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Oracle executives claim more comprehensive reach for cloud business

At a recent customer conference in London, US-based Oracle executives gave accounts of the supplier’s cloud business as becoming at once more enterprise and more mid-market

Oracle’s declaration of a march to the cloud will have escaped nobody in the IT market. The supplier started 2017 at a cloud event in New York, with reports of a new wave of customer take-up of its cloud offerings, and the announcement of some new datacentres to support its cloud push.

At a recent customer conference in London, “Modern Business Experience”, Oracle executives briefed Computer Weekly on how they believe the company’s cloud business is shaping up. They presented a picture of the supplier’s cloud delivery becoming at once more comprehensive, with corporate IT being re-enlisted as a stakeholder alongside lines of business, and more inclusive of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Laura Ipsen, general manager and senior vice-president of Oracle Marketing Cloud, has a CV that includes senior executive roles at Microsoft, in its worldwide public sector organisation. She has also worked for Cisco, as general manager of its Connected Energy Networks business, as well as at Oracle.

She is six months into her current position, leading the supplier’s marketing cloud business, which includes marketing automation system Eloqua, and is mainly pitched at chief marketing officers. However, she said corporate IT is coming into the picture more now that cloud-delivered marketing software is maturing beyond the putting in point systems at a departmental level.

“Corporate IT is important, alongside the marketers, because while the latter are wielding massive budgets – oftentimes more than the CIO – the expectation of RoI [return on investment] is very high, and marketers have woken up to not having enough IT budget to do what they want to do,” said Ipsen.

“They need to work hand in hand with IT. There was a time, about three years ago, when marketers were saying: ‘you go your way, I’ll go mine’. But data privacy, scalability, difficulties in implementation, integrations, and so on mean that is not realistic. We find that the companies that are furthest along do have that partnership.

“It is partly about de-risking the projects. But it is not just about security and privacy, it’s about business context and value, and the CIOs are aware of that too,” she said.

Ipsen gave the example of Vodafone’s implementation of Eloqua in 20 countries. “That requires IT support. My dream customer would be an implementer of Marketing Cloud, doing the whole stack and connecting to ERP and HCM – especially with respect to predictive analytics.”

Cloud’s role as an equaliser

Ipsen’s colleague Steve Daheb, senior vice-president of Oracle Cloud, platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) business groups said that while “historically, we have been more prevalent in the enterprise, cloud is a great equaliser, and so we’ve got the Exadata Express database service, targeted for SMEs, as an example”.

“It’s important to understand the complexity of it all at an application level and at a workload level,” he said. “These things are what CIOs are grappling with as they move to cloud. It’s not just a case of ‘let’s turn on some compute and we’re done’.

“There is not one specific path to the cloud. It could come from any of the three levels: SaaS [software as a service], PaaS or IaaS. The hybrid [cloud and on-premise IT] story resonates well with our customers.”

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The acquisition of SME-focused cloud applications business NetSuite, completed in November 2016, will speed up the expansion of Oracle’s cloud business among SMEs.

“Our ERP systems have been for organisations with 1,000 employees and above, whereas theirs have been for 1,000 and below. So that is complementary,” said Daheb.

David Turner, senior director, Emea marketing at NetSuite, said: “It does feel like we have come home. Larry [Ellison] was instrumental in saying NetSuite had to be online to have a web shop, as well providing funding [of $125m when the company was formed in 1998]. There was always a strong link, and NetSuite is built on Oracle technology, after all.”

NetSuite will add cloud knowledge and experience to Oracle as well as revenue. “But more than that, Oracle has been very much enterprise, and is now moving to SMEs, down the market, he said. “We’ve come the other way. We built a system expressly for SMEs. We are absolutely embedded in the mid-market, working with over 30,000 SMEs.”

Meanwhile, the acquired business will benefit from Oracle’s infrastructure of 19 datacentres, 14 more than NetSuite had. The new Oracle business unit will also look to benefit from the parent company’s more sophisticated marketing cloud, CRM, and HR software. “We’ve done payroll and core HR, but not really talent management,” said Turner. “Many SMEs don’t need that, but some do.”

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