Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing: Oracle’s Autonomous ‘self-driving’ Database Cloud

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Last August, Oracle announced its Autonomous Database Cloud. According to the software vendor, this product not only reduces complexity and human error, but also increases reliability and security – all at a guaranteed lower cost than Oracle products running on Amazon or Azure. That sounds almost too good to be true – especially if you look at it in a broader perspective.

For starters, a bit more background on the Oracle product in question: the Autonomous Database – allegedly, world’s first. This new version (18c) has three properties. It is first and foremost ‘self-driving’, which means that the user can determine the required level of service and performance himself, for example to meet peak load. It is also ‘self-repairing’, which comes down to a guaranteed 99.995% uptime. And ‘self-securing’, which means that the user does not have to worry about privacy or security.

Oracle’s ultimate product

What Oracle really wants to say is that from now on it will also offer a cloud database, from their own data centers, just like Amazon and Azure, with all the benefits that entails. The big difference between Oracle and Amazon and Azure is that Oracle promises that the Autonomous Database will be much cheaper – ‘five to thirteen times cheaper than Amazon’, according to Oracle’s co-founder Larry Ellison. Well, comparing the costs of cloud services is arbitrary anyway, but if Oracle uses the price of its product as a selling point, many users get a déjà vu. We have seen such a strategy at Oracle before.

The well-known approach

When Oracle started about thirty years ago, the strategy was also aimed at gaining the largest possible market share as quickly as possible, preferably with the largest companies and established names as customers. As long as Oracle could leverage new logos for marketing purposes, acquisition was the primary goal, generating revenue came later. When the market share was large enough, the strategy changed. Oracle became stricter regarding compliance and started implementing aggressive audits and price increases packaged as options and add-ons.

Skepticism all around

Meanwhile many end users are fed up with Oracle’s sales and have a bad relationship with the company. They see the new version as the next trick and are understandably skeptical about the product, which seems to have all the characteristics of a new lock-in situation. This skepticism is supported by the fact that many Oracle employees leave Oracle and start working at competitors. The recent rumble at the top of the company also contributes to the picture. Recently, Thomas Kurian – until not long ago Oracle’s president of product development – has stepped down under strange circumstances. Rumors are that Larry Ellison and Thomas Kurian were arguing about the strategy. Kurian was an advocate of making the Oracle database available to other public cloud suppliers, just as Microsoft also offers its SQL server on AWS. The preferential strategy of Ellison, which was also at the helm in the early days, is anyone’s guess.

Question marks over quality

End users also call into question the maturity of Oracle’s cloud service, considering Oracle was relatively late with its cloud strategy. Until a few years back Ellison still called the cloud big nonsense. Almost overnight, that view took a 180-degree turn. This can happen, strategies change, but the fact remains that Oracle fell behind. AWS was launched 12 years ago, Google Cloud 10 years ago and Azure 8 years ago. As such, users do not question just the strategy, but also the maturity and quality of Oracle’s cloud products.

This article is also published on AG Connect.

Richard is one of the managing partners at B-lay. He started to work in the license management industry in 2004 and worked for almost 10 years at Oracle as regional director of compliance. He uses his knowledge of enterprise software vendors (such as Oracle, SAP, IBM and Microsoft) to educate, equip and enable software end users in their challenges regarding proper software license management. Richard holds a master’s degree in IT, from University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.