Oracle made several announcements at its recent Open World event demonstrates its strengths in the business computing market but also that it is standing on the shoulders of giants. The company has developed the expertise, processes and market share to scale out the ideas and innovations of others. Don’t get me wrong: That statement is not an indictment. Large organizations often have challenges with innovation. They are not as nimble as their smaller competitors. On the other hand, small organizations often have challenges scaling out their successes. In an earlier post I characterized the software market as a sort of ecosystem, and this is how it works. Large organizations often look to imitate or acquire smaller firms for their innovations.
Oracle’s recent announcements of a big-data appliance, a public cloud and a social network all deal with scaling out innovations that were developed by others. As well, Oracle’s recently announced business intelligence appliance Exalytics, which I wrote about, is a variation on the appliance package but not fundamentally innovative.
The big-data appliance includes open source Hadoop, which was an obvious selection, but Oracle surprised some observers by including a version of R, the open source statistical package and a new NoSQL database based on Berkeley DB, which Oracle acquired in 2006. These additional components distinguish it from other commercial Hadoop appliances. Our benchmark research on Hadoop and information management suggests that the addition of R should be welcome, since more than two-thirds (69%) of participants said they perform advanced analytics using Hadoop. However, Oracle seems to miss this connection in its positioning, which centers on using Hadoop for data collection and transformation. NoSQL databases can take several forms, but they are most useful for heavy read/write workloads such as those found in high traffic or streaming media websites. Oracle’s NoSQL uses a key-value store. If you are interested in a technical deep dive on Oracle NoSQL, Daniel Abadi provides a good analysis here.
The big-data appliance also includes tools for moving data from Hadoop into the Oracle database. Its Hadoop Loader generates Oracle internal formatted structures to speed the data-loading process, and its Data Integrator Adapter for Hadoop provides a graphical environment for managing and creating data-loading routines. The big-data appliance was announced at Open World but is not available yet and is an interesting move and responds to my colleagues assertion earlier in the year about Hadoop and Oracle facing off in the market. Oracle wants it to be used with Exadata and Exalytics and so offers Infiniband connections for high-speed data transfers between each layer.
Oracle’s public cloud offering generated a lot of buzz at Open World – most of it negative. Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com and one of the world’s most vocal proponents of cloud computing, had been scheduled to deliver a keynote at Open World on Wednesday. But on Tuesday afternoon Oracle cancelled Benioff’s keynote, and on Wednesday announced its own public cloud offering in CEO Larry Ellison’s keynote. Salesforce turned the cancellation into a huge public relations win, booking a nearby hotel for Benioff to give his “keynote” and promoting it heavily via social media. Oracle’s cloud offering consists of three application services, Fusion CRM, Fusion HCM and Oracle Social Network, as well as two platform services, Java via Weblogic application server and the Oracle database. My colleague Mark Smith covered the Fusion applications and the social network in separate posts.
While these services have been announced, none is available yet. Most interesting about the announcements is that they represent an about-face for Oracle. Until now Ellison has been vocal in trying to dismiss the cloud as a specialized form of computing. Ventana Research, in contrast, identifies the cloud as one of five key technologies influencing information management. Our benchmark research shows more than 40% of organizations have deployed or are planning to deploy cloud-based applications in eight different lines of business. It’s likely that having seen the market acceptance of this innovation pioneered by others, Oracle now recognizes a revenue opportunity in delivering its own cloud offering. Similarly, it now wants a piece of the social networking pie.
Oracle customers and prospects should be encouraged that Oracle is making these investments. As these offerings become competitive, there will be an opportunity to consolidate their purchases with a single vendor and also ease integration between different portions of their infrastructure to the extent they all come from a single vendor. On the other hand, those looking for technological innovation to use as a competitive weapon for gaining an advantage in the marketplace will need to look elsewhere.