By Rip Empson
Today, at Oracle’s (NYSE:ORCL) OpenWorld Conference in San Francisco, an animated Larry Ellison took to the stage to unveil an assortment of cloud computing services, which will run the company’s long-time-in-coming (six years, in fact, Fusion Applications — most notably the “Oracle Public Cloud”. And, not one to miss an opportunity, Ellison made sure to take quite a few public jabs at Salesforce — and vicariously, its CEO Marc Benioff — whose keynote earlier in the day was cancelled due to “overwhelming attendance”. Whatever that means. The cancellation created a hubbub and led to Benioff giving his own “off-campus” keynote at the St. Regis hotel across the street. (You can read our coverage of the Salesforce CEO’s talk here.)
As for the substance of Ellison’s keynote, the launch of Oracle’s Public Cloud is noteworthy in that it puts the company in competition with Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Rackspace (NYSE:RAX), and Salesforce (NYSE:CRM), which are the clear leaders in the public cloud computing space. According to Ellison, Oracle’s new public cloud will be available for a monthly subscription and will include resource management and isolation, security, data exchange and integration, self-service sign up, elastic capacity on-demand, virus scanning, and more.
The Public Cloud will mix PaaS and Saas capabilities, the CEO said, enabling customers to run Fusion apps, extensions, and custom-built apps all on the new cloud. Along with a database service and a Java service for developers, customers can take “standard Java and Oracle Database apps and deploy them on the Public cloud without rewriting them”.
The Oracle CEO touched multiple times on the fact that the Public Cloud will be based on industry standards, allowing the programs Oracle hosts on the cloud to be easily transferred to a business’ data centers or to other services, like Amazon’s cloud.
So customers can take any existing database and move it to Oracle’s Public Cloud: “Oh and by the way, you can move it back if you want to. You can move it to the Amazon cloud if you want”, Ellison said. “You can do development and test on our cloud and go into production in your data center … and nothing changes. Everything is portable. Your data is portable”. And thus, the Oracle Public Cloud’s value proposition: It’s interoperability with other clouds.
Of course, Ellison also made sure to point out that its Public Cloud is not compatible with Salesforce’s cloud, which runs on custom languages like APEX and “proprietary” technologies that do not allow businesses to develop apps in a data center and move them to Force.com or other clouds.
And how about this for a shot at Salesforce? Ellison said that Salesforce’s approach constitutes the “ultimate vendor lock-in”, in which a customer can “check in, but can’t check out”, calling it “the roach motel of clouds”.
Ellison then lobbied against multi-tenancy, which allow customers to share a single app but it keeps their data separate — the very thing that Benioff had espoused earlier in the day. Instead, Ellison said that multitenancy was “was the state-of-the-art 15 years ago” and offers a piddling security model, whereas the modern cloud leverages virtualization for its security.
Under this model, customers “get a separate virtual machine, your data’s in a separate database because it’s virtualized”. Salesforce, on the other hand, “puts your data at risk by commingling it with others”, he said.
Ellison did not say when Oracle’s Public Cloud will be available, but with Fusion Apps having arrived, it can’t be far away. Of course, Fusion has been endlessly delayed, so nothing is certain.
Another notable announcement was the so-called “Oracle Social Network”, which, as you might guess integrates social networking into Fusion Apps. In other words, it’s a secure collaboration tool that allows customers to find and collaborate with colleagues both in their enterprise and across enterprises, using similar functionality to Facebook (like information feeds) as well as document sharing within their HR system or their own private social network. And perhaps most importantly, Oracle’s new social network seems to be a direct competitor of Salesforce’s Chatter.
Over the last week, Oracle has made some significant announcements and demonstrations of new products and aspects of its cloud computing services, but these have all still managed to pale in comparison to the feud simmering between Ellison and Benioff over the future of the cloud. (More on Benioff’s side here.)
The fight is on.