When Oracle Executive Chairman and CTO Larry Ellison took the stage at last fall’s Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco, the audience likely had no idea that he was about to announce that his company—the one that literally created the modern database roughly 40 years ago—was about to cause a tectonic shift in database technology. What Oracle announced was an entirely new database category—called autonomous databases—that redefine how databases are run and maintained, not to mention how much they cost. The first product launch, an autonomous data warehouse cloud service, rolls out in February.
Oracle’s new database essentially runs itself, automatically and continuously patching, tuning, backing up, and upgrading on its own with virtually no downtime. (Oracle says downtime will be less than 30 minutes per year.) And with little human intervention, the product virtually eliminates human error, with dramatic implications for not only reducing security breaches and outages, but costs as well. At Oracle OpenWorld, Ellison ran live workloads comparing Oracle’s database on its own cloud and AWS’s, versus AWS databases on the AWS cloud. Oracle’s speed and cost advantage proved so dramatic that the company contends that customers running its database on Oracle Cloud will halve their current AWS bills.
Some observers think Oracle’s new technology will kick-start a new wave of autonomous technology in the enterprise, although that might be a feat few Oracle competitors can match. The new Oracle database—and the concept of autonomous enterprise systems in general—is a development many years in the making at Oracle. Under Ellison, Oracle has built (and purchased) a breadth of cloud products and portfolios across SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS that gives the company the ability to integrate the kind of advanced data science, intelligence, and deep cross-platform integration to make autonomy an enterprise-wide vision. Others aren’t there yet, and it remains to be seen if they ever will be.
For Oracle, the autonomous enterprise goes beyond automation, in which machines respond to an action with an automated reaction. True to his maverick roots, Ellison’s view of autonomy turns that definition on its ear by adding greater functionality and complexity but in a simple package—and in a way that only his company can deliver.
For Oracle, autonomous systems assess myriad inputs and process thousands of hypothetical outcomes quickly to arrive at an optimal response. If that sounds like artificial intelligence and machine learning technology, that’s because it is. What’s unique about Oracle’s approach, however, is that the company has begun integrating these technologies with rapid advancements in other areas of its business to make it possible for machines to not only arrive at an optimal response, but to then execute on a response with little or no human intervention.
Oracle’s shot across the bow of other cloud providers certainly could start an enormous wave of autonomous products over the coming years, but with limited portfolios, Oracle’s competitors could find themselves watching an autonomy trend dominated by Big Red, with little ability to stop Ellison’s momentum.
Click here to read Oracle’s latest predictions for how industry trends and technological development will transform cloud computing in the next two years.
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