Friday, February 17, 2017

How Oracle Can Win in the Cloud (response)

Sten Vesterli published an interesting post on LinkedIn today about Oracle and the cloud. Namely, does Oracle have what it takes to win in the cloud when they appear to be so far behind the other major players in the market?
I have much respect for Sten and don't disagree with what he stated in his post, but I have a slightly different take on what Oracle can do to win it big.

There's no denying that Oracle has many amazing products that have successfully served enterprise and mission-critical applications exceptionally well. Need a system for your bank? Air traffic control? Stock exchange? Look no further than Oracle software. But Oracle forgot to hop on the cloud bandwagon back in 2008 and have struggled in that space ever since (Read 5 things Larry Ellison actually said about cloud).

How can Oracle get back on track?

1. Offer low-end free trials for 12 months

I don't believe an unlimited free trial is realistic. I do, however, like Amazon's approach of providing an entry-level virtual server for 12 months free of charge. After all, these free environments won't help much in anything beyond a basic website, and even running a small MySQL database will likely be unusable (I speak from experience).

Oracle can easily do something similar for their PaaS and IaaS services. Once your customers take advantage of it without the pressure of a time limit, and once they are dependent on it and you've gained their trust, they'll naturally lock in.

2. Improve the user experience

This is an area I agree with Sten on and won't repeat his thoughts on it. But I'd like to add that though the interfaces are neat, sharp, and clean in many of the Oracle cloud services, I have three issues surrounding (a) consistency of the user interface across many services, (b) responsive of the interface, and (c) dynamicability (is that even a word?) of the user interface.

When I look at a message on the screen that says "Creating site", do I wait until I get a "Site created successfully" message? Or do I have to refresh the screen because I'm not sure if it will dynamically refresh or not? The little refresh icon is useless because it doesn't respond to mouse clicks or show any indication of activity.

3. Open up to small and medium-sized businesses

When a business such as a medical practice wants to host a small application, they don't want to spend $50,000 in yearly licensing fees in addition to ongoing maintenance costs. At most they'll want to fork out no more than $2,000 a year.

In addition, there's an enormous number of individual entrepreneurs who simply go to Amazon because the barrier to entry is extremely low, allowing them to spend a few hundred dollars a year on some idea that may or may not materialize in the end. That's not the case with Oracle.

Oracle needs to drop their prices on lower-end PaaS and IaaS services and expect a flood of smaller players to sign up. They may be the revenue backbone they will rely on for many years to come.

4. Drop your prices

The fact of the matter is that prices must come down. I'm pretty sure the executives behind closed doors are trying to match the revenue they're currently generating from on-premise with that of their cloud equivalent. This is a failed strategy and wreaks old-school mentality. Look no further than what happened to Blockbuster - how 40% of their revenue was generated from late fees, and when the model changed because of Netflix, they refused to adapt. Where are they now? (Hint: Bankrupt.)

Furthermore, the disastrous decision that Oracle made in doubling their licensing fees on Amazon (whether justified or not) is sure to backfire.

5. Get those government certifications

For those outside of the U.S., the federal market here in the United States is extremely huge, and the Oracle Cloud is mostly locked out. Check out this site for current list of FedRAMP compliant cloud systems.

6. Empower your partners with free services

Did you know that the Oracle Java Cloud Service (JCS) requires the Oracle Database Cloud Service whether you need a database or not? Who would have known this? Your partners for one.

Oracle's reliance on their partners is more critical than ever to provide objective, clear recommendations to get their clients educated and up and running. But Oracle charging their partners for their services that's intended to be for education/demo purposes is a cost that most partners are unwilling to consider, especially since it's not a one-time fee, but rather an ongoing cost. The 80% discount, while appreciated, is simply not enough when you still have to pay $4,000 to learn about a service and demo it to a client.

7. Introduce true self-service

To this date, it's not possible to sign up on my own and enter my own credit card information. Oracle still sends out paper invoices for their cloud bills. Though self-service will hurt a lot of resellers, the fact is that the reselling market will simply have to die. Offering automated credit card billing further encourages the small to medium-sized business adopters as well.

8. Reduce the confusion surrounding 'My Account' and 'My Services' and 'Oracle Account'

I've been using various Oracle Cloud services for over a year and a half, and even though the same email address is used to sign on these various pages, they apparently maintain different passwords across identity domains. I'm still unclear about the relationship between these supposedly identical Oracle accounts, if there's any at all.

9. Share true cost

People are not stupid, at least not in the IT field.

In the last Oracle OpenWorld 2016, I attended an excellent presentation titled Soaring through the Clouds – Live Demo on How to Integrate Ten Different Oracle Public PaaS Services, presented by various Oracle ACE Directors. The question that couldn't escape my mind was, "I wonder how much all this would cost?" Because knowing Oracle, going live with a simple use case spanning 10 Oracle Cloud services will likely be too cost prohibitive.

I've given this presentation a few times, and will also be giving it again at the upcoming Collaborate 17 conference in Las Vegas, and in it I mention why it made sense for our company to migrate from Amazon Web Services EC2 to Oracle Compute Cloud Service. One of the big reasons? Cost.

When people see real, actual numbers coupled with a positive experience, it carries a lot of weight.

10. Publish OBEs on YouTube

Oracle by Example was/is an excellent resource from Oracle, walking through every step in detail to achieve a certain task and is a great learning tool. Do you know how I learned about Oracle WebLogic Server multitenancy? From this excellent YouTube video by Steve Button, WebLogic Server Product Manager, who walked through the conversion of domains to partitions. It was perfect! I simply sped up the video to 2x and knew everything I needed to in 6 minutes. Now I'm talking about WebLogic multitenancy at the upcoming GaOUG TechDays 17 conference!

I can tell you from first hand experience that most professionals are intimidated getting started in the Oracle cloud because they don't know where to start. I believe that most PaaS and IaaS cloud services need at least 2 to 3 short OBE videos on YouTube for the first timers. One to demonstrate the sign-up and provisioning process, one to explain startup, shutdown, and connectivity, and one to develop or create a simple component using that service.


If Oracle's technologies were bad, I would stand up here and tell you that they simply have no future in the cloud. But that's not the case. Many, though not all, of the Oracle Cloud services are excellent with standout technologies powering them under the covers, but in my opinion it's their customer adoption strategy, cost, and licensing decisions that is unfortunately turning away folks.

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