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At OpenWorld, Oracle extends AI throughout its ‘self-driving’ cloud solutions

Oracle hasn’t made artificial intelligence the centerpiece of its product strategy in the way that its closest public cloud rivals have. But that doesn’t mean it’s doing nothing with AI.

In fact, Oracle has embedded AI functionality extensively into its diverse portfolio of cloud, data, integration and application platforms to help customers accelerate their digital transformations in the cloud.

On Monday at this year’s OpenWorld in San Francisco, for example, Oracle announced substantial AI-related feature enhancements throughout its cloud-application portfolio. At the application level, Oracle has incorporated AI into new tools that automate business functions more intelligently while also augmenting the productivity of the business professionals responsible for a wide range of front-office and back-end functions.

With AI at its core, the newly announced digital-assistant capabilities within Oracle’s application portfolio complement the “autonomous” —a.k.a. “self-driving”– features that it has been steadily introducing into its enterprise infrastructure platforms. As Oracle defines it, these terms encompass to a wide range of closed-loop optimization benefits that make its enterprise technology platforms self-managing and self-optimizing.

Indeed, Larry Ellison, Oracle’s executive chairman and chief technology officer, hammered home the autonomous capabilities of a wide range of Oracle services at his OpenWorld keynote Monday afternoon. In the past year, Oracle has launched self-driving enhancements to most of its core solutions platforms. Its portfolio of such platforms now includes Oracle Autonomous DatabaseOracle Autonomous Data Warehouse CloudOracle Autonomous Transaction ProcessingOracle Autonomous Data Integration Platform CloudOracle Autonomous Mobile Cloud EnterpriseOracle Autonomous NoSQL Cloud Database ServiceOracle Autonomous Analytics CloudOracle Autonomous Integration Cloud and finally Oracle Autonomous Visual Builder Cloud.

“We’ve made a lot of progress over the last 12 months,” Ellison said Monday of Oracle’s autonomous database. He termed it the most important component of the “Gen 2” cloud, which he said is now generally available. “Everything is automated — nothing to learn, nothing to do.” Typically, he also took a dig at rival Amazon Web Services Inc., saying its database is only semiautomated. “That’s like a semi-self-driving car,” he quipped. “You get in, you drive, and you die.”

Oracle has rolled out these closed-loop optimization features across its solution portfolio in a steady, comprehensive manner. However, it’s not a clear differentiator for the company because most of its competitors are also rolling such capabilities in a trend that many refer to as “AIOps.”

AI’s growing role in information technology infrastructure management stems from its ability to automate and accelerate many tasks more scalably, predictably, rapidly and efficiently than manual methods alone. Without AI’s ability to perform continuous log analysis, anomaly detection, predictive maintenance, root cause diagnostics, closed-loop issue remediation and other critical functions, managing complex multiclouds may become infeasible or cost-prohibitive for many organizations. Many providers have introduced sophisticated offerings that that embed machine learning and other AI tools for intelligent, adaptive, 24-by-7 operation.

Doubling down on AI…

All that sets up Tuesday’s principal announcements, with which Oracle doubled down on its commitment to put AI at the center of its self-driving solution strategy. The focus of these latest announcements was on self-driving in a user-centric sense: using AI to tune the data-driven recommendations through which digital assistants — a.k.a. “chatbots” — help people make the right decisions under changing circumstances.

Specifically, the company today announced the general availability of Oracle Digital Assistant, a capability that it had demonstrated publicly this past February. Within its cloud application portfolio, the newly available Oracle Digital Assistant enables companies to build personalized chatbots that help employees work smarter and more productively.

Built on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, the digital assistant uses AI, machine learning and natural language processing to understand context, distill intent and adaptively learn user behaviors and patterns. It can be trained to automate the skills necessary for user productivity across any Oracle Cloud application, including its customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning, human capital management, customer experience and business intelligence solutions.

Developers can train the bot to automate routine tasks proactively, such as expense approvals and meeting reschedules, on users’ behalf. Users can interact with the Oracle Digital Assistant via the voice interface, but the bot is equally optimized to support popular messaging platforms, such as Slack, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and Alexa.  And it includes built-in analytics to that enterprises can monitor usage and gain real-time insights into user behavior and app performance.

… and on blockchain

In Tuesday’s announcements, Oracle also introduced AI into its growing blockchain solution portfolio. It announced Oracle Blockchain Applications Cloud, a suite of use-case-specific software-as-a-service applications. The suite leverages embedded AI to delivery real-time intelligent recommendations and better user experience. It includes new supply-chain software-as-a-service offerings for Intelligent Track and Trace, Warranty and Usage Tracking, Lot Lineage and Provenance, and Intelligent Cold Chain.

Underlying each of these new application services, the Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service provides a trusted, immutable, auditable and verifiable transaction log that supports strong end-to-end supply-chain visibility and accelerated root-cause analysis in support of supply-chain asset management, targeted product recalls, claims processing, dispute resolution, counterfeit reduction, regulatory compliance and antifraud.

That blockchain cloud service went live earlier this year and now has customers worldwide in transportation, supply chain and logistics, energy, retail and ecommerce, financial services, telecommunications and public sector. In addition, all of the blockchain services connect with Oracle Supply Chain Management Cloud, Oracle Enterprise Resource Management Cloud and other Oracle Cloud Applications, as well as with the “internet of things.”

A matter of trust

Trusted infrastructure was a prominent theme in several of Oracle’s Tuesday announcements, and there was a strong AI focus in that as well. Oracle introduced new integrated core-to-edge cybersecurity solutions for key management, cloud access security brokering, web application firewall and distributed denial of service protection.

These new security features leverage machine learning and AI-driven intelligent automation to remediate threats in applications that are deployed on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. The new cybersecurity features supplement the self-securing and self-patching capabilities of Oracle Autonomous Database. With the integration of machine learning and intelligent automation to remediate threats, these new cloud services allow customers to improve the security of applications deployed on the next generation of Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.

Useful as these new solutions are for existing Oracle customers, none of these offerings seems to offer any substantially innovative new capabilities that will help the company in its struggle to compete more effectively against AWS, Microsoft Corp. and Google LLC in the all-important public cloud. At best, these new capabilities will help Oracle to hold onto its market share in cloud applications, owing to the differentiating value that its AI-infused new capabilities provide with respect to its chief rival in that arena, SAP SE.

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