By John Foley
Oracle President Thomas Kurian explains three types of Oracle Cloud's infrastructure-as-a-service offerings.
Oracle introduced a range of new infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings in June 2015 as part of Oracle Cloud Platform, an integrated stack of cloud applications and platform services that let companies drive innovation and accelerate digital transformation.
Since that major launch event, Oracle has introduced additional IaaS, PaaS, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) capabilities as part of its expanding cloud portfolio, giving developers, IT professionals, and business users new options and increased flexibility in moving to the cloud.
Oracle President Thomas Kurian oversees development of Oracle Cloud, and he participated in the June launch of Oracle Cloud Platform, along with Oracle Executive Chairman and CTO Larry Ellison. In September, in advance of Oracle OpenWorld 2015 in San Francisco, we asked Kurian for an update on Oracle’s cloud offerings at each layer of the stack.
Q: Let's start with infrastructure. What is the range of IaaS offerings Oracle has introduced?
Thomas Kurian: We have compute, storage, and network. Together, these pieces give people the infrastructure they need to run business applications, databases, and other workloads in the cloud.
The focus of our effort with infrastructure as a service is really about three things. It's lowering customers' costs in getting infrastructure. Second, it’s making it much easier to get infrastructure quickly and easily so that they can use infrastructure and not have to wait many months before they can provision new capability. And third is to make it flexible so we can run different kinds of workload and give those different kinds of workload the amazing performance, security, and reliability people have always expected from Oracle.
For more on Oracle Cloud Platform, attend Thomas Kurian’s Oracle OpenWorld 2015 keynote.
Q: Storage tends to be a commodity. What is the value of Oracle's cloud storage services?
Thomas Kurian: We offer four kinds of storage capability in the cloud. One is for backups so you can put objects into the cloud. You can use whatever backup tool you're using today. Just point it to the cloud and it backs up objects to our cloud.
The second is archival, which is storing data in the cloud for long-term retention. And it's mirrored so that you don't lose any data, but it's also meant to be extremely cost-effective.
The third is file storage, where you can put data into our cloud, and you have the ability then to replicate data from, for example, your North American location to Europe. So it looks to your on-premises systems almost like the files just got copied across without you having to invest in redundant infrastructure to copy these files.
Lots of customers are using our storage services. They're using them for database backup, file backup, object storage, and archival. We protect your information—we help ensure it doesn't get compromised. So it's a lot of value for customers.
Q: What about Oracle's compute service and Oracle Engineered Systems in the cloud?
Thomas Kurian: Think of compute as saying: I need a certain amount of compute resource—a certain amount of memory, a certain amount of CPU—to run a workload, but I don't want to buy dedicated machines for that. You pay for it by the hour, or you can pay for it by the month. That gives you elasticity. It gives you the ability to get resources up and running. And it allows you to get much more economical hardware because you're not buying dedicated pools of machines that are just sitting around in your data center. So we give you raw compute.
If you're a large customer or if you're running a highly secure application, we also offer dedicated compute, where you get a rack of servers and rack of cores. You can buy them in different sizes, but on that rack, the only workload that's running is your workload, and it's fully isolated to just your company.
The third kind of compute service we offer is Engineered Systems. So if you're running a high-end data warehouse or mission-critical OLTP, like ERP, and you want to put that in the cloud, we offer that infrastructure.
We automate how you create the environments, all the networking and the physical infrastructure management. You simply deal with the database. It happens to run amazingly fast because it runs in Exadata, and we've automated all of the day-to-day activity that somebody needs to deal with. So the combination of multitenant compute, general-purpose compute, dedicated compute, and Engineered Systems gives people a great solution.
Q: Let’s talk about Oracle PaaS offerings. How are they differentiated from those of competitors?
Thomas Kurian: If you look at the economics of running systems, the reality is that as hardware and facilities have gotten cheaper, a bigger part of the total cost of administering and running a system is tied to people. It's the labor associated with installing, configuring, administering, and monitoring the software.
So the most important thing we've done with platform as a service is, in addition to running it on our infrastructure as a service so it runs on extremely cost-effective and very automated infrastructure, we've taken all of that day-to-day work that human beings need to do and automated that through software.
Oracle President Thomas Kurian discusses the value proposition of Oracle's platform as a service.
When I say "automated through software," imagine you could configure a system in the following way: You tell us how much resource you need, how much CPU and memory. You tell us the version of our software you want to run, the configuration. And it looks like filling out a shopping cart in Amazon. You name the system. You tell us the night of the week you want a full backup, the hour of the day you want an incremental backup, and which weekend of the month patching is done. You press a button, and you never have to deal with that system anymore. We give you a URL to load your data, a URL to deploy your applications. But all of that infrastructure maintenance—creating, installing, configuring, patching, backup—all of that's automated.
So our biggest value proposition with the platform is the fact that we've taken all of that work human beings need to do and automated it through software. That's typically about 60 percent of the cost of operating Oracle software. Even if you say our automation cuts that cost in half, that's about 30 percent of the total cost to run and manage an Oracle system, which is a huge savings for our customers.
The second thing we've done is, because the infrastructure is so automated, we're opening this software up to all those people who would love to use Oracle but didn't have the resources to use Oracle. We take care of all the administration.
The third thing it does is drive agility. Imagine you're building an application. On premises, it typically takes six to nine months to get hardware, network, compute resource, storage, a DBA. With Oracle Cloud, you use a credit card for the resource you want, press a button. Thirty minutes later, you get access to our database, then to our middleware. You can build an application and run it on the cloud.
All you need to do analytics is be able to load your data using a spreadsheet and have a web browser. If you know how to do that, you can do analysis.
—Oracle President Thomas Kurian
Q: One of the major areas of PaaS capabilities is data management. Can you outline Oracle’s database-as-a-service offerings?
Thomas Kurian: We have Oracle Database running on general-purpose compute, Oracle Database on Exadata, and there will be more.
With Oracle Database, the core value proposition is we've automated every task that people need to do to use it. We have a pharmaceutical company that's running its mobile medical ordering system, so if a patient wants to refill their prescription, they go to a mobile phone, press “submit.” It fills out the order, that order is taken in the Oracle Database, and it runs on Oracle Cloud.
The customer didn’t have to install that system, buy the hardware, or configure it. They don't have to patch it, back it up, or setup data encryption or disaster recovery. One hundred percent of that has been automated.
Q: Another big area of Oracle PaaS is application development. What kinds of application development solutions does Oracle offer in the cloud?
Thomas Kurian: We're focused on three audiences: developers, business users, and what I call semi-technical people.
For developers, we give you a range of programming languages that you can use to build applications in the cloud. You can build applications in Java EE, plain old Java, Node.js, JRuby, and you can run in .NET. The value proposition with our develop-oriented solutions is identical to what we're doing for data management. We take care of installing, configuring, patching, backing up, tuning, monitoring all of the runtimes you deploy code to, like the application servers or the Java virtual machines. You, as a developer, focus on writing the most amazing applications in the world.
The second audience we're focused on is the business user, and the third is semi-technical. Take mobility—it's a big new way of deploying applications. People say, I'd like to get applications built to run on iOS and Android devices, but our IT department is backed up. They're fine with exposing the applications, but somebody else must build the UIs.
So we've introduced a new solution called Oracle Mobile Cloud Service that lets anybody write applications to run in iOS and Android devices. They may not be programmers. Certainly programmers can do it, but they do not need to be technical. As long as they can script, they can get applications to these devices. Of course, business users and managers are also very interested in analytics.
Q: How does Oracle support big data in the cloud?
Thomas Kurian: There's Oracle Big Data Cloud Service. Think of it as a Hadoop environment. You can load data into it, then run your own bespoke MapReduce or any other kind of Hadoop application on top of it. It's basically a general-purpose environment, standard Hadoop 2.0 in the cloud.
On top of that we've built a bunch of services. When you're loading data into this big data environment, we offer a service called Oracle Big Data Preparation. It allows you to clean the data before it gets into what's called Hadoop's "data lake." The problem with putting bad data inside is it makes your lake very dirty. Think of Big Data Preparation as an ETL-like tool, an extract/transform/load tool built natively on top of Hadoop with sophisticated features to cleanse data.
Q: What does Oracle Cloud offer in the area of analytics? And how are customers using it?
Thomas Kurian: I'm really excited about two ways customers are using our business analytics offering. The first is people who are running data warehouses and data marts, and they said, I'd like to get out of operating that. I'd like to put that environment in the cloud. I'm simply going to back up my database and instantiate it on your Oracle Exadata service. And I'd like to use Oracle Business Intelligence, which is now available in the cloud, as a way to build my analytic dashboards and my key performance indicators.
There's another audience, as well. In a typical company, only 25 to 30 percent of the people have access to the data warehouse or data mart, and the reason is that there's so much data, companies are uncomfortable letting large numbers of users have access to it. Now, what about the 70 percent to 75 percent of people in these companies who don't have access to the data warehouse or data mart? They too would like to do an analysis.
So we are introducing a solution, and it has two basic principles: All you need to do analysis is be able to load your data using a spreadsheet like Excel and have a web browser. If you know how to do that, you can do analysis. You can build charts, build graphs, extrapolate data, trend it. You can look at various kinds of root-cause analysis, and you can slice and dice and do all of your data analysis in the cloud.
Oracle ERP Cloud gives customers more functionality with less customization.
Q: Going back a few years, ERP implementations in the corporate data center were a challenge for many companies. How does Oracle ERP Cloud make that easier?
Thomas Kurian: Let's start with the data. A typical company goes live with our financial planning, budgeting, and all of those processes within 12 weeks. A typical company goes live with Oracle ERP Cloud, which includes general ledger and accounting and procurement, in about six months.
We’re able to do this because we've automated a lot more capability as part of the base product that you don't have to build yourself.
The second thing we've done is made reporting an order of magnitude easier. Many ERP systems were written to consolidate transactions. They were not designed to enable reporting. So you had to extract data from the ERP system, put it in a separate system, a warehouse. And then you had to custom build a set of reports on top of the warehouse to look at your monthly close, your quarterly financial position, what your income statement looked like, your balance sheet.
What we've done with the new system is integrate that directly into the ERP system. So you don't have to build separate reports, you don't have to maintain all of that. The benefit is not only that you save cost, but you also get more accurate information. And most importantly, you don't have to maintain customizations. So every time we upgrade, which we do two or three times a year, you get more capability without having to go through a massive retesting of everything you've got.
So that's why Oracle ERP Cloud has had such enormous uptake and why we're seeing such quick go-lives with customers. They get a lot more functionality in the box, and they have to customize a lot less. And reporting, which is one of their biggest needs, is delivered mostly out of the box, so they don't have to build a lot of custom stuff. And that helps you not only the first time, but on an ongoing basis and every time you do one of these upgrades.
Q: No cloud conversation would be complete without talking about the customer and how to better serve and support them. In which industries is Oracle seeing adoption of its CRM as a service offering, Oracle Customer Experience Cloud? And how does Oracle Data Cloud help with that?
Thomas Kurian: We've had great success in financial services, telecommunications, industrial manufacturing, automotive, engineering and construction, and retail. Our general view is that you want an integrated system through which you have a centralized representation of your customer. Who's the customer? What products or services of mine do they own? What customer segment do they belong to?
So we have a central customer master, and from that, we drive seven key business processes. You can market to customers. You can reach them in social media and listen to what they're saying and market to them on social media. If you're in B2C, you can bring them into e-commerce. If you're in B2B, after you've marketed to them and developed them as a lead, you can pass a highly qualified lead to your salesperson.
The customer can then buy things online in e-commerce, or they can call the sales rep and go through a configuration and pricing and quoting process. Hopefully you're wildly successful, so they order. Then you need to help them with customer service. We give you this entire breadth of CRM, all integrated. And we're seeing great success in all these different industries because they want a single integrated view of the customer. They want the customers to experience the company and all its different interface points with them as a single organization. And they find that happy customers mean greater success.
Oracle Data Cloud solves a very important problem. Imagine you're marketing to me. You send me information about a product or service, and I don't open your e-mail. You may be thinking Thomas doesn't really care about my products or service, but 20 minutes later, I search for information about your product or service from my mobile phone. I have eight or nine digital personas—a home address, office address, office phone, mobile phone, corporate e-mail, Gmail, Facebook account. If you can't tell that they all really do belong to Thomas Kurian, you just see a bunch of discrete personas and you can't effectively campaign to them.
What Oracle Data Cloud gives you is the ability to knit together all of a person’s different digital identities across all the channels on the web. So our CRM portfolio is different not just because we integrate all these different business functions for CRM but also because we underpin it with the Oracle Data Cloud.