Silicon Valley-based cloud and platform services firm Oracle, which has over $40 billion in revenue, is in the midst of overhauling its product portfolio. This is to ensure that its enterprise customers are not poached by competitors such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. Its database and information management service has autonomous capabilities. When a product is moved to the cloud, its applications are infused with artificial intelligence, machine learning, Internet of Things and blockchain. Oracle is positioning itself as a firm that can provide all software infrastructure, products and services that enterprises need on a single platform.
While AWS has an edge on the infrastructure as a service segment due to its first mover advantage, platform as a service is giving traditional product companies an advantage over the long run, explained Amit Zavery, Oracle’s executive vice president for cloud platform (PaaS).
In an interview with TechCircle, the Oracle veteran who also oversees the firm’s middleware products such as application development tools, integration solutions, and more, talks about competition from Amazon Web Services. He also explains why the days of multiple vendors for software products are over. Edited excerpts:
How is platform as a service (PaaS) picking up with customers?
For us, the platform is very critical. With PaaS, developers and customers can get quick access to many of the latest technologies on a single platform.
They can develop and deploy applications. Second, they can integrate and extend those apps. Third, they can share content and engage users. Fourth, they can analyse data and predict actions. Last, customers can manage users and secure the environment.
We provide many cloud services, so a developer and customer can easily run those applications on our platform. We also embed technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning in those products and services. For example, we build digital assistants or chatbots into those applications so that users can collaborate and communicate.
We are also using blockchain to build applications as well as using augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) and Internet of Things (IoT) to work on a platform. We use open technology and open industry standards, and we ensure the technology is integrated.
We have thousands of customers globally to whom we provide a hybrid solution that works across on-premise and cloud, so customers can move their workloads depending on their preferences. Other vendors today provide only cloud but if you want to do on-premise, you need to rewrite the code.
How important is it for you to adopt cloud solutions to benefit from PaaS?
We build on top of infrastructure as a service (IaaS). So, our platform is built on the Oracle cloud infrastructure and it is the glue, allowing our apps to use the latest technology and do extension and integration analysis on top of the applications. It’s a critical component of our portfolio and is something which also allows us to differentiate ourselves. We also have a lot of expertise in building a platform, be it databases or an app server. We have been investing aggressively (in platform services) and it keeps on growing. The latest Gartner and Forrester reports say that we are the dominant player in many of these spaces.
Customers can opt for multiple products from different providers like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud, who are your competitors. How do you deal with them?
Many years ago, when middleware technologies were coming out, there were many fragmented providers. Customers initially went with this idea of a niche vendor. They weren’t the best, but they quickly sprawled. The pain that IT is facing today is because of the decisions they made 15-20 years ago, where they picked 20 vendors to provide pieces of technologies. They then had to connect and integrate these technologies together. It became difficult to manage the costs and complexity of all those technologies.
The on-premise middleware business eventually consolidated. How many vendors can you name now? It’s Oracle, IBM and Microsoft and everybody else disappeared because customers paid the price of having a fragmented ecosystem and eventually decided to move to somebody who can provide everything. Eventually, everybody had the same functionality, but we reduced the cost of ownership and simplified the deployment and interoperability with the existing investment. In the cloud area, in general, and in the platform area, in particular, standardisation is becoming a big element.
Do other players offer open source technologies? Is it easier to integrate or standardise platforms these days?
AWS’ open source technology, Amazon Kinesis, can only operate within the AWS ecosystem. We have built our platform on Apache Kafka. If a customer doesn’t like Oracle, they can use Apache Kafka, and they don’t need to pay to download it. They can run their code and it interoperates. We are trying to remove the barriers of being locked (in a single ecosystem).
People talk about companies like Amazon like they’re saving the world but they are locking you in. Niche vendors provide a small footprint. They don’t solve the breadth of the problems customers face today. Hybrid management is talked a lot today but look at the set of technologies they have, it is not very broad today. Customers still have to seek out five vendors and then the onus is on them to manage, operate and upgrade the technologies.
Large enterprise customers have system integrators (SIs) or IT service companies to do the job, which are also existing relationships. Does it matter to them whether the solutions are standardised or open source?
They are seeing the pain of that (multiple vendors) too. Large enterprises want to remove complexity. They want to innovate and deliver solutions faster. If they want to integrate or upgrade, the processes are delayed. Competition reduces their speed and increases costs, so nobody wants to make the mistakes they made before. Cloud is supposed to clean up that (complexity) but it isn’t happening.
We want to differentiate ourselves from others by offering comprehensive solutions and providing customers a choice. Second, we want to provide integrated solutions so customers don’t have to do extra work if they want to add offerings. Third, we want to make our PaaS services open, and not forked, like Amazon does.