Oracle fleshes out UK cloud strategy with Slough expansion

Oracle launches UK-based platform as a service (PaaS) – but can it deliver value for money compared with Azure and AWS?

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Oracle has introduced its cloud platform as a service (PaaS) in the UK, expanding the services delivered from the company’s Slough datacentre facility.

Oracle said the facility currently serves over 500 UK and global customers with software as a service (SaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) tailored for private corporations and public sector customers.

The Slough datacentre has been operational for two years, mainly running Oracle SaaS and IaaS products. According to Dermot O'Kelly, senior vice-president at Oracle, it provides Exadata machines for anybody who needs extreme computing environments.

When asked which Oracle customers would move to the cloud, O’Kelly said: “We have existing customers with Oracle on-premise, who can move Oracle to a cloud environment right now, and use our development tools and Java environment.”

Licensing

O’Kelly said Oracle charges for its cloud service based on a subscription or pay per use basis. Regarding organisations who already have an Oracle licence, he said: “We look at licensing on a case by case basis. You have the options to bring your own licensing, or you can buy [an Oracle cloud service] on top of the on-premise agreement.”

Several UK government departments are already using the facility. Iain Patterson, CEO, common technology services, Government Digital Service said: “The expansion provides greater capabilities and further choice and meets additional important public sector requirements. Government is committed to a cloud-first policy and significant supplier investments, such as this, support our strategic ambition and will ultimately provide better value and better services to the taxpayer."

Among the areas Oracle plans to target include the rapid development, test, and launch of applications at low cost, Hadoop delivered as a secure, automated service that can be fully integrated with existing enterprise data in Oracle Database along with access to a rapidly provisioned virtual compute environment to run applications at scale on the Oracle Cloud.

Oracle cloud alternatives

Oracle’s main competitors in the cloud market are Microsoft Azure and AWS from Amazon, both of which offer IaaS, which could be used to run Oracle workloads.

O’Kelly said: “Of course anyone can use Azure or AWS for Oracle, but most enterprise customers want more than an instance in cloud. They also want a platform.” He said the Oracle cloud supports real application clustering as a drop-down option from the admin screen. “What we are trying to do is automate as much of IT as possible. There is no need for a technical database administrator. You just set up an instance and select from a drop-down menu, all from a single dashboard.”

Oracle’s cloud strategy is not considered a true, multi-tenanted cloud, unlike AWS, since its offering tends to be geared towards so-called “engineered Oracle” systems. According to Charles Eschinger, vice-president at Gartner, Oracle would benefit by showing more openness to interoperating with other technologies and suppliers. “Most Oracle customers will have a collection of cloud services and their message needs to acknowledge and embrace those other environments too,” he noted in blog post.

In October 2015 Oracle introduced the M7 Sparc microprocessor, which introduced on-chip SQL optimisation. At the time the company said the SQL co-processors are available on all 32 cores of the Sparc M7 to offload and accelerate data functions, which it said would dramatically improve the efficiency and performance of database applications.

In November 2015 Forrester analyst Richard Fichera wrote in a blog post about the processor: “What is significant about Oracle’s approach is it appears to mark the first application of hardware optimisation for a specific set of application level features, in this case the processing of columnar compressed data and selected table operations in a manner specifically tailored to the Oracle database. Oracle will allow other software to use these hardware accelerators, but the dominant use case will definitely be Oracle software.”

Oracle lowers skills bar

This level of processing is available on Oracle’s cloud service.

The company has 19 datacentres around the world to support IaaS, PaaS and SaaS on the Oracle Cloud. In January 2016, it announced plans to build a cloud datacentre in Abu Dhabi to support customers throughout the United Arabic Emirates (UAE).

Thomas Kurian, president of Oracle, said: “We have introduced PaaS capabilities into the UK datacentre to ensure Oracle continues to help customers maximise existing technologies and new innovations and allow CIOs to set the agenda for the future of their organisations.”

As Computer Weekly previously reported, CIOs are looking to ring-fence spending with the major IT suppliers, in a bid to free up budget to build new digital strategies based on largely open source alternatives. Some chose open source for new projects, rather than buy new Oracle licences, reducing the amount they spend with the supplier over time. Oracle clearly wants to avoid losing business, and has just launched a recruitment campaign to hire a cloud sales force of 1400.

Azure and AWS are the main IaaS alternatives, both of which are driving down prices. But Oracle hopes to differentiate by lowering the bar in the specialist IT skills needed to run an Oracle-based infrastructure. In June 2015, Oracle chairman Larry Ellison boasted to Wall Street analysts that SaaS and PaaS would be “stunningly profitable” for Oracle. CIOs will need to consider how Oracle can remain good value while it drives cloud profitability.

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