Ellison Looks To One-Up AWS With Oracle Cloud Flexibility, Alliances And Geographic Reach

Oracle's executive chairman and CTO introduced a partnership with VMware at the OpenWorld conference as well as new features that strive to make Oracle Cloud Infrastructure more elastic and automated than those of competitors.

Oracle Executive Chairman and CTO Larry Ellison has fixed his sights on outdoing Amazon Web Services with a cloud that is more flexible, more automated and more distributed across geographic regions and even more closely integrated with strategic partner VMware.

Ellison kicked off the Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco Monday with a keynote squarely aimed at topping the industry's largest player on all those fronts.

"We march toward the ultimate goal of giving you a fully autonomous cloud. Serverless, elastic," Ellison said. "All the benefits of what was promised to you with the Gen1 cloud."

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And to Ellison, a "Gen1" cloud is the kind offered by all his hyper-scale competitors.

Oracle's Gen2 Cloud, compared to what Ellison describes as the current "Gen1" offering from AWS, is now truly elastic, he said, with the release of the OCI Next Gen Compute Platform.

"What customers really want is elastic compute," he said. "You simply say this is how [many] cores I want, this is how much memory I want, and get me more when I need it."

That's possible for the first time with Oracle's new offering, he said. Customers provisioning infrastructure can select the exact number of cores they need to start, and the service automatically scales up while running with no downtime.

The AWS offering, EC2, falls short of its name, Ellison told OpenWorld attendees.

"Elastic Compute Cloud is not elastic," he said, as the available AWS instances allow only a fixed number of compute cores, which makes it so "you pay more than what you need."

"If you need a five-core VM, too bad," he said. "Closest thing is a 12-core VM. They either have four, or you go up to 12," Ellison said of AWS.

Oracle is delivering the same flexibility for storage, he said, allowing customers to pick the capacity and performance required for their workloads and automatically scaling on the fly.

As to Oracle's new alliance with VMware, it advances the joint hybrid service beyond what competitors have achieved in partnering with the private cloud leader, Ellison said.

"We have a very important relationship with VMware," he said in introducing VMware on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI). That VMware service is the first that meets the "multi-cloud promise."

OCI is the "only cloud that will allow you to manage your own VMware stack," Ellison said. "Can lift and shift it intact to the Oracle Cloud, while using existing tools and procedures." Or an on-premises VMware environment can be linked up to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, he said.

The joint Oracle-VMware service will be available in the fourth quarter.

VMware wasn't the only partnership Ellison touted in his OpenWorld keynote.

Oracle has "a great relationship with Microsoft," he said, noting the company “has a lot of good technology."

Oracle and Microsoft started by building high-speed connections between their Virginia data centers, and the two companies are now linking more facilities around the globe, making it easier for customers to intermix services.

Oracle has also been fostering closer relationships with many ISVs that are launching third-party applications in its cloud marketplace, Ellison said.

Enterprises increasingly want automation to relieve management overhead and human error risk, he said. To that end, Oracle is adding artificial intelligence features to more of its stack—a process that started with Oracle Autonomous Database.

That self-driving capability has moved to the operating system with the new Oracle Autonomous Linux. And Oracle is looking to pull customers from Red Hat Enterprise Linux with OS migration tools.

"The price is just right" to migrate Linux distributions, he said. Customers adopting Oracle Cloud can use Oracle Linux without charge, so "you can stop paying IBM."

But Oracle still sees databases as the strongest point of differentiation between itself and the larger cloud providers from which it is looking to take market share.

Oracle expects to add a thousand new autonomous database customers in this quarter alone, which represents "very, very rapid growth," Ellison said.

Ellison promised that customers migrating databases from AWS will see their bills cut at least in half—a result Oracle will guarantee in contracts, he said.

Oracle also is looking to buttress its hybrid capabilities with the release of the second-generation of

Cloud@Customer, "which I think is a really big deal," Ellison said.

That product, which runs Oracle Database on an Exadata machine behind the customer's firewall, is now "so much easier to run and install than Gen1."

Later next year, the Oracle Autonomous Database, still only available in the cloud, will be included on Cloud@Customer.

"It's been a big effort, but we think that’s where people are going to go," Ellison said, especially big customers like banks and insurance companies that want all the advantages of autonomy.

Also sometime next year, Oracle will expand to 36 cloud regions, Ellison said, compared with Amazon's 25. And unlike AWS, all cloud services will be available in all regions.

To incentivize customers to start using Oracle Cloud, the company launched an "always free" program that allows companies to sandbox in Oracle Cloud at no charge, for as long as they want.

The "always free Oracle Cloud for everybody" program gives customers "access to all our best stuff," he said, including an autonomous database.

"We're getting bigger," Ellison said. "We have 40,000 customers in the cloud today."