Larry Ellison, and “cloud computing” vs. “utility computing”

“Everyone doesn’t have their own well at their house … we tap into the water network, we tap into the electricity network … we get better service at a lower price by having our water come from a utility … we’ll experience the same economic advantages … as we get our data from an information utility.” – Larry Ellison, Oracle Open World, September 18, 2016, spoken during his keynote presentation: “The Cloud: A New Era of Utility Computing”

Don’t be misled.   Larry Ellison is not late to the Cloud Party.  Consider this quote from 1998:

… Larry Ellison, the founder and CEO of the Oracle Corporation, has frequently mused at what life would be like if common household appliances had the same complexity of maintenance as a PC … “Sorry, I can’t go out tonight, I’m staying home so I can upgrade my TV to version 7.0.” … Ellison’s argument … the PC must become as easy to use as any common household appliance.

In a recent presentation … Ellison was asked … if the network will be stable enough—won’t it crash from time to time? … Ellison’s response … what is the last thing that crashed on you: your telephone, or Windows … ? The audience roared with laughter, making the answer obvious …

The number of networks we already depend on is impressive: plumbing, electricity, highways, television, radio—all networks professionally run by others … Why should a computer user experience anything different?

— Excerpted from Chapter 27, “Oracle Web Application Server”, in the book “Oracle8 Server Unleashed” published by Macmillan Computer Publishing.

That’s a brilliant quote, isn’t it?  You better say ‘yes’ because I selected that 1998 quote for my chapter in that “Oracle8 Server Unleashed” book. (I only authored that one chapter, this work was the result of a few dozen authors, I only authored the one chapter.)

I selected that quote because of Larry Ellison’s leadership.  Ellison, way ahead of his time, had already seen the potential of the World Wide Web and its underlying protocol, HTTP, all of which had been invented barely five years prior.  Ellison had already seen the vision and was leading the charge towards “utility computing”.

So I was thrilled to see Ellison keeping that phrase alive yesterday at OOW.  To me, “utility” computing is significantly more descriptive than the phrase “cloud” computing.  Clouds paint images of vague, nebulous, fragmented things somewhere far away, without specificity or form or shape.  But utility computing is much more descriptive of what is really intended: a ubiquitous workhorse that is simultaneously both specific and dependable, scientifically complex at it core, cutting edge in its usefulness, yet easy for everyone to access and use for common purposes.

Cloud computing is not just a “computer somewhere else”, as I’ve heard it described – that’s a funny one-liner and I’ve been guilty of laughing at it myself.  But cloud computing – utility computing – is significantly much more than that.  It is a series of complex hardware, network, and software components, brought together in an easy-to-configure, easy-to-access, ever-present simple interface through which an end-user can quickly set up (provision) whatever resources he or she needs quickly to meet whatever business requirement is currently demanding attention, in a more cost-effective manner than ever before, by compartmentalizing the various desired components and optimizing their deployment.

It is true that Amazon Web Services has much of the market momentum at the moment, and has captured a lot of the headlines in the tech industry.

But the truth is that Oracle is still, to this moment, the unquestioned leader in all forms of serious professional business software applications, and he has been actively and purposely working for years to leverage the power of the network in support of business objectives.  The multi-year re architecture of most of the world’s leading enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications is just one example of what they’ve done toward this goal.

This week’s Oracle Open World should be very eventful.

For Larry Ellison’s keynote last night, see this link, but recognize this link might not survive much longer than OOW 2016:

For an OOW YouTube channel highlight that might survive the link above, see here:


From Sept 25, 2013: KTVU featured me speaking for OOW

On September 25, 2013, the American racing team led by Larry Ellison retook the America’s Cup in spectacular fashion, after several days and dramatic events.  Nobody could have predicted that the grand finish would end up happening in San Francisco Bay, within walking distance of Oracle Open World / JavaOne, and on the climactic “customer appreciation night” of that year’s conference.  It was an amazing once-in-a-lifetime event.

KTVU’s Jana Katsuyama featured me in a soundbite speaking on behalf of the very proud attendees of Oracle Open World, see below.

2013_09_25_Americas_Cup_OHearn_KTVU from Steve OHearn on Vimeo.

At first, Jana asked me a series of questions about whether attendees were upset that Larry’s attention was divided between the conference and the race, and that he’d missed a keynote earlier in the day to go celebrate the victory.

I said – no way! The conference is great, everything is well organized and continuing as planned, and who could possibly predict such a stunning situation – good for Larry!

And Jana, to her credit, let the spirit of my comments convey in the edited version that broadcast that evening on the leading Bay area news channel KTVU.

See above!

Report from Oracle Open World 2012 – Day 1

Here’s my video report from Oracle Open World 2012, Day 1. A full transcript follows.


This is Steve, it is Monday, October 1st, 2012, and I am here, at they uh – I’m in my hotel room, at the Oracle Open World conference here in San Francisco.  Oracle CEO Larry Ellison made a big announcement last night at the keynote session opening the conference.  It was about Oracle’s latest cloud computing offerings, and as I listened to him last night in Hall D of the Moscone Center, I was thinking – you know, I know the media is going to bash him for being a hypocrite.  Sure enough, The Wall Street Journal this morning reported the following:

After once dismissing cloud computing as “gibberish,” Oracle Corp. Chief Executive Larry Ellison announced three new features for its cloud computing service at a customer conference in San Francisco.

And Doug Henschen at InformationWeek blogged about this today:

The irony of seeing Larry Ellison extol the virtues of cloud computing, in-memory computing, and multitenancy after so many memorable attacks on earlier versions of these technologies offered by rivals was indeed rich.

I don’t think the slams against Larry Ellison are warranted.  It’s true that he’s bashed certain implementations of what we now call cloud computing, but I think his intent has been to warn against immature implementations of these technologies in services that didn’t offer the robustness, the security, the stability, the standards-based architectures and other kind of features that are typical with a more mature, professional platform along the lines of the Oracle relational database management system.

But one part of Ellison’s keynote on Sunday night really resonated with me.  Ellison reminded the audience that he first advocated cloud computing in the 1990s.  Well I heard some people in the audience snicker when he said that.  But snickerers, I’m here to tell you – it’s true.  He did advocate cloud computing in the 1990’s, I know he did.  I wrote about it, in a publication that came out in 1998.

The publication was titled Oracle8 Server Unleashed. It’s a compilation work consisting of several dozen chapters contributed to by about 40 authors.  My chapter was about Oracle’s Web Application Server 3.0, and a concept known as Network Computing Architecture, or NCA.  The goal of NCA was to remove all software off of your computer, and put it into the network.  This was consistent with a concept that was being advocated by Sun Microsystems. The phrase “the network is the computer” was the phrase that summarized this.  In fact, I think it was even Sun’s official corporate slogan for a while. Friends, this was cloud computing, but the term “cloud computing” had not been coined yet.  This was the 1990’s.  In my chapter of Oracle8 Server Unleashed, I wrote the following:

Larry Ellison, the founder and CEO of the Oracle Corporation, has frequently mused at what life would be like if common household appliances had the same complexity of maintenance as a PC.  For example, you never hear someone say something like “Sorry, I can’t go out tonight, I’m staying home so I can upgrade my TV to version 7.0”.  Nobody has to go to training class to learn how to use their microwave oven.  Nobody has to get a refrigerator adapter when they find out their latest leftovers aren’t compatible with their existing refrigerator.  Yet computer users deal with these issues all the time.  Software that runs on a Mac won’t run on a PC.  Upgrading from one version of Windows to another is a significant effort.  Ellison’s argument is that this is unacceptable, and that in order for computer technology to reach the masses, the PC must become as easy to use as any common household appliance.

And I continued:

In a recent presentation to a Japanese IT convention, Ellison was asked by a member of the audience if the network will be stable enough – won’t it crash from time to time?  Isn’t it risky to place so much dependence on the network?  Ellison’s response was to ask the audience member another question: what is the last thing that crashed on you: your telephone, or Windows 95?  The audience roared with laughter, making the answer obvious.  Yes, a network can experience problems once in a rare while, but when a network is maintained by a professional technical staff on a full-time basis, then the burden of the rote, technical system maintenance is lifted off of the consumer, who can spend her time focusing on her actual work…

The number of networks we already depend on is impressive: plumbing, electricity, highways, television, radio, — all networks professionally run by others, that consumers use frequently, yet do not worry about personally maintaining, upgrading, or troubleshooting.  Why should a computer user experience anything different?”

So when Larry Ellison stood on that stage on Sunday night, and when he reminded his audience that he’s been long advocating utility computing – the old name for what we now call “cloud computing” – I knew exactly what he was talking about.

Today’s headlines should not have read that Larry Ellison finally embraces cloud computing.  No.  That’s not what it should’ve been.  The proper headline today should’ve been:

Cloud computing has finally caught up to Larry Ellison, who has advocated the concept longer than anyone else in leadership in Silicon Valley today.

So folks, I’m here at the Oracle conference, I’ll have more information to share, we’ll see if we do some more later.


Oracle Open World – Meet the Authors

A couple of weeks ago I was in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and departed to attend the Oracle Open World conference in San Francisco, a rather long flight. While on the plane I got a chance to see the recent movie “Iron Man 2”, which features a cameo appearance by Larry Ellison. As I was sitting on the plane, somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean and bound for California, I thought “there you go, I’m sure we’ll hear about this at the Oracle conference.


Sure enough, as I walked into Hall D at the Moscone Center, here was the big display that remained for the entire conference just outside the keynote presentations:



And just up the escalator from the Iron Man display, Larry Ellison made sure we all got a chance to see the America’s Cup trophy he won back in February:



All very impressive. And the technical content was just as impressive.



I first started attending Oracle World conferences before they were called “Open World”, back when digit heads dominated the audience and most of the interest was in development tools. Today’s Oracle Corporation is much the same company with a dramatically broader and more comprehensive scope. Larry Ellison has dabbled in hardware in the past, and a couple of years ago Oracle began teaming with companies like HP to collaborate on some radical hardware architectures that achieved performance improvements in orders of magnitude greater than industry standards.


But thanks to their recent acquisition of Sun Microsystems, Oracle is in the hardware business in a more substantial manner than ever before.



All good database administrators know that data in RAM (Random Access Memory) processes much faster than data stored on a hard drive. Tuning a computer for performance has always included a step to review the management of RAM and hard drive storage of any database.


But in Oracle’s Exadata machines, they have taken the rather obvious step to increase RAM quite dramatically and eliminate the need for swapping information between the faster RAM and slower hard drives. I say “the rather obvious step”, but the fact is that nobody has done this before. It seems obvious in retrospect.


By building a machine with immensely large RAM – the latest Exadata machine revealed in September features two terabytes of RAM – Oracle has led the charge and increased benchmark speeds for database speed by orders of magnitude. It’s a brilliant move and one that has generated a rather healthy order backlog for their new Exadata machines.


The basic idea is to run the entire database in fast memory. It’s an obvious and brilliant move. Demand for the machines is huge and I’m sure will grow. As usual, Oracle is blazing a new trail that I’m sure industry will eventually follow.



While I was at the conference, on Wednesday, September 29, I participated in a Meet the Author event in the book store, a rather popular area at the conference. There I got a chance to meet and greet readers of Oracle Press books, and schmooze with other legendary Oracle Press / McGraw-Hill authors.



I’m in the picture above, third from the right.


This is definitely a great group of outstanding authors, a talented collection of Oracle professionals, and a fun and gracious group of people, I had a great time seeing old friends and colleagues and building new relationships.