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At OpenWorld, Oracle struggles to move the cloud needle its way

The cloud wars continue to intensify, and Oracle Corp. is definitely not retrenching.

As illustrated by its primary announcements this week at its OpenWorld 2019 conference in San Francisco, the company has doubled down on the same strategies that drove the chief announcements at last year’s event.

That may not be enough to pick up Oracle’s fortunes in today’s competitive arena, however. To understand why Oracle has its back to the wall in the cloud market, let’s recall where it was competitively at this time a year ago.

Stuck back in the pack in public cloud

In late 2018, Oracle was nowhere near shouting distance of the top three infrastructure and platform as a service providers — Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform — in public-cloud market share. Unfortunately for the company, the situation has not appreciably approved this year. Whereas RightScale a year ago showed Oracle with only a 5% share of the public cloud market, this year’s report, though showing a substantial gain in market share, still found Oracle stuck exactly where it was before: sixth place.

This is no surprise. Nothing in last year’s announcements at OpenWorld indicated that the company was poised to break away from the pack in the public cloud arena. Its principal enterprise cloud enhancements at OpenWorld 2018 were little more than the table stakes needed to stay competitive in that arena.

Too little, too late to catch up with public cloud leaders

So I was disappointed this week to see Oracle announce more of the same. At OpenWorld 2019, it has rolled out an equivalent set of automationperformancesecurityavailability and modernization enhancements. None of these announcements is trivial, and all of them provide features that are eagerly anticipated by Oracle customers attempting to protect and extend their IT investments in the new era of cloud-native computing. But none of these new capabilities is likely to push the competitive needle in Oracle’s direction in the cloud wars.

Considering its track record, it’s unlikely that Oracle will be able to leverage its underperforming public cloud for sustained revenue growth. The company is also facing diminishing returns in its sustained attempts to migrate workloads and apps from its huge legacy enterprise information technology installed base into its cloud solution portfolio. Nevertheless, Wikibon is impressed with Oracle’s continued growth in adoption of its flagship enterprise database, buoyed in part by the AIops features that the vendor promotes as “autonomous.”

No one doubts that Oracle’s customers will steadily move their legacy on-premises workloads into the cloud. However, customers are just as likely to seek out competing clouds as the target environments as to migrate them to Oracle Cloud. The fact that Oracle has not been able to budge the cloud competitive needle in its direction, in spite of a full-court press from Chairman and Chief Technology Officer Larry Ellison on down, does not bode well for its future relevance in enterprise cloud environments.

Next best hope is doubling down on hybrid and multicloud strategy

For Oracle to at least hold its own in the cloud market, it will need to play up hybrid and multicloud offerings and partnerships. It has little choice in this regard, considering that this year has seen significant announcements in that direction from no less than Amazon Web Services Inc.Microsoft Corp.’s AzureGoogle Cloud PlatformIBM/Red Hat,  VMware Inc.Dell Technologies Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc.

To its credit, Oracle has also been active on the hybrid and multicloud front. This past June, it announced that it and Microsoft had established a cloud interoperability partnership so that joint customers could migrate and run mission-critical enterprise workloads across either of those providers’ public clouds, while also seamlessly extending on-premises data centers to both clouds with unified identity and access management. This week, the companies announced geographic expansion of that dual-cloud interconnect in coming quarters.

In a similar vein, Oracle this week announced the expansion of its VMware partnership for joint customers to do hybrid-cloud deployments. Customers will be able to easily:

  • Modernize and migrate workloads between on-premise environments and Oracle Cloud over VMware’s full software-defined data center stack, which includes VMware Cloud Foundation, vSphere, NSX and vSAN;
  • Run certified VMware solutions on Oracle’s Generation 2 Cloud Infrastructure and while running Oracle Autonomous Database, Oracle Exadata Cloud Service and Oracle Database Cloud on VMware Cloud Foundation;
  • Use VMware vCenter to manage both their on-premise clusters and Oracle Cloud-based SDDCs through a single pane of glass; and
  • Rely on Oracle as a first line technical support for Oracle software running in VMware environments both in customer on-premise data centers and Oracle-certified cloud environments.

Those are significant partnerships for those legacy Oracle customers that have also committed to those particular partner cloud solution providers. But the announcements are more likely to benefit Microsoft and VMware than Oracle, giving them the interconnect on-ramps needed to migrate Oracle customers to their respective multicloud portfolios. Disappointingly, Oracle isn’t offering a true multicloud single-pane-of-glass management backplane to rival what VMware, IBM, Cisco and others have rolled out in the past year.

For Oracle customers who also want to do hybrid clouds purely in an Oracle environment, the vendor this week also announced availability of its Generation 2 Exadata Cloud at Customer service. This latest release delivers significantly improved resiliency, automation, deployment, and cost-efficiency compared to the previous generation of this enterprise-grade analytic cloud database, incorporating the recently announced high-performance Oracle Exadata X8.

Wikibon recommendation for Oracle customers

Oracle will remain an important enterprise IT, application and cloud services provider for the foreseeable future. The vendor continues to invest deeply in features the help its huge global installed base to eke maximum performance, efficiency, resilience and agility from their mission-critical IT infrastructures.

Wikibon recommends that existing Oracle customers migrate their investments to hybrid and multicloud deployments, perhaps using some of the tooling that the vendor has announced recently with partners Microsoft and VMware. At the same time, Oracle customers should hedge their bets on its cloud offerings, recognizing that Oracle lacks the multicloud management tooling needed to manage increasingly complex mesh and edge environments while mitigating against lock-in to the solution portfolio of this or any other provider.

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