Oracle CEO Larry Ellison took to the stage June 6 to detail Oracle Cloud, a platform he described as seven years in the making, built at considerable expense in cash and engineering hours.
Oracle’s Cloud will host more than 100 applications. “We are not a niche provider,” Ellison told the audience of media and analysts. “We provide all of it in a comprehensive suite of applications.” Oracle will attempt that most difficult of tricks, even for a giant technology conglomerate: establish a sizable and comprehensive presence in a new space while maintaining its market positions in areas that originally made it a financial behemoth.
Oracle cloud capabilities include Social Relationship Management. “It’s a little different than customer relationship management,” Ellison said. “It allows us to work with people before they’re customers, to build the relationships so they become customers.”
Clients can also use Oracle’s cloud to place e-storefronts on Facebook, manage social networking services such as Twitter, and provision Websites. The platform’s analytics services include the capability to mine social media. For those companies more interested in heavy-duty business processes, Oracle is offering its Oracle and Java databases as platform services.
Oracle recently acquired two companies specializing in social marketing: Collective Intellect, a provider of cloud-based social intelligence software that allows customers to monitor and respond to conversations on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, and Vitrue, a social marketing and engagement platform. Those purchases, both within the past few weeks, probably haven’t yet found their way into Oracle’s cloud; however, Oracle has clearly used other assets to give its new cloud a heavy social-media presence.
Ellison also emphasized the cloud’s security. “It’s secure—your data is not co-mingled with other customers’ data,” he told the audience, speaking to one of the primary concerns of businesses considering whether to enter the public-cloud space. Later on, he described the cloud’s security as “fine-grained” and (repeatedly) emphasized its fault tolerance.
Ellison’s demo focused on giving a fictional coffee shop an online presence, using drag-and-drop tools. “If you’re creating a Web store on Facebook, you can do it using these tools,” he said as he clicked his way through the screens. Throughout the presentation, he underscored the platform’s ease of use to businesspeople and end users who may not possess any sort of programming skills.
“Our cloud is elastic like Amazon’s cloud is elastic,” he said, as the demo wound down. “Who are we most like? I guess at the platform level we’re kind of similar to Amazon.” When a client needs more capacity, “we spool up another virtual machine; most of our competitors don’t give you additional capacity as you need it.”
He also couldn’t resist taking swipes at key competitors, including SAP and Salesforce, although he directed less fire at Microsoft, which is also moving into the cloud in a massive way with services such as Azure and Office 365. He repeatedly emphasized the “forced march” and “gigantic effort” needed to produce Oracle’s cloud over the past few years. It was a somewhat aggressive presentation all the more noteworthy considering Oracle’s traditional reluctance to plunge into the cloud space with the feet-first enthusiasm of some of its rivals.
Despite that hesitation, there have been signs of late that Ellison was warming up to the concept of cloud computing. During a May 30 interview at AllThingsD’s D10 conference, he told journalist Kara Swisher that the cloud is “a charismatic brand.” That’s a notable difference from 2008, when he termed the tech industry’s obsession over cloud computing as “complete gibberish” and “insane.”