Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Will Oracle Miss The Cloud?

Cloud computing has arrived with such force that the concept and marketplace for it both jumped straight from the pages of theory and into buzz word territory, completely skipping the all-important "hype" phase.

It's understandable that many would look at the Cloud space and say "Whoa, that's a freakin' jungle right now. I'm going to sit this out for a bit until standards emerge."

But the Cloud is not outside the door, waiting to be let in. It's already sitting in your living room. You've unknowingly offered it some tea, and it's currently admiring your drapes.

Like Obama, Cloud computing represents hope. It's the hope that all of the traditional hang-ups of software development and maintenance can be overcome with a click or two. It's an undeniably vast space of opportunity, and one where innovation is blossoming inside Amazon, Google and VMware.

So it was strange to hear an unnamed Dutch journalist chatting about an Oracle press conference he'd recently attended. He told us, over a coffee in an unnamed conference press room, in an unnamed San Francisco hotel, that Larry Ellison got hostile when asked about cloud computing. This journalist infered that Ellison thought it was too early to worry about Cloud.

Of course, Oracle already offers its databases in Amazon's Cloud, a sure sign the company is paying attention. But it was striking to hear such talk — which, of course, we're only reporting second-hand — when only a few hours earlier, Marc Benioff and numerous other ex-Oracle salespeople were Salesforcing their way into nasty comparisons with the now ERP giant.

To look at it on the outside, Oracle is still innovating and providing great new areas for enterprise collaboration. But they're not offering anything of significance in the Software as a Service world. To our knowledge, they're not even pitching much of a fight to act as the undercarriage for Clouds. And that is undeniably the world of the future.

It's funny that Salesforce is staffed with so many ex-Oracle salesfolk, its CEO included. When listening to casual conversations over lunches and coffees, these folks couldn't keep themselves from comparing their wares to those of Oracle. And when they did, the comparisons weren't pretty at all. It's hard to rationalize buying a massive ERP installation for a single business problem, when you can get the same thing without needing an Admin for a quarter of the annual price.

So with even Microsoft making Cloudy announcements of late, it is strange to see Oracle still standing on the ground, preparing its Cloud sailboat. But hey, it is a magnificent sail boat!