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Oracle Public Cloud: The good and bad

Oracle has decided cloud-based services do have some merit after all. But its latest offerings are missing key elements of true cloud computing services.

If an expensive, monolithic, late-to-market cloud is what you've been waiting for then Oracle Public Cloud appears to be the answer.

[In the future,] all enterprise clouds will be built on engineered systems, not x86 boxes lashed together.

Robert Shimp, group VP, Oracle

Unveiled at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco this week, the service includes the usual three tiers of a cloud computing model:

To date, Oracle has been a laggard in bringing cloud offerings to market. But the company said it is launching cloud services now -- years after everyone else -- because its survey results indicate that customers are ready. Asked how many were interested in building private cloud, 28.6% of Oracle customers answered yes in 2010, versus 37% in 2011 (a 28% increase). Regarding public cloud adoption, 13.8% of respondents said they were interested in 2010 versus 20.9% in 2011 (a 50% increase).

How cloud-like is Oracle Public Cloud?
The biggest surprise in the announcement of Oracle Public Cloud was the lack of multi-tenancy support in these services. Users get a separate VM and database per customer to guarantee isolation between a company's data and everyone else's, Oracle execs claimed. This immediately raises the question of cost, as cloud computing has been able to drive lower costs primarily by using shared data stores and a shared-application model. Oracle offered no pricing information for its cloud services, but expect premium.

And just to be clear, cloud computing as defined by the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) states, "The provider's computing resources are pooled to serve multiple customers using a multi-tenant model, with different physical and virtual resources dynamically assigned and reassigned according to consumer demand." Oracle must have missed that part.

Oracle was fuzzy on the details of its PaaS offering, but it looks like there is no autoscaling capability today, which is a basic feature of Platform as a Service.

The sign-up process for Oracle Public Cloud doesn't quite meet the mark of a true cloud service, either. It's a monthly subscription versus pay-as-you-go. And before you can start using the service, you have to submit a request, wait for credentials via email and then sign in. Sounds like the old Oracle on-demand hosting model to me.

On the plus side, Oracle's Fusion middleware is the same product sold on the cloud as on-premises, and the programming model for Oracle Public Cloud uses the same open standards-based languages including Java, BPEL and Web services. So moving workloads to and from the cloud should be straightforward. 

Oracle cloud offerings meet mixed reaction
Oracle users at the conference offered mixed reactions to the news. Some said it might simplify deploying Oracle apps that traditionally have been complex and unwieldy to manage. But others said the Oracle Exadata and Exalogic engineered cloud-in-a-box systems were "mainframe cloud" and not what cloud computing is supposed to be about.

Robert Shimp, group VP at Oracle, countered that, in the future, "all enterprise clouds will be built on engineered systems, not x86 boxes lashed together. That's going to seem like a crazy-bad idea over time."

Jo Maitland is the Senior Executive Editor of

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