Along with thousands of IT professionals, I was in the San Francisco Moscone Center main hall last October listening to Larry Ellison's 2011 Oracle Open world keynote. Larry can always be relied upon to give an entertaining presentation, a unique blend of both technology insights and amusingly disparaging remarks about competitors.
Larry had made his major technical announcements and was performing a long live demonstration of the new Fusion applications. Like many, I turned to Twitter for distraction and was stunned to see the first breaking news of Steve Job's death. You could virtually feel the shock wave and sadness build in the hall in those last 10 minutes, as an increasing number us of became aware of the sad news through our iPads, laptops or phones.
Steve Jobs passing - which must have been particularly distressing for Larry Ellison, who was a close personal friend - overshadowed what would normally have been a very big announcement for our industry: The announcement of the Oracle public cloud. Cloud computing being the dominant IT buzzword - and Oracle being the software behemoth that it is - Oracle's entry into the public cloud space is very big news, indeed.
Oracle and Larry Ellison have been famously sceptical about cloud computing mania, at one point claiming, "It's absurdity - it's nonsense ... What are you talking about? It's not water vapor. It's a computer attached to a network!" Despite that, it's been obvious for some time that Oracle has been patiently assembling foundation technologies that would position them to compete in enterprise cloud computing.
The standard cloud computing taxonomy identifies three types of public clouds:
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is the provision of raw compute and storage across the Internet, effectively the ability to create virtual machines and storage devices. Amazon Web Services is the canonical example.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS) provides a complete application framework. You "drop" your code into the service, and computing resources are made available on demand. Microsoft Azure offers this sort of cloud for .NET applications.
- Software as a Service (SaaS) provides a complete packaged application across the internet. Salesforce.com is a well-known example of a SaaS application.
The Oracle Public cloud is both a SaaS offering of Oracle's Fusion applications, and a PaaS for Java applications.
The SaaS side of the cloud runs standard versions of Oracle's new CRM and HCM applications fully hosted in an Oracle data center. The new breed of Oracle Fusion applications, though long overdue, are impressively complete, integrated, and boast modern web 2.0 features such as integrated social networking.
The Java Cloud Service offers the ability to deploy a Java application to WebLogic services hosted by Oracle. Standard Java Enterprise applications should work with little or no modification and, of course, Oracle extensions are also provided.
Oracle also offers a limited Database as a Service (DBaaS) offering, which allows users to directly manage a cloud-based database schema, although in a fairly limited way (no transactions are allowed from remote clients, for instance).
All of these offerings will be made available on a monthly subscription basis.
The WebLogic and database servers that power the Oracle public cloud are hosted on Oracle Exalogic Java servers and Exadata databases servers. Oracle has claimed, very credibly, that these servers can provide cost effective consolidation of disparate workloads. By using these servers as the basis for their own public cloud, Oracle is demonstrating its own confidence in the cost effectiveness and scalability of the "Exa" product line. Furthermore, Oracle is establishing a hardware/software architecture that can be mirrored in the customer's own data center - raising the possibility of powering a hybrid public/private cloud in the future.