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ISVs On Oracle: Three SaaS Vendors Explain Why They Chose OCI

In an industry where it's hard to separate hype from reality, and adoption figures are malleable, software developers making big bets on an infrastructure vendor can provide the clearest picture of that provider's market potential

The potential of Oracle's Infrastructure-as-a-Service business might be one of the cloud industry's biggest, most-debated question marks.

The Redwood Shores, Calif.-based tech giant was late to the IaaS game, then made a loud splash into the market bolstered by its powerhouse database business, an expansive Software-as-a-Service portfolio, and the provocative statements of founder Larry Ellison.

But by the time Oracle had a serious offering—OCI, its Gen2 Cloud—the market was rapidly consolidating around a few hyper-scale heavyweights. Early providers were getting muscled out by big-spending behemoths, or, if lucky, acquired by those companies.

It seemed, however, that Oracle was the one company that could buck that trend and break into the market by leveraging its engineering talent, financial resources, and massive customer base.

[Related: Oracle's Ellison On AWS, The Fundamental Problem With Cloud Security, And Deploying The ‘Star Wars Cyber Defense’]

Since then, investors, analysts, competitors and customers have been scratching their heads.

Was Oracle a real threat to Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure? Was adoption of its cloud services in line with its public pronouncements, or the result of crafty accounting disclosures? Could Oracle differentiate its offering enough to create an attractive value proposition?

Those questions are difficult to answer in an industry where smoke-and-mirrors are the norm—most cloud providers have been deliberately opaque with their cloud figures, especially in the phase of scaling those businesses.

So instead of diving deep into financials and market research, or attempting apples-to-apples comparisons of features and price lists, CRN talked to three software vendors at Oracle's OpenWorld conference who recently chose Oracle to host important customer-facing SaaS applications.

After all, ISVs in many ways are where the rubber meets the road in the infrastructure market.

The three companies—FICO, Altair and HighJump—all have different use cases and technological requirements. But there were some common themes that motivated their selection of Oracle Cloud: long (often multi-decade) relationships with Oracle database products, analytics-heavy workloads that needed to be able to scale rapidly, and a desire to be part of an ecosystem of enterprise-minded technology partners.

FICO—Much More Than A Credit Score

Most people know of their FICO score. But fewer realize that FICO's consumer credit rating service is just a B2C division of a larger B2B data analytics and security software business.

The 60-year-old company based in San Jose develops software enabling clients to deploy contextually relevant analytics into their decision-making processes, Doug Clare, FICO's vice president of product management, told CRN at Oracle OpenWorld.

FICO has hosted software for customers since Clare joined the company 30 years ago to work on its mainframe systems.

"We've been providing Software-as-a-Service before it was called that," Clare told CRN.

In recent years, the company has migrated many of those workloads into the cloud, working with AWS and other IaaS partners.

FICO also had a long legacy relationship with Oracle, leveraging its software to power solutions like a fraud-detection app with a 10-millisecond window to adjudicate transactions, and Exadata machines to process big data.

On Tuesday, FICO announced it would adopt Oracle cloud infrastructure for the first time to host a streaming decision-management platform for retailers and supply chain customers. That service had previously only been available for deployment on-premises.

One reason for choosing Oracle to host the first SaaS version of the supply chain solution was the personal touch FICO encountered during technical discussions, Clare said.

"Oracle was eager to work with us. They made it easy," he told CRN.

Another factor was the capabilities of Oracle infrastructure at scale. FICO needed to collate batch and real-time analytics—database performance, speed and IOPS were of critical importance.

But the most-important differentiator from other providers was the software giant's ecosystem, Clare said.

"Oracle has great relationships with other partners and customers in the retail and supply chain space," Clare said. "There's a great advantage to being part of that ecosystem that's already established."

Those relationships allow FICO to build "complementary solutions with other ISV partners of Oracle that can be combined in meaningful ways," Clare said. "We haven't figured it all out yet, but we think there are plays there."

Clare noted that FICO also found Cloud@Customer, Oracle's on-premises cloud offering, a compelling product to explore in building out its new service.

Exadata machines billed by usage but deployed under their own roofs is an attractive proposition to customers "who aren't ready to put all their eggs in the cloud basket," Clare said.

HighJump Takes A Leap With Oracle

HighJump sells supply chain, warehouse, and transportation management solutions that power the distribution networks of many businesses, from SMBs to large enterprises.

The Minneapolis, Minn.-based software developer had primarily used three cloud infrastructure providers to host those solutions in the past: Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and CenturyLink.

The company also had a relationship with Oracle that went back more than 20 years, mostly around database products, Scott Brask, HighJump's vice president of support and cloud, told CRN.

A few years ago, after some Microsoft Azure outages and mounting concerns about CenturyLink's cloud prospects, HighJump moved its warehouse management software onto its own VMware-based infrastructure, Brask said.

HighJump eventually came to a crossroads with its cloud strategy. That set off a process of assessing the field that culminated in a rigorous, data-driven evaluation of AWS, IBM, Google Cloud Platform, and Oracle Cloud.

Oracle had "a pretty compelling story around a lot of the compute and other capabilities in their infrastructure," Brask told CRN.

The company liked Oracle's combination of virtualized and bare-metal cloud environments, and its core capabilities in disk speed and CPU, as it envisioned scaling workloads for enterprise customers expanding their distribution center footprints.

HighJump created pricing models based on CPU, memory, and storage needed per user that suggested Oracle would be 20 to 30 percent cheaper for its needs than AWS and IBM, he said.

The company also appreciated the hands-on attention from Oracle's representatives.

"The difference there was they were willing to help us and augment the team and go to market faster," Brask said.

About eight months ago, HighJump made its first deal with Oracle Cloud.

That partnership started with a proof of concept—a small component of a $17 thousand per month overall infrastructure spend.

HighJump now has 15 clients running workloads on Oracle's infrastructure and is evaluating new Oracle services like autonomous database and Platform-as-a-Service.

Altair Accelerates On Oracle GPUs

Altair specializes in developing engineering products that apply advanced computational techniques to simulate physics. Its software is used to validate the designs of complex systems like cars, planes, and heavy equipment.

To deliver that resource-hungry software, Altair also has a division responsible for managing high-performance computing clusters that run highly parallel jobs like car crash simulations, said Sam Mahalingam, CTO for Altair's cloud and high-performance computing solutions.

As part of its cloud evolution, Altair has struck partnerships with the three hyper-scale giants: AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.

But a couple months ago, when looking for a provider to host a fluid dynamics solution—one that leverages GPUs to accelerate numerical methods—an IaaS relationship with Oracle materialized. That product's launch was formally announced this week at OpenWorld.

Altair evaluated several cloud providers. The company was impressed not only by Oracle's GPU offerings, but also its low-latency networking, high-speed storage and bare-metal environments, Mahalingam said.

The selection of Oracle Cloud Infrastructure was ultimately motivated by a price-performance analysis, he told CRN.

"Getting optimal performance for the right price, that was the key differentiation for this particular solution," Mahalingam said.

Altair, based near Detroit, sees tremendous demand for that cloud service because GPUs are expensive, and customers are looking to avoid large capital investments if they can get the same performance on a subscription basis, Mahalingam said.

Oracle's ISV Enablement Push

Oracle is now squarely focused on making it easier for customers to engage partners looking to develop new software products, or take existing ones to the cloud, Leo Leung, Oracle's senior director for products and strategy, told CRN.

"We're helping them to be better in the markets they're already in, or expand them to new opportunities," Leung said of technology partners like FICO, Altair and HighJump.

Oracle recognizes the SaaS opportunity for those ISV partners is massive, he said.

"There's a broad range of companies with different applications that have decided Oracle is the right infrastructure to run on," he said. "We think we built a good product to help software vendors transition into the cloud."

The culmination of that process is an enhanced Oracle Cloud Marketplace that simplifies the process of procuring software from ISVs, he said.

Oracle redesigned its online software store to better enable its partners to showcase their products in different contexts, Leung said.

The marketplace has become "a more integrated, simple experience" with the latest updates, Leung said.

New features enable customers, and other partners, to quickly search for images created by software vendors and provision those solutions with a few clicks, he said.

Those images can then be launched in the customer's own hosting environment, or on Oracle Cloud, he said.

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