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.