Oracle Turns to Chip-Based Security, Lower Prices to Counter Amazon

Larry Ellison says Oracle will counter Amazon's cloud services business with "always on" security and encryption technology built into its latest M7 SPARC chip along with aggressive prices.

Oracle Cloud Security 2

SAN FRANCISCO – Oracle’s chairman Larry Ellison told the OpenWorld audience Oct. 28 that his company has the answer to the constant threat of data breaches and cyber-attacks.

“We need much better security, next generation security. We are not winning a lot of these cyber battles,” said Ellison. “We haven’t lost the war, but … we have to rethink how we do this with the vast amount of data moving to the cloud. We have to secure and ensure that all this data is not interrupted.”

Ellison is hardly the first to decry the state of cloud security, but he took the stage to tout Oracle's answer to the intractable problem of computer and data security—new security features built into Oracle’s latest M7 SPARC processor.

In Ellison’s view, one of the shortfalls in security is when users have the option to turn it off or on. Not so in the M7.

“We turn it on and you can’t turn it off,” said Ellison. “We’re taking our software security features and implementing them in silicon,” he said. Ellison said Oracle is the first to implement the Secured Memory technology in a chip that detects any changes in memory access that shouldn’t be happening and shuts down the process.

“You’ll see us making more chips based on security and selling to people who want this in their data center. When you push security down into silicon, that’s an effective way to get ahead of the bad guys,” he added.

For example, Ellison claimed major recent data breaches such as the Heartbleed transport layer security bug and the Venom driver flaw that exposed hundreds of thousands of websites and servers to cyber-attacks, would not have happened if the compromised systems were powered by the M7. “It would have stopped Heartbleed and Venom in real time. Just shut it down,” he said.

IT industry analyst Bob O’Donnell agrees security is a real concern for enterprise customers looking to move to the cloud because there’s a sense that once your company’s data is off-premise you’ve lost control of it.

“I agree with Larry that security needs to be the default setting and keep encryption always on,” O’Donnell, chief analyst at Technalysis Research, told eWEEK.

However, O’Donnell thinks the new chip technology will be more effective at keeping Oracle’s current customers than convincing enterprises not already using Oracle hardware to switch.

“The challenge they have is the world’s been moving away from SPARC and other proprietary chip architectures. This is going to be attractive to SPARC customers looking to make a transition to a more current platform with these new security features,” said O’Donnell.

Ellison also took the wraps off another major cloud initiative that has a security twist, the Dedicated Compute feature that's built into Oracle Elastic Compute Cloud. This is a competitor to Amazon Web Services that Ellison said will cost half as much and offer what some enterprises might consider an important security feature, particularly companies in regulated industries like finance and healthcare.

“Our general policy is to match what competitors like Amazon offer, but when technology allows us to beat them on price, we do,” said Ellison.

In addition to the lower price the Dedicated Compute infrastructure as a service doesn’t mingle files from different customers in the same cloud environment. Amazon and other cloud providers have security and management systems in place to keep customer data sets separate. But this leads to the market perception that sharing that cloud environment makes it less secure.

“You can reserve 100 cores and it’s yours no one else can access those flash drives. We do not mingle data,” said Ellison.

Analyst O’Donnell applauded this move. “There are always people looking for alternatives to Amazon and it sounds like Oracle is building this business and not walking away,” he said. “The one thing that freaks companies out about the public cloud is security. [Oracle] can make the pitch – ‘Do you want your company’s data stored in a secure garage or a public storage locker’?”

David Needle

David Needle

Based in Silicon Valley, veteran technology reporter David Needle covers mobile, bi g data, and social media among other topics. He was formerly News Editor at Infoworld, Editor of Computer Currents...