Oracle set to build out Cloud service capabilities, rivalry with Salesforce.com

However, general-availability dates for the new offerings were scarce

Oracle is planning to broaden the footprint of its Cloud software portfolio with seven new services covering developer team services, analytics, collaboration and other areas, Executive Vice President of Product Development Thomas Kurian said during the OpenWorld conference in San Francisco.

Previously during OpenWorld, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison announced the company's intentions to provide an IaaS (infrastructure as a service) that will compete with the likes of Amazon Web Services.

Coupled with Oracle's PaaS and cloud-based applications, "it's the broadest suite of software products available from any vendor through a cloud," Kurian said.

Oracle is also working on an application store through which partners can sell add-on products to customers, he said.

But the question is when all of it will become available.

Ellison provided no availability dates for the IaaS, and it's not clear how long Oracle engineers have been working on the effort.

Also, the new PaaS services Kurian announced Tuesday are all either in preview mode, or will enter a preview phase later this year.

But over time, Oracle's intention is to give developers who use its PaaS a way to add rich functionality to their applications without leaving the Oracle universe. The new cloud services include Oracle Planning and Budgeting; Oracle Financial Reporting; Data and Insight; Social Sites; Developer Cloud; Storage Cloud; and Messaging Cloud.

Data and Insight will bring together "insightful and intelligent data from enterprise, social and external sources," according to Oracle. While Kurian didn't make the comparison, this description sounds like the Social Key offering recently announced by rival Salesforce.com, whose Force.com platform is an obvious competitor for Oracle's cloud.

Meanwhile, Developer Cloud broadens the array of tools available to developers and development teams, providing source control management, continuous integration and other capabilities.

Storage Cloud will give customers the means to "store and manage digital content in the cloud, integrated with other Oracle Cloud services that require online storage," Oracle said.

Salesforce.com also recently announced a storage service called Chatterbox.

The Messaging Cloud, meanwhile, will allow applications residing on Oracle's cloud or elsewhere to communicate.

It remains to be seen whether Oracle rolls out the new services in a single batch, or delivers them in a more incremental manner.

Kurian did say that within a week or so, customers interested in the PaaS' database and Java services could sign up for a free 30-day trial, signaling that those previously announced components have reached a certain level of stability.

Apart from sheer breadth, Kurian stressed the Oracle cloud's capabilities for security and system control. For one, customers' data is kept in isolation from others, he said. "Every [customer] has a private schema, a private tablespace, so your data is not commingled with others."

Oracle's cloud also includes a central identity management system and a console based on Oracle's Enterprise Manager for "complete self-service," he said.

Kurian and another Oracle employee demonstrated how a system administrator could probe through and drill down into a graphical rendering of the Oracle cloud's topology, examining not only application performance and hardware metrics, but also business processes, such as how many marketing campaigns had been launched from a CRM (customer-relationship-management) application within the past day.

Ellison is expected to discuss the Oracle cloud's built-in social networking technology during a keynote later Tuesday, but Kurian also touched upon the topic briefly.

"If you've got happy customers, they spread the word about your products and services, and likewise if you've got unhappy customers," and social media allows this to happen at much greater scale than in the past, he said.

Oracle's social tools will allow users to engage with customers on social sites, analyze social data for business-related insights, and collaborate more effectively with fellow employees, he said.

This strategy, once again, shares many similarities with Salesforce.com's, underscoring a rivalry that has resulted in both companies making a series of similar acquisitions to boost their social software arsenals.

But Kurian took a different tack than Salesforce.com when discussing the Oracle SaaS (software-as-a-service) applications available through its cloud.

"We don't want our customers to have fragmented data and fragmented business processes because your ERP happens to be in one cloud, your HCM happens to be in another cloud," he said.

That may have been a subtle dig at Salesforce.com, which has ventured into some application areas outside of CRM but mostly seems to be building out a best-of-breed ERP (enterprise-resource-planning) suite via partnerships and integrations with the likes of Workday.

It was interesting to see, however, that Kurian's references to Oracle's cloud applications didn't focus strictly on its next-generation Fusion line, said Forrester Research analyst China Martens. "The customers talked about the Fusion Apps they were using in the videos, but the Oracle slides weren't branded 'Fusion Apps,'" she said via email. "I expect that makes it easier to incorporate Oracle's SaaS buys, whether Taleo or all the recent social purchases into its cloud apps vision."

It also "keeps the tent wider for 'cloud apps,'" letting Oracle lump in hosted versions of E-Business Suite and PeopleSoft, Martens added.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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