Oracle Reverses Course, Embraces Cloud Before Its Customers All Flee

Five years after Larry Ellison called hype about cloud computing "complete gibberish," his company announced no less than 10 cloud computing services during the Oracle OpenWorld show yesterday.

Ellison didn't kick off those new services himself, nor could he be bothered to attend his company's annual trade show at all. He preferred instead to stay on Oracle's chase boat to watch Oracle Team USA in the America's Cup race (though to be fair, the Oracle team has pulled off a major comeback in the race).

Maybe the snub is just another one of Ellison's idiosyncrasies, but it's also possible that the Oracle CEO didn't want to be in the building while his company completely reversed his earlier strategy of deriding cloud computing at every opportunity. In 2009, a year after his rants on cloud computing hype, Ellison told attendees at a Churchill Club event:

Cloud's water vapor… Cloud computing is not only the future of computing, it is the present and the entire past of computing...

Our industry is so bizarre. They just change a term and they think they've invented technology… You can't just come up with a [tagline] like 'Let's call that "cloud."

Oracle: Hey, Wait, Let's Go Ahead And Call That 'Cloud'

One wonders, then, how customers are supposed to view Oracle's new cloud services, which include Business Intelligence Cloud, Compute Cloud, Database Cloud and Object Storage Cloud. These are not the only things Oracle is sending to the cloud. Oracle Database as a Service, Oracle Java as a Service and Oracle Infrastructure as a Service are also part of the available offerings.

But are these just relabeled technologies intended to prevent the departure of customers from Oracle's ecosystem to other vendors and services? Compute Cloud, after all, is a direct competitor to Amazon Web Service's EC2 service, Object Storage Cloud is no doubt taking on AWS's S3 service and so on. It's easy to be a bit cynical about these offerings based on Ellison's past commentary.

Tactically, this is still the best move Oracle could make. Cloud computing is something that, Ellison's notions to the contrary, customers want, and they've been leaving Oracle to get it. It doesn't help that Oracle's licensing costs are perceived as still high, and the availability of less-expensive services, even from different vendors has driven a lot of bottom-line decisions to migrate away.

Oracle is clearly hoping that by providing a single Oracle-dominated stack of services to customers, they will be less inclined to endure the pain that any migration must undergo, no matter how good the final destination. Migration is a lot like ripping off a bandage: you know you should do it, but you also know it's going to hurt.

All of these cloud services are Oracle's way to coax people to leave the bandage on a little longer. 

Image by Reuters/Robert Galbraith