Losing Hearts and Minds

Oracle has never been a developer-friendly company. Historically, they have produced brilliant technology, made it freely available, and let it be up to the developers to figure out how to use it.

That strategy is failing today, for three reasons:

  1. Oracle is no longer indispensable. Open source offerings now provide what only a large company like Oracle could manage a decade ago.
  2. Poor access to cloud services. Much software is cloud-based, and Oracle only offers short, poorly-managed trials to developers used to unlimited access on-premise.
  3. Oracle is one of the most-hated IT companies. Their business practices, including aggressive license reviews and lawsuits, means that CIOs are trying to replace their software and developers seek to avoid them.

They are starting a developer initiative with a new blog, a new website, and a series of Oracle Code events, but it seems rather half-hearted. Little has happened since the initiative was announced at OpenWorld six months ago, and Oracle has cut the funding to their technology evangelist program.

I’ve been a loyal Oracle developer for decades, but I’m afraid Oracle has lost the hearts and minds of developers. My son is finishing his B.Sc. in IT and wouldn’t dream of using Oracle tools. If you are an Oracle developer with more than 10 years until retirement, I advise you to start planning for your time after Oracle.

How’s Oracle’s performance, both on financial and strategic parameters?

My answer on Quora to “How is Oracle’s financial and strategic performance?”

Answer by Sten Vesterli:

Stable.

Financially, they have hit pretty close to their targets and their stock has been steady around 40 for the last year. Oracle has been working hard to increase the share of revenue from cloud services, including bundling on-premise deals with a lot of “cloud credits” they can count as cloud revenue. Since they haven’t had significant cloud business until recently, everybody is waiting to see if customers will renew.

Strategically, they are using their massive cash hoard and strong cash flow from existing customers to increase their cloud offerings, both by rolling out new services and by buying cloud providers like NetSuite. In vendor comparisons, Oracle’s cloud offerings are currently way behind the market leaders. But they have a strong commitment and strong financial resources, so they might eventually become a significant cloud player.

How’s Oracle’s performance, both on financial and strategic parameters?

Inconvenient Cloud Truth

Oracle has just announced that they are discontinuing the main benefit of participating in the Oracle ACE program at the highest level: The annual briefing at Oracle HQ before the OpenWorld conference. Together with previous cuts in travel funding, this leaves the program as little more than a logo to put on your website.

Before cloud, Oracle was a big player in on-premise enterprise software. They made very good software, so it made sense to cover the cost of flying independent experts to Oracle HQ for briefings on the latest software. Having armed the experts with the latest knowledge and software, it also made sense for Oracle to pay their travel costs as they went out into the world and advocated it.

Today, Oracle is struggling to pivot towards being a cloud vendor. The independent experts are saying straight up that most of their cloud services aren’t very good yet, so Oracle is not getting any return on its investment in the ACE Directors.

I’ve been happy working with Oracle in my ten years as an Oracle ACE Director, and sincerely hope they become successful in the cloud. Once they are, it will make sense for them to restore funding for the ACE Director program. But right now, the cuts make sense.

You Urgently Need a Cloud Exit Strategy

Moving your software to a cloud vendor has always been an act of faith. You believe the vendor will honor their promises, fulfil the SLA and stay in business.

That’s why many are choosing the big names like Amazon, Microsoft and Google.

Gartner MQ IaaS Aug 2016
Gartner MQ IaaS Aug 2016

Oracle wants to extend its brand into Cloud computing as well, but they are not even on Gartner’s radar, and with their recent decision to double the cost of running Oracle on Amazon, they are not endearing themselves to customers.

No matter which cloud vendor you choose, make sure that you establish an exit strategy in advance. You need to be able to keep your systems running even if your cloud vendor suddenly folds. That means that you need to establish a procedure to continually transfer data from your cloud to a third part (or back to yourself). Don’t get stuck in the cloud.

So long, SPARC and Solaris

Even a billionaire like Larry Ellison has to cut his losses at some point, and Oracle has finally given up on SPARC and Solaris. With Oracle laying off 450 people at its hardware division in Santa Clara, it seems that the idea of building super-powerful “software in silicon” chips is dead. The Solaris roadmap also no longer feature a release 12, but instead a maintenance-looking Solaris11.next.

 

 

Internet-connected Hair Brush

In my popular “Everything that’s wrong with IT” presentation, I use various technical gadgets as examples of the traps we tend to fall into when developing IT.

My favorite example of too much technology for technology’s sake has been my internet-connected socks. Unfortunately, these RFID-equipped wonder socks were discontinued after I started making fun of them. But I think I’ve just found a new favorite: A bluetooth-equipped hair brush.

hairbrush-kv

This brush is so advanced that it can’t even be called a brush – it is a “hair coach.”

Don’t over-engineer your solutions.

 

Locked, but not Secure

On a recent site visit, I went to the printer room to dispose securely of a draft of my confidential report. As expected, there was a container for confidential papers. As expected, it was locked. Unfortunately, the lock was only put through the bracket on the lid, not the container itself.

locked_but_not_secure

If I wanted to, I could have rummaged through all the departments’ confidential papers.

Much security is like this: Locked, but not secure. The organization suffers from all the impediments of spotwise strict security while overall security is still lacking.

The only way to build a secure IT infrastructure is to have someone regularly verify the security, including everything from the padlocks to the installation of vendor patches. This can be an internal compliance team or an external service – as long as the verification is not done by the people responsible for implementation.

 

 

Is Cloud a Priority at Oracle?

This is the Oracle Cloud:

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-08-57-29

What do you think happens when you click on “Account Details”? This:

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-08-55-15

This experience and many others make me wonder if Cloud is truly a priority at Oracle. There is obviously no automated availability testing taking place, and some of my other Oracle Cloud experience has not left me terribly impressed.

This is the company that brought us the gold standard in relational databases, for crying out loud! You can do better, Oracle. Please, please start trying.

Oracle Cloud: Credit Where It’s Due

I’ve had interesting discussions with people inside and outside Oracle after sharing my experience with some of the Cloud trial services.

In the interest of fairness, I want to state that the DB Schema Service seems to be the outlier in poor customer service. Since my last Cloud post, Oracle has improved the service slightly. Instead of terminating it completely without warning, they now send me a mail at 7 pm that my service will disappear in less than a day, and then another one at 3 am saying that it’s now gone. So the inattentive developer will still leave the office at 5 pm happy to be running an Oracle Cloud service, and arrive the next morning to find it gone.

Other Oracle Cloud services are better – for my currently running Application Builder Cloud Service trial, I just got a reasonable warning that it will expire in 9 days.

Man vs. Machine

For as long as we’ve had computers, we have instigated competitions between the humans and the machines. In chess, world champion Garry Kasparov won over specialized chess computer Deep Blue in 1996, only to loose against an improved algorithm in 1997.

Many experts believed the game of Go, with its many more possibilities for each move, was unbeatable by a computer. However, dispensing with the brute force approach of earlier systems, the AlphaGo computer program beat the Go world champion.

Unfortunately, we are also facing less benign man vs. machine battles. Large parts of the internet were temporarily inaccessible to humans due to a DDOS attack  coming from large number of badly protected IoT devices like webcams, DVRs and printers.

You want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. If you have the responsibility for computers, websites or IoT systems, make sure you have hardened them appropriately.

 

 

Side note: When I checked this site, I realized that my anti-spam protection worked, but I had neglected to restrict new user registration. I had 15,777 registered users (!) and had to install a bulk delete plug-in to get rid of them. So if you’ve commented on my posts in the past, I regret to inform you that you’ll have to re-register to comment again (now with Google reCAPTCHA)