Larry Ellison outlines Oracle’s generative AI strategy

Oracle chairman and CTO explains how the company is using GenAI to improve its own services and help its customers solve their biggest problems.

Michael Hickins | September 20, 2023

Oracle Chairman and CTO Larry Ellison outlined how the company is embedding generative AI (GenAI) into its vast portfolio of cloud services, with the aim of helping customers and society at large tackle their most vexing problems.

During his keynote at Oracle CloudWorld, Ellison also announced a slew of new AI-enabled services, including tools for growing food indoors and out, improving healthcare, and automating application development.

Ellison noted that the release last year of version 3.5 of OpenAI’s ChatGPT captured the attention of government leaders and the public alike in a way technological advances rarely do—and for good reason.

“Is this the most important new computer technology ever? Probably. One thing's for certain: We're about to find out,” he said.

Oracle is best positioned among cloud vendors to help companies develop generative AI models, Ellison said, because its Gen2 Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) uses ultrafast remote data memory access (RDMA) networking and connects NVIDIA GPUs in huge superclusters that can efficiently train generative AI models

Is this the most important new computer technology ever? Probably.”

Larry Ellison Chairman and CTO, Oracle

RDMA networking means that “one computer in the network can actually access the memory of another computer without kind of tapping that computer on the shoulder and getting it to interrupt itself,” he said. “So it has the ability to move a lot of data from one computer to another extremely fast, many times faster than conventional networks.”

Ellison noted that OCI’s speed and cost advantages are why vendors such as Cohere, NVIDIA, and X.AI are using it to train their large language models (LLMs). “In the cloud, time is money,” he said. “We are much faster and many times less expensive.”

Ellison noted that generative AI is changing how Oracle itself develops new products.

For example, he said, Oracle will continue supporting older applications using Java if they were written in that programming language, but it will develop new applications using code generated automatically in Oracle APEX by GenAI tools based on developer prompts. “We're not writing it anymore. We're generating that code,” he said. “It fundamentally changes how we build applications, how we run applications. It just changes everything.”

Ellison also noted that the APEX application generator allows for faster application development with smaller development teams, and because the code was generated by GenAI, it helps significantly reduce security flaws. “This is a very big deal,” he said.

The other new capabilities Ellison announced during his Oracle CloudWorld keynote include the following:

  • A new, integrated vector database that stores the semantic content of documents, images, and other unstructured data as vectors and uses these to run fast similarity queries. The new capability will also allow applications built on Oracle Database and Autonomous Database to add an LLM-based natural language interface, letting end users ask for the data they need by posing questions using natural language. This type of capability is required to adapt generalized pretrained LLMs, such as those developed by Oracle partner Cohere, to more specialized contexts such as medicine and law.
  • New capabilities that let developers generate relational table schema from JSON documents in a new object relational database. This gives developers the flexibility to build applications using JSON documents while still benefitting from the strengths of the SQL query language used by structured databases. Developers can thus build apps without first having to plan out the schema ahead of time, which is time-consuming and can lead to errors.

Helping solve the most intractable problems

Ellison said Oracle intends to help governments, healthcare providers, and food growers revolutionize their respective industries and improve the human condition.

  • Oracle is creating an Internet of Things platform that healthcare providers can use to keep better track of their inventories and location of medical supplies. Oracle will also provide IoT capabilities so that providers can use sensors to track patient symptoms and other data.
  • Oracle will also help providers to better store and access electronic patient records, medical imaging, and diagnostics. Ellison said Oracle will make it less expensive for providers to store this data and for them to use generative AI to help with diagnoses. Ellison predicted the impact will be “better outcomes for millions of patients.”
  • Oracle, in partnership with Applied Inventions, is developing greenhouses that take advantage of a range of Oracle technologies, including Autonomous Database, AI, robotics, and data analytics. The greenhouses can operate anywhere in the world, irrespective of climate, to let producers grow food more efficiently closer to where it will be consumed. For example, Oracle Cloud is collecting large amounts of training data—such as the amount of sunlight in different areas, nutritional elements in soils, and plant images—to determine the ideal time for transplanting and harvesting. The AI-powered greenhouses can help growers use 98% less water and 90% less land, which are crucial considerations at a time of significant climate disruption, Ellison said. “It's a modern approach to an industry that's 10,000 years old.”

What comes next?

Returning to generative AI, Ellison noted that most technology “does not get the attention of heads of states and heads of government and everyday people and other professionals. It just doesn't.” But when it comes to GenAI, “everyone wants to know what comes next.”

What comes next is a worldwide race to make the best, most economical use of the technology. According to Ellison, Oracle’s customers and partners in the space (including Cohere and NVIDIA) have a head start in terms of speed and cost.

The next phase of human history is about to be written. But just like the outcome of a Hollywood script, we don’t know if it will be written by human writers or by GenAI itself.

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