IT giant Oracle has announced a new range of “public cloud” services, including business applications, database software and a Java development platform.
The applications on offer are customer relationship management (CRM), human capital management (HCM) – based on Oracle’s Fusion application range – and an internal social networking system.
The Java platform will allow customers to move their own Java-based applications or application extensions into Oracle’s cloud environment, it says.
Oracle says it will charge a “monthly subscription rate for our application and platform services”, although precise pricing has not been revealed. “There is no minimum term and you can cancel at any time,” the Oracle Public Cloud website says.
The site implies that customers will need to agree the capacity they require in advance, rather than scaling up or down on an ad-hoc basis. “You can … opt-in to overages that allows the system to give you additional resources when you exceed the defined limits,” it says.
The company will host the services itself in its own data centres.
Announcing the cloud services at Oracle’s OpenWorld conference, Larry Ellison placed them in direct competition with Salesforce.com.
“Our cloud is based on industry standards – Java, BPEL for integration, XML, web services,” he said. “It supports full interoperability with other clouds and with your on-premise data centre.”
“If you build your application in Salesforce.com’s cloud, that’s the only place it can run. You can check in, but you can never check out.”
However, it seems that Oracle plans to mimic the ecosystem that Salesforce.com has built around its platform. “In the sales and marketing cloud, you can add data from trusted sources, crowd source data from external sources [and] integrate demographic data from authoritative sources,” the website says.
According to Simon Wardley, a researcher at CSC’s Leading Edge Forum, the portability of cloud services – the ability to move a system from one provider to another – is crucial if the public cloud computing market is to be competitive.
“For portability, you need semantic interoperability, which generally means the ability to run the same code in multiple providers’ clouds”, he says.
By this logic, if Ellison’s claim that customers can move their Java-based applications from its cloud platform to another hosting provider’s platform with ease is correct, then the offering should promote competition in the Java-based cloud computing market.
However, while they may integrate using ‘industry standards’ the HCM and CRM applications are based on Oracle’s proprietary Fusion code. This means that even if Oracle allows third party cloud providers to host its Fusion applications, it would still have ultimate control of the market.
“If the code is proprietary you get a captured market,” says Wardley, “which means the provider can dictate the price.”