The Coliseum loomed large for me last week at Oracle OpenWorld. I flew into Oakland and took the new people-mover from the airport to the BART station at the venue which Oracle sponsors. So much more appealing and efficient than the previous shuttle buses. The Golden State Warriors who play there were part of the OOW keynotes. But I was thinking more of the Roman structure – the one considered one of the greatest pieces of architecture ever as I heard plenty of perspectives about the massive scale and durability being designed in the Oracle cloud.
Steve Miranda, one of the nicest executives in the software industry, described with a sense of accomplishment and weariness the decade-long journey Oracle has taken to port and build new ones its broad application cloud cluster – CX, HCM, ERP, SCM, EPM and Data. Thomas Kurian, President, did a repeat performance (from the cloud summit earlier this year) of his breathtaking command of Oracle’s as a service offerings – SaaS, PaaS, IaaS and DaaS. Larry Ellison, now CTO, did a masterful talk on security design principles “security shouldn’t be a matter of choice: with us, security is always on” (the entire talk is worth listening to here). In an earlier presentation, in a “we are not in Kansas anymore” moment he pointed out Oracle’s new competition is Salesforce,Workday, Amazon and Microsoft, and much less SAP and IBM.
In many ways, though I wish Larry had talked about the real fear that is holding back enterprises from aggressively moving into the cloud. It’s the trillions they have spent on back office and IT infrastructure in the last couple of decades. Data breaches are scary enough, budget breaches at that scale are terrifying. And the bad actors have not been black hats from outlaw locations – they have been the IT vendors we know and love. The customer fear is the cloud is just a spray paint for continuing past behavior – and they need to be secured against that.
As Mark Hurd likes to say “there is no money for IT”. He is right – there’s far better payback in technology in sensors and software in customer products, in digital channels and business models. And companies are streamlining their back office and IT infrastructure spend. In SAP Nation 2.0 I outlined 9 strategies companies are adopting. Most are ring-fencing, two-tiering, adopting third party maintenance, streamlining outsourcers rather than “ripping and replacing”.
The book also looked at how long it has taken other enterprise software vendors – JD Edwards, Microsoft, Infor – to migrate their customer bases to next-gen products. If Oracle wants to break that customer lethargy, here is what it needs to highlight next. That its partners are automating the migration to the cloud and the management there. Vishal Sikka, CEO of Infosys, talked about his Panaya change management tools in his keynote. They need similar automation for data conversion, testing and other systems integration steps. They need more consultant multi-tenancy, and much less travel. They need smarter application management with process bots and machine learning. They need dramatically cheaper network connectivity. At SAP’s SapphireNow, the huge partner booths are a reminder of the massive costs of its ecosystem. At OOW, the partner booths were in a separate building, but the vibe is similar. Oracle has to aggressively manage this.
And Oracle needs to showcase its own behavior will be different going forward. Oracle and SAP are regularly mentioned by customers as “aggressive” and “hostile”. Many compare them to the CA of the 90s. This is where, as Larry says, Oracle needs to no longer be compared to SAP.
Oracle’s “cloud Coliseum” design is impressive and it is years ahead of many competitors. It also has the potential to become an enduring one like the one in Rome. But Oracle and its partners need to develop the automated “people movers” and build confidence it is safe for customers to get there.
(Cross-posted @ Deal Architect)