched into a tirade about the "nonsense" that cloud computing had become. The industry had gone haywire, he said, and slapped the buzzword on technologies that weren't really new at all.
Fast-forward to Oracle OpenWorld this week and Oracle is now well and truly on the cloud bandwagon. You can hardly walk down a hallway at the Moscone Center, where the show is being held, without bumping into a banner emblazoned with "cloud."
In a keynote Tuesday, Executive Vice President of Product Development Thomas Kurian declared Oracle is in the best position to provide cloud computing products and services, thanks to its comprehensive lineup of hardware, applications, security and management technologies.
Data centers shouldn't be based on multiple "small building blocks" because they're too hard to manage, Kurian said. A smarter approach is embodied by Oracle's newly announced Exalogic machine, a high-powered "cloud in a box" that combines hardware, storage and middleware to run any kind of application at vast scale, he said.
"You get a single environment and single architecture to manage your data center," Kurian said.
He also demonstrated how Oracle's management software can "manage the entire cloud, all the way from applications down to the disk," giving administrators insight into KPIs (key performance indicators) as well as the status of servers and throughput. "Both are critical when you move to cloud," he said.
Kurian also addressed Oracle's formula for security in the cloud, touting its offerings in database-level security and identity management.
He discussed how users will be able to easily configure and tweak business processes in Oracle's upcoming Fusion Applications, which are going to be delivered both on-premises and on-demand.
"In the past you had to call in a developer to do that. We have re-architected our middleware to change how you do this in a fundamental way," he said.
It made sense for Kurian to stress Oracle's capabilities in security and identity management, as they are not things that most pure-play SaaS (software-as-a-service) vendors can offer as of yet, said 451 Group analyst China Martens.
Oracle's cloud computing strategy doesn't appear to include a public IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service) offering like Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). Nor did Kurian stress concepts such as multitenancy, a SaaS architecture that lets many customers access a single instance of an application, with their data kept separate.
It is not yet clear whether Fusion Applications will be available in multitenant form. The approach is favored by SaaS vendors because it cuts down on system overhead and makes it easy to roll out upgrades to many users at once.
SaaS applications are generally sold on a per-user, subscription basis. But Oracle may believe it will be more lucrative to stick with a single-tenant model for Fusion and preserve the traditional approach of licensing application seats separately from databases and other supporting technologies.
The company's cloud strategy seems like an evolution of its existing Oracle On Demand hosting service, which has been around for years, according to one analyst.
"When Oracle says 'cloud,' they mean hosting," said Forrester Research analyst Paul Hamerman. "I think there is new technology in play here, but it's the latest technology for hosting."