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Oracle’s database service offerings could be its last best hope for cloud success

Yesterday Oracle announced a new online transaction processing database service, finally bringing its key database technology into the cloud. The company, which has been around for over four decades made its mark selling databases to the biggest companies in the world, but as the world has changed, large enterprise customers have been moving increasingly to the cloud. These autonomous database products could mark Oracle’s best hope for cloud success.

The database giant, which has a market cap of over $194 billion and over $67 billion in cash on hand certainly has options no matter what happens with its cloud products. Yet if the future of enterprise computing is in the cloud, the company needs to find some sustained success there, and what better way to lure its existing customers than with its bread and butter database products.

Oracle has demonstrated a stronger commitment to the cloud in recent years after showing it much disdain for it. In fact, it announced it would be building 12 new regional data centers earlier this year alone, but it wasn’t always that way. Company founder and executive chairman Larry Ellison famously made fun of the cloud as “more fashion driven than women’s fashion.” Granted that was in 2008, but his company certainly came late to the party.

A different kind of selling

The cloud is not just a different way of delivering software, platform and infrastructure, it’s a different way of selling. While switching databases might not be an easy thing to do for most large companies, the cloud subscription payment model still offers a way out that licensing rarely did. As such, it requires more of a partnership between vendor and customer. After years of having a reputation of being aggressive with customers, it may be even harder for them to make this shift.

Salesforce exec Keith Block (who was promoted to Co-CEO just yesterday), worked at Oracle for 20 years before joining Salesforce in 2013. In an interview with TechCrunch in 2016, when asked specifically about the differences between Oracle and Salesforce, he contrasted the two company’s approaches and the challenges a company like Oracle, born and raised in the open prem world, faces as it shifts to the cloud. It takes more than a change in platform, he said.

“You also have to have the right business model and when you think about our business model, it is a ‘shared success model’. Basically, as you adopt the technology, it’s married to our payment schemes. So that’s very, very important because if the customer doesn’t win, we don’t win,” Block said at the time.

John Dinsdale, chief analyst and managing director at Synergy Research, a firm that keeps close watch on the cloud market, agrees that companies born on-prem face adjustments when moving to the cloud. “In order to survive and thrive in today’s cloud-oriented environment, any software company that grew up in the on-prem world needs to have powerful, cost-effective products that can be packaged and delivered flexibly – irrespective of whether that is via the cloud or via some form of enhanced on-prem solution,” he said.

Database as a Service or bust

All that said, if Oracle could adjust, it has the advantage of having a foothold inside the enterprise. It also claims a painless transition from on-prem Oracle database to its database cloud service, which if a company is considering moving to the cloud could be attractive. There is also the autonomous aspect of its cloud database offerings, which promises to be self-tuning, self-healing with automated maintenance and updates and very little downtime.

Carl Olofson, an analyst with IDC who covers the database market sees Oracle’s database service offerings as critical to its cloud aspirations, but expects business could move slowly here. “Certainly, this development (Oracle’s database offerings) looms large for those whose core systems run on Oracle Database, but there are other factors to consider, including any planned or active investment in SaaS on other cloud platforms, the overall future database strategy, the complexity of moving operations from the datacenter to the cloud, and so on. So, I expect actual movement here to be gradual.” he said.

Adam Ronthal, an analyst at Gartner sees the database service offerings as Oracle’s best chance for cloud success. “The Autonomous Data Warehouse and the Autonomous Transaction Processing offerings are really the first true cloud offerings from Oracle. They are designed and architected for cloud, and priced competitively. They are strategic and it is very important for Oracle to demonstrate success and value with these offerings as they build credibility and momentum for their cloud offerings,” he said.

The big question is can Oracle deliver in a cloud context using a more collaborative sales model, which is still not clear. While it showed some early success as it has transitioned to the cloud, it’s always easier easier to move from a small market share number to a bigger one, and the numbers (when they have given them) have flipped in the wrong direction in recent earnings reports.

As the stakes grow ever higher, Oracle is betting on what it’s known best all along, the databases that made the company. We’ll have to wait and see if that bet pays off or if Oracle’s days of database dominance are numbered as business looks to public cloud alternatives.

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Facebook cracks down on opioid dealers after years of neglect

Facebook’s role in the opioid crisis could become another scandal following yesterday’s release of harrowing new statistics from the Center for Disease Control. It estimated there were nearly 30,000 synthetic opioid overdose deaths in the US in 2017, up from roughly 20,000 the year before. When recreational drugs like Xanax and OxyContin are adulterated with the more powerful synthetic opioid Fentanyl, the misdosage can prove fatal. Xanax, OxyContin, and other pain killers are often bought online, with dealers promoting themselves on social media including Facebook. Hours after the new stats were reported by the New York Times and others, a source spotted that Facebook’s internal search engine stopped returning posts, Pages, and Groups for searches of “OxyContin”, “Xanax”, “Fentanyl”, and other opioids, as well as other drugs like “LSD”. Only videos, often news reports deploring opiate abuse, and user profiles whose names match the searches are now returned. This makes it significantly harder for potential buyers or addicts to connect with dealers through Facebook. However, some dealers have taken to putting drug titles into their Facebook profile names, allowing accounts like “Fentanyl Kingpin Kilo” to continue showing up in search results. It’s not exactly clear when the search changes occurred. On some search result pages for queries like “Buy Xanax”, Facebook is now showing a “Can we help?” box that says “If you or someone you know struggles with opioid misuse, we would like to help you find ways to get free and confidential treatment referrals, as well as information about substance use, prevention and recovery.” A “Get support” button opens the site of The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of the US department of health and human services that provides addiction resources. Facebook had promised back in June that this feature was coming. Facebook search results for many drug names now only surface people and video news reports, and no longer show posts, Pages, or Groups which often offered access to dealers When asked, Facebook confirmed that it’s recently made it harder to find content that facilitates the sale of opioids on the social network. Facebook tells me it’s constantly updating its approach to thwart bad actors who look for new ways to bypass its safeguards. The company confirms it’s now removing content violating its drug policies, it’s blocked hundreds of terms associated with drug sales from showing results other than links to news about drug abuse awareness. It’s also removed thousands of terms from being suggested as searches in its typeahead. Prior to recent changes, buyers could easily search for drugs and find posts from dealers with phone numbers to contact Regarding the “Can we help?” box, Facebook tells me this resource will be available on Instagram in the coming weeks, and it provided this statement: “We recently launched the “Get Help Feature” in our Facebook search function that directs people looking for help or attempting to purchase illegal substances to the SAMHSA national helpline. When people search for help with opioid misuse or attempt to buy opioids, they will be prompted with content at the top of the search results page that will ask them if they would like help finding free and confidential treatment referrals. This will then direct them to the SAMHSA National Helpline. We’ve partnered with the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration to identify these search terms and will continue to review and update to ensure we are showing this information at the most relevant times.” Facebook’s new drug abuse resource feature The new actions follow Facebook shutting down some hashtags like “#Fentanyl” on Instagram back in April that could let buyers connect with dealers. That only came after activists like Glassbreakers’ Eileen Carey aggressively criticized the company demanding change. In some cases, when users would report Facebook Groups or Pages’ posts as violating its policy prohibiting the sale of regulated goods like drugs, the posts would be removed but Facebook would leave up the Pages. This mirrors some of the problems it’s had with Infowars around determining the threshold of posts inciting violence or harassing other users necessary to trigger a Page or profile suspension or deletion. Facebook in some cases deleted posts selling drugs but not the Pages or Groups carrying them Before all these changes, users could find tons of vendors illegally selling opioids through posts, photos, and Pages on Facebook and Instagram. Facebook also introduced a new ads policy last week requiring addiction treatment centers that want to market to potential patients be certified first to ensure they’re not actually dealers preying on addicts. Much of the recent criticism facing Facebook has focused on it failing to prevent election interference, privacy scandals, and the spread of fake news, plus how hours of browsing its feeds can impact well-being. But its negligence regarding illegal opioid sales has likely contributed to some of the 72,000 drug overdose deaths in America last year. It serves as another example of how Facebook’s fixation on the positive benefits of social networking blinded it to the harsh realities of how its service can be misused. Last year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that learning of the depths of the opioid crisis was the “biggest surprise” from his listening tour visiting states across the U.S, and that it was “really saddening to see.” The fact that he called this a “surprise” when some of the drugs causing the crisis were changing hands via his website is something Facebook hasn’t fully atoned for, nor done enough to stop. The new changes should be the start of a long road to recovery for Facebook itself.

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