If you're a grizzled infrastructure guy like me, you're completely justified in your skepticism when any vendor claims to have announced something Truly NewTM.
I mean, how many flash arrays, converged thingies, etc. does the world need?
Because we tend to focus on the underlying technology, we tend to miss other equally important innovations. For example, Uber didn't really introduce new technology to the world; they just changed a familiar consumption model.
A few weeks back, Oracle announced a new industry category -- cloud machines -- under the banner "Cloud At Customer". First up: the Oracle Cloud Machine -- on-prem PaaS/IaaS targeted at enterprise application developers.
Simply put, it's a public cloud model delivered in the data center. It fundamentally changes the familiar consumption model.
In the short time since, I've been seriously stunned by the level of customer and partner interest. People immediately grasp the concept, realize that it's fundamentally different alternative, and are immediately curious.
We must be on to something here :)
Sure, I personally thought the notion of a cloud machine was going to be successful. But at the end of the day, what I think doesn't matter that much; the opinion of thousands of IT professionals matters far more.
And -- so far, so good.
Oracle Cloud Machine In 30 Seconds
The Oracle Cloud Machine is a re-packaging of a portion of the public Oracle Cloud for on-premises use.
The user experience is the same, e.g. public Oracle Cloud. The operational model is the same as the public Oracle Cloud, e.g. the service is operated and managed by the same team (and using largely the same processes) as the public Oracle Cloud. The financial model is the same as well, e.g. metered or subscription. And, of course, the software stack and user experience is identical.
Hence the description of "public cloud model delivered on-premises".
In addition to the current model targeted at enterprise application development and execution, expect two more versions before long -- aimed at database and big data analytics. Once understood, you'll see that the model is easily extensible to other portions of the IT landscape.
Hence it's best to think about cloud machines as a new category -- they are that different.
How A Cloud Machine Is Different
Folks used to traditional on-premises private clouds may scratch their heads, and wonder why all the fuss? After all, many of the ingredients look the same to them: compute, hypervisor, PaaS, etc.
First, this is integrated PaaS/IaaS targeted at enterprise applications developers. Standalone IaaS doesn't do this unless you spend a lot of time and effort rolling your own, and few application teams want to wait for the science project to finish.
Second, you're contracting for a complete, integrated service provided by Oracle. You're not buying the separate ingredients and cooking your own meal. It's a pure opex services model, just like the public cloud.
Third, it is derived from -- and seamlessly interoperable with -- with the public Oracle Cloud. No homegrown solution can make that statement.
Folks used to familiar public cloud services also do their own head-scratching, but the questions are different.
A cloud machine lives on the premises of your choosing, under IT control. By itself, it is not dramatically elastic, but -- working with the public Oracle Cloud -- it is.
Like most public cloud services, developers are free to bring many of their favorite open source tool sets. Like most public cloud services, the infrastructure team doesn't play a direct role in providing supporting services.
Unlike public cloud services, you don't have the usual bugaboos about not being in control, data leaving the premises, latency, etc..
So the developers are free to move as fast and confidently, which matters.
What Senior IT Leaders Tell Me They Like About Cloud Machines
The senior crowd clearly appreciates the pure opex model of a cloud machine. This isn't clever financing in disguise, it's a clearly-defined integrated service you commit to for a fixed period of time. All costs are included: transparently and known in advance.
And when you're done, the service disappears and that's the end of your commitment. Just like the public cloud.
These same people also appreciate that the Oracle Cloud Machine service is pre-integrated, and supported as a whole. This is not some reference architecture or solution guide; it's a baked, standardized product offering. Less time, less risk, less cost. Not to mention that Oracle has clearly integrated the whole stack: from application to database to infrastructure to support and so on.
On a more strategic note, I see that they appreciate how it brings immediate cloud agility to their enterprise application portfolio. No need to wait patiently for the various teams to cobble something together. There's also the attractiveness of easily mixing and matching with identical services from the public Oracle Cloud.
I do find it, errr, interesting that senior IT execs who are responsible for multiple disciplines immediately grasp the concept. Not so with the usual industry analysts, who tend to hold a partitioned (and historical) view of the world.
What Partners Like
Oracle partners tell me they like being able to offer their clients a pure passthrough opex model for an integrated solution that sits behind one or more enterprise applications: either IaaS only, or a mix of PaaS and IaaS. It certainly helps them stand out from the crowd -- something that every partner wants to do.
I mean, just about anyone could sell you the ingredients -- how many sellers can offer a public cloud model on-premises?
It also simplifies their partner business model -- they can focus on the application, and leave the supporting infrastructure and tools to Oracle. Everything they position can run on-premises, in the public Oracle Cloud, or any combination. That's very strong differentiation.
The Infrastructure Team -- Well, Not So Much
You can't please everyone.
Hey, guys, I've worked the infrastructure end of the business my whole career.
I'd love to say cloud machines are all about the infrastructure team and what you do, but the truth is completely the opposite: it's about delivering public cloud infrastructure services on premises without the need for direct involvement by the infrastructure team.
Yes, I know you're heavily invested in VMware and everything that goes with it. Not relevant in this context. Business users want results, and aren't as obsessed with the ingredients as you've been.
More importantly, they can't afford to wait for y'all to put something together on their behalf. Even if you could.
I gently remind people that part of being an IT professional is continually evolving your skill set forward, especially during big industry transitions. That NetWare cert I got many years ago doesn't help me much these days, nor does my extensive COBOL programming experience :)
The industry will still demand skilled IT professionals in the future; cloud or no cloud. They'll just be working with a different model. And the market for people who specialize in hand-crafting infrastructure appears to have started its inevitable decline.
Competitive Responses? There Aren't Any.
I can safely assert that no IT vendor is delivering anything that looks like a cloud machine today. Going farther, it's hard for me to see how any one of them could do so in the near future.
They'd need a full application stack, an enterprise-oriented public cloud, as well as the proven ability to deliver enterprise-class solutions on-premises.
Rare is it indeed in our industry when one vendor can do something so attractive for so many IT shops, and no competitors can mount a meaningful response.
I did see one deck from a competitor decrying Oracle "lock in".
As I remind people, deep integration is the flip side of lock in. I drive a Ford F-150, which I love. I use Ford parts when things break. I don't feel locked in. Besides, users are free to run almost any application (Oracle or otherwise), bring their favorite tool sets, or move the software stack elsewhere if needed. Let's move on, shall we?
Sometimes I think some IT folks who obsess about lock in might be looking for job security in the multi-vendor integration and support business. As the industry moves to more integrated stacks, that's going to be a losing battle.
The Bottom Line - Faster, Now!
There are so many organizations I meet these days that are near-desperate to get more agility from their enterprise application portfolio. The app team is working their butts off, but don't have the modern tools they need to work effectively.
They look longingly at public clouds, and wish they could get the same on their premises.
To be fair, the infrastructure team is working their butts off as well, but just can't close the gap. Even if they could replicate the technology model (very difficult), there's still the financial and operational model to clone. Oh yes, and whatever you eventually end up building won't have a compatible public cloud option.
The Oracle Cloud Machine solves this thorny IT problem brilliantly.
And this is getting fun for me :)
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