Conference sign that says Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and Autonomous Database
Conference sign that says Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and Autonomous Database

Why Larry Ellison and Oracle Are Reinventing the Language of the Cloud

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In his opening remarks on an IBM earnings call 18 months ago, IBM CFO Jim Kavanaugh used the word “hybrid” an astonishing 28 times to try to prove that IBM is betting its entire future on the hybrid cloud.

In a major Oracle announcement two weeks ago, chairman Larry Ellison spoke for almost an hour about two high-impact new cloud products. While Ellison’s presentation consisted of 6,845 words, he never once used the word “hybrid” despite the fact that the two big new services are the very essence of what hybrid cloud means.


Yeah, right.

In a classic Larry Ellison gambit to redefine the rules of the game to boost Oracle’s competitive position, Ellison’s decision to eschew the “hybrid” term that many other cloud executives seem to cram into every single sentence is part of his attempt to show that the Oracle Cloud is completely different from what everybody else is offering. 

You want last week’s meatloaf with some soggy broccoli that’s been reheated 8 times? Hybrid’s your dish!

You want something truly new, highly advanced and not just better-cheaper-faster but also freshly picked and cooked up? Go with Oracle’s autonomous everything!

A couple of other strategic linguistic moves by Ellison:

  • The cloud is all about IaaS and SaaS. Ellison no longer refers to PaaS despite the fact that Oracle has, under the traditional boundaries of the cloud, a massive fleet of PaaS products. He appears to consider those to be essential ingredients but not quite fit for polite company—kind of like how when you have guests over for dinner, you want everything to be just perfect but you don’t talk about or offer tours of your plumbing, your refrigerator or your electrical panel. 
  • And Ellison has yanked database out of the PaaS category and plunked it dead-center in the IaaS category. He expects massive demand for his Autonomous Database and wants it to fuel his efforts to become competitive in IaaS with Amazon, Microsoft and Google. (See Larry Ellison’s 3-Point Plan to Beat Amazon: Autonomous, Performance, Security.)

Now, if Ellison were attempting to overhaul the language of the cloud while having a bunch of run-of-the-mill cloud products, he would deservedly be ignored at best and laughed at at worst.

But Oracle has become a player—a far-behind but nevertheless totally legit player—in the high-profile world of IaaS. It has done so on the strength of its cloud-native Autonomous Database (revenue up 70% in the most-recent quarter) and Gen2 cloud infrastructure (revenue up 140%). You can see my recent analysis on that in Larry Ellison’s Miracle: Oracle Becomes Big-Time Cloud Infrastructure Player.

Those two powerhouse products are driving great momentum for Oracle in the cloud. And the recent favorable report on the two new “[email protected]” products even generated a positive review from the nearly impossible-to-please Lydia Leong of Gartner: Oracle Cloud Is So Hot Even Legendarily Cynical Gartner Analyst Likes It!

Ellison appears to be attempting to flip the industrywide focus from hybrid—an enormous play for #1 Microsoft and also #4 Google Cloud—to autonomous, where none of the other cloud vendors has, to my knowledge, offered or even discussed any types of cloud services to compete with Oracle’s.

By pounding away on the advantages of autonomous technology—lower costs because no human labor; better security because no human intervention; better management because no human labor and everything happens automatically; and higher-performance because not just the database but also the operating system and the entire database are autonomous—Ellison wants to make his strong suit the new top-priority issue in the cloud.

In his early-July announcement of the two very impressive new cloud services, Ellison for the first time fused the position of his new Gen2 IaaS to autonomous. In the past, he’s used Gen2 as just a new term without ever really explaining why Gen2 was Gen2 and not still Gen1.

But now he has—because Gen2 is autonomous. And autonomous generates new types of value for customers that is vastly better than the old stuff.

As for hybrid? While it is still vitally critical for customers to be able to tie their traditional on-premises systems seamless to their newer cloud environments, Ellison is in essence saying “Hybrid is so yesterday! The big new thing is autonomous. The cool new thing is autonomous. The solution to your cybersecurity challenges is autonomous. The key to top performance is autonomous. The financial advantage goes to autonomous.

“The future is autonomous.”

Within the next 10 days, IBM (July 20), Microsoft (July 22) and Google (July 30) will all release quarterly results. I will bet dollars to donuts that IBM continues to go all-hybrid all the time, and I’ll monitor how many H-bombs CFO Kavanaugh lobs out in his opening remarks. Can he top 28? Will he hit 30? 

I think both Microsoft and Google will continue to give high-profile play to hybrid, but I’ll bet those two savvy companies find compelling and customer-centric ways to mention what hybrid does and explain why it’s so vital, rather than just plopping it into every sentence.

And I’ll bet gold ingots to donuts that neither Microsoft nor Google Cloud will mention “autonomous.”

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


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