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Shawn Price, hired in October as senior vice president of Oracle's cloud operations, provided a look into the company's cloud future in a keynote speech and press briefing at the Oracle ClouldWorld Boston conference this month. Despite Oracle's reputation as a cloud computing laggard, Price claimed that 75% of the current Fortune 500 companies are already using Oracle cloud technologies. And, he said, Oracle is looking to grab a bigger share of the cloud computing market by providing a unified, fully integrated cloud services platform and a broad portfolio of cloud applications running on top of it.
At Oracle OpenWorld 2014 in September in San Francisco, Larry Ellison, Oracle's former CEO and now its CTO and executive chairman, dedicated Oracle to becoming a cloud company and directly taking on cloud heavyweights such as Amazon Web Services and Salesforce.com. In Boston, Price said Oracle's strategy for boosting its cloud business also includes encouraging current users to move to the cloud by finding unused software licenses in their systems and letting them use those as cloud licenses. In addition, Oracle is packaging together cloud quick-start kits to help less cloud-savvy companies get on board.
R "Ray" Wang, founder and principal analyst of Constellation Research Inc., was also a keynote speaker at the Oracle CloudWorld event. In a follow-up interview, Wang shared his thoughts on the defining trends for the Oracle cloud in the coming year. Since 2000, he said, 52% of the companies that were in the Fortune 500 have been acquired or fallen out of the rankings. According to Wang, some of the shifts in the lineup can be attributed to changes in technology, which have pushed businesses to ramp up their IT spending to try to get an edge on rivals. Working with the cloud, he said, "is a fast way to innovate" -- and for companies worried about falling behind on technology, it often looks like a better and better prospect.
Cloud shift spurs cultural changes
Wang said the shift to the cloud also reflects a change in corporate culture, as IT leaders learn more about the business and business managers become more technology savvy. He sees the future of the IT department as a balance between technology experts and people with humanities backgrounds. The latter, he believes, will help with the user experience aspect of new technologies.
Price said data he has seen shows that 46% of buying decisions being made about the cloud are now split between business and IT departments. He also sees cloud culture as generational in nature. According to Price, the millennial generation, typically viewed as people born between the early 1980s and early 2000s, is looking for easy-to-use, personalized technology and wants measurable results quickly. To help Oracle meet those expectations, Price has set out to recruit millennial talent to work on the Oracle cloud. "The systems of the past," he said, "are in no way able to deliver to the modern consumer."
Wang agreed, saying, "We can't force-fit users into business categories. What we're moving toward is a choose-your-own-adventure model." He also sees the need for integration across the technology stack in the cloud as a major need and one where Oracle has a potential advantage over rival vendors because of the breadth of its hardware and software offerings. "If there's one company that can integrate the entire stack, it's going to be Oracle," Wang said.
Oracle cloud pitch: All together now
Price said that because the Oracle stack is integrated across the cloud, the different pieces stay in synch as they're independently updated. Also, problems can be diagnosed holistically rather than having to check each piece of the cloud platform separately, he said.
The trend toward the cloud isn't new, but Oracle has only recently gotten seriously involved. "Oracle's customers haven't been asking for the cloud until the last three years," Wang said, adding that the company didn't want to start developing for the cloud in a big way before Oracle users were ready. Many are larger companies, which often take longer to join in on new innovations. But now, Wang said, Oracle is "in a good spot" to capitalize on its cloud offerings.
Price said there are two things that need to be present to become a cloud company -- commitment at the top levels of an organization and the ability to use old skills for new purposes. Oracle has demonstrated that it now has the top-level commitment. What still needs to be seen is how well its enterprise hardware and software know-how will translate to the cloud for large-scale applications.
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