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September 24, 2015updated 22 Sep 2016 11:55am

Oracle: Taking on AWS head on in cloud

C-level briefing: CBR asks Neil Sholay, Head of Digital, EMEA, Oracle, about taking on AWS, Data as a Service and who are the challengers in IOT.

By James Nunns

Assuring me that Oracle is a cloud company, Neil Sholay, Oracle’s head of digital for EMEA defended the company’s late arrival to the cloud market and revealed their plans to take on Amazon head on for cloud dominance.

"When you own a hardware company, which Amazon doesn’t, that puts you in a very advantageous position, clearly you don’t abuse that position but we can control margins as tightly as Amazon.

"For every single layer or component in the stack we’ve got to be at least as good as the Amazons, the Google’s, the Microsoft the Salesforce’s, but in certain areas we want to be exemplarily, particularly around PaaS and the business applications."

This will clearly be extremely difficult to achieve, and some may argue that the company may be too widely spread to be successful in every area.

Sholay said: "I’m not beating up on anyone here, let’s take someone like Pivotal who provide the IoT cloud service, they have the luxury of being very specific in what they provide.

"We can’t go to the customer and say here’s our IoT cloud service and not talk about all the other stuff.

"So we have a responsibility to up our game in all the areas, because so many of our customers run so many of their mission critical systems on Oracle that we just can’t afford to be deficient in certain areas."

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Some customers like this, he highlights British Telecom, whose technology stack is 95% based on Oracle, but for every British Telecom, there is one that doesn’t want to "bet their farm of Oracle".

While the company is broadly aiming to the best or second best, it does have particular areas of focus.

"If you look at where we are laser focused, human capital management, CRM and customer experience are probably the three top areas from the business apps we are going after.

"If you look at PaaS and IoT it is an usual one because it tends to be deployed as a PaaS service and used as an application, so IoT and mobility are absolutely top line initiatives."

On IoT, he welcomed Salesforce to the market, "it’s great that Salesforce has joined the party", but played up the advantage that Oracle has, having been building up its IoT offering for the past three or four years.

"You have to be working with the device manufacturers, the chipset manufacturers, security companies, the designers. We’ve been doing that for four years as Oracle but probably 15 years as Sun.

"So we have a whole embedded team that’s been working with ARM, with Intel and Gemalto, Apple and HTC for well over a decade, arguably two decades. So IoT, we are definitely invested in, we think it’s going to be one of the big areas to go after."


Sholay, who has a lot of friends at Salesforce, identified how the company has entered into the tooling and rapid application development area. However, he thinks that you can’t just look at IoT in "one slice," particularly when looking at security.

"You’ve developed the application, and you can’t just apply security at that layer, where’s the hand off to the device? Where’s the handoff to the gateway? Who takes responsibility for that?

"Oracle does not have the luxury to say we are only going to play, here, here and here, because our customers say I expect you to take responsibility for the whole user journey and whole tech stack, because apparently that’s what I’m paying you for."

IoT is clearly going to be an important part of Oracle going forward, but it also has a data strategy that differs from many others.

Data as a Service, simply put, the company is selling anonymised data to companies for them to run marketing campaigns for example.

This is achieved through the acquisitions of BlueKai and Datalogix. These two companies have been buying data from companies such as Experian, Dunnhumby and others for the past decade. This gives Oracle data on both online and offline habits.

"We have a billion data profiles, we will sell that data, anonymised, to you at Unilver for example, and you can use it one off or you can have a constant service. Companies like American Express, Procter and Gamble buy this data in real time and use it to affect their campaigns.

"What they also do is to take that data and feed it into analytics and run analytics against it, to feed their campaign. That’s completely unique in the industry; Adobe has something similar, SAP, IBM, Microsoft, and even Google have nothing like it."

Oracle certainly has its focus and fingers in many pies but only time will tell whether its strategies regarding taking AWS head on in cloud, its Internet of Things push or Data as a Service will be a success.

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