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As it shifts cloud focus to platform services, Oracle tries to hold on to its database legacy

Oracle founder and executive chairman Larry Ellison (GeekWire screenshot)

After years of taunting and dismissing Amazon Web Services, Oracle founder Larry Ellison all but acknowledged Tuesday that AWS “pioneered” the market for rental computing. Oracle now plans to compete in the cloud by focusing on its platform services, such as the new Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse Cloud, which is now generally available.

During a webcast delayed twice by pre-show glitches and the wrong presentation slides, which forced Ellison to ad-lib for a few awkward minutes, Oracle unveiled the new data warehouse product, which is the first release in the Oracle Autonomous Database product line announced last year. The “autonomous” databases use machine-learning techniques to correct errors, improve reliability, and detect security threats to databases.

“The Oracle Autonomous Database is probably the most important thing we have ever done. It’s very different from what other people are doing in the data management industry,” Ellison said.

Oracle itself is a database pioneer, and at one point was probably the most important and influential company in enterprise technology. Those days are in the rear-view mirror, thanks to the rise of cloud infrastructure services and competitive cloud databases from companies like AWS, Microsoft, and Google; legend has it that AWS named its RedShift data warehouse in honor of Oracle’s trademark red color scheme.

Oracle has attempted to compete with those companies in infrastructure services, but on Tuesday Ellison sounded almost resigned to the notion that Oracle has missed its opportunity of catching the first-movers of the cloud infrastructure market.

Still, there is a huge market for database software, and “the way Oracle plans on differentiating itself from Amazon is by offering a complete suite of platform services at a higher level than infrastructure services,” Ellison said. Open-source databases like MySQL and MongoDB have become very popular with developers in the cloud era, but there are still lots of companies running Oracle databases on their own hardware as well as companies that want to maintain application compatibility with Oracle but through Oracle’s cloud services.

Data warehouses are specialized kinds of databases that are designed to prioritize reading data over writing data. They’re used in a lot of analytical and business intelligence applications, and companies like Snowflake Computing have seen intense interest in their cloud-based data warehouses as companies begin to modernize old computing environments designed for the era in which Oracle ruled the roost.

Oracle’s new data warehouse is designed to help those companies eliminate labor costs by automating many common database administration tasks, such as tuning and scaling. The company plans to release several database products and other platform services based around this autonomous strategy later this year.

As it shifts cloud focus to platform services, Oracle tries to hold on to its database legacy
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