Amazon Oracle logos side by side to represent the database wars between the two
Amazon Oracle logos side by side to represent the database wars between the two

Database Wars: Oracle Attacks Amazon with High-Speed Upgrade

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Claiming “stupendous” customer reaction for Oracle’s new version of the MySQL open-source database, Larry Ellison said his company’s new MySQL cloud service is 100X faster than Amazon Aurora and 10X faster than Amazon RedShift.

On my weekly Cloud Wars Top 10 rankings, Oracle is #6 and Amazon is #2.

What I found fascinating about Ellison’s claims, delivered in the very public and high-profile setting of Oracle’s FY22 Q1 earnings call, was that Ellison was touting what he called “our other database”—MySQL—rather than the company’s ultra-high-profile Autonomous Database, which Ellison has repeatedly said will be the most strategic and successful product in Oracle’s history.

An astute and perhaps unrivaled player of the long game, Ellison is pulling one of his classic competitive gambits against a larger and more deeply entrenched competitor: changing the battleground, changing the rules of engagement and tilting both squarely into Oracle’s favor and against the opponent’s flank that Ellison feels is most vulnerable. Here’s how:

With Amazon’s cloud-infrastructure business being orders of magnitude larger than Oracle’s, Ellison has, over the past couple of years, simply shifted his categorization of “cloud infrastructure” to include cloud databases, which had traditionally been seen as a platform component.

By reframing “cloud infrastructure” to now include cloud databases, Ellison is looking to upgrade Oracle’s heft and status in that critical category and to influence customers to view databases and IaaS as inextricably interlinked.

And now, by pushing the new version of Oracle MySQL into the public eye as vastly superior to Amazon’s Aurora and RedShift, Ellison is doubling down on his contention that Oracle is the runaway cloud-database leader with both that new version plus his company’s revolutionary and fast-growing Autonomous Database.

Here’s how Ellison framed the situation during Oracle’s Sept. 13 earnings call.

“Oracle has come a long way in the cloud infrastructure business,” he said during his opening remarks. 

Referring to Oracle’s dominant database business, he went on: “We continue to deliver breakthrough innovations in areas where we remain unrivaled in running the world’s biggest and most critical systems. Our other database, the open source system MySQL, is now on a new generation and it now includes an ultra-high-performance in-memory query processor called HeatWave, plus a new set of management tools.” (You can see some third-party evaluations of the relative performances of these products in Oracle Whips Snowflake, Amazon Redshift & Aurora with Enhanced HeatWave for MySQL.)

In contrast, Ellison said, Amazon requires customers to use two different databases to handle transaction processing and analytical queries, whereas the new Oracle MySQL cloud database service with HeatWave can handle both simultaneously.

Amazon offers its own version of MySQL, called Aurora, to do transaction processing, and customers then have to move that data to Amazon’s Redshift data warehouse to do analytical queries, Ellison said. 

“Okay, so Oracle introduces this new version of MySQL, this new generation of MySQL via HeatWave and the customer reaction has been stupendous, simply for the reason that over and over again, they measure Oracle’s MySQL to be 100X faster than Amazon’s Aurora for query processing,” Ellison said. 

“Now, this was actually not unexpected. What was unexpected is that Oracle MySQL proved to be more than 10X faster than Amazon Redshift or Snowflake for query processing.

“So suddenly there’s one Open Source database that you can do transaction processing on, MySQL with HeatWave, and that same database, MySQL with HeatWave, is the fastest place to run your queries—so you don’t need to move your data into RedShift or SnowFlake anymore just to do queries.”

Tying back to his comment about the “stupendous” reaction from customers, Ellison went on to say that Oracle’s also made a significant move in its go-to-market plans for Oracle MySQL with HeatWave.

“Oracle MySQL with HeatWave is available at the Oracle Public Cloud, and many customers asked if we would also make it available on other public clouds. So we thought, ‘You know, if that’s what our customers want, then we’ll put it on other public clouds and we’ll and compete aggressively because we have huge technical advantages over Amazon Aurora, Amazon RedShift and perhaps most interestingly huge technical and cost advantages over Snowflake.”

While touting Oracle’s superiority over Snowflake, Ellison also tossed some praise in Snowflake’s direction by pointing out its performance advantages over Amazon’s offerings.

“Recently, Snowflake has come up with a data warehouse that runs on AWS and Snowflake is competing quite  effectively against Redshift because Snowflake runs on multiple clouds, and Snowflake, like RedShift, is way faster at queries than the old MySQL or Aurora.” (For more on that, please see Oracle’s Larry Ellison Admits Snowflake Is a Killer: It’s Killing Amazon Redshift.)

Final thought

Okay, those are some compelling claims from Ellison, and publicly available results indicate that his claims about Oracle MySQL with HeatWave’s superiority over Amazon Aurora and Redshift are entirely true. But at this point, Amazon’s cloud business is about 10X larger than the comparable portion of Oracle’s cloud business, so clearly this is battle that will be waged on many fronts: technology, pricing, ease of use and migration, security, compatibility and more.

And I suspect Amazon will simply try to ignore Oracle and the barbs from Ellison, and that’s probably the smart thing for Amazon to do.

But the more important issue is this: regardless of what Amazon does or doesn’t do, will customers start to take notice of what Ellison is saying and Oracle is doing?

Disclosure: at the time of this writing, Oracle was among the many clients of Cloud Wars Media and/or Evans Strategic Communications LLC.


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