Oracle CTO and former CEO Larry Ellison kicked off his OpenWorld keynote on Tuesday afternoon with an apology for his no-show to a keynote he was scheduled to deliver at last year’s OpenWorld conference. He said he was tied up watching his team race in the America’s Cup, which they ultimately won. “Every day was a sudden death, but somehow we made it,” he said about last year’s regatta on San Francisco Bay.
But Ellison, who stepped down from the CEO position earlier this month to be replaced by the company’s president Mark Hurd and CFO Safra Catz, was on stage in San Francisco Tuesday to talk business. He was there to make the case that the company he co-founded in the late 70s and stood at the helm of as CEO until less than two weeks ago would dominate as a provider of cloud services for enterprises.
The overall message at this week’s OpenWorld was that Oracle’s cloud play was a platform one, and that providing every layer of the IT infrastructure and application stack as a single platform would be a winning combination. Ellison took the stage on Tuesday to reinforce that message and to do some live demos of Oracle’s cloud capabilities. “Because of my new job – I’m CTO now – I have to do my demos myself,” he joked.
All the Oracle cloud messaging is aggressive, but the company still has a long way to go if it wants to be a dominant cloud player. In terms of growing cloud services into a substantial part of its business, Oracle is pretty much starting from scratch. SaaS, PaaS and IaaS together contributed only four percent of its total revenue in its most recently completed quarter.
The company’s traditional big source of revenue, its enterprise software business, is not demonstrating any staggering growth rates, which can at least partially be attributed to competition from other SaaS companies. New software license revenue was down two percent last quarter, and license updates and software support revenue was up seven percent.
Catz said earlier this month that she expected update and support revenue to shrink over time as well. The company hopes to compensate for shrinking software revenues with growth in Oracle cloud services revenue, which it said was rapid. SaaS and PaaS combined grew 32 percent in revenue in the last quarter. IaaS revenue grew 26 percent.
From legacy to cloud-borne and modern
Oracle claims it has developed the capability to move its applications deployed in customers’ own data centers onto its cloud platform quickly and easily. “We wanted to make it really easy to move existing Oracle databases and existing Oracle applications to the cloud,” Ellison said.
Besides simply moving the apps, the strategy is to modernize them in the process, adding things like multitenancy, data analytics, social and mobile capabilities.
“Facebook-like interface capabilities are built into our platform, and the applications that are built on top of that platform inherit those capabilities,” he said. “To build analytics … as part of your applications is easier because Big Data analytics is part of the platform. We implement mutlitenancy not at the application layer, but we implement multitenancy at the platform layer.”
Ellison emphasized Oracle’s strategy to build and provide its huge array of business applications on top of the same platform it is offering to developers as a service. “Most SaaS companies do not sell platform services, period,” he said. “The few that do, do not offer you the same platform they build on.”
Courting enterprise developers
In a keynote and a press conference earlier in the day, Thomas Kurian, executive vice president of product development, announced a number of enhancements to the Oracle cloud platform.
To make the platform attractive for developers Oracle has rolled out a number of features designed to make their job easier. It has introduced the option to buy a dedicated Oracle database as a service via the Oracle cloud. It also now provides a dedicated Java application server environment as a cloud service.
Together with some developer tools and the Oracle Infrastructure-as-a-Service offering, these capabilities make the company’s cloud a one-stop shop for hosting code, compiling and deploying applications. The company has automated database configuration and encryption functions, as well as backup scheduling and disaster recovery.
SQL on Hadoop comes to Oracle
In the Big Data analytics category, the company introduced Oracle Big Data SQL, which enables users to run SQL queries against data stored on Hadoop clusters. “It opens up the data in Hadoop to all users who know SQL,” Kurian said.
Oracle’s edge here is integration of this SQL-on-Hadoop system with its enterprise software, such as ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), CRM (Customer Relationship Management) or its relational database software. The idea is to combine raw data stored in Hadoop with the more structured data generated by the enterprise applications.
Another addition to the Oracle Big Data toolbox is Oracle Big Data Discovery, a visualization tool for Hadoop. Also aiming to open Hadoop to enterprise users without specialized data analytics skills, the browser-based tool enables data analysis, search or identification of problems with data sets.
The in-memory option
For the speed-conscious, Oracle announced that all of its major software suites are now certified to run with its in-memory database technology. The company said deploying the in-memory database option with any existing application that is compatible with its database software was now “as easy as flipping a switch.”
Making mobile easier
Another area Oracle is now heavily focused on is tools for mobile application development in the enterprise. It announced a mobile application development framework that allows a developer to write a single code base for an application that will then automatically adapt to different mobile platforms (iOS, Android, Windows Phone or Blackberry) and across different device types (, smartphones, small tablets, big tablets and PC browsers).
Unlike startup developers, enterprise developers have an inherent set of problems that make mobile difficult.
They have legacy enterprise systems to deal with and strict security policies. Oracle is now offering a cloud-based service it says can expose a company’s legacy systems as services that can be used on mobile devices.
Oracle also now offers a feature developers can use to provide single-sign-on capabilities to a user across all of their enterprise applications and devices.
Another new security feature is a secure container that holds enterprise applications and data on a user’s device. Once the employee leaves the company or loses the device, the container can be removed along with all the data it contains without affecting anything else on the device.