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Oracle And AT&T Leadership Discuss Their Massive Cloud Migration Deal

Edgar Haren
Principal Product Marketing Director

Today we have a great editorial from IT World that focuses on the details behind AT&T's massive migration to Oracle's Cloud. In this Q&A by IDG News Service Editor in Chief Marc Ferranti, we get the perspectives from Oracle's CEO Mark Hurd and AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan. Below is the article -

If worries about digital transformation projects keep you up at night, imagine how it would feel to be responsible for moving thousands of internal databases to the cloud for a company with more than $160 billion in annual sales and 260,000 employees. That's the job that AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan is undertaking, and he's working with Oracle CEO Mark Hurd to do it. 

When the companies announced in May that they were working together, Hurd called the agreement "historic." While hyperbole is part of everyday life in tech, lessons learned from the massive project are bound to reverberate across enterprises in a variety of fields, as Hurd noted in the following discussion with Donovan and IDG News Service Editor in Chief Marc Ferranti.

AT&T, the biggest telecom company in the world by revenue, had already plunged into  virtualizing and software-controlling its wide area network. The goal is to virtualize 75 percent of its core network functions by 2020, hitting 55 percent by the end of this year. The move to bring its databases to the cloud, meanwhile, will allow it to knock down information silos, achieve greater operational efficiency and innovate new products and services. Oracle, meanwhile, has been knocked for being late to the cloud, allowing IaaS (infrastructure as a service) leaders like Amazon, Google and Microsoft to scoop up customers. But over the past year it introduced its Generation2 IaaS offering, forged ahead on regular updates to its SaaS (software as a service) line, and polished up its Cloud at Customer offering, which lets enterprises put data and applications behind their firewalls while taking advantage of cloud pricing models and technology. This was important for AT&T, which must be mindful of regulatory requirements for customer data.  In the following discussion, edited for publication, Hurd and Donovan talk about working together on what they (half-jokingly?) refer to as the lunatic fringe of digital transformation.

IDG: “Collaboration” is a term sometimes used for basically straightforward business deals: a customer pays a vendor for products and services. You’ve called this a collaboration – in what sense is the Oracle-AT&T deal a true collaboration?

John Donovan: In this case we didn’t buy what Mark was selling off the shelf. We didn’t look at where Oracle was. We looked at what we were trying to accomplish as a company, how vast the job at hand was, and then we looked at the evolution and the architecture of what Oracle was doing in their cloud strategy in order to find a territory where we could buy and they had to build. Oracle is going to address our specific need: How do you tear down a massive database and regionally distribute it so that you can be really fast in how you’re managing your IT application changes that rest on top of this data?

Secondly, on our side, it changes fundamentally how we do things – we don’t have to waste our energy and time now on one by each for 40,000 databases deciding how we’re going to migrate to this new architecture. We created an economic construct and a technical construct that allows my team to focus on how you get it done instead of what are we gonna do and who are we gonna do it with. So I think we met at a point where Oracle has to build a world- class database roadmap to migrate an extremely large company from fixed databases to clouds. That in my view is what collaboration is defined as.

IDG: Mark, did you have to change the underlying technology architecture of your infrastructure as a service offering or your platform as a service offering to get this deal done?

Mark Hurd: Well we’ve rewritten all of our technologies including Database itself for the quote/unquote cloud, so that’s true with the new infrastructure offering, all of our platform offerings including Java analytics, Database, etcetera. Now in addition to that, to John’s point, we did some other things in this that were probably unique, meaning that we took what we do in the public cloud and we’re actually bringing that to AT&T – we do the patching, we do the managing, etcetera. And then we have a joint team together that’s doing the migration of many of these legacy databases that John described over to the modern database architecture. So it’s both R&D, product development, some unique things that we’re doing for ATT&T, to make all of this happen.

IDG: So just to clarify  --   are the databases going to the public cloud or are they going to the Cloud at Customer offering. Or is it a combination of both?

Donovan: From AT&T’s perspective, certain data has a regulatory requirement that it sit inside our walls. Other data is capable of being moved to Oracle’s cloud and being consumed as a service. In addition to just looking at databases we also looked at applications, and within applications, capabilities like AI and machine learning, where we could create derived data – and some has to sit on premises, some off. We’re comfortable that we’ve partitioned the things on prem that need to stay on prem. Then we have this added dimension of having this stuff secure in motion. So our data is secure at rest and it's secure in motion whether it is in our data center or in an Oracle facility .

Hurd: That’s a really good description of the benefits of Cloud at Customer because you now have the same version of our public cloud that will actually be here at Customer Cloud so we can move data back and forth to the public cloud as AT&T so desires. It really gives us the benefit of taking all of these benefits of the cloud to the customer and the ability to burst and move data back and forth seamlessly as we go forward. One other point John brought up which I think is interesting is that it also gives us a platform now for all of our modern applications to sit on this infrastructure as well, integrated with AI, integrated with analytics.


For the rest of the article and interview, please be sure to visit the link below.


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