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!

Number one again in time for OOW 2014

A great thank you to my readers!  See below!

SQL Expert book at number one again on Amazon's Oracle booklist

I just grabbed the above image from the Amazon website earlier tonight, September 24, 2014, at 11:52 p.m.

It shows that my book – OCA Oracle Database SQL Certified Expert Exam Guide (Exam 1Z0-047) – is number one again at’s Oracle category, less than one week prior to the Oracle Open World / JavaOne 2014 conference in Silicon Valley.

A hearty thank you to all my readers on behalf of me and the writing and editorial team at McGraw-Hill and Oracle Press!  Thank you thank you!

Security Inside The Perimeter

A key in a keyboard lock

One of the issues that was being discussed at this past Oracle Open World 2012 was the importance of considering security during the design stage of a system development effort.  Technology journalist Michael Lee wrote about this issue last fall in a piece titled Developers ignore their security responsibilities: Oracle.  In it, Lee addressed the observations of Oracle Chief Security Officer Mary Ann Davidson:

Marines don’t consider perimeters to be completely unbreachable, and hence, need to be prepared to defend themselves from attack from the inside … Davidson said that many organisations still assumed that attackers won’t get inside their perimeter … [1]

Davidson is totally right, but it is starting to change.  An increasing number of the customers I work with are starting to operate on the assumption that security perimeters will be breached.  Security measures are no longer limited to protection at the perimeter.

This is one place where analytics can play a role.  I’m not just talking about security information and event management (SIEM).  Through data collection and pattern analysis, an alert system can proactively monitor for aberrations in the data flows and process flows within a system, and can help identify probabilities of a possible intrusion and take actions accordingly. But the point is that most security starts with a healthy dose of common sense, applied at all levels of a system’s operational capabilities.

I live in the suburbs of Washington, DC, but recently attended an NFL football game in Philadelphia, and afterwards was having dinner in downtown Philly, when I received a call on my mobile phone from Visa.  They said it was a courtesy call regarding my credit card, and offered some proof of who they were and how they knew my account, and then asked a few questions to confirm who I was.  The exchange was professional and left me confident of the authenticity of the call.  They then asked if they could review a few recent purchase requests on my credit card, and I said – sure.  Sitting there in the restaurant, I listened as they asked me if I had authorized a purchase of gasoline in Pennsylvania that morning?  I said well yes, as a matter of fact, and feeling comfortable that they were who they said they were, I offered that I was heading to the Redskins-Eagles game that day, and was intending to use the same card to pay for the dinner I was eating as they were speaking to me.

They then asked if I’d attempted to purchase a washing machine at a Target department store in Washington, DC on that same afternoon.

I said – uh – no.  I was sitting in the Eagles stadium in Philadelphia about that time.

What about a refrigerator at a second location, also in DC?

Definitely not.

They then said well, you probably didn’t authorize these additional six or seven attempts to purchase large appliances at five different department stores in Washington, DC this afternoon, if you’re in Philly at a football game.  I said – no, not at all.

Thank you, they said, we rejected all of those attempts and just wanted to confirm we did the right thing.  And should you use the card to purchase your dinner tonight, it will be approved with no problem.  But we’re going to cancel this number and issue a new credit card to you, you’ll not be charged.

I said – thank you.

I enjoyed the rest of dinner, paid for it with no trouble, and two days later I had my new credit card with the new number.  I was never charged anything inaccurate or fraudulent.  It all worked out remarkably well.

To help put the incident in perspective, I had the correct physical credit card with me at all times, and the would-be scammer did not, but whoever it was had my credit card number, and he or she was attempting to use the number alone – without the card – to make these purchases.  Visa rejected them all, and according to what they told me, it was in large part due to the fact that the purchases conflicted with my patterns.  Also, this all happened right before Visa began issuing cards with an additional numeric code printed on the back of the card.  That started immediately after these events, so it didn’t apply to these circumstances.

At the end of the day, security is not only about the latest technological breakthrough.  It’s about a combination of two things:

  • A sound understanding of the how the fundamentals of technology operate
  • A common sense approach to defense against classic con games

Any system developer must keep these concepts in mind, and recognize them in securing perimeters, and in developing a solid plan of defense for those times when perimeters are broken.  Perimeters will be broken.  The only question is:  how will you respond?



Report from Oracle Open World 2012 – Day 2

Oracle Open World, Day 2, in the bright sunlight overlooking downtown San Francisco:


Hey! This is Steve, its Day 2 – actually, no, it’s Day 3 of the Oracle conference. But I’m going to tell you about Day 2, because it’s Day 3 in the morning, the sun’s just coming up, and it’s bright in here, I’m not blind, it’s just bright in here. So I thought I’d put on the sunglasses, because I’m really hip that way.

Anyway, good morning, this is Steve, and I’m on the 39th floor of a hotel in downtown San Francisco, here for the Oracle Open World Conference 2012. I’m overlooking the downtown area where most of the conference is taking place. So let me share with you something that you – that probably won’t make the news, you probably won’t hear about this, there’s a lot of talk about the keynotes, CNBC is interviewing folks here, you can see all that elsewhere, let me share something with you I don’t think you’ll hear anywhere else. The magic phrase is “software defined network”, or SDN. There is a lot of buzz about it here in Silicon Valley, and Oracle quietly is working away on this. I was in two separate meetings where this came up. And one person told me that recently VMware paid 1.2 billion dollars – billion dollars- for a company of 20 people with less than 10 million dollars in revenue. For this, VMware paid $1.2 billion, just to get the SDN assets. (Speaking of the bright sun – ) Wow, that’s bright. That’s bright!

Anyway, Oracle’s working away on this as well. And the idea is to create something of a hypervisor for networks, the same way a hypervisor works for virtualized operating systems. And I would say that the most important thing that I heard probably the whole day, was one key person told me – who’s involved with the effort, involved with the process at Oracle, said to a small gathering of us: “everyone is talking about it, nobody understands it”.

Anyway, there’s more to share, about the events, the presentation, the exhibit hall, the parties, uh, but, um, you can get that information elsewhere, and quite frankly, I’m working, I’ve been here working away, and so I haven’t participated in everything, and besides, there’s too much, there’s so much cool stuff going on.

That’s all for now, stay tuned for more later.


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.