Guest Post by Maria Forney, Director, North America Strategy & Business Development, Oracle
“I’m not used to being in this position,” joked Brian Vogelsmeier, looking from left to right at his companions at the table. “My company only has 80 employees and yet we’re the biggest one on this stage.”
Vogelsmeier is director of IT at MCH Strategic Data, an information services company headquartered in Missouri. He joined me during a panel discussion this week at Oracle OpenWorld, along with Philip Moore, who manages database development for Truck Cab Manufacturers and Paul Van Hout, CEO of Pragmatyxs, Inc. The topic of discussion? “Small Business, Big Technology.”
When it comes to big tech, Oracle is definitely near the top of the ranks. Yet it might surprise you to know that 75 percent of Oracle customers classify themselves as SMB. Take, for example, Truck Cab Manufacturers, a company that has been family-owned and operated for seven decades.
“We make cabs for fire trucks, and sell them to fire truck manufacturers,” Moore explained. “We had an Oracle Database on premises, but the server was getting old and it was causing performance issues. On top of that, our data center is above the factory floor. We needed a disaster recovery plan in place, in case the plant ever burned down.”
Moore looked at Amazon and Azure, but liked the ease of migrating the company’s existing Oracle Database to the cloud. Not only could Truck Cab migrate with ease, they would always have the latest, most updated version of Oracle Database without the work of buying and setting up new servers and then optimizing the database settings.
“It’s hard to build servers and infrastructures,” Moore said, “and it’s really hard to build a reliable database. When you set up your Oracle Database in the cloud, it’s automatically done for you with all the optimized settings built in. It’s much more secure and reliable than it would have been if I had done it on premises.”
Moore added that the performance of Oracle Database Cloud is above and beyond what they were getting from their old system. “For just a few extra dollars, we got some of the best technology in the world. We can clone a dev/test environment really quickly, and Oracle does it better than we do.
“If technology is not your company’s core competency, then this really makes sense.”
At Pragmatyxs, technology is their core competency. The 15-person consulting firm works with Fortune 500 clients to ensure smooth communications between their supply chain and finance systems, and the barcode and product labels mandated by regulatory bodies. All of the labels that their clients put on their products must comply with industry and regulatory standards, across dozens of countries.
“The labels that you see on many products must be machine readable and trackable,” said Pragmatyxs CEO Paul Van Hout. “They’re subject to audit by regulatory bodies. We have to ensure that any and all contractors are producing the same content, using the same layout, generating auditable results—it’s quite a task.”
Pragmatyxs offers 24/7 support to their clients, so their systems need to be running at peak efficiency all the time. “We might be a small company, but our clients are quite large. They have enterprise-level expectations.”
Pragmatyxs had an Oracle Database on premises, in addition to using Java for product development. They chose to migrate both to the cloud in order to reduce the amount of time that their staff spent on maintenance and support. “The cloud lets our staff spend more time on producing our products, instead of troubleshooting IT issues.”
Van Hout’s team also looked at Amazon, but found that Oracle offered some key advantages. “One is our comfort and confidence in Oracle technologies. We have 100 percent confidence that they’ll provide 24/7 availability.” In addition, Van Hout found that the Amazon and Azure clouds were more consumer-oriented, and less suitable for a small business. “You go online, you pick and choose what services you want, you give them a credit card number, and then you have to configure everything. Oracle is truly a bundled package of services. Everything works together, and it’s easy to configure—we’ve taken applications that we wrote 15 years ago and deployed them to the Oracle Cloud with zero breakage.”
Reliability and ease of use was equally important to MCH Strategic Data. The company specializes in collecting and compiling data from non-profit organizations—governments, religious bodies, education and healthcare institutions. With a staff of only 80 people, MCH relies on third-party vendors to manage many of its technology systems. When IT director Brian Vogelsmeier needed to replace one of those vendors, he went looking to the cloud for alternatives.
“I looked at Google and Amazon, but I wasn’t quite finding anything that met our needs. Then one day, I got an email from Oracle about a webinar about Oracle Database Cloud.”
Vogelsmeier attended the webinar, and took the inevitable follow-up call from an Oracle sales rep. “I learned that Oracle Database Cloud was the same technology that we already had on premises. Everyone already knew how to use it and work with it. That’s how we started our journey.”
(The moral of the story? When you get an email from Oracle, open it.)
Vogelsmeier added that the move to the cloud was seamless. “My proudest moment was when we moved our clients to the new environment, and they couldn’t even tell.
“Before this panel, there was a guy having a conversation on the phone. He was upset because his team was having server issues back at the office, and they weren’t keeping him up to date. And I thought to myself, ‘I don’t have that problem because all my information is in the cloud. I can pull up the console on my mobile and see it all right in front of me.’
“Oracle has never called me to tell me that my data center is down. It’s just always there.”
All three customers on the panel admitted that they were pleasantly surprised at the level of attention and service they got from Oracle, given the size of their respective companies.
“We’re a 15-person company,” said Van Hout. “The Oracle team flew to Seattle to review our design, they helped us architecturally, they offered support as we moved to the cloud—they’ve been a true partner. They’ve provide a level of service that, frankly, is shocking, given the size of Oracle.”
“Our cloud success manager was very closely involved in our deployment,” said Moore. “In addition to being in the cloud, we wanted an on-premises copy of the data, and she helped us set that up.”
Vogelsmeier was equally happy with his support specialist. “My kids don’t text me back as fast as this guy does,” he joked.
So what recommendations did the panel have for other small and midsize companies looking to move their IT to the cloud?
“Look around, see what’s available, kick the tires,” said Vogelsmeier. “If you work on the technical side of things, you’ll figure out pretty quickly that some sales peoples will feed you some lines.” Van Hout added that, “Oracle’s commitment to the cloud is serious. It’s much more than a marketing or sales pitch.
“Understand your cost drivers,” he continued. “A lot of times, folks will look only at the monthly subscription price. They don’t think about the staffing they might need to manage the system, or the service levels offered by the provider.”
“I can’t envision any SMB building its own servers anymore,” Moore concluded. “This is the future, without a doubt.”