It was two years ago, during the Oracle OpenWorld 2017, that Larry Ellison presented Oracle’s Autonomous Database in the Cloud, a database that achieves its automation through a machine learning layer that is responsible for managing and updating the system, applying adjustments and patches while it is in operation and without the need of a human being watching it, being able to even detect and counteract cyber attacks in real-time.
Under this concept, it is not strange that the technology was presented as “revolutionary” and as “true computing on-demand”, even more considering the points highlighted in the Oracle executive’s speech:
- Requires a minimum of human work, by automating the necessary security updates and adjustments while running, minimizing downtime.
- Service level agreements (SLA) that guarantee 99.995% annual availability, which represents a failure time of fewer than 30 minutes per year.
- Lower administration costs compared to the competition, given its automatic and intelligent nature in combination with compression and learning algorithms.
This last point was especially emphasized by making several comparisons with Amazon, which is the main competitor of the company. He demonstrated that the operation could be five to eight times more expensive than an Oracle Autonomous Database implementation with the same workload.
With all this, some questions arise: Has Oracle managed to keep its promises two years after its initial presentation? Is the Autonomous Database a truly suitable option for companies that want to migrate their services to the cloud?
The reality of the Autonomous Database in 2019
In what some call “the Cloud Wars”, we can find different specialists giving their opinion and support to various technologies and services. Among them, you can find several skeptics of Oracle’s autonomous offering stating that reality is not as beautiful as Ellison says. Let’s see what the clash of opinions is based on.
According to statements given by Ellison in Oracle’s Q4 earnings call, the company has seen an increase in database license sales including rapid growth in sales of the required options to run the Autonomous Database. Going by the numbers, he says: “a lot of our existing customers might come in with a very small project—let’s say, a $30,000 ARR project—and within 60, 90, or 120 days, that becomes a $120,000 project. And after another few months, it becomes a $0.5 million project.”¹
However, some specialists indicate that these figures may be a bit optimistic. On the Brightwork Research site, they show a graph that indicates that the popularity of the Oracle database has declined.
They also indicate that “it is unclear what Oracle defines as technology license growth, but is this the Autonomous Database?”². They even question that Oracle Cloud is really growing, since “Oracle is not investing much in its cloud data centers”, which is why they favored an agreement with Microsoft and its Azure service. ³
Similarly, it seems that Oracle’s efforts have not caused the expected impact on the competition, seeing how Amazon has seen an increase in its profits from cloud services. In mid-2018 they already had a 49% increase ($5.4 billion), mainly because “AWS has seen 75,000 migrations from other databases to its own in the cloud since the migration service launched in early 2016”. ⁴
Personally, I have not worked firsthand with a company in Latin America that has decided to migrate to the cloud or that has considered the Autonomous Database. In fact, many of them are unaware of it. As many of us know, the licensing costs and tight budgets that IT departments usually have down here mean that these types of migrations are not among the first priorities for small and medium enterprises. In contrast, I have read and heard from some companies in North America that have made the leap successfully, and seem satisfied with the change.
Perhaps it is too early to say if Oracle’s strategy and vision will really represent a radical change in the way databases are managed, but it is clear that they believe in their proposal and are willing to promote it highly. Time will tell if the bet paid off, both for Oracle and for those who make the switch to this technology.
In future blog posts, we will be reviewing ways to take advantage of the Autonomous Database for the development of applications in Oracle APEX, as well as the different services offered on the Oracle platform in the cloud.
For more information on the Oracle Autonomous Database you can check the following links:
- Oracle’s official site
- Autonomous Database: Larry Ellison at Oracle OpenWorld 2018 Highlights
- Sound Familiar? Larry Shares the Oracle Autonomous Database Story