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Oracle Cloud teases public cloud behind the firewall

Oracle Cloud brings a public cloud feel inside private data centers for customers unwilling to have data beyond their firewall, matching new offerings from IBM and Microsoft.

Oracle is bringing a taste of its public cloud directly to its customers' data centers.

The database heavyweight's new managed services offering, Oracle Cloud at Customer, replicates the public cloud experience inside users' firewalls. The target audience is customers who want to use public cloud for disaster recovery or bursting in a homogeneous environment, but face regulatory requirements preventing them from running workloads outside their data center.

The suite includes Database Cloud, Java Cloud, enterprise integration and several cloud infrastructure services: elastic compute, elastic block storage, virtual networking, file storage, messaging, and identity management for Oracle and non-Oracle workloads.

A number of additional features are expected to be included soon: container and elastic load balancer support; management for a broad set of big data tools; integration for service-oriented architecture, API management and the Internet of Things; and app development in Java SE, Node.js, Ruby and PHP.

Oracle is charging the same price for the new suite as it does for its public cloud services.

After some early trepidation about cloud computing, Oracle has made a more concerted effort to insert itself in the conversation at all layers of the stack, adding an infrastructure as a service offering last October. Forrester Research expects Oracle to be a major player in the next two years in the hyperscale platform space, which is dominated by Amazon Web Services.

Amazon has made considerable overtures to Oracle users to move to its platform in the past year. Unlike Amazon, however, Oracle and other legacy companies still see a long-term future for on-premises workloads, and filling that role of public and private cloud provider, said Dave Bartoletti, principal analyst at Forrester.

"This is their answer to Microsoft Azure Stack and IBM Bluemix Local," Bartoletti said.

Oracle Cloud at Customer is similar to other legacy vendors' services in that it mimics the public cloud on premises. It's unclear to what extent hardware symmetry matters to cloud customers, but Oracle points out that its service is entirely Oracle hardware, while Azure Stack -- which is still in beta -- relies on Dell or Hewlett Packard Enterprise for the on-premises integration.

Much of the research and development focus for enterprise application companies, such as Oracle and SAP, has been on cloud products, while the on-premises progress has slowed, said Holger Mueller, principal analyst and vice president of Constellation Research Inc., based in Cupertino, Calif. This allows customers to take advantage of the latest and greatest with cloud, but more importantly, it provides choice for customers facing data sovereignty or other issues that make them want to remain on premises.

Vendors selling public cloud services have to overcome two things to get comfortable with those newer environments, Bartoletti said. Some customers aren't completely comfortable leaving their data center, but private clouds take a lot of time and complexity to build, and aren't easily compatible with public clouds.

If Oracle wants to sell its public cloud, it has to extract developers from OpenStack private clouds and start using Oracle APIs that can then be used to transition outside of their own firewalls.

"It's really seeding these customers with a private cloud that looks like a public cloud," Bartoletti said.

Unlike a typical private cloud that can have a different architecture, this managed service has the same look and feel as Oracle's public cloud. Customers can choose to deploy those applications in the public cloud or in their own data center, without any rewrites.

Still, the transition between environments isn't entirely seamless. Users can automate moves between environments if they're reaching capacity in advance or for a particular event, but those transitions will take at least a day to complete.

The stickiest part of cloud is the API, Bartoletti said. It's not what virtual machine you pick, or instance type or whether you opt for object, block or file storage.

"We're moving to a phase of private cloud, where more and more people will be interested in on-premises private clouds that are API-consistent with their public cloud of choice," Bartoletti said.

That's good for vendors, because it fosters lock-in, but it's also good for customers, because it gives them a faster, easier path to private cloud, he added.

The benefit of this suite is akin to what Microsoft did with SQL on Azure, said Larry Carvalho, research manager at IDC. It takes all the management of the database away from the customer and makes it easier for independent service vendors to migrate from on premises to the public cloud.

Still, if you take everything and push it to the cloud, then it's really just a hosted model, and users won't get the true value in speed of delivery and innovation, Carvalho said. Even going to a managed version, though it may be attractive to users who don't want to change too much, just pushes your headache on to someone else. The best thing to do would be to rewrite and put it on Amazon, akin to what Netflix did to take advantage of the lower-level, granular services on AWS, he added.

Trevor Jones is a news writer with TechTarget's data center and virtualization media group. Contact him at tjones@techtarget.com.

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