That Shakespeare quote, “thou doth protest too much” would seem to be an appropriate quote given recent comments by Oracle co-CEO, Mark Hurd. Hurd was being interviewed by CNBC’s Jon Fortt on “Squawk Alley” recently and in response to questions about Amazon Web Services (AWS) the cloud computing pioneer and generally accepted #1 player in the cloud infrastructure space that:

You know, to be honest with you, they have salespeople out there, but I don’t really worry so much about them, to be very blunt with you. We need to worry about ourselves. We’re in a great position.

Of course, you are, Mark. And say it enough and even you might start to believe it.

But beyond the hype and spin, let’s look at what is happening here. Oracle was, of course, a very late entrant into the cloud infrastructure space. Founder and chief of all things yachting, Larry Ellison, famously poured scorn upon the cloud on numerous occasions. until such time that he didn’t when he pivoted from denying to claiming that Oracle invented the cloud, is the stuff that all other clouds are built upon, is the fastest, biggest and cheapest cloud and really that everyone should go home and not even bother trying. in other words, vintage Ellison.

And despite his bluster, the fact is that Oracle is seriously trailing the big three in cloud infrastructure – AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google’s Compute Platform. Hell, according to Synergy Research, Oracle is even trailing IBM when it comes to cloud infrastructure – and many people would scratch their heads hearing that IBM even has a cloud.

Still, never one to let the truth get in the way of a good keynote (“next slide” being Ellison’s favorite term), Ellison used his Oracle Open World address to suggest that Oracle’s cloud could compute faster and cheaper than that of AWS. Of course, AWS, and pretty much anyone who s neutral, for that matter, dismissed those claims but, as I said, a good cry of #FakeNews never stopped Larry and co.

And so it was interesting to hear what Hurd had to say when ruminating upon AWS. With perhaps a dash of justification, Hurd opined on the fact that Oracle does have a huge application business and one which is (kind of) cloud-based. Contrasted with AWS who certainly dabbles in the apps space (desktop as a service, communications and collaboration, email etc.) but isn’t so active when it comes to deep business applications. Hurd said that:

I think in the end we have different competitors in different parts of our business. Amazon has been a competitor mostly on the infrastructure layer.

Somewhat countering this application differentiation, Hurd went out to call out Oracle’s 18c database as a key differentiator (despite the fact that huge numbers of large enterprises would do anything to get away from the death grip of Oracle’s database lock-in. Hurd said that:

I’d argue this announcement you [the 18c autonomous database], is perhaps the biggest announcement ever in the database market — certainly the biggest announcement we’ve made in — perhaps ever, certainly in years

The fact of the matter is that, no matter how you spin it, Oracle’s steely grip on the enterprise has dropped in recent years. The primary driver for that is that every enterprise is facing existential threats and realizes that agility and innovation are the keys to survival. And dependence on monolithic technology stacks like those supplied by Oracle doesn’t help them achieve any kind of agility. Sure they can strong arm their existing customers, develop some incremental innovations and squeeze out some more revenue from their traditional customer base. But ask yourself – if you were a developer building the Lyft, the Airbnb, the Netflix of the next generation, would you look to Oracle as a key supplier? The answer is an emphatic no, and no end of bluster can change that.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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