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For an IT analyst, nothing beats talking to business and technical people, about their experiences of using IT in their organisations. But recently, I have also found that, amongst the older, larger vendors there is a wealth of experience, knowledge and insight coupled with a new openness and realism. This provides a healthy counterbalance to the technical and shouty nature of much of the marketing and promotion of new technologies. My recent discussion with James Allerton-Austin, Product Strategy Leader, EMEA at Oracle was a great example of this.
As part of a much deeper dive into multi-cloud I wanted to get a better understanding about Oracle’s Cloud capabilities. Also, because Bloor focuses on how technology enables organisations to be Mutable, i.e. live in a state of constant reinvention, I also wanted to get a broader perspective on how Oracle helps customers with the challenges posed by the constantly changing business and technology world we live in.
As James spoke it became clear very quickly that any concerns I had, that Oracle were not only late to the Cloud party, but that culturally they would be ill-suited to the fast paced, open source/standards nature of cloud development, were misplaced. While core elements of Oracle Cloud maintain a proprietary core that leverages their systems management and application experience and expertise, the scope of their close involvement with, and contribution to, key Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) initiatives is refreshing. This is not the place to provide a long list of the open and open source development, deployment and management tools that have been used by Oracle to build their Cloud capabilities. Suffice it to say, digital natives can rest assured they will find an environment they will recognise and should be comfortable in. As I develop my research into comparative cloud stacks I will be sure to go in to more detail on Oracle Cloud components.
A couple of elements of the Oracle Cloud are worth highlighting here because I think they genuinely differentiate it from the competition. The plan to have 36 Cloud Regions globally by the end of 2020 is both surprising and impressive, but the fact that all Oracle Cloud services are available in all regions is unique. If you are a global business challenged to meet local regulations and local sensibilities while maintaining a common set of services and processes, this is a game changer. The other is their recent announcement of Oracle Dedicated Region Cloud@Customer. Simply put, it means you can have a dedicated private cloud in your own datacentre that includes all the services available in the Oracle Public Cloud. To-date, no other Cloud Provider offers that parity of available services in their Private Cloud implementations.
In the past Oracle have not always appeared a very sympathetic or empathetic type of organisation. With a high profile, opinionated leader like Larry Ellison, a comprehensive set of enterprise product offerings and a pretty robust sales model it sometimes must have felt that it was “my (Oracle) way or the highway”. When I started to probe on how Oracle were helping customers and prospects deal with today’s rapidly changing business environment, James indicated that he felt there was a genuinely different and, more customer focused approach growing within Oracle for some time. The arrival of new Chief Marketing Officer, Ariel Kelman, is certainly an outward demonstration of that change. Attracting Kelman from Amazon Web Services (AWS), where he was Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, was quite a coup. On the face of it, AWS is a pretty harsh, driven environment to work in. Most people tend not to associate AWS with enterprise level, consultancy selling based approach. I have tried to disabuse people of that idea for some years, having seen first-hand how AWS spent significant time and effort in key market segments building two-way understanding and trust which was at odds with the image of an automated, product driven sales model. If Ariel Kelman is bringing that same sort of focus and attitude to Oracle, then I can understand why James thinks Oracle is definitely changing.
There is clearly work to do in boardrooms to assure business leaders around both performance and agility over the longer term, while at the same time convincing digital native developers and architects that they will have access to all the cool, open tools in an Oracle Cloud environment. James had a couple of analogies and quotes that I think sum up the situation pretty well. The first is that having a legacy shouldn’t be seen in a negative light. When an elderly Aunt leaves you a legacy in her will, it is a joy to be treasured. He went on to say later that helping companies become Mutable is “more technique than technology”.
There is no doubt that Oracle has a significant legacy that should be a strength. If it can also demonstrate new techniques in listening to customers and harnessing technologies from beyond its own legacy environment the tag of being a legacy database company could soon be a thing of the past.