'Up ahead!' screamed the druid above the noise of the slipstream. 'Behold, the great computer of the skies!'
Rincewind peered between his fingers. On the distant skyline was an immense construction of grey and black slabs, arranged in concentric circles and mystic avenues, aunt and forbidding against the snow. Surely men couldn't have moved those nascent mountains – surely a troop of giants had been turned to stone by some . . .
'It looks like a lot of rocks,' said Twoflower.
Belafon hesitated in mid-gesture.
'What?' he said.
'It's very nice,' added the tourist hurriedly. He sought for a word. 'Ethnic,' he decided.
The druid stiffened. 'Nice?' he said. 'A triumph of the silicon chunk, a miracle of modern masonic technology – nice?'
'Oh, yes,' said Twoflower, to whom sarcasm was merely a seven letter word beginning with S.
-- The Light Fantastic, by Terry Pratchett
I recently attended a conference held by Oracle for their business partners, showcasing their brand new "CX Cloud" product line. Cloud software is very trendy these days and Oracle is moving at full speed to build its cloud portfolio of various products. Realizing that companies are still reluctant to be physically separated from their own data, Oracle even offers a new solution called "Cloud Machine" which basically moves the Oracle hardware infrastructure hosting the software, to the premise of the client, so it can be put behind a firewall and operate as a mini private cloud, but still managed remotely by Oracle. Another attempt to comply with local regulations and with the EU Safe Harbor Act, is that Oracle is deploying server farms in Europe, so that data can stay within the borders. These features are especially critical for companies who operate in the EU, or for the public sector, or basically any company who wants more control over where their sensitive or financial data is stored. In any case, Oracle is determined to convince the Future about the benefits of outsourcing the hardware infrastructure to them, as much as possible.
When the popular acronyms such as IaaS, DaaS, SaaS, and PaaS were thrown around, I started reminiscing about the roots of these services. And I realized that in my college days, 15 years ago I was already using these kind of things, when I built some practice websites for fun, using MySQL database and PHP server side scripts, on a free web hosting service. Freely available e-mail providers such as Gmail/Hotmail/Yahoo Mail are another example. We just did not call them "cloud" back then. In more recent times, Salesforce.com could be mentioned as one of the most successful pioneers of cloud software. But there are countless examples of quality software provided over the web. They all apply the same principle: the client does not need to have any control over the program code or the location of the data, they are just interested in "getting the job done" so they focus on their core activity, and the software company is taking care of hardware maintenance, backups, software updates, fixing bugs and adding new features.
Oracle might have entered this scene a little late, but they have ambitious plans to become market leaders. They are using their well-proven business strategy to acquire talented software companies who have built state-of-the-art solutions already – then take the product, sometimes fully re-engineer it from the ground up, call it a new name and merge it with Oracle's huge vertical portfolio so it looks like it is part of a consistent ecosystem. That's how Oracle CX Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Commerce Cloud and Service Cloud were born.
Customer Experience (CX) is actually not just a marketing buzzword to compensate for Oracle's poor reputation in this area. These software solutions are really visually appealing, they utilize the latest development standards and show dynamic, responsive user interfaces. Also they are primarily targeting the "power user" instead of the CIO, and stress scalability and a gradual, relatively effortless implementation of additional features, products, or product families - as required by the client. The solution platform is built on a consistent environment of Oracle Middleware and Java technology but is also quite flexible and very easy to integrate with data sources, with other software and with each other. Building the APIs first, to enable easy integration, was one of the design principles. This mashability could be one of the key selling points as Oracle aims to cover a large spectrum of all sorts of enterprise software requirements – ERP, CRM, BI are just a few of them.
But why is it so important to move to the Cloud, anyway? Why is the 'fire and forget' method of buying a stable and reliable boxed software, and using it for eternity, considered outdated?
The main argument here is the shortening innovation cycles and the plethora of dramatic technological inventions which are reshaping our lives every day – such as the Big Data, and the Internet-of-Things. The term "Digital Transformation" refers to the process of applying these new technologies in all aspects of human life, not just in business but in areas like government, art, medicine, and science. These changes are often radically disrupting the status quo and lead to new methods, new business models, even new industries. Companies stuck in their comfort zone and unable to embrace these technologies, will quickly be discarded in the dead ends of history.
Therefore, companies of the future need to develop their abilities to adapt, or better yet, innovate. Static must be replaced by dynamic. And the IT department is especially affected by this. The possibility to quickly add new systems to an existing software infrastructure, change business flows, mix and match services of advanced technology and easily integrate with innovations that are yet to be discovered in the future – these are the capabilities that companies should aim form. Software solutions that provide this flexible environment, yet also able to ensure operational stability, data security, and an efficient development toolkit for enhancing or creating new software applications – might be in the best position to serve as the platform of the future. And Oracle's concept of cloud software is definitely a good candidate for that role.