The just released Oracle Analytics for Cloud HCM platform can do some familiar things for HR. It can, for instance, produce reports about profit and revenue per employee. But it also takes these familiar analytics one step further. HR can use the tool to, for instance, hunt for relationships between employee engagement and revenue data.
Until the release of Oracle Analytics for Cloud HCM, delivering some types of HR and finance data may have required coordination with finance. But the tool now gives HR the ability to run these reports as needed, according to the vendor.
Indeed, Mark Brandau, an analyst at Forrester Research, said the Oracle Analytics for Cloud HCM may give HR managers new ability to run their own analytics. HR will “have additional ways to leverage the people and operational data to make better decisions,” he said.
Oracle Analytics for Cloud HCM, announced via an online conference, is available to its HCM users. It’s part of the vendor’s Oracle Analytics for Applications product line.
Bruno Aziza, group vice president of Oracle Analytics, said the HCM analytics application stores and makes data available for analytics in an “autonomous data warehouse,” which has security, repair and high availability features that don’t require user intervention. It will have a set of analytical HR modules around employee data, but it will also allow mashups of data from other sources, he said.
Use of unstructured data
Where Aziza believes the analytics application will differentiate itself is in its ability to take unstructured survey data, or something like 360-degree feedback data, and combine it with financial data.
For instance, take a firm analyzing the performance of sales teams across geographies, Aziza said. In this process, HR may use Oracle Analytics for Cloud HCM and discover a performance problem in a specific region.
Katherine ThompsonHead of reporting and analytics for the Metis Program, Home Office
“Maybe there are some dimensions that explain this lack of performance related to HR components,” Aziza said. It could be a consequence of new employees, dissatisfied employees or engagement issues, he said.
All the major HCM vendors — Oracle, Workday, SuccessFactors, Ultimate Software — have made significant investments in analytics, Forrester’s Brandau said. Part of the drive to analytics is to “help standardize some of the practices and metrics and the way that HR operates,” he said.
At its online launch, Oracle hosted a customer panel that included Katherine Thompson, head of reporting and analytics for the Metis Program at the Home Office in the U.K. The Home Office is responsible for immigration, security and other issues. The Metis Program is the name for a migration to cloud-based ERP using Oracle.
Thompson said the Home Office has been using Oracle’s analytics to identify ways to improve the time it takes to hire someone. It involves different systems, including recruiting and security clearances. “We couldn’t really see where the blockages were, and we worked closely with the HR teams to make relationships,” she said. The Home Office has since sped up the hiring process, she said.
Oracle’s latest release of the Java language and platform, Java 14 — also known as Oracle JDK14 — brings a series of features focused on helping developers code faster and more efficiently.
The latest Java Development Kit (JDK) provides new developer-focused features including Java language support for switch expressions, new APIs for continuous monitoring of JDK Flight Recorder data, and extended availability of the low-latency Z Garbage Collector to macOS and Windows.
In addition, Java 14 includes three preview features that come out of the JDK Enhancement Proposals (JEP) process. These are Pattern Matching, or JEP 305; Records, or JEP 359; and Text Blocks, also known as JEP 368.
Java 12 introduced switch expressions in preview, and it is now standard in Java 14. This feature extends the Java switch statement so it can be used as either a statement or an expression. “Basically, we converted the switch statement into an expression and made it much simpler and more concise,” said Aurelio Garcia-Ribeyro, Oracle’s Sr. Director of Product Management, Java Platform.
Oracle will give developers a way to spot errors by continuously monitoring the JDK Flight Recorder, a tool integrated into the Java Virtual Machine for collecting diagnostic and profiling data about a running Java application.
Finally, the z Garbage Collector, also known as ZGC, is a scalable, low-latency garbage collector. Garbage collection is a form of automatic memory management that frees up memory that is no longer in use or needed by the application. Prior to the Windows and MacOS support introduced with Java 14, the z Garbage collector was available only on Linux/x64 platforms.
As for the preview features, Oracle has developed pattern matching for the Java “instanceof” operator. The instanceof operator is used to test if an object is of a given type. In turn, the introduction of Java Records cuts down on the verbosity of Java and provides a compact syntax for declaring classes.
“Records will eliminate a lot of the boilerplate that has historically been needed to create a class,” Garcia-Ribeyro said.
Text Blocks, initially introduced in Java 13 as a preview, returns as an enhanced preview in Java 14. Text Blocks make it easy to express strings that span several lines of source code. It enhances the readability of strings in Java programs that denote code written in non-Java languages, Garcia-Ribeyro said.
Oracle needs to give Java developers the types of tools they need to evolve with the marketplace, said Bradley Shimmin, an analyst at Omdia in Longmeadow, Mass.
“When I look at what they’re doing with Java 14, they’re adding features that make the language more resilient, more performant and that make developers more productive in using the language,” he said.
Oracle takes iterative approach to Java updates
Java 14 also includes a new Packaging Tool, introduced as an incubator feature, that provides a way for developers to package Java applications for distribution in platform-specific formats. This tool is introduced as an incubator module to get developer feedback as the tool nears finalization.
Among the more obscure features in this release are Non-Volatile Mapped Byte Buffers, which add a file mapping mode for the JDK when using non-volatile memory. Also, Helpful NullPointerExceptions improves the usability of NullPointerExceptions by describing precisely which variable was null. NullPointerExceptions are exceptions that occur when you try to use a reference that points to no location in memory as though it were referencing an object. And the Foreign-Memory Access API allows Java programs to safely access foreign memory outside of the Java heap. The Java heap is the amount of memory allocated to applications running in the JVM.
Java 14 is another new release of the language under the six-month cadence Oracle instituted more than two years ago. The purpose of the quicker cadence of releases is to get “more bite-size pieces that are easier to deploy and manage and that get the features to app developers in the enterprise to benefit from these new capabilities,” said Manish Gupta, Oracle’s Vice President of Marketing for Java and GraalVM.
Overall, Oracle wants to advance the Java language and platform to make it work well for new cloud computing applications as well as platforms such as mobile and IoT. In 2017, Oracle spun out enterprise Java, known as Java Enterprise Edition or JavaEE, to the Eclipse Foundation. Eclipse has since created a new enterprise Java specification called Jakarta EE.
“When I think about Java 14, what I’m seeing is that Oracle is not only staying true to what they promised back when they acquired Sun Microsystems, which was to do no harm to Java, but that they are trying to now evolve Java in such a way that it can remain relevant into the future,” Shimmin said.
Oracle hopes a new developer certification program can drive more interest in its cloud platform, which is well behind the likes of AWS, Microsoft and Google in terms of market share.
To this end, Oracle has introduced a new Developer Associate certification for Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, to help developers familiarize themselves with the platform and ultimately build modern enterprise applications there. Oracle now offers five distinct certifications for architects, operators and developers on OCI.
“We absolutely expect this certification will help to grow the number of developers in the Oracle cloud ecosystem,” said Bob Quillin, vice president of Oracle cloud developer relations. “This is a real, professional set of skills and we have a broad set of tools on the toolbox to get and keep developers up to speed.”
Oracle has struggled to attract enterprise customers to OCI, the second-generation version of its cloud platform. The company is hoping the certifications will help in that regard by teaching developers how to use the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure service APIs, command-line interface and SDKs to write applications.
“Certifications matter when it comes to building software,” said Holger Mueller, principal analyst at Constellation Research in Cupertino, Calif. “It matters for enterprises to know what they can expect from developers with a certain certification level. And developers want to document their skills level with a certification.”
Passing the certification means that developers have learned OCI architecture, as well as use cases and best practices, Quillin said.
However, “Beyond that pool, developers are less motivated to climb onboard a new brand, which is very costly, so vendors are tailoring new programs and certificates to attract non-Oracle expertise developers and broaden its developer following,” said Charlotte Dunlap, principal analyst at GlobalData in Santa Cruz, Calif.
Quillin said the move to add the new certification was based on developer demand.
“We have thousands of Oracle Cloud Infrastructure certified individuals and are seeing a strong customer demand for Oracle Cloud technical skills,” he said.
This reflects strong momentum among developers who want to build new applications, as well as build extensions to existing applications and data.
“The creation of a certification is a usually a sign of maturity for a platform or product,” Mueller said. “This is the case for Oracle’s cloud developer certification, which just launched. As with all certifications, popularity will determine relevance and we will see in a few quarters what the uptake will be.”
Oracle University is offering the new Developer Associate certification at $150. Oracle University is also reducing the price of all Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Associate level certifications — including architect and operations — to $150 and offering the Foundations certification at $95.
In addition, Oracle University has made all its Oracle Cloud Infrastructure learning content available at no charge. Oracle previously charged $2,995 per user subscription.
The certification exam is 105 minutes long and contains 60 questions. It is currently available only in English.
Moreover, the developer certification is aimed at developers who have 12 or more months of experience in developing and maintaining applications. They should also have an understanding of cloud-native fundamentals and knowledge of at least one programming language.
In a bid to meet customers’ needs for hybrid cloud deployments, Oracle has injected its Oracle Enterprise Manager system with new capabilities to ease cloud migration and hybrid cloud database management.
The software giant unveiled the new Oracle Enterprise Manager release 13.4 on Wednesday, with general availability expected by the end of the first quarter.
The release includes new analytics features for users to make the most of a single database and optimize performance. Lifecycle automation for databases gets a boost in the new release. The update also provides users with new tools to enable enterprises to migrate from an on-premises database to one in the cloud.
“Managing across hybrid on-prem and public cloud resources can be challenging in terms of planning and executing database migrations,” said Mary Johnston Turner, research vice president for cloud management at IDC. “The new Migration Workbench addresses this need by providing customers with guided support for updating and modernizing across platforms, as appropriate for the customer’s specific requirements.”
Beyond helping with migration, Turner noted that Oracle Enterprise Manager 13.4 supports customer choice by enabling consistent management across Oracle Cloud and traditional on-premises resources, which is a recognition that most enterprises are adopting multi-cloud architectures.
The other key addition in Oracle Enterprise Manager 13.4 is advanced machine learning analytics, Turner noted.
“Prior to this release the analytics capabilities were mostly limited to Oracle Management Cloud SaaS [software as a service] solutions, so adding this capability to Enterprise Manager is significant,” she said.
Oracle Enterprise Manager 13.4 features
Nearly all large Oracle customers use Enterprise Manager already, said Mughees Minhas, vice president of product management at Oracle. He said Oracle doesn’t want to force a new management tool on customers that choose to adopt the cloud, which is why the vendor is increasingly integrating cloud management features with Oracle Enterprise Manager.
Mary Johnston TurnerResearch vice president for cloud management, IDC
As users decide to move data from on-premises deployments to the cloud, it’s rarely just an exercise in moving an application from one environment to another without stopping to redesign the workflow, Minhas said.
Migrating to new databases with Enterprise Manager 13.4
Helping organizations migrate to new database versions is one of the key capabilities of the latest version of Oracle Enterprise Manager.
“Normally, you would create a separate test system on-prem where you would install it and then once you’re done with the testing, then you’d upgrade the actual system,” Minhas said. “So we are promoting these use cases to Enterprise Manager through the use of real application testing tools, where we let you create a new database in the cloud to test.”
The new Oracle Enterprise Manager release also benefits from Exadata Warehouse technology, which now enables analytics for Oracle database workloads.
“The goal of a great admin or cloud DBA [database administrator] is that they want to avoid problems before they happen, and not afterwards,” Minhas said. “So we are building analytical capabilities and some algorithms, so they can do some forecasting, so they know limits and are able to take action.”
Minhas said hybrid management will continue to be Oracle’s focus for Oracle Enterprise Manager.
“Over time, you’ll see us doing more use cases where we also let you do the same thing you’re doing on premises in the cloud, using the same APIs users are already familiar with,” Minhas said.
Adobe, Microsoft and Oracle released their own customer data platforms in 2019 to compete with roughly 20 CDP vendors that had been serving their users for several years. Salesforce and SAP plan to follow with their own CDPs in 2020.
Those large customer experience (CX) platforms face challenges in the marketplace. Customer data platforms, which unify data across marketing automation, customer service, sales and e-commerce applications, solve a problem the big vendors created: A lack of data flow between CX applications, according to David Raab, founder of the CDP Institute.
“Nothing else has solved it; nothing comes close to solving it,” Raab said.
That data is siloed, typically, because the vendors built their CX technologies via acquisition and continue to have difficulty integrating the marketing, sales and service clouds comprising their platforms. But users demand it, as they see value in real-time access to customer data from all channels at once. They want machine learning and analytics running with those systems, pulling data from across the platform in order to create one-to-one customer offers, in real time, to drive sales and marketing campaigns.
Tech buyers must choose big vs. small CDPs
The question is, as many B2B companies are just starting to digitally transform their commerce, will they purchase new tools from the big vendors like Oracle and Microsoft, or go with more established and technically advanced CDPs from the smaller companies, such as Lytics, Lotame, Arm Treasure Data and RedPoint Global?
“Buyers are within their rights to be skeptical [of the big-box vendors],” said Gartner analyst Benjamin Bloom. “That vendor who might not have delivered the thing that you were looking for — or [caused] unintended challenges or consequences — now they are exactly the ones who are telling you how to clean up the mess [with their new CDP].”
Smaller CDP vendors tend to be nimble and more responsive to customer needs for features and integrations with analytics tools and outside applications, Bloom said. He sees them keeping their users for some time to come, as the larger platform vendors play catch-up, which Raab agrees with.
Yet another option has become available for technology buyers tasked with building customer experiences: the digital experience platform. These typically arise from cloud content management vendors that are moving into customer experience. Acquia acquired CDP vendor AgilOne earlier this month to assemble a marketing automation and e-commerce platform with more sophisticated web content management than all the large CX platform vendors, with the exception of Adobe.
One of Acquia’s main competitors that also offers a CDP, Episerver, is moving more deeply into digital experience. It expanded its B2B e-commerce offering by acquiring InSite Software this month, and hired former SAP CX platform lead Alex Atzberger as CEO to oversee its digital experience technologies.
So many companies are building B2B e-commerce operations from scratch, said Gartner analyst Jason Daigler, that it doesn’t surprise him to see content management vendors challenge companies like Oracle and SAP for customers. He sees the appeal of combining strong content management with e-commerce.
Nicole FranceAnalyst, Constellation Research
“Most commerce platforms were not built with the best content management systems out there; they’re not known for their digital experience capabilities,” Daigler said.
Salesforce takes a different approach
Other experts wonder whether or not CDPs are the answer to collecting real-time data from disparate sources such as social media, sales and marketing channels. Because this data is always imperfect and the customer golden record is a mythical concept, said self-described CDP skeptic Constellation Research analyst Nicole France, the CDP may be a “fool’s errand.”
Salesforce is coming out with “a CDP that’s not a CDP,” as the company described it in analyst previews, France said. Salesforce may be solving problems that require customer data platforms to fix with upcoming features in Those could amount to integrations and APIs connecting data and unifying customer profiles with Mulesoft tools, instead of a whole new database itself.
“I do think that having the right data in the right time is really important to delivering a good customer experience. Does that require a single database? I don’t think it does, but it does require good understanding of data, where it is, and how to put it together.”
SAN FRANCISCO — Oracle executive vice president Steve Miranda has worked at the company since 1992 and leads all application development at the vendor. He was there well before Oracle made its acquisition-driven push against application rival SAP in the mid-2000s, with the purchases of PeopleSoft and Siebel.
In 2007, Oracle put Miranda in charge ofFusion Applications, the next-generation software suite that took a superset of earlier application functionality, added a modern user experience and embedded analytics, and offered both on-premises and cloud deployments. Fusion Applications became generally available in 2011, and since then the Oracle has continued to flesh out its portfolio with acquisitions and in-house development.
Of the three main flavors of cloud computing, SaaS has been by far the most successful for Oracle applications, as it draws in previously on-premises workloads and attracts new customers. The competition remains fierce, with Oracle jockeying not only with longtime rival SAP but also the likes of Salesforce and Workday.
Miranda spoke to TechTarget at Oracle’s OpenWorld conference in a conversation that covered Fusion’s legacy, the success of SaaS deployments compared with on-premises ones, Oracle’s app acquisitions of late and the road ahead.
Software project cost overruns andoutright failureshave been an unfortunate staple of the on-premises world. The same hasn’t happened in SaaS. Part of this is because SaaS is vendor-managed from the start, but issues like change management and training are still risk factors in the cloud. Explain what’s happening from your perspective.
We have a reasonably good track record, even in the on-premises days. The noticeable difference I’ve seen [with cloud] is as follows:
In on-premise, because you had a set version, and because you knew you’re going to move for years, you started the implementation, but you had to have everything, because there wasn’t another version coming [soon].
Now, inevitably, that meant it took a while. And then what that meant is your business sometimes changed. New requirements came in. That meant you had to change configuration, or buy a third-party [product] or customize. That meant the implementation pushed out. But [initially], you had this sort of one-time cliff, where you had to go or no-go. Because you weren’t going to touch the system, forever more, because that was sort of the way it was. Or maybe you look at years later. It put a tremendous amount of pressure [on customers].
So what happened was, while companies tried to control scope, because there wasn’t a second phase, or the second phase was way out, it was really hard to control scope.
In SaaS, the biggest shift that I’ve seen from customers is that mentality is all different, given that they know, by the nature of the product we’ve built, they’re going to get regular updates. Their mindset is “OK, we’re going to take advantage of new features. We’re going to continue more continually change our development process or our business process.”
Do last-minute things pop up? Sure. Do project difficulties pop up? Sure. But [you need] the willingness to say, “You know what? We’re going to keep phase one, the date’s not moving, which means your cost doesn’t move.”
In SaaS, projects aren’t perfect, sometimes there’s [a scope issue], but you have something live. You get some payback, and there’s some kind of finish line for that. That’s the biggest difference that I’ve seen.
The Fusion Applications portfolio and brand persists today and was a big focus at OpenWorld. But Fusion was announced in 2005, and became GA in 2011. That’s eight years ago. So in total, Fusion’s application architectural pattern is about 15 years old. How old is too old?
Are they old compared to on-premise products? Definitely not. Are they old compared to our largest SaaS competitor [Editor’s note: Salesforce]? No, that’s actually an older product.
Okay, now, just in a standalone way, is Fusion old? Well, I would say a lot of the technology is not old. We are updating to OCI, the latest infrastructure, we’ve moved our customers there. We are updating to the latest version of the Oracle database to an Autonomous Database. We’ve refreshed our UI once already, and in this conference, we announced the upcoming UI.
Now. If you go through every layer of the stack, and how it’s architected and how it’s built, you know, there’s some technical debt. It depends on what you mean by old.
We’re moving to more of a microservices architecture; we build that part a piece at a time. Once we get done with that, there’s going to be something else behind it. [Oracle CTO and chairman Larry Ellison] talked about serverless and elasticity of the cloud. We’re modifying the apps architecture to more fully leverage that.
So if the question is in hindsight, did we make mistakes? The biggest mistake for me personally is, look: We had a very large customer installed base across PeopleSoft Siebel, E-Business Suite, JD Edwards and the expectation from our customers, is when Oracle says we’ve got something, that they can move to it, and they can move to the cloud.
And so what we tried to do with Fusion V1, and one of the reasons it took us longer than anticipated is that we had this scope.
Any company now, it’s sort of cliche, they have this concept of minimum viable product. You introduce a product, and does it service all of the Oracle customer base? No. Will it serve a certain customer base? Sure, yeah. And then you get those customers and you add to it, you get more customers, you add to it, you improve it.
We had this vision of, let’s get a bigger and bigger scope. Had I done it over again? We’ve got a minimum viable product, we would announce it to a subset our customer and then some of this noise that you hear of like, oh, Oracle took too long, or Oracle’s late to markets or areas wouldn’t have been there.
I would argue in a lot of the areas, while it may have taken us longer to come to market, we came out with a lot more capabilities than our competitors right out the box, because we had a different mindset.
Oracle initially stressed how Fusion Applications could be run both on-premises and as SaaS, in part to ease customer concerns over the longer-term direction for Oracle applications. But most initial Fusion customers went with SaaS because running it on-premises was too complicated. Why did things play out that way?
Steve MirandaExecutive vice president of applications development, Oracle
I would take issue with the following: Let’s say we had the on-prem install, like, perfect. One button press, everything’s there. Do I think that we would have had a lot of uptake of Fusion on-premises as opposed SaaS? No. I think the SaaS model is better.
Did we optimize the on-premises install? No. We didn’t intentionally make it complicated. But, you know, we were focused on the SaaS market. We were [handling] the complexity. Was it perfect? No. Did that affect some customers? Yes. Did it affect the overall market? No, because I think SaaS was going to [win] anyway.
The classic debate for application customers and vendors isbest-of-breedversus suites. Each approach has its own advantages and tradeoffs. Is this the status quo today, in SaaS? Has a third way emerged?
I don’t know if it’s a third way. We believe we have best-of-breed in many, many areas. Secondly, we believe in an integrated solution. Now let’s take that again. I view the customer as having three constituents they care about. They care about their own customers, they care about their employees and they care about their stakeholders, because public company, that’s shareholders, if it’s a private company, it’s different.
If you told me for any given company, there are two or five best-of-breed applications out for some niche feature that benefits one of those three audiences? OK. You go with it, no problem.
If you told me there were 20 or 50 best-of-breed options for a niche feature? It’s almost impossible for there to be that many niche features that matter to those three important people, particularly in areas where really we specialize in: ERP, supply chain, finance, HR, a lesser extent in CRM, slightly lesser in some parts of HR.
So this notion of “Oh, let’s best-of-breed everything.” Good luck. I mean, you could do it. But I don’t think you’re going to be happy because of the number of integrations. I don’t believe in that at all.
Let’s move forward to today. Apart fromNetSuite in 2016, there haven’t been any mega-acquisitions in Oracle applications lately. Rather, it’s been around companies that play inthe CX space, particularly ones focused on data collection and curation. What’s the thinking here?
Without data, you can automate a map, right? You can find out how to go from here to Palo Alto. No problem. You have in your phone, you can do directions, etc. But when you add data, and you turn on Waze, it gives you a different route, because you have real-time data, traffic alerts and road closures, it’s a lot more powerful.
And so we think real-time data matters, especially in CRM but also, frankly, in ERP. You might have a supplier and you have the other status, they go through an M&A, or other things. You want to have an ERP and CRM system that doesn’t ignore the outside world. You actually have data much more freely available today. You want to have a system that assumes that. So that’s our investment.
Oracle has recently drawn closer to Microsoft,forming a partnershiparound interoperability between Azure and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. Microsoft is placing a big bet onGraph data connect, which pulls together information from its productivity software and customers’ internal business data. It seems like a place where your partnership could expand for mutual benefit.
I’m not going to answer that. I can’t comment on that. It’s a great question.
SAN FRANCISCO — Oracle has entered the customer data platform market, but some observers wonder whether the category is already headed into obsolescence.
The Oracle Customer Data Platform (CDP) joins Adobe’s, released earlier this year. Salesforce and SAP have their own CDPs in development. While they attempt to solve a difficult technical problem — matching, updating and deduplicating customer records across marketing, sales, service and e-commerce systems — CDPs are difficult to explain to c-suite leaders who sign off on large IT purchases.
Moreover, for CIOs, a CDP represents another tool to support and secure in already complex cloud enterprise application stacks.
No one disputes the need for B2C and B2B companies to aggregate customer data to drive faster, more precisely personalized sales and promotions, said Paul Gaynor, a technology consulting leader for PwC, a tax and audit services firm based in London. But when selling clients on CX initiatives, he said, his team leaves the CDP discussion to the developers, instead focusing on outcomes and bottom-line potential.
“We don’t make it about the data,” Gaynor said. “The data is the currency, a really important part of the equation, for sure. But the infrastructure and how it has to pass from platform to platform to drive AI- or human-based decisions … that’s just part of workflow.”
That said, he sees potential for the Oracle CDP to derive more specific, usable insights from many more data sources than customer experience platforms , even reaching into supply-chain systems to shape personalized customer offers.
Oracle CDP goes beyond marketing
When Oracle talks to customers in advertising-heavy sectors, those users believe that CDPs are the technology answer to melding customer data from third-party advertising platforms with their own marketing data, said Oracle EVP Rob Tarkoff. In other sectors, CDPs are less important, Tarkoff said.
Yet Oracle bills its CX Unity platform as “more than a CDP,” able to reach past marketing systems and draw deeper insights from ERP and other peripheral data systems. In Tarkoff’s mind, current CDPs tend to be limited to marketing automation. Yet in conversations with some customers, CDPs “are coming up all the time,” Tarkoff said.
Whatever the platform is called, profile veracity — the ability to dedupe, normalize and resolve different data sets to real identity, at scale — is a big challenge for these data platforms.
“That, and in every industry, there’s a different schema for how you want to represent a customer profile,” Tarkoff said. “A bank has a different set of attributes than an insurance company, a communications company or a retailer.”
Data wrangling to remain difficult
Some observers, such as Deloitte Digital Principal and CTO Sam Kapreilian, believe that despite the difficulty of easily explaining CDPs — let alone their value — customer data platforms will become bedrock technology to garner data insights and drive revenue in the years to come. Rather than headed toward obsolescence, Deloitte’s customers see the potential of new versions of the tool like Oracle CDP.
Michael KrigsmanAnalyst and founder, CXOTalk
“This stuff wasn’t possible two to three years ago,” Kapreilian said. “It just wasn’t affordable.”
Michael Krigsman, analyst and founder of CXOTalk, said whatever future platforms perform the processes currently assigned to CDPs will have to solve the same problem: Figure out how to find and track revenue in data that often is far removed from the final sales process, aggregate it in a single platform and ultimately assign a value to AI-fueled data personalization.
“It’s an ongoing project; it’s going to take years,” Krigsman said. “It’s like the journey to self-improvement — it never ends.”
Integration of Oracle Digital Assistant with Microsoft Teams gives Microsoft 365 customers access to Oracle Cloud Applications through conversational AI
ORACLE OPENWORLD, San Francisco, Calif.—Sep 17, 2019
Building on Oracle and Microsoft’s cloud interoperability partnership, Oracle today announced the availability of an integration between Oracle Digital Assistant and Microsoft Teams. Enterprise customers can now access Oracle Cloud Applications through an AI-powered voice experience in Teams.
“Using Oracle Digital Assistant, business users can simply and conversationally interact with business applications directly from their Microsoft Teams interface just as they would collaborate with their fellow employees or other productivity tools,” said Suhas Uliyar, vice president, AI and Digital Assistant, Oracle. “Completing daily work tasks becomes much more efficient as the AI-trained conversational access doesn’t require additional employee training on different applications. This is yet another way we are enabling customers to run mission-critical enterprise workloads across Microsoft 365 and Oracle Cloud.”
Once Oracle Digital Assistant is enabled from the Teams App Store, users can query Oracle Cloud Applications, such as CX and HCM, through a bot conversation. Skills from Oracle Digital Assistant are auto provisioned and auto configured, tapping into the richness of the Teams experience. “Together, Oracle Digital Assistant and Teams enable our customers to transform existing workflows and save time,” said Bhrighu Sareen, general manager, Microsoft Teams Platform. “This integration reduces context change for people since it eliminates the need to switch between applications, enabling them to complete tasks like viewing a sales pipeline in Oracle CX without leaving Teams.”
Today, the integration of Oracle Digital Assistant and Teams provides customers with a frictionless work environment to boost productivity and faster decision making. In the future, out-of-the-box skills or chatbots for Oracle ERP Cloud, Oracle HCM Cloud and Oracle CX Cloud are planned to be available in Teams via the Oracle Digital Assistant. These pre-built features can enable employee self-service for scenarios spanning sales, project management, expenses, productivity, time and absence management, compensation and benefits, and recruiting.
“We’ve been working closely with our partner IntraSee to create a HR digital assistant for our global employee base and Oracle Digital Assistant was the natural choice for us because of its ability to securely operate in our hybrid cloud infrastructure,” said Mark Burgess, senior director, HR Technology Solutions, Honeywell. “Our aim is to have it be the preferred method to get questions answered 24×7, access to policies and an amazing end-to-end approach for completing transactions with more speed and accuracy. We knew we wanted our HR digital assistant to be available where employees spend their time online, and an integration with Teams was therefore essential. Our vision is to have it become to employees what J.A.R.V.I.S. is to Iron Man.”
“We are excited to hear that Oracle Digital Assistant will support Teams,” said Sayan Ray, vice president, IT, SRF Ltd. “We’ve been using Oracle Digital Assistant to deliver conversational interfaces to our backend systems with great success. We also use Teams to collaborate so this partnership will help take Oracle Digital Assistant implementation to new levels in productivity gains.”
For more information on Oracle Digital Assistant for Teams, please sign up for private preview today.
The Oracle Cloud offers a complete suite of integrated applications for Sales, Service, Marketing, Human Resources, Finance, Supply Chain and Manufacturing, plus Highly Automated and Secure Generation 2 Infrastructure featuring the Oracle Autonomous Database. For more information about Oracle (NYSE: ORCL), please visit us at www.oracle.com.
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SAN FRANCISCO — Oracle hopes a focus on advanced security can help its market-lagging IaaS gain ground against the likes of AWS, Microsoft and Google.
A new feature called Maximum Security Zones lets customers denote enclaves within their Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) environments that have all security measures turned on by default. Resources within the zones are limited to configurations that are known to be secure. The system will also prevent alterations to configurations and provide continuous monitoring and defenses against anomalies, Oracle said on the opening day of its OpenWorld conference.
Through Maximum Security Zones, customers “will be better protected from the consequences of misconfigurations than they are in other cloud environments today,” Oracle said in an obvious allusion to recent data breaches, such as the Capital One-AWS hack, which have been blamed on misconfigured systems that gave intruders a way in.
“Ultimately, our goal is to deliver to you a fully autonomous cloud,” said Oracle executive chairman and CTO Larry Ellison, during a keynote.
“If you spend the night drinking and get into your Ford F-150 and crash it, that’s not Ford’s problem,” he said. “If you get into an autonomous Tesla, it should get you home safely.”
Oracle wants to differentiate itself and OCI from AWS, which consistently promotes a shared responsibility model for security between itself and customers. “We’re trying to leapfrog that construct,” said Vinay Kumar, vice president of product management for Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.
“The cloud has always been about, you have to bring your own expertise and architecture to get this right,” said Leo Leung, senior director of products and strategy at OCI. “Think about this as a best-practice deployment automatically. … We’re going to turn all the security on and let the customer decide what is ultimately right for them.”
Holger MuellerVice president and principal analyst, Constellation Research.
Oracle’s Autonomous Database, which is expected to be a big focal point at this year’s OpenWorld, will benefit from a new service called Oracle Data Safe. This provides a set of controls for securing the database beyond built-in features such as always-on encryption and will be included as part of the cost of Oracle Database Cloud services, according to a statement.
Finally, Oracle announced Cloud Guard, which it says can spot threats and misconfigurations and “hunt down and kill” them automatically. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Cloud Guard is a homegrown Oracle product or made by a third-party vendor. Security vendor Check Point offers an IaaS security product called CloudGuard for use with OCI.
Starting in 2017, Oracle began to talk up new autonomous management and security features for its database, and the OpenWorld announcements repeat that mantra, said Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research in Cupertino, Calif. “Security is too important to rely solely on human effort,” he said.
Oracle also said it will broadly expand OCI’s global cloud footprint, with the launch of 20 new regions by the end of next year. The rollout will bring Oracle’s region count to 36, spread across North America, Europe, South America, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific, India and Australia.
This expansion will add multiple regions in certain geographies, allowing for localized disaster recovery scenarios as well as improved regulatory compliance around data location. Oracle plans to add multi-region support in every country it offers OCI and claimed this approach is superior to the practice of including multiple availability zones in a single region.
Oracle’s recently announced cloud interoperability partnership with Microsoft is also getting a boost. The interconnect that ties together OCI and Azure, now available in Virginia and London, will also be offered in the Western U.S., Asia and Europe over the next nine months, according to a statement. In most cases, Oracle is leasing data center space from providers such as Equinix, according to Kumar.
SaaS vendors are another key customer target for Oracle with OCI. To that end, it announced new integrated third-party billing capabilities for the OCI software marketplace released earlier this year. Oracle also cited SaaS providers who are taking advantage of Oracle Cloud Infrastructure for their own underlying infrastructure, including McAfee and Cisco.
There’s something of value for enterprise customers in OCI attracting more independent software vendors, an area where Oracle also lags against the likes of AWS, Microsoft and Google, according to Mueller.
“In contrast to enterprises, they bring a lot of workloads, often to be transferred from on-premises or even other clouds to their preferred vendor,” he said. “For the IaaS vendor, that means a lot of scale, in a market that lives by economies of scale: More workloads means lower prices.”
The Oracle BI platform remains a relevant, vibrant suite of analytics products after all these years.
Oracle is one of the legacy business intelligence vendors — one of the companies that began producing tools for data analysis long before terms like augmented intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing were born. But while many of its long-ago competitors have disappeared and some that remain struggle to keep up with the pace of innovation, the Oracle BI platform is going strong.
“They’ve generally been followers, but they’re keeping up,” said Rick Sherman, founder and managing partner of Athena IT Solutions. “They’ve done an extremely good job.”
The company was in danger of becoming one of the legacy vendors that time passed by.
The vendor reacted. It met with customers and heard their complaints. It invested in innovation to include more AI and machine learning. It simplified its product suite. And it changed its management team to help take the Oracle BI platform forward.
“They had a leading traditional semantic-based platform, but when the industry transitioned to user-based visualizations, Oracle didn’t respond quickly,” said Rita Sallam, data and analytics analyst at Gartner. “Over the last three to four years, they’ve invested heavily in new capabilities … and their new products are well-positioned to compete with the rest of the market.”
Rita SallamData and analytics analyst, Gartner
From 18 BI products to three
The Oracle BI platform, operating in the umbrella name Oracle Analytics, currently consists of Oracle Analytics Cloud (OAC), Oracle Analytics Server (OAS) and Oracle Analytics for Applications.
OAC is a platform delivered as a cloud service; OAS is an option that can be deployed on premises or through a third-party cloud vendor and allows users the option of migrating to Oracle’s cloud at their own pace; and Oracle Analytics for Applications is aimed at SaaS users.
“They’ve done a nice job of weaving augmented analytics capabilities into OAC, with its natural language generation and natural language query and interaction options being particularly strong,” said Doug Henschen, principal analyst at Constellation Research.
He added, however, that it remains to be seen just how actively Oracle will facilitate multi-cloud deployment and the extent to which AI capabilities will be featured in OAS.
“The first thing we heard from customers was, ‘Make it easier for me to deploy Oracle Analytics,'” said Bruno Aziza, vice president of Oracle Analytics. “The first aspect of that was to simplify our product lineup. It’s a lot easier for customers to understand how to consume the value from Oracle.”
Despite being pared down from 18 to three products, capabilities that users relied on weren’t eliminated. The Oracle BI platform still supports the first-generation tools that IT departments and data developers used to make semantic models and reports, along with the data visualizations popularized in the second-generation products, as well as the machine learning, natural language processing and AI features that make up the next generation.
“We believe that these three waves of analytics are net additive,” said T.K. Anand, senior vice president of Oracle Analytics. “They do not replace previous waves — they build on top of the other. … We don’t believe that IT reports and dashboards are going to go away in the future. At the same time, we believe that analytics can reach an order of magnitude made available through mobile devices, through natural language, automatic insights that are revealed through AI algorithms.
“Our strategy is to provide all of these capabilities in a single integrated platform.”
Beyond the complexity of 18 products, according to Aziza, customers complained about the complicated nature of Oracle’s pricing. The response was to change it to two plans — payment on a per-user basis or on a per-server basis.
Finally, he said, customers wanted more transparency. As a result, in June, Oracle held an Oracle Analytics Summit at which it unveiled the pared-down product lineup and even went so far as to publish its roadmap.
“Their technological prowess is much brighter than [other legacy vendors],” Sherman said. “They’ve spawned off adept entrepreneurs, and they’ve impressed with their survival capabilities.”
Despite all Oracle has done to respond to customer concerns and improve the Oracle BI platform, according to Sallam, there are challenges that remain. In particular, while Oracle has taken steps to appease its existing customer base, attracting new clients could be a challenge.
“Will they attract new customers who are looking at Tableau, ThoughtSpot, Qlik, Power BI?” she asked. “They’re doing everything they can, but it’s easier to change a product than it is to change hearts and minds. … The pieces are in place, but the market just has to believe them and give them a chance.”