Hurd It On The Oracle-vine

To talk publicly or not to talk publicly: both can work in surprising ways, and that is the irony of Oracle's grapevine. Let me explain...

I spent a couple of days last week at Oracle's industry analyst event. I can tell you it was a well produced meeting...I can also tell you that Oracle looks set (as if it isn't doing so already...) to present a significant threat to the more entrenched 'whole-enchilada' systems vendors...what I can't tell you is a lot of specific details - because Oracle still likes (this is deeply shocking I know...not!) to keep a lot of things under non-disclosure. I should say of course that this is entirely its choice. To 'spew' or 'not to spew' directions and plans has always been a decision for, and a distinction between, vendors in this industry. I will say that this year Oracle shared a lot more, and did it a lot more openly, at the event itself than it has done previously. That is good because it helps all of us commentators and observers to have an impression about the credibility and suitability of its vision.

It's just that I can't share much of it. Actually you could say that this is doubly clever - to rephrase an old adage, 'it's easier to fear fear itself' than to have something tangible to fight back against. If you've ever seen the original 'Halloween' movie you'll know what I mean - it was petrifying simply because we, the audience, never really saw anything - meaning that we all imagined what was worst for us! Now of course, I'm not comparing any of the vendors in this business to horror stories (although some have launched some scary products at times!) but the cloak around what's specifically coming from Oracle can combine with attendees like me telling you it's impressive, to cause way more excitement (amongst the user community) and concern (amongst the vendor community) than may eventually be merited. It's like 'The Full Monty' with clothes on!

All that said, Oracle clearly has its act together; so let me offer a couple of specifics about why the excitement (for some) and concern (for others) that I mentioned just now could well be merited. Behind the ubiquitous Oracle marketing tag-line of 'Engineered to Work Together,' I see two crucial things. First is the completeness of the 'stack' from which Oracle can pick and choose to actually engineer things to work together - it's arguably one of, if not the, broadest out there (I'm waiting for printers!). Secondly, Oracle makes no apologies about making the 'work together' bonus-values only available to those users that choose to buy the various Oracle building blocks that work together; a prime example is its Hybrid Columnar Compression (HCC) that only works between Oracle's database and Oracle storage....sure, you can run an Oracle database on other vendors' hardware, but you can't have the notable compression benefits of HCC. This won't always win Oracle new friends, but it certainly underpins its determination to offer differentiation when you buy into its stack. What else? Well, Oracle is investing a boatload of dollars in R&D, and is continuing its efforts to offer both specialist (e.g. 'Exa-everything') and general-purpose (e.g., SPARC SuperCluster) systems. Oh, and in case you didn't know, you can build, buy, or use (as you prefer) an Oracle cloud of one sort or another.

It's a compelling story, frankly. Now, as with anything in this industry 'you pays your money and you takes your choice.' Some users abhor the single vendor story, while others embrace it with open arms. Certainly, Oracle is not alone in talking up the merits of a 'converged infrastructure,' and - as we saw at this event - it is learning to talk a little more openly; as ever, you could rely upon Mark Hurd, in his 'chat,' to drop a few memorable phrases that illustrate that. Using a toy as a verb grabbed my attention early on; in describing the conflicting expectations upon CIOs these days, Hurd stated that "It's really hard [for them] to Rubik's-cube all of these demands." It's a great visual. What's the relevance to Oracle of this? Well, as Hurd pointed out, the annual IT budgets of even single global organizations (his example was a US financial institution) can exceed even Oracle's R&D - which illustrates the scale, cost, and complexity of modern IT, and partly explains why the industry is embracing cloud approaches and why services now overshadow hardware and software in overall IT expenditure. Funnily enough Oracle's 'stack' includes all these things; but as Hurd pointed out very openly, "We have an awareness issue... about the breadth of our portfolio." Of course, simply by mentioning this challenge, he was actually helping to address it; and in doing so he showed that the value of talking about some things can be just as much as that of not mentioning others.

You can read Mark's other blog entries at The Business of Storage.

Topics: Storage IT Infrastructure