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Oracle OpenWorld 2017 Keynote—Thomas Kurian

Beyond Cloud: Oracle Offers a Glimpse into the Future

From chatbots to artificial intelligence, Oracle executives Thomas Kurian and Dave Donatelli explain how companies can seize new opportunities.

By Chris Murphy

Thomas Kurian, Oracle president of product development, has mapped out the technology path ahead for Oracle, and it includes artificial intelligence, machine learning, chatbots, and new human interfaces.

President of Development Thomas Kurian talks about how Oracle is infusing new technologies and new forms of human interface into its cloud offerings.

During a keynote presentation at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco, Kurian said these emerging technologies now fit into the vision Oracle has had since it started building its cloud offerings more than a decade ago: Let anyone, anywhere in the world, access the power of all of Oracle’s technologies using only a browser or a phone.

“We’re going to show you not just the new innovations we have in Oracle Cloud, but also a glimpse into the future of Oracle, of how we’re infusing the new technologies of autonomous computing, artificial intelligence, IoT, blockchain, and new forms of human interface into our cloud offering,” Kurian said.

These fast-emerging technologies give companies a window of opportunity to get a competitive edge, and that makes it even more important for companies to have a well-defined cloud strategy, said Dave Donatelli, Oracle executive vice president, in the same keynote session.

Oracle Executive Vice President Dave Donatelli discusses how fast-emerging technologies give companies a window of opportunity to get a competitive edge.

“We’re all busy doing what we do all day long, so how do we find the time to transform our business and take advantage of the opportunities that these technologies present?” Donatelli asked. With cloud services, companies are able to spend less time and money on routine IT support and maintenance, freeing up their talent and resources to apply new technologies in their businesses, he said.

Donatelli noted that Oracle, unique among cloud providers, offers three different ways for companies to embrace these new technologies. They can deploy on premises as they always have, get all the benefits of a cloud subscription model while running inside their own data center using the Oracle Cloud at Customer model, or use a pure cloud model. “This has enabled us to serve customers of all different shapes and sizes and maturity levels,” he said.

Kurian then discussed the breadth of Oracle Cloud services across applications, infrastructure, platform, and data as a service. He and members of his development team demonstrated how Oracle is applying emerging tech to advance that cloud vision. Here are three examples.

Rise of Chatbots and New Human Interfaces

Kurian showed how a sports team could use a chatbot to let a customer use Facebook Messenger to check on seat availability, browse options, and purchase tickets. With AI algorithms running in the background, the bot can decide what deal to offer that has the best chance of driving additional revenue, such as having food delivered to the customer’s seat.

Oracle’s new bot-building capability, part of Oracle Mobile Cloud Enterprise, lets companies create this kind of new interactive customer experience using drag-and-drop tools. Developers define how the conversation should flow, what kind of questions customers might ask, and which messaging channels—such as Messenger, Slack, voice-based assistants, or others—customers can use. Natural language processing capabilities built into the platform understand and learn the nuances and context of conversations. And developers can use APIs to integrate the bot to back-end systems, as a way of pulling in data such as team schedule and seat availability.

Our analytics vision is very simple: to allow anyone in the be able to analyze any type of data from any data source...

—Oracle President of Development Thomas Kurian

Chatbots are just one form of what Kurian described as new human interfaces Oracle will continue to develop and deliver.

“Our vision for the human interface for applications is to become seamless for humans,” he said. “No longer is it just web and mobile screens, but you could speak to the application. You can interact with it with messaging. You can take pictures, and we can identify images, compare them with other things, and automate transactions.”

New Analytics Capabilities

One demo showed the example of a company that wants to monitor Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to better understand its market and would-be customers. However, getting a complete picture requires more than knowing how often a product is mentioned by name. A shoemaker will want to know how often a picture of its product or a rival’s appears—and even the context, like whether they’re being worn by a professional athlete or by a kid on the playground.

“Our analytics vision is very simple: to allow anyone in the world, not just professional analysts, to be able to analyze any type of data from any data source,” Kurian said. “Not just numbers, but images, audio, video, textual data, sensor data.”

Thomas Kurian

Oracle wants customers and developers to use information technology in a fundamentally new way, says Oracle President Thomas Kurian.

Kurian announced a new service, Oracle Analytics Cloud, that helps companies manage this kind of data variety in the cloud, and process, summarize, and visualize insights from it. And, rather than passively wait for an analyst to pose questions, machine learning built into the system will make recommendations—such as identifying bot traffic and asking if you want to include or exclude that from results, or spotting key performance indicators and asking if the system should track them. An analyst can accept these recommendations, or ask to set up her own KPIs.

And charts won’t be the only way to learn when a KPI moves.

“The system will monitor them for you. It will send you a message on your favorite messaging platform via bot to tell you, ‘Hey, the data has changed, and the key performance indicator is now affected,’” Kurian said. “And it can also leave you a voicemail to tell you why the data changed. So, new ways of thinking about visualizing data, and then to collaborate with other people using that data.”

Applications That Get Smarter

Oracle is offering an artificial intelligence platform to let developers build and apply machine learning and AI algorithms. At the same time, Oracle is embedding AI directly into its software-as-a-service applications, using deep, domain-specific algorithms optimized for ERP, HCM, and CRM.

“We believe that applications should become more intelligent over time,” Kurian said. “And the way we believe that's going to happen is that business rules, which are manually encoded by humans in these applications, will be augmented or replaced by learning algorithms based on artificial intelligence.”

For example, ERP systems will do price comparisons to put forward better price recommendations for a product. Procurement apps will better detect fraudulent transactions. HR systems will help identify top candidates or the steps to retain employees and help develop their careers.

Customers and developers [can] use information technology in a fundamentally new transform your organization, your companies, and the world.

—Thomas Kurian, Oracle President of Development

Kurian offered the example of how the typical manager will say yes to 99 out of the 100 approvals they’re asked to make on routine activities. “So you're wasting your time looking at 99 elements to find the one that you might reject,” he said. “Imagine if the system could do that for you.”

Kurian promised Oracle will continue driving this kind of innovation.

“We're doing this to give you, our customers and developers, a canvas on which you can paint your vision and your ambitions and dreams, to use information technology in a new way, in a fundamentally new way, to transform your organization, your companies, and the world,” Kurian said.

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The preceding is intended to outline our general product direction. It is intended for information purposes only, and may not be incorporated into any contract. It is not a commitment to deliver any material, code, or functionality, and should not be relied upon in making purchasing decisions. The development, release, timing and price of any features or functionality described for Oracle's products may change and remains at the sole discretion of Oracle Corporation. Fees apply for new Database product offerings.

Statements in this article relating to Oracle’s future plans, expectations, beliefs, and intentions are “forward-looking statements” and are subject to material risks and uncertainties. Such statements are based on Oracle’s current expectations and assumptions, some of which are beyond Oracle’s control. All information in this article is current as of October 4, 2017 and Oracle undertakes no duty to update any statement in light of new information or future events.