CRM 2019
CRM 2019

Amazon Versus Oracle: The Battle for Cloud Database Leadership

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Following Amazon’s announcement late last year that it intends to rip its extensive network of Oracle Databases and replace them with its own technology, a recent blog post reveals that a big part of the AWS competitive strategy is to continue expanding its large and growing roster of “purpose-built” databases for the cloud.

In the blog post, published late last week, AWS chief evangelist Jeff Barr offered this assessment of the company’s database roster and capabilities:

Amazon Versus Oracle Database AWS Jeff Bar
Jeff Barr

“A glance at the AWS Databases page will show you that we offer an incredibly wide variety of databases, each one purpose-built to address a particular need! In order to help you build the coolest and most powerful applications, you can mix and match relational, key-value, in-memory, graph, time series, and ledger databases.”

Coming from Barr, that’s a very clear indication of what AWS intends to do—Barr has been blogging about Amazon’s cloud technologies and services for 15 years and has a powerful grasp of the company’s directions.

Oracle, meanwhile, remains publicly dismissive of Amazon as a threat to the Oracle Database business, which by some estimates has close to 50% market share.

During Oracle’s most-recent earnings call in mid-December, chairman Larry Ellison described how the latest version of the Oracle Database will become the key to Oracle’s opportunity in the public-cloud infrastructure business, a segment of the market where category-king Amazon has been incredibly successful.

Ellison’s strategy is to require customers wanting the powerful new Oracle Autonomous Database to buy Oracle infrastructure as well—and since Oracle Database is by far the most popular in the world, Ellison’s betting that lots of its customers moving to the cloud will agree to run the Autonomous Database on Oracle’s IaaS.

From the mid-December earnings call:

“As we pair our new Autonomous Database with our new Generation 2 Cloud Infrastructure, we expect to not only hold on to our 50% database market share—we expect to increase it,” said Ellison in his prepared remarks on Oracle’s recent earnings call.

“That means millions of databases will move to the Oracle Cloud.”

And in the Q&A portion of the call, Ellison expanded on his thinking:

“Again, don’t believe me—read the Gartner report,” said Ellison, referring to the research firm’s recent ranking of Oracle Autonomous Database as the unquestioned leader. “The Oracle Autonomous Database has the biggest technology lead we’ve ever had in the database world, from a technology standpoint. 

Amazon Versus Oracle Database Larry Ellison
Larry Ellison

“The problem is, we have to deliver that Autonomous Database on first-class cloud infrastructure to be successful in the cloud business. We need more than just a great database—we already have the best database—but we also need first-class infrastructure to run that database on. And we now, finally, have that with our Generation 2 Cloud.

“And with the combination of the Oracle Autonomous Database and the Generation 2 Cloud, you’ll see rapid migration of Oracle from on-premises to the Oracle Public Cloud and to the Oracle Cloud at Customer,” Ellison said.

That approach, if successful, would enable Oracle to not only fulfill Ellison’s vision that “millions of databases will move to the Oracle Cloud” but also begin to generate meaningful revenue for Oracle in the public-cloud IaaS business, where the company today has only a tiny share of the market.

Clearly, though, it’s Amazon’s intention to derail Oracle’s proposed combo of Autonomous Database plus Oracle IaaS, and the recent blog post indicates that AWS intends to fragment the cloud-database market with a large number of what it calls “purpose-built” databases.

The AWS Databases page offers this overview:

“Our fully managed database services include relational databases for transactional applications, non-relational databases for internet-scale applications, a data warehouse for analytics, an in-memory data store for caching and real-time workloads, a graph database for building applications with highly connected data, a time series database for measuring changes over time, and a ledger database to maintain a complete and verifiable record of transactions.” 

That purpose-built approach is paying off, according to the AWS site: “Hundreds of thousands of customers have embraced AWS’s built-for-the-cloud database services.”

On top of that, AWS also offers a full set of what it calls database migration services aimed at convincing customers to switch to AWS databases from a wide range of existing alternatives, including Oracle, SQL Server, Teradata, Cassandra and MongoDB.

Amazon says it has migrated more than 100,000 databases to AWS.

So Oracle, coming from a position of great strength in database, is looking to parlay that into not only cloud-database leadership but also sharply increased revenue in its fledgling public-cloud IaaS business.

And Amazon, coming from a position of great strength in public-cloud IaaS, is looking to leverage that brand recognition and momentum into significant gains in the cloud-database business.

Have no doubt: the big winners in this front in the Cloud Wars will be the business customers that benefit from the vicious competition to come, as Amazon and Oracle look to expand their positions in the cloud platforms that are running rapidly increasing chunks of the global digital economy.

Disclosure: At the time of this writing, Oracle is a client of Evans Strategic Communications LLC.

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