At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, we live in interesting times, not just for IT itself, but for the IT vendor ecosystem too. There's divestitures, (re)spin-outs, and corporate combinations going on all over the place—think of HPE, Veritas and Dell/EMC respectively as some recent notable examples. Then there's the cloud-focused crowd, and the on-prem-focused crowd...indeed, this can often be different product offerings from the same vendor. And then we have Oracle, not for the first time, marching to its own tune. And it could well be mellifluous for many.
So, to start at the beginning: Just yesterday Oracle launched the 5th generation of its ZFS Storage Appliance, logically-if-unexcitingly called ZS5! As products go, it's certainly impressive...up to 307 TB of flash cache (there's also a version with up to 1.5 TB of DRAM) to support up to 9 PB of capacity, which means some real "oomph" on performance, including for the often-overlooked restore capabilities. And of course it comes with all the strength—whether that means resilience or completeness of advanced functions—that one might (un)reasonably expect.
But I'm convinced the product itself is not the real story here: The "tune" that Oracle is composing is a whole orchestral symphony, not a concerto or a piece for, say, just a string quartet or solo instrument. What do I mean by this analogy, and why is this seemingly-good-but-straightforward storage product from Oracle part of a greater IT whole?
The answer to both questions is in the messaging Oracle used to surround its factual announcement—it described this new storage product as "cloud architected, managed, extensible, and proven.” That makes sense, simply because it is part of something bigger and integrated...where that "integration" encompasses both the full traditional IT stack and also the public cloud. ZS5 is the latest example of Oracle "Engineered Storage," which, by the way, is increasingly something of a misnomer as the extent of integration implicit in that term (both now and with what Oracle is already promising) means it is ever-more part of something that might more aptly be called "engineered IT."
In its announcement materials, Oracle asks challenging and interesting questions about the diminishing market opportunity for storage vendors that do not have a public cloud—or indeed for cloud providers that don't also reach back into data centers. Oracle's "tune" is to flexibly and seamlessly allow users to dynamically deploy their data (i.e., their apps) however they wish, under one common set of controls. Indeed, with Oracle it is not so much about just common controls as common everything—that's the tune to which Oracle marches. Of course that does mean committing to Oracle, but if you are focused on outcomes combined with data flexibility then that might well not be a problem.
In so doing, the irony is that Oracle is not so much just embracing the public cloud per se, but actually effectively removing it as something that end-users need to specifically think about and manage. Semantically, and as a physical manifestation, both on-prem and cloud infrastructure will continue to exist of course, but Oracle is allowing users to concentrate on what data—and data attributes—they need to support rather than having to make permanent (or indeed many) decisions about how they actually do that.
Although Oracle has made steady and steadfast progress with its storage portfolio over recent years (that is, since it has had a realistic portfolio), even a cursory look at overall market shares says it has not managed to crack the storage market oligopoly but that matters less and less as we drive headlong toward an IT market that’s simultaneously software-controlled and built on the need for a data foundation without fixed boundaries of any sort. That's where Oracle can thrive as it’s agnostic about what goes where (it can reap revenues in all places), which allows unbiased data flexibility.
So, as I see it, this product announcement is most notable for not being mostly notable for the product per se! I'm looking forward to chatting through this viewpoint with some ZFS Storage Appliance users at Oracle Open World next week.