There was a small fight between Oracle’s Larry Ellison and Salesforce’s Marc Benioff earlier this week. It ended with Benioff being kicked out of Oracle’s OpenWorld conference and delivering his speech from a nearby restaurant instead.The thing is, it’s surprising Benioff was ever invited in the first place, as a big part of his pitch lately has been to criticise Oracle’s “false cloud.”
On Thursday, Ellison struck back, unveiling Oracle’s first-ever actual cloud service: the Oracle Public Cloud.
Oracle makes most of its money by selling databases and other software to companies with complicated needs, like banks or huge online retailers. It’s in no hurry to displace this business model.
So in the past, Oracle has given only a half-hearted embrace to cloud computing, noting that its products can be used by companies to set up “private clouds.”
It’s a stretch to call this cloud computing at all. The architecture is similar to public cloud services, and has some of the same benefits like greater flexibility. But private clouds usually run on hardware and software that is owned and operated by the company using them (or perhaps by a third-party hoster — not the provider of the software). So private clouds are really just a more advanced kind of private data centre.
With the Oracle Public Cloud, Oracle will actually host applications for customers — not only its database, but also its CRM apps and social networking tools. Just like Salesforce does.
But there’s still a catch.
The Oracle Public Cloud uses a single-tenant architecture, meaning that each company’s applications run in isolation on their own virtual machine. Ellison touted this as a benefit, saying it would offer greater data security.
But as Google’s Rajen Sheth recently explained, the more traditional way of doing cloud computing is in a multitenant architecture, where each company’s applications are distributed across lots of different physical and virtual machines. This generally offers greater reliability (if a server goes down, the customer probably won’t even notice), lower costs (because servers can be used more efficiently, and those savings are passed along to customers), and easier feature upgrades (because the service provider doesn’t have to upgrade each application instance individually).
Ellison also touted the fact that the Oracle Public Cloud will run on open standards, unlike Salesforce, but there may be some catches there — as Ars Technica reports, it’s not clear whether the applications running in Oracle’s cloud can be ported to other cloud providers, unless those cloud providers also use Oracle hardware and software.
It’s worth noting that when Microsoft first got into cloud computing, it offered its largest customers a dedicated service as well. But Office 365 is multitenant for all but the very largest customers. Oracle might follow that path.
Pricing and availability were not announced, either, which suggests this is still a work in progress.