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.
Oracle Continues to Beat the Cloud Drum
Price also said businesses are getting increasingly comfortable with running workloads in cloud environments, and he expects more mission-critical applications to migrate there. In response to a journalist’s question, he said, “I think everything can go to the cloud.”
Oracle’s broad cloud efforts are having an impact, according to company officials. Price noted that Oracle’s cloud business has about 62 million subscribers, and processes more than 23 billion transactions a day. While announcing fiscal 2015 first-quarter financial numbers in September, Oracle executives said that cloud revenue grew 29 percent over the same period last year, to $477 million, and that revenues for SaaS, PaaS and IaaS jumped from 25 percent to 31 percent.
The company has gained 500 new cloud customers. The company is scheduled to release second-quarter numbers Dec. 17.
“We’re focused on … becoming number one in the cloud,” Oracle co-CEO Mark Hurd said during a conference call in September to talk about the first-quarter figures. “That means growing our cloud business rapidly. So you’re seeing an acceleration in our growth rate. … Not only are we getting bigger in the cloud, our growth rate is going up. That’s usually the opposite of what happens.”
Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT, said that Ellison and the other Oracle executives deserve credit for ramping up the company’s cloud capabilities after getting a late start in the booming field. However, as organizations begin to embrace hybrid clouds—running private clouds behind the firewall while also engaging public clouds when needed—Oracle is lagging its key competitors, in particular Microsoft (with its Azure platform) and IBM (with its IBM Cloud based on the SoftLayer acquisition), King told eWEEK.
While Oracle can run customer applications on its own cloud, it isn’t pursuing the public cloud part of the equation as aggressively as others, such as VMware and EMC, he said. That was evident in the Dec. 9 launch of the Cloud Foundry Foundation, which counted among its members IBM, EMC, VMware and SAP. Oracle’s absence was obvious, King said.
“It’s a company that’s tended to go out on its own,” he said.
However, as illustrated by the Cloud Foundry launch, interoperability is important in cloud environments, and “it needs to be there from the get-go, or customers won’t buy into it.”