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Oracle applications development EVP on Fusion, SaaS and what’s ahead

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 of Fusion 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 and outright failures have 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].

Steve Miranda, executive vice president of applications,Oracle
Steve Miranda, executive vice president of Oracle applicationsdevelopment, addresses attendees Oracle OpenWorld last week.

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?

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.
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 is best-of-breed versus 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 from NetSuite in 2016, there haven’t been any mega-acquisitions in Oracle applications lately. Rather, it’s been around companies that play in the 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 partnership around interoperability between Azure and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. Microsoft is placing a big bet on Graph 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.

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Oracle CDP moves beyond marketing data

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 EVP Rob Tarkoff presenting at OpenWorld.
Rob Tarkoff, Oracle EVP, delivers the CX keynote at Oracle OpenWorld.

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.

[CDP is] an ongoing project, it’s going to take years. It’s like the journey to self-improvement — it never ends.
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.”

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Oracle and Microsoft Expand Cloud Partnership to Boost Workplace Productivity

Press Release

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.

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About Oracle

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.

About Oracle OpenWorld

Oracle OpenWorld, the industry’s most important business and technology conference for more than 20 years, hosts tens of thousands of in-person attendees as well as millions online. Dedicated to helping businesses leverage cloud for their innovation and growth, the conference delivers deep insight into industry trends and breakthroughs driven by technology. With thousands of sessions, demos and hands-on labs, plus exhibitions from more than 250 partners and customers from around the world, Oracle OpenWorld has become a showcase for leading cloud technologies, from Cloud Applications to Infrastructure. For registration, live keynotes, session details, news and more visit www.oracle.com/openworld or www.oracle.com/newsroom.

Future Product Disclaimer

The preceding is intended to outline our general product direction. It is intended for information purposes only, and may not be incorporated into any contract. It is not a commitment to deliver any material, code, or functionality, and should not be relied upon in making purchasing decisions. The development, release, timing, and pricing of any features or functionality described for Oracle’s products may change and remains at the sole discretion of Oracle Corporation.

Forward-Looking Statements Disclaimer

Statements in this article relating to Oracle’s future plans, expectations, beliefs, and intentions are “forward-looking statements” and are subject to material risks and uncertainties. Many factors could affect Oracle’s current expectations and actual results, and could cause actual results to differ materially. A discussion of such factors and other risks that affect Oracle’s business is contained in Oracle’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings, including Oracle’s most recent reports on Form 10-K and Form 10-Q under the heading “Risk Factors.”

These filings are available on the SEC’s website or on Oracle’s website at http://www.oracle.com/investor. All information in this article is current as of September 17, 2019 and Oracle undertakes no duty to update any statement in light of new information or future events.

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Oracle and Java are registered trademarks of Oracle and/or its affiliates. Other names may be trademarks of their respective owners.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Oracle Cloud Infrastructure updates hone in on security

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.”

Security is too important to rely solely on human effort.
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.

OCI expansions target disaster recovery, compliance

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.

Holger MuellerHolger Mueller

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.”

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Oracle BI platform on the comeback trail

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.”

They had a leading traditional semantic-based platform, but when the industry transitioned to user-based visualizations Oracle didn’t respond quickly. 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.

Before being pared down to three products, the Oracle BI platform consisted of a mind-boggling 18.

“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.”

Daily traffic volume for the Washington, D.C., area is displayed on an Oracle Analytics dashboard.
An Oracle Analytics dashboard shows the traffic volume per day for the Washington, D.C., area.

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.

Beyond the three products that make up the current Oracle BI platform, an addition will be unveiled next week at Oracle’s OpenWorld conference in San Francisco.

“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.”

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Oracle CDP coming in CX Unity, along with video cloud

Oracle customers running CX programs, teams and technology stacks have plenty to pay attention to at this year’s Oracle OpenWorld conference, beginning with updates around the yet-to-go-live CX Unity platform, plus a new video cloud and a partnership with Deloitte Digital to incorporate the Oracle CX and Deloitte Hux personalization platforms.

CX Unity contains the Oracle CDP, or customer data platform, a foundational data-handling tool. Competing CX suites from Adobe and many smaller platform vendors also offer CDPs, while SAP and Salesforce are working on their own. All of them aspire to manage a customer’s data and reconcile it across sales, marketing, e-commerce and service clouds into a golden record.

With its flagship database pedigree, Oracle hopes to woo customers on to its CX Unity customer intelligence platform, which previewed last year but is still under wraps.

“Data is, ultimately, the fuel driving customer engagement, and Oracle has put a more-than-average data focus on the marketing products,” said Joe Stanhope, an analyst with Forrester Research. “They’re bullish on the Oracle Data Cloud; they’ve invested an enormous amount of effort in that over the last few years.”

Shashi Seth presenting at ModernCX 2018
Oracle Marketing Cloud SVP Shashi Seth, pictured here at ModernCX 2018, will speak at many OpenWorld sessions unveiling the Oracle CX product strategy at OpenWorld.

Video platform now included

Last week, in advance of OpenWorld, Oracle said it will embed Kaltura video platform features via APIs across its CX, HR, ERP, financial and supply chain clouds. Oracle CX users will be a big beneficiary, as video has many applications from marketing to sales content as well as call centers and field service. The OEM integration includes video analytics tools paired with Oracle’s Eloqua and Responsys marketing automation apps.

Kaltura was an attractive choice for an Oracle video platform because of its easy-to-use, modular features that make it simple to set up “corporate YouTube” sites as well as webcasting and sales-enablement video creation tools, said Nick Barber, a Forrester Research analyst. Some of its competitors, such as Brightcove, aren’t as user-friendly, he added, making Kaltura the likeliest choice among the field.

Oracle doesn’t want to own and manage a video platform when it could use some of the capabilities of Kaltura without getting into the video business itself.
Nick BarberAnalyst, Forrester Research

The New York-based video platform provider, with annual revenues somewhere between $50 million and $60 million and whose customer roster includes Vodafone, Novartis and a number of universities, could have been an acquisition target for Oracle. The OEM partnership, Barber said, signifies that Oracle wasn’t quite ready to run another cloud.

“My assumption is Oracle doesn’t want to own and manage a video platform when it could use some of the capabilities of Kaltura without getting into the video business itself,” Barber said.

Emphasis on partnerships

Like Adobe and other CX platform vendors, Oracle leans on professional service firms such as Deloitte, Accenture and Capgemini to help customers mesh their CX programs. In many cases, this means building a branded mobile app to enable e-commerce or online reservations with its cloud technology stacks and the Oracle CDP.

To that end, Oracle is extending its CX-specific partnerships with those firms. Today Deloitte and Oracle announced integration of Deloitte Hux and Oracle CX Unity for marketing personalization; earlier this year Oracle announced partnerships with Capgemini and Accenture to develop best practices for setting up CDPs for customers. Many OpenWorld sessions delve into how to work with those partners to integrate customer-intelligence technologies, said Des Cahill, Oracle VP and CX Evangelist.

While mobile apps might appear simple to the end user, for large organizations, connecting them to back-end systems to integrate data, software and processes can be complex. Since Oracle’s applications are highly configurable, integrators help companies build the custom tools that fit their IT stacks.

“[Deloitte, Accenture and Capgemini] are growing their practices around customer intelligence and real-time CX,” Cahill said, adding that companies who aren’t engaging those integrators for building apps are working on migrating customer data systems from on-premises to the cloud.

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Eclipse completes enterprise Java move with Jakarta EE 8

Enterprise Java has completed its move from Oracle to the Eclipse Foundation in the form of Jakarta EE 8, the new version of the Java Enterprise Edition specification now under the auspices of Eclipse.

The Eclipse Foundation introduced the Jakarta EE 8 Full Platform and Web Profile in a live stream of its JakartaOne virtual conference on Sept. 10.

“From an industry perspective, this is big news, because it means that we’ve successfully migrated the intellectual property and all the code and all the specs out of Oracle and into a new community-led process,” said Mike Milinkovich, executive director at the Eclipse Foundation.

Enterprise Java stability

The transfer to Eclipse represents a move to stability with an eye toward the future, as Java evolves to meet the needs of modern, cloud-native computing environments. In that regard, Eclipse launched a cloud-native Java e-book entitled A Vision for Open Source, Cloud Native Java. The e-book describes what cloud-native Java is, why it matters and where Jakarta EE is headed in the future.

“This is a great first proof point of the Jakarta EE project, and perfectly timed,” said Cameron Purdy, CEO and founder of xqiz.it, a Lexington, Mass., startup focused on a new programming language designed for the cloud. “The real proof lies ahead, with Jakarta EE 9. At that point, we’ll have a much better understanding of the standard’s release cadence and how it will be adapting to the modern cloud architectures that are becoming pervasive.”

In addition to releasing the Jakarta EE 8 specs, the Eclipse Foundation certified Eclipse GlassFish 5.1 as an open source-compatible implementation of the Jakarta EE 8 Platform. GlassFish 5.1 was tested against the Jakarta EE 8 Technology Compatibility Kits for the Full Platform and Web Profiles.

Mike MilinkovichMike Milinkovich

The shift over to Eclipse is also significant because enterprises want to migrate their existing Java systems to the cloud — particularly in hybrid cloud scenarios — and the foundation, led by members like Red Hat and IBM, will help enable that, Milinkovich said.

And just as important, there are millions of developers with Java skills who would like to take those skills to new application scenarios based on microservices, Docker container and Kubernetes, he added.

“We see this is a real opportunity to refresh the demand for and interest in the Java platform for the next 20 years of application development,” he said.

Where does Jakarta EE go from here?

The real proof lies ahead, with Jakarta EE 9. At that point, we’ll have a much better understanding of the standard’s release cadence and how it will be adapting to the modern cloud architectures.
Cameron PurdyCEO, xqiz.it

While the foundation does not yet have an official roadmap for Jakarta EE, short-term targets for the technology include upgrading the support for Java SE to at least Java SE 11, which is a Long Term Support release. Currently, Jakarta EE 8 supports Java SE8.

“There is a long list of requested features, but one of the biggest topics the community will decide in the next few weeks or months is what to do about the namespace,” Milinkovich said.

While negotiating the move of Java EE to Eclipse, Oracle would not allow the Eclipse Foundation to modify the javax package namespace or to use the Java trademarks currently used in Java EE specifications. And Java, including the existing specification names, cannot be used by Jakarta EE specifications.

The foundation has two options for moving from the javax namespace to Jakarta: a “big bang” move where they make wholesale changes all at once, or to tackle the move incrementally, Milinkovich said.

Steering the ship

Meanwhile, a key accomplishment here is the ability to bring together large companies that compete with each other commercially in support of a new specification.

Core members of the Eclipse Jakarta EE Working Group include IBM, Payara, Red Hat, Fujitsu and Tomitribe.

“The big takeaway for me is the Eclipse Foundation’s stewardship, both in wrangling the various commercial participants as well as shepherding the traditional Java EE community toward a more modern, cloud-native future,” said Stephen O’Grady, an analyst at RedMonk in Portland, Maine.

Indeed, the sheer level of effort required to even slightly redirect the course of a ship the size of the Java community is difficult to comprehend, so credit to Eclipse for being able to pull this off, O’Grady added.

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Oracle OpenWorld 2019 coverage: Oracle seeks loftier cloud perch

Editor’s note

Oracle OpenWorld 2019 finds Oracle continuing to try to assert itself as a cloud leader but looking up at rival vendors that got the jump on it in the cloud.

That even applies to the company’s flagship database software, according to Gartner. It still ranked Oracle as the No. 1 database vendor overall in 2018 — but in the fast-growing cloud database segment, Oracle was fifth behind AWS, Microsoft, Google and China-based Alibaba. “They have a lot of catching up to do,” Gartner analyst Merv Adrian said in a session at the 2019 Pacific Northwest BI & Analytics Summit.

Oracle will make its cloud case at OpenWorld 2019. Follow our coverage of the conference and related Oracle developments here.

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Oracle Autonomous Database Cloud gets transaction processing

Oracle is now offering transaction processing capabilities as part of its Autonomous Database Cloud software platform, which is designed to automate database administration tasks for Oracle users in the cloud.

The vendor launched a new Oracle Autonomous Transaction Processing (ATP) cloud service, expanding on the data warehouse service that debuted in March as the first Autonomous Database Cloud offering. The addition of Oracle ATP enables the automated system to handle both transaction and analytical processing workloads, Oracle executive chairman and CTO Larry Ellison said during a launch event that was streamed live.

Ellison reiterated Autonomous Database Cloud’s primary selling point: that automated administration functions driven partly by machine learning algorithms eliminate the need for hands-on configuration, tuning and patching work by database administrators (DBAs).

That frees up DBAs to focus on more productive data management tasks and could lead to lower labor costs for customers, he claimed.

“There’s nothing to learn, and there’s nothing to do,” said Ellison, who also repeated previous jabs at cloud platforms market leader Amazon Web Services (AWS) and previewed the upcoming 19c release of the flagship Oracle Database software that underlies Autonomous Database Cloud.

Cloud success still a test for Oracle

However, while Ellison taunted Amazon for its longtime reliance on Oracle databases and expressed skepticism about his competitor’s ability to execute a reported plan to completely move off of them by 2020, Oracle lags behind not only AWS but also Microsoft and Google in the ranks of cloud platform vendors.

Make no mistake, Oracle still has to prove themselves in the cloud.
Adam Ronthalanalyst, Gartner

“Make no mistake, Oracle still has to prove themselves in the cloud,” Gartner database analyst Adam Ronthal said in an email after the announcement.

And Oracle isn’t starting from a position of strength. Overall, the technology lineup that Oracle currently offers on its namesake cloud doesn’t match the breadth of what users can get on AWS, Microsoft Azure and the Google Cloud Platform, Ronthal said.

But Oracle ATP “helps close that gap, at least in the data management space,” he said.

Together, ATP and the Autonomous Data Warehouse (ADW) service that preceded it “are Oracle coming out to the world with products that are built and architected for cloud,” with promises of scalability, elasticity and a low operational footprint for users, Ronthal said.

Oracle's Larry Ellison speaking at the launch of Oracle Autonomous Transaction Processing
Larry Ellison, Oracle’s executive chairman and CTO, introduces the Autonomous Transaction Processing cloud database service.

The Autonomous Database Cloud services are only available on the Oracle Cloud, and Oracle also limits other key data management technologies to its own cloud platform; for example, it doesn’t offer technical support for its Oracle Real Application Clusters software on other clouds.

In addition, Ronthal noted that it’s typically more expensive to run regular Oracle databases on AWS and Azure than on Oracle’s cloud because of software licensing changes Oracle made last year.

“Oracle is doing everything it can to make its cloud the most attractive place to run Oracle databases,” Ronthal said.

But now the company needs to build some momentum by convincing customers to adopt Oracle ATP and ADW, he added — even if that’s likely to primarily involve existing Oracle users migrating to the cloud services, as opposed to new customers.

Oracle’s autonomous services get a look

Clothing retailer Gap Inc. is a case in point, although the San Francisco company’s use of Oracle databases could grow as part of a plan to move more of its data processing operations to the Oracle Cloud.

For example, Gap is working with Oracle on a proof-of-concept project to convert an on-premises Teradata data warehouse to Oracle ADW, said F.S. Nooruddin, the retailer’s chief IT architect.

That’s a first step in the potential consolidation of various data warehouses into the ADW service, he said. Gap also plans to look closely at Oracle ATP for possible transaction processing uses, according to Nooruddin, who took part in a customer panel discussion during the ATP launch event.

Gap already runs Oracle’s retail applications and Hyperion enterprise performance management software in the cloud.

As the retailer’s use of the cloud expands, the Autonomous Database Cloud technologies could help ensure that all of its Oracle database instances, from test and development environments to production systems, are properly patched and secured, Nooruddin said.

Ellison said Oracle ATP also automatically scales the transaction processing infrastructure allotted to users up and down as workloads fluctuate, so they can meet spikes in demand without paying for compute, network and storage resources they don’t need.

That capability appeals to Gap, too, said Connie Santilli, the company’s vice president of enterprise systems and strategy. Gap’s transaction processing and downstream reporting workloads increase sharply during the holiday shopping season — a common occurrence in the retail industry. But Santilli said Gap had to build its on-premises IT architecture to handle the peak performance level, with less flexibility for downsizing systems when the full processing resources aren’t required.

Cloud costs and considerations for Oracle users

In taking aim at AWS, Ellison again said Oracle would guarantee a 50% reduction in infrastructure costs to Amazon users that migrate to Autonomous Database Cloud — a vow he first made at the Oracle OpenWorld 2017 conference.

Meanwhile, Ellison said Oracle customers can use existing on-premises database licenses to make the switch to Oracle ATP and ADW, avoiding the need to pay for the software again. In such cases, users would continue to pay their current annual support fees plus the cost of their cloud infrastructure usage.

The ATP and ADW services layer the automation capabilities Oracle developed on top of Oracle Database 18c, which Oracle released in February as part of a new plan to update the database software annually. During the ATP launch, Ellison disclosed some details about the planned 19c release and the capabilities it will add to Autonomous Database Cloud.

When databases are upgraded to the 19c-based cloud services, the software will automatically check built-in query execution plans and retain the existing ones if they’ll run faster than new ones, Ellison said. That eliminates the need for DBAs to do regression testing on the plans themselves, he added.

Other new features coming with Oracle Database 19c include the ability to configure Oracle ATP and ADW on dedicated Exadata systems in the Oracle Cloud instead of sharing a multitenant pool of the machines, and to deploy the cloud services in on-premises data centers through Oracle’s [email protected] program.

Oracle’s official roadmap shows 19c becoming available in January 2019, but Ellison claimed that was “worst case” and said the new release may be out before the end of this year.

Execs: Content management in the cloud not as easy as it looks

TORONTO — Companies like Oracle, SAP and Microsoft are pushing content management in the cloud, and they’re joined by OpenText, which announced the containerization of its systems for use on public clouds, such as Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and AWS.

“Friends don’t let friends buy data centers.” That was OpenText CEO and CTO Mark Barrenechea’s recurring joke during his OpenText Enterprise World 2018 keynote, during which the company unveiled its cloud- and DevOps-friendly OT2 platform.

Barrenechea later clarified to reporters that while some customers are standardizing on AWS and Azure, most OpenText cloud customers are on OpenText’s private cloud. Opening OpenText apps and microservices, such as its Magellan AI tools, to the public clouds will also open up new markets for content management in the cloud, Barrenechea said.

But several speakers from the stage — including celebrity nonfiction writer and Toronto native Malcolm Gladwell — cautioned that while the cloud might bring convenience and freedom from data center upkeep, it also brings challenges.

The two most frequently mentioned were data security and process automation, as well as a related issue: automating bad or unnecessarily complicated processes that should have been fixed before their digital transformations.

Data security getting more complicated

If you have 854,000 people with top-secret clearances, I would venture to say that it’s no longer top-secret.
Malcolm Gladwellauthor

The internet of things and mobile devices comprise a major security vulnerability that, if left unsecure, can multiply risk and create entry points for hackers to penetrate networks. Opening up content management in the cloud — and the necessary multiplication of data transactions that comes with it — can spread that risk outside the firewall.

Persistent connectivity is the challenge for Zoll Medical’s personal defibrillators, said Jennifer Bell, enterprise CMS architect at the company. Zoll Medical’s IoT devices not only connect the patient to the device, but also port the data to caregivers and insurance providers in a regulatory-compliant way, which mandates data security the whole time.

“Security is huge, with HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] and everything,” she said.

IT leaders are just beginning to grasp the scale of risks.

At the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), even “smart microscopes” with which researchers take multi-gigabyte, close-up images have to check in with their manufacturer’s servers every night, said Matt Eisenberg, acting chief of NIAID’s business processes and information branch.

“Every evening, when the scientists are done with those devices, it has to phone home and recalibrate. And this is blowing the infrastructure guys away, because they’re not used to allowing this kind of bidirectional communication from something that really doesn’t look or feel like a computer or a laptop,” Eisenberg said.

Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell giving conference keynote
Author Malcolm Gladwell delivering keynote at OpenText Enterprise World 2018

Meanwhile, Gladwell warned that data security threats are coming from every direction, inside and outside of organizations, and from new perpetrators.

Also coming under the spotlight was security of content management in the cloud when Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden were able to steal sensitive military documents and hand them over to WikiLeaks, Gladwell said.

Government data security experts are having a hard time preventing another such breach, he continued, because security threats are rapidly changing. The feds, however, haven’t; they’re stuck with Cold War-era systems and processes that focused on a particular enemy and their operatives.

“It’s no longer that you have a short list of people high up that you have to worry about. Now, you have to worry about everyone,” Gladwell said. “If you have 854,000 people with top-secret clearances, I would venture to say that it’s no longer top-secret.”

Cloud: BPM boon or problem?

Content management in the cloud by way of SaaS apps can also bring process automation, AI and analytics tools to content formerly marooned in on-premises data silos. It can also extend a workforce beyond office walls, giving remote, traveling or field-based workers access to the same content their commuting co-workers get.

That’s if it’s done right.

Kyle Hufford, digital asset management director at Monster Energy, based in Corona, Calif., serves rich media content to an international marketing team that must comply with many national, state and local regulations, as well as standardized internal processes, approval trees and branding rules.

His job, he said, is opening access to Monster Energy’s sometimes-edgy content worldwide, while ensuring end users stay compliant.

The work starts with detailed examination of how a process is done before moving it into the cloud.

“People think there [are] complexities around approvals and how to get things done,” Hufford said. “In reality, they can take a 15-step process and make it a two- or three-step process and save everybody time.”

Panelists at OpenText Enterprise World 2018 conference
Panelists at OpenText Enterprise World 2018 conference, from left to right: Marl Barrenechea, OpenText CEO and CTO; Gopal Padinjaruveetil, vice president and chief information security officer at The Auto Club Group; Jennifer Bell, enterprise content management architect and analyst at Zoll Medical; Kyle Hufford, director of digital asset management at Monster Energy; and Matt Eisenberg, acting chief of the U.S. NIAID business process and information management branch.

As mature companies like SAP, Microsoft, OpenText and Oracle make big pushes into the cloud and bring their big customers along to migrate from on-premises systems, process issues like these are bound to happen, said Craig Wentworth, principal analyst for U.K.-based MWD Advisors.

Wentworth advised enterprise IT leaders to take a critical look at the vendor’s model in the evaluation stage before embarking on a project for content management in the cloud.

“I worry that, sometimes … software firms that have been around for a long time [and add] cloud are coming to it from a very different place than those who are born in the cloud,” Wentworth said. “Whilst they will be successful certainly with their existing customers, they’ve got a different slant to it.”