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Oracle Eyes AWS Success, Shifts Its Focus to Infrastructure as a Service
Source: Jef Cozza

If yesterday’s conference call with investors is any indication, Oracle’s obsession with Amazon Web Services (AWS) is only growing. That's probably not surprising, given the former’s decision to invest heavily in its infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) business as a way to offset declines in revenues for its licensed software business.

But Oracle still has a long way to go before it will be ready to give the likes of AWS a run for its money in the IaaS space. Oracle chairman and CTO Larry Ellison (pictured above) made repeated references to AWS during yesterday's call. The company also touted an increase of 62 percent in its quarterly cloud sales over the same period last year, reaching $1.2 billion for its fiscal 2017 third quarter that ended Feb. 28.

PaaS and SaaS Lead the Way

While that appears to be an impressive growth spurt in a relatively short time, that still leaves Oracle way behind Amazon’s cloud business, which reported $3.6 billion in quarterly sales, a 47 percent jump in growth compared with a year ago.

However, Ellison chose not to focus on Oracle’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) business or its platform-as-a-service (PaaS) business, which together represent the bulk of its revenues. Rather he focused on the company's relatively smaller IaaS business, which generated only $178 million last quarter and grew only 2 percent over the previous year. Nevertheless, Ellison claimed that IaaS will soon be growing faster than either SaaS or PaaS eventually becoming Oracle’s largest cloud business.

“Both our SaaS and PaaS businesses are doing great, but I’m even more excited about our second generation IaaS business,” said Ellison. “Our new Gen2 IaaS is both faster and lower cost than Amazon Web Services.” Ellison went even further, saying that the largest Oracle databases can only be run on the Oracle Cloud.

Bringing Oracle Databases to Oracle Cloud

Ellison seems to be making two separate arguments: that Oracle databases should be run on Oracle Cloud, instead of AWS; and that Oracle Cloud can provide better computing infrastructure than AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform, even for workloads that are not specific to an Oracle database.

The company might be able to make a convincing argument for the first case. On yesterday's earnings call, Ellison claimed that some Oracle workloads run up to 10 times faster on Oracle Cloud than AWS. While that number might be a bit of an exaggeration, there could very well be advantages to running Oracle databases on the Oracle Cloud. That alone could represent a big opportunity for the company if it's able to win back even a portion of the many enterprises currently running Oracle databases on AWS.

On the latter issue, the company will have a bigger challenge. AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform are all significantly ahead of Oracle when it comes to infrastructure. And that means Oracle will have to do some heavy lifting over the next few years to be competitive as a standalone IaaS provider.

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