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Mark Hurd: Oracle Accepts Cloud And Hadoop

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Oracle chief operating officer Mark Hurd says the company really is enthusiastic about open source, big Data and the cloud

Oracle chief operating officer Mark Hurd told a London audience that Oracle will do anything it takes to keep users happy – including enthusiastic adoption of business models that once seemed anathema to it – open source and cloud.

Oracle is going to deliver best of breed products and is still keen to push its “single stack” approach as a way for uesrs to have less uncertainty in their IT, said Hurd. However, it has emerged increasingly over the last few years that Oracle can’t do everything on a software-licence basis, and is having to accept models where margins may not be so great – including a deal with Cloudera to offer the open source Hadoop Big Data software on an appliance, back in January.

Happy with open source

Is Oracle comfortable with open source though? TechWeekEurope put the question to Hurd, who is widely seen as Larry Ellison’s heir apparent since he joined the company after a turbulent time as CEO of HP ended in acrimony.

“We are happy with whatever gives the best answer for the customer,” said Hurd. “Like everything else, open source has morphed over the years – and the real key is the  commercialisation of open source.”

Earlier that day,  Hadoop co-creator Doug Cutting, chief architect at Cloudera told techWeekEurope that he had been “surprised” at Oracle’s enthusiastic acceptance of the open source model for Hadoop, which is the basis for most real Big Data implementions, where non-schematic data is processed on distributed clusters instead of in a relational database or data warehouse.

“A couple of years ago we expected some large vendors to do their own proprietary thing, but it has gone much better than we thought,” said Cutting.”They have surprised me  – and none more so than Oracle.”

Of course, the impact of Hadoop on Oracle’s other business will depend on how fast Big Data grows in relation to more traditional applications – but Hurd clearly expects a lot of Big Data business, although his definition may be different to others’. He describe it as a process of sifting large quantities of data, much of which is “worthless” in itself, but which is gathered from many thousands of sensors: “The secret to this stuff is the ability to get access to data and integrate it into core processes, and make decisions in real time.”

Oracle’s cloud surprise

Hurd said that Oracle’s cloud business was also defying expectations – in this case predictions that Oracle’s traditional model of selling licenses would not work in the subscription-based world of the cloud.

“This idea that Oracle won’t like SaaS [Software as a Service]  because of the margins is just silly,” said Hurd. “Don’t write those things any more.  We like this model! We are pushing cloud, and we are pushing SaaS. We think we are in the best position for cloud.”

Oracle is selling its own public Oracle cloud, operating in Oracle data centres, as well as offering private clouds, either on premises or not – and Hurd conceded that the business model here is very different.

“Cloud is simpler,” he said, and it is not about choice. In the cloud, people simply do not know or care what server or storage they are using – things which would be crucial in the data centre. “In the data centre you want to know the hardware down to the nanometer size of the silicon. In the cloud, the customer says why are you even interested in this?”

Hurd said Oracle’s performance was fine – with growth in double digits for software, and good progress in “engineered systems”.  It still drives a large part of the industry, with some 50,000 people going to the OracleWorld event in September.

Oracle’s strategy, as summed up by Hurd, is to offer best of breed technology, and to vertically integrate it so users can have it as a single stack if they like.

Hurd’s previous career was ruled off-limits in the press briefing, but last month, he finally saw the end of a lawsuit in which HP shareholders had been trying to claw back some of the payoff he received when he suddenly left HP two years ago, amidst allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

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