How much really integrated is the Cloud? Dr. Manuel Breschi
I am attending Oracle Open World 2015 as CEO of e-Up, an Oracle Gold Partner ISV. Things just got started here in down-town San Francisco and despite the hype of similar events is still not that tangible (we'll see if this changes in the coming days...), the content got my attention - and it is not always easy to get my interest, at least in a positive way. So, far from the idea of promoting this specific Oracle Open World event, I just felt the urgency of reassessing my standpoint in relation to the Cloud and enterprise applications. At the end of the day, if you are here at OOW2015, it is quite difficult to ignore the Integrated Cloud slogan - so a natural question, eager for an answer, is coming to a critical mind:
how much really integrated is the Cloud?
You might know me for my stinging articles about the Cloud and the sheep crowding I have been witnessing in the market around something that should have been more obvious and - at the same time - more powerful, in comparison with what has been sold until now to the public. Mine is not a simple criticism towards a mainstream movement, rather a critical position/proposition, evaluating if what the world needs from the Cloud is what has been offered until now or if there is a way to realize by design that Vision about the Cloud I have presented in one of my previous articles "Software as a Service should be about Software, not Data". If you have not read it, the basic message could be summarized like this: freedom to develop applications with any vendor platform and possibility to deploy it whereveryou want, as much as for data.
Since the time I wrote that article, Oracle strategy seems to have evolved towards a closer integration and re-usability and this is what I am grabbing from the first presentations at this event and the recent release of some new Oracle product versions as well. Despite DBaaS was not so widespread at the time of the aforementioned article, I believe this acronym is going to be one of the most important Oracle added value points and that's because the possibility of migrating all your data from a legacy on-premise database to a cloud based service can finally give the freedom of choice and enable customers to better leverage the simplicity of Cloud with the power of on-premise tool sets - at least from a data integration perspective. The only obstacle will be represented by the physical availability of enough powerful networks to establish rock-solid, fast communications. At the day this article has been published, Oracle is offering an integration between on-premise and Cloud solutions that is honestly difficult to find in any other vendor's offer. The new BI Cloud Service, just to cite an example, allows users to query on-premise data, while - at the same time - you can move Oracle Business Intelligence meta-data to the Oracle DBaaS, making meta-data available on the cloud... really? well, depending on what we mean with "available"; if we refer to consuming it, then you got it; if we talk about design, well - that's another story. And here comes my point...
What the Cloud has been focusing on until now has been:
speed consumption of data (bringing as well to the Big Data challenge);
easier consumption of functionality by the end-users.
all these together with the effort of trying to offer more power to the front-end development.
While on-premise enterprise applications have continuously and with uncertainty moved back and forth between functional and data segregation and the opposite approach of flexible and totally customizable architectures, self-service SaaS applications came along, allowing an agile and fast data consumption.
In this process an important point was simply ignored - allowing powerful enterprise application customization possibilities in the Cloud. This has happened because, in order for the Cloud to speed up the time to market, the meta-data layer has been left apart, as in the case of Business Intelligence applications. Power and speed simply seem not to be going along that well in the enterprise software ecosystem. So I guess the next natural question is...
Can we get the power of on-premise with the speed of self-service?
At the date this article has been published, comparing BI, CRM or ERP customization capabilities of big cloud enterprise applications with on-premises ones has still one result - there's no competition: OBIEE has much more capabilities than BICS (Busines Intelligence Cloud Service); Siebel CRM has much more capabilities than Sales Cloud, Service and the others put together; and of course I am not simply referring to the end-user interface and functional end-to-end process functionality, rather to the extensibility and modularity of the entire business application, together with simplicity of services consumption.
Despite the vision of companies like Intel, there is no way to simplify Cloud consumption by simply introducing bigger and bigger infrastructures and fast data centers (every year we see multiplication tables proudly displayed on the conference screens: 2x, 3x, 5x...), while we continuously ignore the way Cloud based applications are engineered...
... because you cannot leverage what has not even been enabled yet
This of course involves all the Oracle 3 tiers of computing delivered as a service via a Global Network: Applications, Platform and Infrastructure. As Larry Ellison pointed out today, it took 10 years for Oracle to re-write applications for the Cloud (by the way, like it or not, he is still the only guy that owns the scene at Oracle). And one of the most important goals for Oracle Cloud, as presented today, is compatibility - easily move workloads between on-premise and Cloud; and Larry's right - it's still a goal because, as I pointed out earlier, we are not there yet. Larry 's perspective is that on-premises software will still be there for a long time, even if it will represent a smaller slice of the business - "because it will take a while to migrate" - and that's where my vision differs: the future should show us that there won't be any difference between on-premise and the Cloud and that's the only way we can envision a totally integrated Cloud; otherwise it would appear that all the marketing propaganda has won over the technology innovation and still prevents you to see things clearly... And we don't want to wait another 10 years to see progress, do we?
In the months to come we @ e-Up, together with our Visual life-cycle support tool for Oracle Siebel - e-Tools -, we'll focus on some Cloud services and show how we believe application integration should work - because despite the location where a specific piece of data or software is stored, customers need functionality that work seamlessly and be able to switch between on-premise and cloud based functionality as much as they like. And why is that important? simply because...
... whether an application is cloud or on-premises based, customers still perceiveapplication silos
This is an interesting perspective that is still ignored by the big vendors out there, don't you think? You might bring the concept to the extreme, arguing that when we talk about the Cloud, we should talk about a free accessible, globally distributed ecosystem where you can share and integrate every application available in the world wide web; but don't set your expectations too high yet... I doubt you will see an Oracle cloud integrated with a Salesforce or WorkDay one.. or... maybe yes?...
Despite the critical view, I hope you get the good vibe about how things could be moving around the enterprise software business; my objective, as well as yours - being on the vendor or on the customer side - has to be pushing innovation to go in the right direction - as soon as possible.
I will be attending the entire OOW15 event and therefore I will carefully evaluate the possibilities and the track of Oracle technology, so if you have any specific doubts or questions, just let me know and I will be glad to investigate for you.