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Oracle cloud services push hybrid infrastructure, PaaS

With its refreshed cloud services portfolio, Oracle hopes to become a force in the enterprise cloud market. But is it enough to win customer mind share from leader AWS?

BURLINGTON, Mass. -- Hoping to stand out in an increasingly competitive cloud market, Oracle continues to place its bets on hybrid IT and services that span the cloud stack. But not all are convinced those efforts can lure users away from Amazon Web Services and into the Oracle cloud services fold. 

Oracle, which has expanded its cloud services portfolio in a number of ways this year, hopes to distinguish itself in the market with a hybrid cloud strategy that helps users bridge legacy, on-premises apps with those running in the public cloud.

"It's not only about on premises, and it's not only about cloud -- it's not a one-way street," said Sohan DeMel, vice president of product strategy and business development at Oracle, during Oracle Cloud Day here this week. "It's about building a bridge, where we give you that choice."

Oracle said it has multiple offerings that can make this bridge a reality, including Oracle Integration Cloud Service, an integration platform that helps users make connections between on-premises and software as a service (SaaS) applications, and then monitor those connections through visual dashboards and other tools. 

With many organizations using public cloud services, but still choosing to keep other workloads on premises for compliance or other reasons, hybrid cloud is quickly becoming the enterprise cloud model of choice, said Robert Mahowald, program vice president, SaaS and cloud services at IDC, a research firm in Framingham, Mass.

"We're living in a hybrid world, and addressing that reality is going to become a larger and larger part of the role of the IT organization," Mahowald said.

We're living in a hybrid world, and addressing that reality is going to become a larger and larger part of the role of the IT organization.
Robert Mahowaldprogram vice president, IDC

And, as IT teams assume that responsibility, they need to remember there's no such thing as "buying" a hybrid cloud; it's more of an IT approach than an actual product, Mahowald said. Organizations should be leery of vendors who say they can sell them a turnkey hybrid cloud environment, and seek out those instead who can help them build a hybrid infrastructure.

"There's no such thing as a hybrid cloud that you can buy that's turnkey," Mahowald said. "What you need to [ask] your providers about is, 'How can you help me build things that operate in a hybrid way?'"

While Oracle's focus on hybrid cloud integration could help meet that need, the company also hopes to differentiate itself by focusing on the end-to-end cloud stack -- and, particularly, platform as a service (PaaS).

Oracle Cloud Platform, the company's PaaS offering, provides more than just an app development environment, DeMel said -- it offers capabilities for data management, IT operations management, business analytics, integration, and employee content sharing and collaboration.

And these features could align well with the market's evolving expectations for PaaS, Mahowald said.

"Don't think of PaaS as being a tool you buy for your developers to go sit in a corner and build things a little faster for you," Mahowald said. "Think about PaaS as a tier of service that contains many capabilities that almost everybody in your organization can touch, feel, use, and improve their workloads and performance on."

Oracle cloud services to face uphill battle against AWS

Oracle hasn't been shy about its ambitions to square off with public cloud leader Amazon Web Services (AWS). But despite Oracle's long list of new cloud features and its vow to compete aggressively with AWS on price -- saying, for instance, that its new Archive Service will be priced 10 times cheaper than Amazon Glacier -- it will likely be a long, uphill battle for the vendor.

For larger organizations that have already invested heavily in Oracle applications, Oracle cloud services could be an attractive option, said Christopher Wilder, senior analyst and practice lead for cloud services and enterprise software at Moor Insights & Strategy, an analyst firm in Austin, Texas. But for customers with more diverse environments, AWS -- which has services that can help customers migrate and deploy Oracle workloads on the AWS cloud -- may win out. 

"For other [Oracle] customers who have a mix -- maybe an Oracle database, but some different applications here and there -- AWS is going to be a pretty compelling offering for them," Wilder said. "Oracle's challenge is going to be bringing some of these guys back into the fold."

What's more, because Oracle is a bit late to the game with its cloud services push, some Oracle customers have already invested in public cloud infrastructure with AWS, said Jordan Olin, president and chief "solutioneer" at OLINSolutions Inc., an IT advisory firm and Oracle partner based in Burlington, Mass.

"AWS is just what most [organizations] have started with," Olin said.

For example, American Tower Corp., a Boston-based telecommunications service provider, uses Oracle SaaS applications, such as Human Capital Management, but has already deployed AWS for cloud infrastructure, said an enterprise architect at the company, who requested anonymity. While American Tower will "evaluate" Oracle's infrastructure as a service offering, the company likes the "ease of use and flexibility" that AWS and its API offers, the architect said.

Still, for organizations that have already placed a big bet on Oracle databases and applications, the company's cloud environment could offer significant benefits in terms of ease of integration and, potentially, cost, Olin said.

"If you're an Oracle shop that has committed to the 'Red Stack,' then Oracle cloud is definitely worth a closer look," he said.

Kristin Knapp is site editor for SearchCloudComputing. Contact her at [email protected] or follow @kknapp86 on Twitter.

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