Oracle unveils next generation cloud vision at OpenWorld – autonomous and rearchitected

“A semi-autonomous database is like a semi-self-driving car,” Oracle co-founder and CTO Larry Ellison told attendees at the company’s OpenWorld event. “You get in, you drive, and you die.”

Why the comparison? Ellison was responding to an article he read – provenance not known – around rumours Amazon was building a ‘semi-autonomous’ database. It’s not much of a surprise. Oracle’s autonomous database is certainly Ellison’s favourite topic right now – but bashing the biggest player in cloud infrastructure must rank a close second.

The first keynote of Oracle OpenWorld, in San Francisco this week, focused on the next generation of cloud computing. The company’s vision is based around the autonomous database, but now added to this is a rearchitected infrastructure – what it calls the second-generation cloud.

“I’m not talking about a few software changes here and there,” said Ellison. “I’m talking about a completely new hardware configuration for the cloud. We had to add a new network of dedicated independent computers to surround the perimeter of our cloud – these are computers you don’t find in other clouds.”

Key to this revamped infrastructure, Oracle added, was around separate machines for customer data and the vendor’s control code. It’s a two way street, Ellison said; you don’t have to trust us, and we can’t trust all of you. Oracle can’t see customer data, but bad actors won’t be able to look at or modify their code either.

Naturally, the Oracle CTO had a comparison at hand. “If you look at the AWS cloud – in that machine can be one customer, could be multiple customers, but in that machine is the AWS cloud control code sharing the computer with customer code,” said Ellison. “That means you’d better trust your customers. You’d better trust all your customers. It’s a fundamental problem with the architecture of the cloud.”

Many of the other selling points of the autonomous database, from purported better performance to price cuts, had been covered previously when announcing capabilities for transaction processing and data warehousing, although it didn’t hurt to remind the audience.

Yet the primary focus was around security – providing ‘impenetrable barriers’ to block threats from getting to the cloud, and robots to find threats and eliminate them. All autonomous, of course. “It’s easy to say, but very hard to do to build a secure cloud,” said Ellison. “If it was easy to do, someone would have already done it.”

The focus on automation and the rise of machine learning is clear across the C-suite. Mark Hurd, Oracle CEO, told attendees at his keynote session that his company saw AI as a ‘core feature that will get embedded into virtually every application’, rather than an independent solution. “I don’t think there’s much of a debate the cloud market is accelerating – it’s moving quicker than expected,” said Hurd. “You’re going to start seeing the next generation of cloud technology capabilities – driven by AI.”

Plenty more news was announced at OpenWorld. Of most interest was Oracle’s burgeoning cloud region roadmap. By the end of next year, the company said, it would open additional regions across four geographies; Europe, North America, LATAM, and a particular focus on Asia Pacific, including Australia, India, Japan and South Korea. Elsewhere, Oracle announced business-ready blockchain applications – a technology the company has certainly had an interest in – while on the AI theme, Oracle Digital Assistant was launched to automate routine tasks and support various applications, from ERP to CRM.

As much as AI has beget the conversation around what it will mean for those with more mundane jobs, Ellison noted that Oracle’s autonomous database won’t mean companies’ admins will be out of the door anytime soon. “There is an incredible shortage of skilled IT professionals, and it’s good if we take out some of the mundane drudgery of running a database,” he said. “Your developers, your administrators, are now working on tasks that are higher value for the business.”

Ellison told attendees that it had taken a long time for Oracle to get here – the company had previously said it was a ‘major milestone’ – so this did feel like the point of no return. Oracle’s public cloud services will be sold solely for its generation two cloud from now on. “It required a fundamental rearchitecture of our cloud,” he said. “We did that and, as a result, we have these two key technologies that protect the cloud and protect your data.”

Picture credit: Oracle/Screenshot

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