Cue the surprise: Oracle suggests Amazon's cloud isn't real

All is fair in love, war and technology marketing. In a fantastic example of ignoring the bleedingly obvious, Oracle wants to rewrite the playing field.

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Over at Fortune, Barb Darrow detailed a conversation the magazine had with Oracle's vice president of cloud development, Peter Magnusson. The upshot of the conversation was that, in Magnusson's (and, one assumes, Oracle's) opinion, Amazon Web Services (AWS) does not define enterprise cloud computing. At first glance, it would be easy to discount Magnusson's comments as the sort of cloud washing that we've come to expect, over the past decade or so, from the old guard of enterprise IT. Companies like SAP, IBM, Oracle and HP tend to dismiss anything new and potentially threatening as "not enterprise-grade."

But Magnusson does try to clarify his perspective. He suggests that it is not sufficient to differentiate clouds by their location, public or private. Rather, Magnusson suggests that in the public cloud space there will be different types of vendors: those that focus on consumer companies and those that focus on enterprise companies. Magnusson goes on to suggest that Amazon and Google are the sorts of vendors that focus on consumer brands such as Twitter and Snapchat, while vendors like Oracle (and, in Magnusson's view, Microsoft) focus on the big businesses with lots of applications already sitting on-premises or at a hosting provider.

Before dismissing Magnusson's viewpoint, it is important to take a step back and think about it dispassionately. I've long been a critic of Google's cloud platform, suggesting that, while Google undoubtedly has the technical ability and sheer scale to deliver services on a par with anyone on earth, it doesn't really have the enterprise focus that is needed to sell into a larger business. Until very recently, it had been easy to point to Google's lack of a traditional sales model, its habit of not engaging with the analyst community, and its attitude of "this is what we have, come and get it" as blockers to enterprise success.

But Google realizes this is a big opportunity and is investing heavily in space. Witness its acquisition last year of bebop and, more importantly, the fact that alongside the purchase it got the services of Diane Greene, VMware co-founder and past CEO, to head up its entire cloud division. While it is too early to say, Greene certainly understands the enterprise and is eminently capable of creating a real enterprise vendor out of Google.

As for Amazon, it too had a fairly laissez-faire approach toward selling to the enterprise but, over the past few years, AWS has invested heavily into the non-technology aspects of building an enterprise success story. This is starting to pay dividends: Big names such as Comcast, General Electric and Capital One all use AWS extensively. That's not to say, of course, that they don't use vendors like Oracle anymore, but they certainly regard AWS as ready for at least some of their workloads.

As Darrow pointed out in her article, Magnusson's opinions aren't exactly helped by last year's Gartner report which suggested that AWS had 10 times more computing resources than the next 14 cloud vendors combined. And Magnusson's insistence that "A category of developers love AWS, but enterprise developers don't necessarily love it" flies in the face of almost every conversation I have with enterprise developers who love the fact that AWS gives them the agility they need. Sure, their CIO or information security department may not sanction the use of AWS, but that's not to say that the developers wouldn't flock to it if they were given the chance.

Magnusson suggests that the incumbent vendors will win because "it's easier to add cloud tech to an enterprise company than to add enterprise stuff to a cloud company." He adds, "I'm a legitimate convert because I thought this through before I joined up here." That perspective might well have been tenable before AWS's push into the enterprise, before Google signed up Diane Greene or before traditional IT vendors' cloud initiatives proved failures (anyone remember HP's Helion cloud or HP's previous few public cloud debacles?).

But if Magnusson truly believes, as he says, that this will play out pretty much like it did in the previous generation of enterprise computing with Microsoft and Oracle splitting the enterprise market 60/40, he might just have a rude surprise staring him in the face.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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