Oracle's Cloud Strategy: Cover All Angles

Oracle's cloud strategy involves offering a wide range of products and services, countering rivals with a narrower focus, according to one executive.

Oracle's ambitions to conquer the enterprise-software space are well-known. Its colorful CEO, Larry Ellison, has stepped before audiences to proclaim his company's sights focused on IBM and other big-game competitors.

While the company occasionally paints itself as the underdog in certain market segments, it fully intends to use the sheer scope of its products and resources to help carve out share in the enterprise cloud market.

In an April 12 interview with eWEEK, Steve Miranda, Oracle's senior vice president of application development, suggested that the company had three different angles in the cloud: one as a cloud-infrastructure provider, another as a cloud-application vendor, and a third as a cloud host.

"We think where we're unique is the ability to provide all three," he said.

Oracle offers Fusion Applications via on-premises, private cloud, public cloud, or some combination of those. The applications offer capabilities with more than 100 modules in seven product families, including Human Capital Management, Customer Relationship Management and Supply Chain Management.

The company has also moved to introduce cloud-based APIs for interoperability, ensuring that workloads can be moved between clouds. The Oracle Cloud Resource Model API, a subset of Cloud API, relies on standard HTTP methods to interact with available resources to provision machines and modify configurations. It encourages standardization across the standard building blocks of the cloud, i.e., machines, storage volumes, and networks.

In September 2010, Oracle also announced a new system that allows companies to operate a private cloud within a self-contained system. The Exalogic Elastic Compute Cloud, also known as "cloud in a box," features 30 servers with 360 cores, in addition to networking and storage, married to Oracle's virtual machine (VM) technology operating in conjunction with Solaris and Linux assets.

Even as it moves aggressively into the cloud space, Oracle finds itself competing for business dollars with the likes of tech giants such as IBM, which provides similar services, and smaller companies like which have centered their competitive strategy on the cloud. Microsoft's increasing interest in providing cloud services for business is another area of potential concern for Oracle.

"We've been in this situation a long time. We're sometimes a supplier, a customer and a competitor," Miranda said. "We know [customers] have a choice, it's a highly competitive market and we have to be best in class." Another Oracle advantage, he added, is its ability to provide integrated and complete systems tailored to very specific company needs.

Some of those companies have reservations about what the cloud can do for them, although more are deciding to leap in. "I'm seeing increasing questions and decisions," Miranda said, "about what's available for them in the public cloud and the private cloud." The overwhelming theme, though, "is more questioning." Of those business segments participating in the cloud, sales automation and some core human resources are apparently leading the charge, although others continue to hold back.

Should cloud adoption pick up, though, Oracle's breadth of offerings sits at the center of the company's strategy for squeezing past its competitors. "No other SAAS vendor is also on-premises," Miranda added, as another example of Oracle's reach.

In a space as complicated and fast-moving as the cloud, though, it could be some time before winners become apparent.