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By Barbara Darrow—Jan 16, 2020
As we move into the third decade of cloud computing, it’s important to remember that not all clouds are alike.
Back in, say 2006, cloud computing services were a revelation to software developers. These rentable storage and compute services provided a handy virtual holding cell that developers could use for designing and prototyping new applications without breaking the bank, or requiring scarce cooperation from in-house resources. And that was all well and good for that time.
Fast forward more than a decade and the status quo is a lot more complicated. As businesses of all sizes weigh the use of cloud platforms to run their critical applications, one part of the equation is that these applications cannot fail without serious financial and reputational consequences. Put it this way: If a computer game glitches, your point total may take a hit. If your manufacturing system hiccups, you can lose real money. And/or your job, depending on your role at the company.
For these types of workloads, businesses require highly secure cloud services that can work in tandem with other cloud services, with services that remain on-premise, and are modern enough for emerging competitive and technological needs.
This shift in how companies look at cloud services affects tech suppliers and their customers alike, said Edward Screven, Oracle’s chief corporate architect, in an address earlier this month to Oracle customers attending Oracle Cloud Day in New York City .
“Gen 1 clouds are not good enough for many uses,” he said. Oracle built its Gen 2 cloud to support its cloud business applications, and for its business customers. “Your critical apps drove how we built our cloud,” Screven said.
Early clouds were built so that processors were shared by many customers. The advantage was cost efficiency; the downside was that customer code can, in some circumstances, access the very computers that are used to run the cloud service. In this case, if that customer code were to be infected by malware, the threat may not be contained to that customer’s workload, and can spread.
Oracle’s Gen 2 cloud, by contrast, isolates customer code so it cannot access the cloud’s control computers—or vice versa. A separate processor, which Screven called a perimeter control computer, filters incoming network packets to prevent bad code from entering the customer’s work zone. Isolating the controls of the cloud operations from customer’s tasks helps ensure better security all around.
Gen 2 cloud also utilizes autonomous technology to patch, update, and configure cloud resources without human intervention. In complex environments, it is expensive and time consuming for human administrators to keep up with the latest security threats or configuration wrinkles—provided you can even find them in a tight labor market.
Oracle’s Gen 2 cloud supports online patching. During the Spectre /Meltdown bugs that afflicted Intel processors, online patching averted downtime for Oracle customers by applying 150 million fixes across 1.5 million computer cores. That massive operation took just four hours, Screven said. Perhaps more impressively, online patching -- based on Oracle’s K-splice technology—meant no servers had to be rebooted at all. “Our customers didn’t realize we’d even done it,” Screven said.
Autonomous capabilities give Oracle’s Gen 2 cloud 99.995% availability—which nets out to less than 2.5 minutes of downtime per month.
While it is true that many business workloads are moving to outside public cloud infrastructure, it is also true that most businesses will keep running some mission-critical applications on premise.
According to Forrester VP and principal analyst James Staten, a healthy 74% of businesses surveyed describe their IT strategy as hybrid, meaning they use cloud in parallel with non-cloud technologies.
Those companies need a comprehensive way to manage their data and applications across deployment models.
Oracle’s latest release of Enterprise Manager is intended to help companies migrate workloads to Oracle’s Gen 2 cloud—as well as manage their databases from a single dashboard, whether they are running on premise or in the cloud.
Businesses are quickly learning that Gen 1 clouds relying on commodity hardware and software, and a patchwork quilt of disparate services, are not up to the mission-critical task of running their most important applications and safeguarding their data in a secure, scalable, reliable way.
Most likely they will want to avail themselves of a Gen 2 cloud built from its foundations to handle important business applications.