AT ORACLE: Interview
Clouds Bring Agility to the EnterpriseBy Caroline Kvitka
Oracle delivers enterprise cloud computing solutions.
Sushil Kumar, vice president of product strategy and business development at Oracle, sat down with Caroline Kvitka, Oracle Magazine senior managing editor, to talk about the latest developments in cloud computing. The following is an excerpt from that interview. Download the two-part podcast of the full interview at oracle.com/magcasts .
Oracle Magazine: We first talked about cloud computing in 2008 when Oracle announced that customers could license Oracle Database, Oracle Fusion Middleware, and Oracle Enterprise Manager to run on Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud [see “Support for Cloud Computing,” Oracle Magazine, November/December 2008]. Bring us up to speed. How is cloud computing being defined today?
Kumar: There are many definitions out there, but one from the National Institute of Standards and Technology [NIST] seems to be gaining adoption from a broad-based audience. NIST defines cloud computing as essentially on-demand access to a shared pool of computing resources. NIST goes on to break down cloud computing into five essential characteristics, three service models, and four deployment models.
The essential characteristics are on-demand self-service, resource pooling, rapid elasticity to scale out and scale in, the ability to meter who is using what, and broad network access.
Oracle Magazine: What are the three service models?
Kumar: The first one is software as a service [SaaS], where a prebuilt, vertically integrated application is delivered to customers as a service. That’s at one end of the spectrum.
The other end of the spectrum is infrastructure as a service [IaaS], which is essentially hardware as a service. This is basic compute servers, storage, and network, and the associated virtualization and operating systems. Amazon Web Services is a good example of infrastructure as a service.
Between SaaS and IaaS is platform as a service [PaaS]. The idea is that, as opposed to just giving you the raw compute resources—which gives you a lot of flexibility, but it puts a lot of burden on you—and the other end of the spectrum, where you get the vertically integrated application that you can use but cannot modify, PaaS provides developers the best of both worlds: a platform where you can build and deploy your own applications.
Oracle Magazine: What are the four deployment models?
Kumar: A public cloud is shared across multiple customers or tenants and is hosted and managed by a service provider. A private cloud is for the exclusive use of a single organization, with the same five essential characteristics that I described, that resides within their datacenter, within their control. A community cloud is a semiprivate cloud, which is used by a defined group of certain tenants with shared backgrounds or needs.
Finally, a hybrid cloud is when an application runs primarily in a private cloud environment but can also run in a public cloud, either for overflow or for certain kinds of workload.
Oracle Magazine: What is driving cloud computing adoption?
Kumar: The most important driver for cloud computing that is loud and clear when we talk to customers is agility—the fact that users can provision resources on demand, acquire more resources when needed, and then release the resources back when they are no longer needed. Cloud computing gives businesses an immense amount of agility, and it allows them to tap into the business opportunities out there much more rapidly.
In addition, because cloud computing uses shared resources and distributes them across a wider section of consumers, there are built-in benefits of efficiency and high utilization, so it also drives the cost down. Increasing utilization of existing resources means that organizations can scale back on capital expenditure and reduce operational costs.
Oracle Magazine: What is inhibiting the adoption of cloud computing?
Kumar: The interesting thing is that cloud computing captured the popular imagination primarily with the advent of public clouds, so a lot of people thought cloud computing was only on public clouds. When you’re talking about a shared infrastructure, there are concerns around security and quality of service. The service providers are actually enhancing their services, but I think there’s a long way to go before a public environment can be as secure and as performant as an environment that you manage yourself.
For enterprises that have invested a lot in their current datacenters, integration with their current applications is also a big challenge. If you put something out there in the cloud, how does it talk back to an application deployed in your datacenter?
Enterprises now realize that private clouds can provide the benefits of public clouds while allowing for control of security, regulatory compliance, and quality of service. They’re easier to integrate with on-premises applications, and private clouds can be cheaper over the medium term.
Oracle Magazine: What are Oracle’s objectives for cloud computing?
Kumar: We have two objectives. First, we will make cloud computing enterprise grade. That means high performance, reliable, available, secure, and standards based to ensure interoperability and choice. Second, we will support both public and private cloud computing and give customers choice. We believe that enterprises will use both and need that choice.
Oracle Magazine: What are the components of Oracle’s enterprise-grade platform for building private clouds?
Kumar: We provide the base infrastructure, including the operating system, Oracle Enterprise Linux; Oracle VM, which is Oracle’s distribution of Xen hypervisor, the most popular hypervisor for the cloud environment; and a rich set of grid technologies.
We provide a database grid with technologies such as Oracle Database, Oracle Real Application Clusters, Oracle Automatic Storage Management, and Oracle In-Memory Database Cache.
We also offer grid technologies built into our middleware offerings with products such as Oracle WebLogic Server, Oracle Coherence, Oracle JRockit, and Oracle Tuxedo. We call these four products the “application grid.” Our SOA solutions allow people to build reusable components and use them to deploy applications faster. Our identity and access management solutions secure the cloud. Oracle WebCenter provides user interaction. And finally, to complete the story, we have a very rich, deep, and powerful cloud management solution, Oracle Enterprise Manager, that brings it all together. These elements provide a great foundation for building a cloud.
Oracle Magazine: Can you elaborate on the role of Oracle Enterprise Manager in cloud management?
Kumar: Oracle Enterprise Manager covers Oracle’s entire stack, from applications to disk. It manages everything from the hypervisor to the operating system, database, and application tier. It does everything from basic monitoring to patching, provisioning, and performance diagnostics and tuning. But at the same time, it’s an extensible tool, so while the focus is on providing our customers with comprehensive management for Oracle technology, we have connectors and plug-ins to integrate with third-party systems. Oracle Enterprise Manager therefore provides a very solid foundation for enterprises to manage a private cloud or for service providers to manage a public cloud.
Oracle Magazine: Where do Oracle’s SaaS offerings fit into the cloud picture?
Kumar: SaaS is one of the deployment models for cloud, and Oracle has been an early pioneer in that area. We have an entire suite of Oracle On Demand offerings, including Oracle CRM On Demand and a number of other applications.
Oracle Magazine: How do you see enterprise cloud computing evolving over the next couple of years?
Kumar: There is certainly a lot of interest among enterprises in the whole area of cloud computing. Initially it started with the public cloud, but clearly the focus is going to be on building private clouds in the foreseeable future. In the next three to five years, a lot of enterprises will evolve their datacenters into the private clouds.
Oracle Magazine: What’s on the horizon for Oracle’s cloud offerings?
Kumar: Today we provide the basic building blocks that can help customers plan and deploy their own clouds. Going forward we want to provide customers an integrated out-of-the-box solution that they can just drop into their environments and have working clouds. And with all the research and development that is currently underway at Oracle, we hope to work with enterprises and deliver a compelling solution that allows them to maximize their ROI on Oracle technology, gain additional operational efficiency, and become more agile.