Oracle Continues to Beat the Cloud Drum

At an event in Boston, cloud head Shawn Price talks about the software giant's 5-year journey to become a key cloud computing company.

Oracle cloud

BOSTON—Shawn Price spent five months heading up software giant SAP's cloud efforts until he left the company in an executive reshuffling, only to reappear in October as the lead executive for cloud computing rival Oracle.

Two months later, the former CEO of SuccessFactors was a key figure here Dec. 9 at the company's Cloud World event, giving a keynote address and meeting with several journalists afterwards to promote Oracle's aggressive efforts to expand its cloud computing capabilities, from optimizing its broad array of enterprise and data base applications for the cloud to reworking its sales teams to deal with the changing ways businesses are buying technology, and with having to sell both cloud-based and on-premises solutions.

It was this determination that attracted Price, now senior vice president of Oracle Cloud, to the company.

"I was blown away by the [cloud] aspirations of Oracle," he told the reporters after the keynote address.

Those aspirations were on full display during the day-long event as Price and other executives spoke to customers about what Oracle is doing in the cloud, what it has planned and what differentiates its approach to that of such competitors as SAP. The show was only the latest step in an ongoing campaign by Oracle executives to trumpet the cloud gains by a company that was famously late to the cloud game, a situation punctuated by the well-known talk by founder and then-CEO Larry Ellison in 2008 in which he said the cloud was little more than a marketing gimmick.

Six years later, Oracle officials have remade the company, including hiring a range of experienced cloud executives such as Price, Peter Magnusson, formerly of Snapchat and Google who is now senior vice president of engineering at Oracle, and Mark Cavage, who came from Joyent to be senior director and architect of engineering for the company's public cloud. At the same time, Oracle offers all parts of the enterprise cloud—platform-as-a-service (PaaS), infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS)—and more than 600 cloud applications, both its own software and that of partners.

"If you can't find [an Oracle] cloud app for an enterprise function, I'd be surprised," Price said during his keynote.

In addition, the company has spent years optimizing these applications for the cloud, as opposed to some rivals, who Price said do little more than put a new UI on the same software, put it into a managed service environment and call it a cloud app. Taking a large, complex business application like human resources or enterprise resource management (ERP) that is designed for an on-premises environment and optimizing it for the cloud "takes a lot of hard work," he said.

Along with the hard work of getting its software onto the cloud, Oracle officials also are working to help customers make the move to the cloud—through such efforts as its Customer 2 Cloud program—and to convince them that Oracle is the company to make the move with. The vendor is doing this from a position of strength: most enterprises run Oracle databases or some enterprise applications, and many are looking to migrate some workloads to the cloud to take advantage of the speed and costs benefits.

Oracle also touts the benefits of running the Oracle solutions atop its engineered hardware systems—such as Exalogic and Exadata—in cloud environments. The software is optimized to work best on these systems, which are based on the SPARC chip technology that Oracle inherited when it bought Sun Microsystems in 2010.

Asked about possible customer fears about vendor lock-in in the cloud, Price said Oracle has worked to keep its cloud solution as open as possible. Organizations can run software from other vendors in the Oracle cloud, and there are APIs throughout the platform. Oracle software runs better on Oracle hardware, but that doesn't mean the software can only be run on Oracle systems, or that only Oracle software will run in the Oracle cloud.