This is Part II of an interview eWEEK conducted with Oracle CEO Mark Hurd on Oct. 23 during the Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco.
SAN FRANCISCO—Oracle CEO Mark Hurd is tasked with many things, but persuading a lot of old-line institutional-IT customers to move as much of their IT infrastructure as possible into a cloud or clouds is one of the biggest and most challenging ones. We’re talking about huge, well-entrenched and wide-ranging systems in data centers run by government agencies, the military, multinational corporations, aircraft makers, oil and gas developers, scientific labs and others that are probably looking to retool their vast IT systems anyway.
So, Oracle contends, why not move it all into distant, professionally run data centers, and trust companies like itself and its partners with their crown jewels—which, of course, is all that data? Much easier said than done.
To facilitate this, Oracle launched a consulting platform last June called Soar, which the company contends is the world’s first automated cloud migration offering. (Companies such as Microsoft, Deloitte, Accenture, Dell EMC Boomi and others aren’t likely to agree with that description.) Oracle claims this rapid upgrade enables its customers to save time, cut costs and stay focused on business—and that’s what new-gen IT is all about.
Foundation Platform for Moving Systems to the Cloud
Soar is the foundation for Oracle’s campaign to move its customer base—as regulated and tough to change as any in the IT business—to software-as-a-service (SaaS) systems.
“The design of this is to make this as simple and painless for our user base to move from where they are today to SaaS,” Hurd told eWEEK. “We have a toolset that can actually map your on-premise world to the SaaS world. In addition to that, we then come in with a bid—which is very important to our customers. The technology is important, but how you implement it is very important as well.”
Hurd said that in these IT transition projects, Oracle wants to come in with three definitive factors: pricing that the customer can bank on, the speed by which they go from signing a contract to going live and the quality of the implementation.
“To be blunt, we want to drive that pricing to be more competitive,” Hurd said. “We want the SIs [system integrators] to not look at the new world like they looked at the old world. Our customers want them to come in, implement and leave. They don’t want them to come in, customize and stay. That has a different mindset. It’s about getting in, not trying to change the code, implementing the code, pricing accordingly, accelerating the speed to go live and making sure it’s the highest quality.
“You have to make sure you’re sending in knowledgeable people. The historic model in the SI world is to send in a team of people—most of whom know the product—and some of whom will be shadowing that team to learn the product. I’d like everyone to know the product, to be trained and certified before they engage.
“Soar is more than a program. It’s indicative of where we see the market headed, and how we want not only our consulting team to work, but how we’d like to see more of the SIs work.”
Hurd’s Take on Innovation
Some people contend that Oracle was late to the cloud, especially after co-founder Larry Ellison bashed the concept (“What is the cloud but a bunch of connected computers?” was one of his more famous quotes) many times before the company went all in about six years ago.
“I’ve heard that from several people,” Hurd said. “I’m not sure I know what that means, that we were late to the cloud. Clearly, we weren’t late in apps. We’re sort of dominating the back office now, and we’re the only credible alternative to Salesforce in the front office. If given a choice about where we should lead, the back office [market] is twice the size of the front office [market], and we’re the leader. There’s no second guy that’s even close.
“When you say ‘cloud,’ people often interchange SaaS, infrastructure [IaaS] and others … it’s cloudy,” he said. “When it comes to the market, who are the leaders? IBM? What do they have? What’s Google got? They have a bunch of servers—do they have any IP [intellectual property]? When you start going through this company by company, Oracle now sits with a complete end-to-end infrastructure app stack. Who else has that? Amazon? Microsoft? They’re the closest; they’re actually different than our app, but they do have a stack.
“Many of their apps are less mission-critical than ours. So [for example] when you’re dealing with AT&T’s billing system, and they say, ‘Hey, I got it: Why don’t we just move THAT to the cloud!’ they have meetings and say, ‘Well, let’s just pretend it doesn’t work [in the cloud].’ You can’t say that of billing. Email can be down for a few hours, and you can get through that, but the bills need to go out. We have a little bit different level of scrutiny than they [Microsoft] do.”
Don’t forget that Larry Ellison invented NetSuite (which Oracle eventually bought for $9.3 billion in July 2016), Hurd reminded eWEEK. “This was the first real cloud back-office company. He got the blame for being late to the cloud because he made fun of the word ‘cloud.’ He wasn’t making fun of the architecture; he was making fun of the word,” Hurd said.
Well, to those of use covering the Oracle beat way back in 2008, it sure seemed like the Oracle-co-founder thought the whole cloud thing was a lot of hype.
Oracle States Its Case for Innovation
When it comes to innovation, Hurd cites the rapidly growing usage of artificial intelligence—in numerous forms—in applications as a major trend and said Oracle will be using more of it in all its apps.
“This movement toward digital assistants, chatbots and AI into the core applications will drive new and significant different business outcomes,” Hurd said. “This will mean a significant set of innovation over the course of the next few years. We’ll see whole new UIs using voice; you’ll be able to leave a restaurant and say, ‘My expense statement: 80 dollars, dinner with Larry Ellison,’ then take a picture of my expense statement, and boom, that’s it. No more forms, no more anything else.”
Digital assistants that can talk people through solutions or processes will become more commonplace, Hurd said. “This is all going to change for the good, but it’s all going to wind up in the core application.”
As CEO, Hurd naturally is a bottom-line kind of guy, so he wanted to make sure Oracle’s central message came through in this interview as the—what else?—bottom line.
“To be clear on what we deliver: We have the broadest, most complete set of SaaS applications in the industry, bar none,” Hurd said. “In almost every case, they are best of breed. Second, we are delivering the second generation of a platform supported by the most advanced database technology in the world, with the autonomous database. And we will have more of our apps taking advantage of that technology, so that technology will spread across the entire SaaS platform—automatic patching, no more tuning and so on. All of our apps will get the benefit of the autonomous database.”
Going into the new year 2019, one would expect nothing less than a statement of that nature from Oracle, the world’s largest database maker.