Hats Off to Larry

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Article from Issue 210/2018
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We all loved it when Microsoft finally embraced Linux after a history of attacking it. Some of those outrageous sound bites like “Linux is a cancer…” got played back in triumphant retrospective as we all marked the passing of an era and remarked on the how far we’d come.

Dear Reader,

We all loved it when Microsoft finally embraced Linux after a history of attacking it. Some of those outrageous sound bites like "Linux is a cancer…" got played back in triumphant retrospective as we all marked the passing of an era and remarked on the how far we'd come.

Should we be doing the same thing now with Oracle and the cloud? Oracle founder Larry Ellison made headlines back in 2008 with some very theatrical denunciations of the cloud industry. Ellison called the cloud "nonsense," and once said of the cloud phenomenon, "Maybe I'm an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is it? It's complete gibberish. It's insane. When is this idiocy going to stop?" [1]

Part of his argument was that much of what was getting called "cloud computing" was just a newfangled name for what used to be called networking or web services – a fair point at the time. But his vociferous refusal to acknowledge that anything was actually happening that resembled a new market or a paradigm shift seemed wildly controversial at a time when other companies were all rushing to reinvent and reorient. Many experts said that Ellison was just denouncing the cloud because his company was so far behind that it had no reasonable way to compete with cloud vendors other than to shame or frighten potential users away from using cloud services. (Actually, the same could be said about Microsoft's attitude toward Linux.)

Fast forward to March of this year, and we discover that Oracle's Q3 2018 report shows cloud revenues are up 32% to US$1.6 billion. The press release includes a proud quote from Ellison, "The Oracle autonomous database is now fully available in the Oracle Cloud. And there are more autonomous cloud services to come. During this calendar year, we expect to deliver Autonomous Analytics, Autonomous Mobility, Autonomous Application Development, and Autonomous Integration services. Oracle's new suite of Autonomous PaaS services delivers an unprecedented level of automation and cost savings to our customers."

My they have come a long way! Or have they? At the time of Ellison's anti-cloud tirade back in 2008, Oracle was already working on its cloud portfolio, and they have labored systematically since then to transform their business around cloud services (just like everyone else is doing). If you were an observer from another planet, watching the behavior of Oracle the way Jane Goodall watched the behavior of wild chimpanzees, you would never have guessed that these people who were artfully executing this methodical entry into the enterprise cloud market worked for a company that regarded cloud computing as "complete gibberish."

What is my point then? Oh, just a lament about this business I'm in, where you can interview these guys and they emphatically tell you one thing – with all the sincerity and bravado of a tenor in the opera – but all the while they are out there doing something different. Every tweet, every speech, every photo moment, is all about strategy, and strategy never stays long in the house of truth.

But I already knew that – and I guess you probably did to. Hats off to you, Larry. Sounds like things are on course, and your ship is sailing for another sunrise. So I guess maybe you DID understand the cloud after all.

Joe Casad, Editor in Chief

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