When we think of cloud there are a couple big names that come to the top of mind – certainly, the conglomerates that are AWS and Azure are the first to come off the tip of our tongues, with Google being a little bit later to the game but still providing a robust offering of services on their GCP offering. Recently at the Oracle Ravello Blogger Day (#RBD2) we got an in-depth look at another player in the game, Oracle. As of right now I know the mixed emotions you may be having in regards to the words Oracle and Cloud – but let me lay it out for you – Oracle is definitely making a big drive into the cloud market, and doing so with their own unique vision of the services being offered, and more importantly, the SLA’s and performance backing it all up.
Full Disclaimer: My travel and accommodations for RBD2 were fully provided by TechReckoning and the awesome John and Kat Troyer along with Amy White. That said I was not asked nor required to write anything in regards to the event. Opinions are strictly my own and written because I felt like expressing them 🙂
Seeing how this was a Ravello Blogger Day I did want to mention them quickly here – however, in my opinion, the focus of the day really revolved around OCI and the push they are making. That said, if you have been around in the vExpert community you probably have at least heard of Ravello – they have offered 1000 CPU hours free of charge for vExperts for a few years now (and continue to do so). I’ve always been a big advocate of Ravello – I use it for a lot of different config tests and lab scenarios and it works great for me! The basic gist of Ravello is giving you the ability to build applications, consisting of multiple VMs, and deploy them onto your choice of public cloud – even migrating existing on-premises workloads running on vSphere directly into the Ravello interface. Historically this has been AWS and GCP, however, after the Oracle acquisition we have seen new regions pop up inside of Ravello corresponding with what is called the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI). I’ll talk a bit more in regards to what Ravello has been up to over the years in another post – but for now, let’s just focus on the Oracle Cloud.
OCI – A customer-focused cloud for the enterprise
Throughout the day, no matter the product being discussed there was a commonality that seemed to pop up over and over. The fact that much of what Oracle is delivering is based on customer requirements. They are truly listening to their customer base and designing their cloud solutions around that feedback. Seeing as how the average Oracle customer base definitely falls within the enterprise category you can probably guess as to what the most important request as it pertains to moving their applications to the cloud would be – SLAs. To get an enterprise to rearchitect and/or simply move applications into the cloud is hard enough, but to do it without any sort of guarantee in regards to service level agreements is nearly impossible. Oracle noticed this and offer SLAs on almost all levels of their cloud services, including performance, manageability, and availability – three pillars an enterprise certainly needs to have guaranteed.
OCI – A performance-focussed cloud for the enterprise
When we as IT Pros think of cloud most often we relate that with features such as scale and burst. The ability to quickly scale or provide more resources to our applications without the need of provisioning the underlying infrastructure is a major selling force for cloud providers today. Oracle takes a bit of a different approach in terms of describing OCI. Rather than focussing on elasticity and scale they drive the conversation into that of performance. To be honest, this is a unique and brilliant approach – while elasticity and scale are important they are just concepts that we have now come to expect to be there when we consume cloud – and by focussing on performance, OCI can do their best to distinguish themselves from the rest. Oracle has completely separated the network virtualization layer out from within the hypervisor – instead network is instantiated alongside the hypervisor. This opens up a slew of unique approaches for Oracle. Instead of the network being tied to a single hypervisor it can now run alongside basically any hypervisor or OS, or, in the case you need yet even more performance the non-blocking network layer can run alongside your application running on bare-metal servers. This, coupled with a few other tricks revolving around block storage and nvme drives allows Oracle to provide the enterprise with the performance they require and also opens the door for Oracle to guarantee their services with those SLAs we previously spoke about. As you can see below they are targetting some pretty hefty apps when it comes to performance requirements.
At the end of the day, there is one thing that cannot be ignored – the fact that Oracle is indeed late to the cloud game. We already have the AWS’s, Azure’s and GCE’s of the world making great strides and pushing the envelope in the cloud world and this will definitely make things tough for Oracle to break through. However, the approach Oracle is taking with their cloud will certainly help them close the gap – providing SLA’s and the performance enterprises need is indeed a couple of the most important factors we will look at when migrating and rearchitecting applications. Also, Oracle is not just sitting back simply onboarding existing customers either – we had a chance to see the OCI roadmap and honestly it’s aggressive in terms of the regions they are implementing as well as the services they are building. Unfortunately, due to NDA, that’s really about all I can say about that but my advice to you would be to watch as this unfolds. And being late to the game isn’t always a bad thing either. Think about Apple and Blackberry! Oracle recognizes this and is using this to their advantage, learning from others mistakes and crafting their messaging around their cloud to reflect that.
One thing I did notice is that Oracle is certainly serious about cloud. The message was clear – they want to be the provider where an enterprise can run ALL their infrastructure. An aggressive goal no doubt – and they have a long way to go in terms of playing catch up with some of the others. That said the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure is real, it’s fast, it’s already being utilized and it’s only going to grow from here on out as Oracle has a lot of customers looking to move certain workloads, Oracle-based or not. Competition in markets is always a good thing – it forces innovation and growth from within the providers themselves. While Oracle may be looking at a third or fourth seed today there’s no saying what will come for the future – but I would certainly keep my eyes on OCI.