Larry’s OOW Keynote on the future of Oracle Applications

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larry2Although there had been many analyst and Oracle ACE briefings for much of the preceding week, Sunday night was the ‘proper’ opening for Oracle OpenWorld 2014. It kicked off with Larry’s first keynote of the conference. (He traditionally does two, however skipped the second last year to watch the thrilling finale to the 2013 America’s Cup.)

His hour long address was given over exclusively to the cloud. Here’s a summary of the important points for those in the Oracle applications marketplace.

Layers of the Cloud

There are of course many layers within The Cloud … the Applications sit at the top level (Software as a Service), however there’s also the platform beneath this (Platform as a Service), and the infrastructure at the bottom (Infrastructure as a Service). Oracle is moving to being a company that can offer the complete stack of cloud services to the enterprise. Larry’s first big point was that Oracle is the only company that can do all three layers.

It’s an interesting – although to a certain degree, academic – point to debate. He said Salesforce only does the Application layer (he’s correct that they don’t have the infrastructure service layer, although I think that they would rightly argue that they have a large and mature platform layer – Salesforce1). He also said that Amazon just does the Infrastructure layer (although they would quite correctly argue that they also provide a platform layer).

The only companies that can come close to Oracle’s delivery in all three layers are Microsoft – they have Infrastructure (Azure) and Applications (Dynamics is now available in the cloud) but their PaaS offering is not as well known – and Google – who have infrastructure (Google Compute Engine) and Platform (Google Application Engine) however their SaaS offerings are Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs, rather than full-blown HCM or ERP offerings.

Platform in the Cloud

The newest of Oracle’s three offerings is the Platform layer. You can now move any database to Oracle’s database in the cloud service very simply. Furthermore, any Oracle application (or any Java application) that runs on top of an Oracle database can be moved to the cloud very simply too. This is apparently possible on Oracle’s upgraded 2014 platform. Larry’s also promised that these migrations can be done with just two button presses, which is a bold – many would say unbelievable – claim.

This platform supplies the building blocks with which any applications in the Oracle Cloud are built – whether they’re built by Oracle or by customers/partners. One of the points that Larry stressed again was that Oracle is the only vendor that gives end users the same platform to develop on that they use internally. Other vendors either have no platform service at all (Workday) or use different tools in-house (like Salesforce – who offer Salesforce1 to customers but use a different platform to develop the core application with in-house).

In what sounds like an entertaining session, during his second Keynote on Tuesday Larry has promised to both extend Fusion applications and perform the ‘two button migration’ in live demos. I think you should always get extra marks for demoing your own products, as many speakers usher someone else on-stage for this section – although as Larry is CTO now I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that he’s going it himself.

Infrastructure in the Cloud

Larry spoke briefly about Oracle’s IaaS offering. He skipped over a few of the slides quite quickly, I’m not sure if he was running short of time, however he made some interesting points. It still strikes me as unusual when he claims that Oracle will compete with Amazon and Google on price – as Oracle solutions are typically more towards the premium end of the price-scale – however it’ll be interesting to see how they get on in the commodity pricing marketplace.

Larry’s claim that “the Oracle Cloud is bigger than most people think” was certainly correct for me. They currently have 30,000 servers and serve 62,000,000 discrete users every day!

HCM in the Cloud

Larry stated that Oracle has long held the lead in Talent Management in the Cloud – he was clearly talking about Taleo here – however for the last two quarters Oracle has overtaken the competition and is now the top-seller in Core HR. This ties in with the information from the latest Oracle earnings call (in the last financial quarter Oracle sold Fusion HCM to 60 new customers, and during the same period Workday only added 25).

HCM SaaS applications

Larry believes that the reason that Oracle HCM Cloud is selling so well is that it’s got Social integrated. Benefits, Payroll etc. is “table stakes”, but the Social tools are important for what he calls 21st Century HCM.

HCM SaaS customers

ERP in the Cloud

Larry says that he is particularly proud of the Oracle ERP Cloud as it was built in-house. He says that Oracle is the first company to sell mid-market and high-end ERP in the cloud. Given that Oracle has only been really selling this for a touch over 12 months, this is an impressive logo slide:

ERP Cloud Customers

He also mentioned that Oracle is selling EPM in the cloud – so they’ve moved Hyperion to the cloud – and claims that Oracle are the only company within an EPM in the Cloud offering.

Speed of Growth

Larry stated repeatedly that Oracle’s strategy is “build and buy” … some of Fusion has been developed in-house, other parts have been purchased. Of the parts that have been built in-house, this is the growth (or hyper-growth in Larry-speak) in the last 12 months:

SaaS Customers

He says that 2014 is an inflection point for Oracle in terms of selling these solutions. The fact that 19 out of the top 20 SaaS providers use the Oracle Database and Java is obviously something that Larry would enjoy (and the lone company that doesn’t – Workday – uses another Oracle Database – MySQL – for some of its back-end processing).

Oracle in the cloud today

He also poked fun at SAP for their HANA powers the cloud slogan by asking “whose cloud does it power, because it doesn’t power theirs” (SuccessFactors, Ariba and Concur all run on Oracle).

Summary

In summary, despite stepping down from the CEO role Larry couldn’t resist opening the conference with a bang. There weren’t as many new product announcements as previous years, however he was able to shine a light on some strong progress and healthy sales traction across many product lines. It’s clear however, that the product lines that will get the most focus are ones with ‘cloud’ in the name. There wasn’t a single mention of PeopleSoft, eBusiness Suite or Siebel during the entire session.

The Billionaire and the Mechanic

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bookOne of the books I took for pool-side holiday reading this year was The Billionaire and the Mechanic – a book recounting the Americas Cup, Larry Ellison’s attempts to win it, and the car radiator mechanic that he teamed up with to ultimately succeed in his quest.

The book appealed to me in part because of my profession – Oracle Applications software – but also because I used to sail when I was younger; an interest that was recently re-energised by the 2013 Americas Cup – remarkable because of the dramatic manner in which it was won, but also because the vastly improved TV coverage and graphical overlays which made it a much more engaging sport for those watching at home.

(Personal note: When I was young I used to sail against Sir Ben Ainslie, the British Olympic yachtsman whose switch onto the Oracle boat when they were 7 points behind was at least part catalyst for the comeback to eventually winning 9-8.)

On to the book … Read the rest of this entry »

Arguments over the Semantics of the Cloud

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I read an interesting blog post by Tim Warner earlier this evening, and then watched as a strong debate over the post waged on Twitter.

Tim’s article actually has two points. The second half – the benefits of SaaS/cloud software – are pretty evident to most people now. The first two paragraphs were the ones that drew the Twitter comments.

To summarise Tim’s point, he was saying:

“Some of the more technical questions like “is it true SaaS?” often don’t really mean much to a customer.”

The counter-argument from the eminently respected Naomi Bloom was that these definitions are important, and that people shouldn’t use words like SaaS when selling software if it doesn’t meet the strict definitions of those terms. Naomi has her own definition of SaaS InFullBloom in which she spells out the criteria even more precisely.

My own opinion – not that it was requested by anyone – is that the reality is somewhere in between.

I also roll my eyes when someone obsesses over the exact meanings of cloud/SaaS/’true SaaS’ etc as I really don’t believe that customers care. They care that the price and the functionality is good, and that the systems are managed in the cloud by the vendor who also delivers regular updates rich with new functionality. Do customers worry if the database is multi-tenant or not? In the main, no, they do not.

I do differ from Tim’s opinion slightly with one of his sentences however. He says “If it’s not on-premises it’s SaaS”. I know this is me now focussing on exact meanings of definitions, but I think this one is important to the customer. There is an important distinction between the triumvirate of cloud/SaaS/’true SaaS’ and plain hosting. I could take an on-premises system and move it to some rented physical servers from Rackspace. This is plain hosting and offers few of the benefits of the other three options (eg. elasticity of resources, economies of scale cost reductions, subscription pricing etc). 

So in summary, I think there are important differences for customers between on-premises deployments, hosted deployments and cloud/SaaS/’true SaaS’ systems. However the differences in semantics between cloud, SaaS and ‘true SaaS’ are less important to most of the customers that I’ve encountered.

 

Productivity and Noise

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Everyone likes to be productive, however pretty much everywhere we work there’s something with the ability to disrupt our concentration. Some are necessary – like most meetings – however others break our flow of thought and it takes a while to get ‘in the zone’ again.

I’ve recently changed jobs and the new company’s office is in Kings Cross, London. In many ways this is hugely advantageous, but it can be a bit noisy. I also do quite a bit of working from home now, and that can be noisy too when the kids get in from school.

A great way of eliminating most of the distractions is to use music, however the tracks that you choose can themselves be distracting, especially if they contain lyrics. The solution is to use either noise generators or ‘programming music’.

Noise Generators

I’ve found one solution is to use ‘noise generators’, programs or sites that create an endless stream of background sound. Here’s some of my favourites:

Jazz and Rain
The webapp plays a continuous list of instrumental jazz music alongside a soundtrack of soft rain. You can adjust the volume level of both independently and let them run in the background.

Soundrown
Gives you a selection of noise tracks which you can combine (and adjust the volume of independently). Select from Rain, Fire, Birds, Waves and Coffee Shop. I normally take all but the latter (then tone down the birds a touch!). On the following page they also offer Night, Train, Fountain, White Noise and Playground. Night and Train are good additions also sometimes.

Simply Rain
Just rain, but you can adjust not only the volume, but the intensity of the rain. You can also control the frequency of thunder.

Rainy Mood
Just rain. Sometimes – particularly if your workplace isn’t too noisy this is all you need.

Simply Noise
Just White noise.  Or Pink Noise. Or Brown Noise.

Coding FM
This is just the sound of someone taping away on their keyboard so it’s unlikely to drown out the heavier noises, but you can vary the intensity, from ‘Monday Morning Coding’ to ‘Hackathon Coding’ to ‘Angry Dev Coding’ (which isn’t relaxing in any way!).

Programming Music

Music for Programming
A series of downloadable mp3s designed to allow maximum concentration.

Get Work Done Music
If you’re after something a little more up-tempo, this is a good choice. It contains a selection of ambient/trance music.

Natural Alternatives

Nature Sounds for Me
If you’re after something a little more natural, then this is a good site. You can select from a wide variety of sounds, combine a few others in, and then save it as a link (allowing you to easily access the combination again in the future). If you like the ambient sound of the forest, mixed with some bird tweets, a gentle waterfall and some whale song(!) then this is ideal.

Calm.com
Ideal if you like your atmospheric music a little more meditative.

 

Becoming a Fusion HCM Security Specialist

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Next up in the ‘hit list’ of topics on the way to specialisation is the Security Specialist. Fusion Security was designed with Role Based Access Control (RBAC) at its heart, allowing separation of duties for Sarbanes Oxley compliance easier to achieve, so that should make it easier to pick up, given my history of PeopleSoft. Let’s dive in … Read the rest of this entry »

Becoming a Fusion Data Specialist

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Next up in the ‘hit list’ of topics on the way to specialisation is the Data Specialist. (I’ve been temporarily scared off by the amount of course content for the Sales and Presales specialisms!) This covers getting data in and out of Fusion.

Inbound Data

As you would expect with a fully-featured system like Fusion, there are an array of options. Read the rest of this entry »

Becoming a Fusion UX Specialist

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Following the previous post discussing the changes in the requirements for the Fusion specialisation program, I thought I’d start attacking the list of exams required.

The one that looked the most interesting – to me – was the new UX (User Experience) exam. I’ve always had a soft spot for good design and I’d loved the revamped look and feel in Fusion release 8. I also liked the fact that the Oracle UX team had released their Design Patterns to the general public. I’ve worked at a couple of clients which had internal ‘best practice’ guides and I’d often talked with colleagues about creating a community ‘development standards’ wiki for PeopleSoft, but this was the first time that I’d seen one from a vendor. It’s refreshing that Oracle is being open and contributing to the community.

The course contains online learning materials from Oracle’s UX luminaries like Mischa Vaughan, Ultan O Broin and Tim Dubois. Some of the content is still specific to R7 but even this functionality is surprisingly good. Oracle have a separate division of UX experts and the material shows that a lot of thought and effort has gone into the UX of Fusion.

Much emphasis is placed on key UX principals such as: Read the rest of this entry »