Oracle Enters The Public Cloud Business

Oracle is jumping into the public cloud service business.

CEO Larry Ellison, delivering his closing keynote speech at the Oracle OpenWorld conference Wednesday, said the company's long-gestating Oracle Fusion Applications are finally generally available.

"And I guess if we have new applications to run in the cloud, I guess we need a cloud," he said, debuting the new Oracle Public Cloud service to applause. "When you need a cloud, you need a cloud."

Ellison also surprised the audience by unveiling the Oracle Social Network, a new social networking application that's integrated with the Fusion applications.

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The Oracle Public Cloud will combine Platform-as-a-Service and Software-as-a-Service capabilities, Ellison said. Customers will be able to run Oracle Fusion applications, extensions to those applications and custom-build applications on the Oracle Public Cloud. It will offer a database service, a Java service for developers, a data service and a security service.

The Oracle Public Cloud, available on a monthly subscription basis, has self-service sign up, instant provisioning, elastic capacity-on-demand, and the ability to extend cloud applications using Java.

The cloud service puts Oracle in direct competition with other cloud service providers including the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, the Rackspace Cloud Computing Service, and's service.

Ellison hammered home the point that the Oracle Public Cloud service is based on industry standards, such as XML, Java and BPEL, making it possible to move applications on and off the service and to other services.

"You can take any existing Oracle database and move it to the cloud," Ellison said. "Oh, and by the way, you can move it back if you want to. Or you can move it to the Amazon cloud, if you want. Everything is portable. Your data is portable."

Ellison compared that approach to Oracle's cloud service competitors. He was especially critical of archrival, throwing back Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff's own words to beware of false clouds. "Beware of false clouds," Ellison said. That's good advice."

"It's the ultimate vendor lock-in," Ellison said of Salesforce's use of "proprietary" technologies that he said make it impossible to develop applications in a data center and move them to Salesforce's platform, or move data and applications off to other platforms. "You can check in, but you can't check out. I like to think of it as the roach motel of clouds," Ellison to laughter.

Ellison's digs can on the heels of a public dustup between Oracle and Salesforce Wednesday when Salesforce said Oracle forced it to cancel a speech by Benioff in the Yerba Buena Novellus Theatre, next door to the Moscone Center in San Francisco where Oracle OpenWorld is being held. Benioff gave the speech in a restaurant in a nearby hotel where he had laid the "proprietary technology" charge on Oracle.

Next: Finally Fusion, And A Social Networking Surprise

Ellison's announcement about the availability of the Fusion applications was expected, but the announcement of the Oracle Social Network was not. The social networking software, which can be used for communicating inside an organization, as well as with external partners and customers, will compete head-to-head with's Chatter on-demand social networking service.

Development of the social networking capabilities sprung from the Fusion application project, Ellison said. One of the original Fusion design parameters was to create a next-generation user interface. But in the six years since the project began social networking has become a common way for people to communicate with each other.

"We think this has huge implications [for] how we build modern applications," Ellison said, introducing the Oracle Social Network. "And we had to integrate it with all our applications."

Ellison said more than 100 Fusion application modules are now generally available, including financial, human capital management and CRM applications. While more modules are in the pipeline, Ellison called the Fusion products "complete, integrated and finally here."

"It was a huge, huge engineering project," Ellison said. "It took a little longer than planned. But I think it was worth the wait"

Already about 200 customers have licensed early versions of the Fusion applications, according to the company, and about 100 have already deployed them. Some are implementing Fusion to replace older applications while others are augmenting existing applications, said Chris Leone, group vice president of Oracle's applications strategy, in a press briefing earlier in the day. Early customers include Boeing, Principal Financial Group and Red Robin Gourmet Burgers.

Fusion applications are designed to run either on-premise or in the cloud. Ellison generated applause when he said they also support a range of mobile devices.

Ellison contrasted the integrated Fusion applications with Software-as-a-Service applications from Workday, Taleo and Salesforce that he described as "siloed."

As with the Oracle Public Cloud, Ellison emphasized the use of industry standards to develop the Fusion applications, including the Java programming language. That's in contrast to competing applications built on proprietary technology, including Oracle's own E-Business Suite that's built on Oracle Forms and PeopleSoft applications built on PeopleTools.

Oracle also built core functions such as security into the company's middleware, database and virtualization software that support the Fusion applications, rather than into the applications themselves.

The Fusion applications are designed as an upgrade to Oracle's current application lines, including the E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, Siebel, JD Edwards and other applications. Oracle has promised to continue supporting those older apps under its Oracle Lifetime Support Policy for Oracle Applications