Sunday, February 14, 2010

Larry Ellison in the Cloud

I enjoyed the webcasts Oracle published to outline its product strategy upon the approval of Oracle's acquisition of Sun Microsystems. I was impressed with most of the ideas presented, and I think Oracle will have some success selling their integrated stack "from disk to whatever". However, I was surprised by Larry Ellison's criticism of "cloud computing" when responding to a question near the very end of the event.

Cloud service providers like Amazon EC2 allow a software service developer to deploy one or more copies of a virtual machine image that provides some online software service. A "cloud" service may be a natural evolution of standard hosting provider, but the ability to dynamically allocate and deploy compute resources opens doors for a "software as a service" (Saas) developer. A developer of some service can quickly provision and deploy a virtual server dedicated to some new customer, or scale an application horizontally or vertically in response to increased client load.

A developer team that codes for the cloud avoids the cost and complexity of maintaining servers, networking switches, or storage in a data center. Managing data center complexity is where Oracle makes a lot of its money. Furthermore, the cloud is a natural platform for free open technologies like LAMP that are free to the developer, and do not provide a clear business model for a technology infrastructure companies like Oracle.

Oracle has tremendous breadth and depth of resources, and I don't think Larry Ellison's cloud myopia will be a problem of any importance, but it's strange when a technology leader comes late to an important idea.