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Oracle Cloud data center buildup aims to enchant enterprises

An updated Oracle Cloud SLA becomes the first to factor in performance standards for customers -- one of several moves aimed at luring enterprises to its expanding public cloud.

NEW YORK -- Oracle's latest public cloud pitch to enterprises involves autonomous services, performance guarantees and global expansion -- and writing really big checks.

A dozen Oracle Cloud data center regions will be added to Big Red's portfolio in a bid to push into more international and domestic markets. Oracle has also expanded its services with performance guarantees and automation to woo enterprise clients to its platform.

Cloud vendors are in a race to build data centers in as many countries as possible. Amazon Web Services (AWS) has 18 regions, with four more on its roadmap and a goal of being in every major country in the world. To keep pace, Oracle must not only construct new facilities, but upgrade its existing ones, as well.

The database giant had completely revamped its infrastructure as a service (IaaS) two years ago, banking on the value of continuity between its IaaS, platform as a service and software as a service (SaaS) tiers. But today, only four of the 12 Oracle Cloud data center regions offer all three: Phoenix, Ashburn, Va., London and Frankfurt, Germany.

Work is underway to upgrade those other eight existing facilities, the company said here at an Oracle CloudWorld conference this week. The 12 new regions -- China, India, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Amsterdam, Switzerland, plus two in Canada and two in the U.S. for the Department of Defense -- will incorporate multiple data centers, and all will have this updated architecture, the company said.

Oracle acknowledges it has an uphill climb to make headway in the market, particularly in infrastructure-level feature parity. To partly address that, Oracle will add more tools in the next six months in the areas of streaming, telemetry and event notifications, said Kash Iftikhar, vice president of IaaS at Oracle. Still, the expansion of the Oracle Cloud data center footprint was the most critical step to compete for enterprise customers, particularly outside the U.S., he said.

Oracle hasn't disclosed how much it will spend on this initiative, but it's likely to be steep. Google, for example, said it spent tens of billions of dollars going through its own scale-out with Google Cloud Platform. It's also an apparent about-face from Oracle, which said in April 2017 that competing in this market was not about data center volume.

Enterprise market pivotal to Oracle Cloud success

Oracle's enterprise pitch to truly jump-start its public cloud growth resonates with some current customers.

ClubCorp, a Dallas-based operator of more than 200 golf courses and country clubs, moved to Oracle Cloud two years ago, in part because it was already a database and application customer. It also uses AWS and Azure, but a big benefit of its move to Oracle was assistance from Oracle's consultants to build skill sets and learn the system.

"It's where our ERP sits, where our business ran, so it made a lot of sense to go that direction. And having the IaaS adjacent to all the SaaS pieces helps with speed and capabilities," said Zach Vinduska, vice president of infrastructure and security at ClubCorp.

Oracle also extended its cloud infrastructure service-level agreement (SLA) to network performance and API accessibility. The new SLA calls for network performance to hit at least 90% of its published standards, which translates to no more than 44 minutes of scheduled or unscheduled downtime a month. Currently, Oracle Cloud offers up to 25 GBps networking speeds.

SLAs are nothing new for the public cloud, though this is believed to be the first to specifically address performance, as opposed to just availability and uptime for a specific service. It's even more notable because Oracle didn't even have an SLA for its cloud infrastructure a year ago.

It is possible Amazon and Microsoft don't view performance as enough of an issue that it must be written into their contracts. Regardless, this a positive move by Oracle that will hopefully extend to other vendors in the future, said Al Gillen, an analyst at IDC.

"They're coming into a market where they're late to the cloud game and trying to make inroads, and they've stepped up and made a commitment that no one else is making. So, give them credit for it," he said.

It sounds like they're getting it right, and it's certainly a departure from how they used to talk about cloud services.
Adam Ronthalanalyst, Gartner

Oracle also will extend its Autonomous Database capabilities to other parts of its platform, such as application development, integration, analytics, security, systems management, mobile and bots, executives said. Oracle first discussed Autonomous Database last year.

The service handles tuning, patching, backup and upgrades, and it uses machine learning to fine-tune the database performance. Oracle has worked on database automation for some time, so this puts the company ahead of the market at least for now, said Tony Baer, an analyst with Ovum, based in London.

"These things have been building for years, and you see other cloud services doing it, too," Baer said. "The difference with Autonomous is it uses machine learning to proactively tune the database, as opposed to just automatically doing patches."

It's too soon to say whether Oracle can gain public cloud prominence by way of Autonomous Database, but it's a good sign of Oracle's willingness to move into database as a service and to truly operate at scale, said Adam Ronthal, an analyst with Gartner.

"It sounds like they're getting it right, and it's certainly a departure from how they used to talk about cloud services -- and a welcome departure," he said.

Trevor Jones is a senior news writer with SearchCloudComputing and SearchAWS. Contact him at [email protected].

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