You'd think by now there would be little that's truly new and interesting in the world of cloud. And I'd argue—not so.
With appropriate fanfare, Oracle announced an entirely new industry category last Thursday: cloud machines.
A cloud machine implements a full public cloud model on-premises. Up to now, we've had private clouds, and we've had public clouds—but never a public cloud model that runs in the data center. Now we do.
And—trust me—it's going to make for some *very* interesting discussions between the application teams and infrastructure teams.
Oracle Cloud Machine Made Simple
Oracle has had a successful SaaS/PaaS/IaaS public cloud model for some time. The Oracle Cloud Machine is a subset of those capabilities (e.g. PaaS/IaaS today), packaged up for data center consumption using a public cloud model.
By "public cloud model", I mean financially (subscription/metered), operationally (all operations provided by the Oracle Cloud team as you'd expect with a public cloud) and functionally (a rich set of easy-to-consume cloud services).
It precisely meets the needs of an enterprise application team that craves the operational simplicity and productivity of a public cloud model, but can't use external services for any number of valid reasons.
How A Cloud Machine Is Different
Just about everyone is familiar with private clouds, usually simple IaaS built around vSphere. The majority of private clouds don't have integrated PaaS, and they require IT to be fully engaged with operations, maintenance and support. Plus, you're usually buying them, not renting them. That ain't cloud, I'd argue :)
More importantly: private clouds don't come with a compatible public cloud consumption option.
By comparison with private clouds, the Oracle Cloud machine provides engineering-level integration between IaaS and PaaS based on a successful public cloud offering.
Oracle is responsible for all day-to-day operations and maintenance, consumption is either subscription or metered, and—yes—the on-premises instance is 100% compatible with a proven, enterprise-class public cloud offering.
The Oracle Cloud Machine is also quite different from public cloud offerings. First, the Oracle Cloud stack is designed around the needs of demanding enterprise applications: both development and production. Second—and most importantly—there are few on-premises options for popular public clouds.
If you're thinking about the recent spate of on-premises Azure offerings from Microsoft and their hardware partners, I'd argue it's not a comparable offering. While IT's comfort factor in running demanding enterprise workloads on Azure is debatable, what's not debatable is that Microsoft is simply offering software that can be run on-premises if needed—certainly not a full cloud model: financial, operational, etc.
Customer Reactions So Far
I've been out on the road for a few months, presenting the Oracle Cloud Machine as one pillar of Oracle's three-part cloud strategy: (1) a fully featured SaaS/PaaS/IaaS public cloud offering targeted at enterprise application use cases, (2) on-premises engineered infrastructure optimized for Oracle-based applications, each with precise equivalents in the Oracle public cloud, and now (2) the ability to deliver a public cloud model on-premises.
Enterprise IT leaders like the strategy. It meets their desire to have a game plan for their critical enterprise apps and cloud models. And they *really* like the idea of landing a full public cloud instance targeted at application developers on their data center floor.
The only potential stink eye comes from the infrastructure team. An Oracle Cloud Machine—like the public cloud it is derived from—is not dependent on the in-house infrastructure team. They don't monitor it, they don't patch it, they don't upgrade it, they don't provide support for it, etc.—just like a public cloud.
As a result, the app developers can get to work immediately without any real involvement from the infrastructure team. And that's when the sparks start to fly :)
More to Come
As delivered today, the Oracle Cloud Machine offers an impressive suite of capabilities, ready to be put to work today. But that's not enough.
One of the things that interested buyers want to know about the Cloud Machine is the long-term strategic relevance to Oracle. No one wants to invest in a point product. And that certainly isn't the case here—not by a long shot.
While I'm not in a position to officially communicate roadmaps, I can point to a few obvious (and public) facts. Since the Oracle Cloud Machine is largely a repackaging of the proven public Oracle Cloud stack, most any service provided on the public Oracle Cloud is a potential candidate for being made available on the Oracle Cloud Machine.
This also makes it really easy to evaluate the functionality of the Oracle Cloud Machine—simply sign up for the appropriate public Oracle Cloud service, and give it a go.
Today's Oracle Cloud Machine is clearly targeted at application developers and production runtimes. But Oracle has two additional core competencies: database engines and analytics environments. Indeed, the intent to provide these services using a cloud-machine consumption model was mentioned during the keynote.
The Real Magic?
Oracle has engineered a great cloud stack that's already proven itself in the public cloud, and now is available in a convenient take-home package. As always, there will be those that argue that better technology stacks could be built, or favor one particular technology over another.
Sorry to say, but these people will completely miss the attractiveness of a cloud machine: it's the convenient consumption and operational model on-premises.
Just like a public cloud.