Oracle OpenWorld this year provided a coming out party for its bare metal — or what Oracle calls its Generation 2 — cloud. The company started building it two years ago, and now it’s sharpened its story: Oracle Cloud Infrastructure is security-first and built for the enterprise. Of course, the company also claims it provides better performance and pricing than any other cloud on the market.
“When you’re a cloud provider, particularly a data and infrastructure cloud company, it turns out you’re basically a security provider,” said Don Johnson, senior vice president of Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, at the annual conference in San Francisco.
Oracle’s Gen 2 cloud “was really a thoughtful exploration” of what worked — and didn’t — with other cloud providers’ infrastructure, he said, adding that “AWS was designed for two kids in a dorm room.”
So, Oracle engineers re-architected its cloud with reconfigured hardware and software tools. They also built in automation and security features including an integrated cloud access security broker (CASB) and a web application firewall (WAF).
“What we did was to really thoughtfully look at all the core requirements that our enterprise customers have, which is security, data security, and price performance — what I’ll call broadly enterprise solutions,” Johnson said. “We power a class of workloads that are not well met by other clouds.”
Oracle’s technology seems solid. Cisco and AT&T Business seem to think so — both are Oracle Cloud Infrastructure customers. The company already has a stronghold in companies’ on-premises data centers with its database software, so targeting its cloud to security-conscious, enterprise customers is smart. Its cloud strategy makes sense. But it may be too late in the game.
Cloud Market Share Dropping
The company’s cloud business has been losing market share and disappointing investors in recent quarters, while competitors like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and IBM skyrocket past it. New third-quarter fiscal 2018 data from Synergy Research Group shows Amazon controls 34 percent of the market, followed by Microsoft (14 percent), IBM (7 percent), and Google (7 percent).
Oracle’s cloud share was a little over 2 percent in the third quarter. “It nudged down again, as it had done in the preceding four quarters,” said John Dinsdale, a chief analyst at Synergy Research Group.
It is too late for Oracle to turn its cloud business around?
“Clearly, they’ve been beefing up their infrastructure play,” said Gartner analyst Sid Nag. “But engineering doesn’t win the day. Wellfleet, in my opinion, had a better router, but Cisco won the market. You can have great engineering infrastructure, but how are you going to attract customers?”
Nag said this was his first question to Oracle executives at the conference: how many net new cloud customers do you have? Details on the numbers of such net new clients were spotty.
“Their go-to-market still has a lot of work to do,” Nag said. “Larry did a lot of Amazon bashing, but I don’t know if that is really going to help them in the long run. At the end of the day, their engineering might be better, and they have hired a bunch of AWS guys for their infrastructure. But where does this fit in? How are they bringing in new customers?”
Moving Customers to Cloud
Kyle York, vice president of product strategy for Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, said Oracle’s cloud strategy has five tenants. No. 1 is a common, consolidated infrastructure platform and No. 2 is price performance.
“The third is enterprise expertise, everything from compliance, certification, regulation, data management, data security,” York said, in an interview at OpenWorld. “The fourth is openness and embracing open source.”
And the final tenant is security, which is where Oracle focused much of its energy at OpenWorld. “It’s crystal clear that Oracle’s been a security company for 50 years, but we never positioned it as such,” York said. What he means is that enterprises have trusted Oracle with their data running in Oracle’s database and other software on premises for decades. Now Oracle wants to help enterprises move these same workloads to its cloud.
“If you think about the heritage of our company, Larry has stayed incredibly focused on enterprise class, and data, data, data,” York said. “You look at other companies’ heritage and why and how they built their cloud, they are all very different.”
The why and how may be different, but by now all the major cloud providers are going after enterprise workload and boosting their security, said John Rymer, a Forrester analyst.
“You look at things like industry certifications for security: Microsoft has a government cloud, Amazon has a government cloud,” he said “They are all doing this. That’s what makes it so difficult for Oracle. At this stage of the game they are way behind the leaders in terms of geographic coverage, way behind in services. They got started much later with this Gen 2 stuff. So if you’re in that position, you’ve got to try to find niches, and I suspect they will try to find the high-security, high-reliability niche. But it’s going to be tough because it’s not like Amazon is crummy, poor performing, and unreliable.”
Rymer said he doesn’t mean to sound too negative. “They do have an enormous database franchise and they are really having great success in SaaS,” he said. “It’s not like it’s all bad and all falling apart. What they’re going to try to do is move all their apps customers to SaaS and try to compete with SAP and Salesforce in SaaS — and they are doing pretty well there.”
Oracle also needs to transform its database franchise from an on-premises success to a cloud-based phenomenon, he said. “And they’ve got their work cut out for them,” Rymer added. “They’ve got to try to find some way to make their cloud infrastructure relevant.”
Ambitious Cloud Roadmap
Oracle’s got an ambitious cloud region roadmap. It currently has cloud data centers in Ashburn, Virginia; Phoenix, Arizona; Frankfurt; and London. It plans to open additional regions in Australia, Canada, Europe, Japan, South Korea, India, Brazil, the Middle East, and the United States, including Virginia, Arizona, and Illinois, by the end of next year.
“We are building one [cloud data center] a month between now and the end of the year,” York said. “We have to go fast.”
This year’s OpenWorld was the “we have arrived moment,” he said, referring to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. But how will the company know if the market agrees? It all hinges on this cloud region roadmap, he said: “This requires customer demand to move to our cloud.”
It also means the company’s got about a year to make good on its cloud promises and turn around its cloud business if it’s going to meet its lofty goals.