The Evolving Cloud Picture: Q&A with Steve Daheb, Senior Vice President, Oracle Cloud

Oracle has been extending its cloud reach with announcements of new partnerships, additional cloud developers and engineers, and more cloud regions. Recently, Steve Daheb, senior vice president, Oracle Cloud, talked with Big Data Quarterly about how the company's cloud strategy has evolved and how customers' use of Oracle technology is changing. Gen 1 of cloud adoption was about moving workloads from on-premise, he says, but the next stage will be about how companies can take advantage of new technologies to improve their processes in ways that were not possible before.

BDQ: How does Oracle define its approach to cloud?
Steve Daheb: Cloud does not just equate to infrastructure as a service [IaaS]. Cloud includes software-as-a-service applications and the platform layer, which includes database, data management, integration, application development, security, and analytics. The foundation of all of that is a second-generation cloud infrastructure made up of IaaS services that support traditional workloads as well as HPC [high performance computing] workloads and cloud-native app development—and all those other things, as well.

'Every journey to cloud is different. There's not a one-size-fits-all approach.' 

BDQ: Many companies are embracing hybrid approaches.
SD: Obviously, cloud is really important for many of our customers. It's about a thoughtful approach to the cloud. It's not really a one-way street. It is about building a bridge, and leveraging what you have on-prem, and moving things as they sense for customers.

BDQ: Is there similarity in customers' cloud deployments?
SD: I think every journey to cloud is different. There's not a one-size-fits-all approach. And so, for example, in the database area, we offer a choice of deploying on-prem, of deploying in the cloud, and also with our Cloud at Customer product we can deploy our cloud technology behind a user's firewall.

BDQ: How does Oracle differentiate itself from other cloud offerings?
I think where we're really differentiating ourselves is with respect to the integration of intelligence—like machine learning, IoT, blockchain—not only into the applications but also creating a platform upon which people can develop their own. And I think the other place where we really look to differentiate is with respect to security. We believe there's much more of a joint, shared-responsibility approach to security. With things like the Autonomous Database which leverages machine learning and AI, we automatically configure ourselves. We automatically run where we can eliminate human error, and we automatically patch. And so, Oracle customers are not able to make configuration errors. We will take care of that for them.

BDQ: In the last year, Oracle has altered its relationships with Microsoft and VMware.  What should people take away from those partnerships?
SD: When you think about where we come from, we come from on-prem environments that were heterogeneous and were multi-vendor. Oracle needed to work alongside third-party databases, other vendors' software, and everybody's hardware. We understand that working together is important. We're taking that same philosophical approach to cloud. Oracle and Microsoft have been serving enterprise customer needs for decades. I think together we probably are 99% penetrated in the enterprises. And we had customers saying, look, it'd be really good if this all worked seamlessly together. So, while we announced it last year, this is something, to be honest, that was a development effort. It was something we identified quite some time ago.

'We believe the future is going to be multi-cloud as well as hybrid cloud.'

BDQ: What does it enable?
SD: We believe the future is going to be multi-cloud as well as hybrid cloud. Now, enterprises can seamlessly connect Azure services to Oracle Cloud services. They can use Azure Power BI, and can run that on Oracle Autonomous Database. They can choose what they like from each company, maybe the best services across the companies, simplifying how they migrate data without needing to re-architect solutions. So, it's easy for customers to say, I have a Microsoft footprint and I think I'm going to move that to Azure. I have an Oracle footprint. I want to keep that Oracle footprint, whether it's apps or a database, but I want to be able to make sure that these things connect. That's what we've done.

BDQ: And then, there is also the relationship with VMware.
SD: Again, this was one where we really focused on making it as simple as possible for our customers to move to cloud. We understand that many of our customers have VM environments, and we are enabling them to simply lift and shift the VMware workload intact. There are a lot of settings that go into that. There are servers, storage, and networking, and considerations about how the app is performing. They can take that entire already-architected structure and simply move that to OCI [Oracle Cloud Infrastructure], or extend VMware environments. So, whether it is the scaling of an existing environment or lifting and shifting an entire environment to cloud, that is what we are able to do.

Those are two important partnerships that I think highlight multi-cloud, and I think highlight the focus on how we simplify migration for our customers, and are also being very thoughtful in terms of supporting hybrid—and doing all of this in a secure way while delivering new emerging technologies that differentiate these features at the same time.

In the past year, Oracle has also made announcements about hiring more cloud developers and engineers, and opening more cloud regions.
SD: Demand in regions may relate to governance issues with using a local data center, as well as regulatory or latency issues. We have announced that we're hiring 2,000 new cloud developers and engineers to support that global business and are launching 20 more cloud regions by the end of 2020, which actually averages out to about one new data center region every 23 days. And with all of them, we address security and governance the same way so it's a big investment for us. And this is supporting, again, all layers of cloud.

BDQ: Oracle is showcasing the idea of automation with the Oracle Autonomous Database and the Autonomous Cloud, and the idea that you can have more security and less human error.
SD: I think when you look at companies overall, this is a real differentiation. The Autonomous Database automatically applies security patches with no downtime—planned or unplanned. It automatically encrypts all data at rest. And so when you have a database that automatically patches and automatically encrypts, you're going to reduce a lot of risk. And again, from a self-driving perspective it, automatically provisions, monitors, and tunes. So it really takes away 80% of the administrative tasks.

'DBAs are managing an average of 50-plus databases each—and it's growing—so their load is not getting any easier.'

How is that being accepted and how are Oracle DBAs regarding this change?
SD: We are finding that DBAs and companies are embracing the security aspects of it. In addition, DBAs are managing an average of 50-plus databases each—and it's growing—so their load is not getting any easier. This allows them to shift their time to higher value tasks like application development, and working with the business. They can focus not on aggregating and preparing data and running reports, but on really analyzing the data and providing more value to the business. We have applied automation to the database with respect to self-running, self-patching, and eliminating human errors, and we are also integrating machine learning into our security offerings so we can automatically identify anomalous behavior or potential threats.

BDQ: Is automation being applied in other areas?
SD: We have also taken machine learning technology and we've integrated it into our applications as well. We looked at ERP, supply chain, HCM, and CX, and we have integrated the technology in so it winds up being a feature of ERP where it can automatically detect fraud via audits or find patterns in data and optimize your supply chain. It can identify best-fit candidates and reduce the time it takes to backfill people. It can identify next-best offers or next-best marketing or sales material, or things that are of interest to somebody and deliver it in a personalized way to them.  We are looking at technologies like machine learning, IoT, digital assistants, and blockchain and we're actually doing the hard work to embed it into offerings so they have more out-of-the-box value.

'Gen 1 of cloud was more strictly compute, networking, and storage, and moving workloads from on-prem to the cloud. Now it's shifting. It's not just about moving to the cloud, it's about what can be done in the cloud.'

BDQ: How is this working for customers?
SD: We have customers like GE, Volvo, Arab Jordan Investment Bank, and CargoSmart, and they are all doing different things. GE is using our technology to reconcile multiple ERP systems. Volvo is using it to do responsible sourcing of car battery materials. CargoSmart does a lot of cargo shipping and so they track that as well. Arab Jordan Investment Bank is using it to drive real transparency in money transfers across countries. It's really interesting to see these technologies and all the different ways that they're actually being used. Our customers are limited only by their imagination in terms of what they're doing. It's fun to be a part of.

BDQ: Looking ahead over the next 3 years, how do you think things will change?
SD: Gen 1 of cloud was more strictly compute, networking, and storage, and moving workloads from on-prem to the cloud. Now it's shifting. It's not just about moving to the cloud, it's about what can be done in the cloud: What kind of data can I collect now with IoT? What can I do with blockchain and data? What can I do with machine learning, and automation, and analytics with data to truly change how I operate my business? Lift and shift is status quo. But taking advantage of things that can be done differently—whether that is innovation, or customer experience, or people using Autonomous Database to shorten the amount of time it takes to get a blood test result from 2 weeks to 30 minutes—these are some big things that would not have been possible with just moving data to the cloud. That is what I am excited to watch. There is the impact on business and then there's the impact on the people they ultimately serve as well.

Interview conducted, edited, and condensed by Joyce Wells


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