Oracle Cloud Apps Unleashed: The Good, Bad, And Ugly

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Larry Ellison spotlights 100-plus enterprise applications in the cloud, plays social-media hipster, borrows strategies, floats more FUD.

Larry Ellison's unveiling of the Oracle Cloud on Wednesday was a vintage performance weaving together the many-years-delayed introduction of Oracle Fusion apps, a pastiche of social-media capabilities, and a plentitude of pithy barbs aimed at competitors.

The good part was seeing Fusion Applications finally getting their due, along with some newly acquired bits like RightNow and Taleo. More on that in a moment.

Among the bad parts was seeing Ellison, who posted his first Twitter tweet on Wednesday, walking through a demo of "Oracle Social Intelligence," demoware based on functionality acquired in recent days from Vitrue and Collective Intellect. When it comes to social, Oracle is reacting, late once again, to a social networking trend born years ago and most articulately and effectively brought to the enterprise by Salesforce.com.

The ugly? Well, those were the off-base (though admittedly entertaining) slams, like the claim that SAP has nothing in the cloud but SuccessFactors until 2020. Ellison went on the offensive to take attention away from the fact it took Oracle seven long years to get serious about cloud computing.

[ Want more on Oracle's Cloud? Read Oracle Cloud: Big Bravado, Huge Questions. ]

Ellison also sowed more seeds of fear, uncertainty, and doubt about competitors, as if only Oracle could figure out how to run applications with scalability and security in the cloud--13 years after the start of Salesforce.com, seven years after Workday was founded, six years after Amazon Web Services launched, and five years after SAP took its first stab at the SaaS-based Business ByDesign suite (which hasn't taken off, but then, neither have Fusion Apps yet).

All that time spent talking about competitors could have been spent providing deeper detail on the Oracle cloud. Ellison and Oracle co-president Mark Hurd could have had time to answer more than a few softball questions. Instead a post-event Q&A session was cancelled, and none of their assertions could be questioned.

Many expected Ellison to be more effusive about Oracle Fusion Apps cloud possibilities at last October's Oracle Open World. The holdup, it's now clear, was that Oracle didn't yet have the cloud-based development platforms or infrastructure services to run the applications (components that Microsoft already has running on Azure). So the real fanfare about Fusion in the cloud had to wait until now.

The scope of Fusion apps is impressive. They're deliverable on-premises, in private clouds, or on the just-unveiled Oracle (public) Cloud. The Fusion suite includes ERP apps for financials; procurement; project portfolio management; inventory management; and governance, risk and compliance. There are Fusion Human Capital Management Apps including payroll, human resources, benefits management, and workforce lifecycle management.

And Fusion isn't Oracle's whole cloud apps story. Oracle has acquired Taleo for talent management, RightNow for customer experience management, and, within the last week, Vitrue and Collective Intellect for social media capabilities. But Fusion accounts for most of the "100-plus apps in the cloud."

Ellison's claimed that Fusion Apps were built "from the ground up for the cloud." But that's actually a bit of revisionist history. Nobody was talking about "the cloud" back then. And as this 2005 news story explains, "Project Fusion" was all about services-oriented-architecture (remember SOA?). And then-Oracle-co-president Charles Phillips promised it would not be "some big atomic event that's going to happen in four or five years." In fact it ended up taking six years.

Anybody would grant that using a services-oriented architecture certainly helps in delivering cloud-based application services, but then the same would have to be true of SAP, which did a complete SOA rewrite of NetWeaver as the underpinning of its BusinessSuite--the one Ellison now claims won't touch the cloud until 2020. In fact, SAP currently hosts its on-premises apps in partner clouds, including Amazon's, and, like others including Oracle, it supports private-cloud deployments.

One very confusing aspect of Oracle's cloud strategy is this: last fall at Oracle Open World, senior VP and Fusion Apps overseer Chris Leone stated that Oracle Fusion Applications can run single-tenant or multi-tenant. That might explain why it took closer to seven years to deliver Fusion: a mid-development architectural change demanding extensive changes. But why is Ellison now repeating claims he first made at Oracle Open World that multi-tenant databases are inherently insecure?

My colleague Art Wittmann sheds more light on what we know about Oracle's Cloud architecture, but it was terribly frustrating that almost nobody had a chance to ask more questions on Wednesday. Does Oracle consider multi-tenancy desirable in the case of applications, but not in the case of databases? It will undoubtedly take some time, and persistent questioning, to unravel what is and what isn't multi-tenant and just how and whether Oracle's Cloud is truly different from others.

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