A lot of companies and government agencies would like to move IT operations to a public cloud, but local regulatory restrictions or other concerns prevent the move. Now, however, the cloud can come to them, inside their own data centers.
A relatively new style of cloud service can help knock down barriers to cloud adoption by giving organizations the advantages of cloud while helping address local rules that once kept them out. For example, a company from India might be bound to keep its data in India and not, say, in a cloud provider’s data center in America or Europe. Likewise, companies in highly regulated industries are required to keep close tabs on their data, which often means keeping it behind their own firewalls. The result? They don’t use public cloud services, even as the performance and cost-savings arguments for doing so mount.
One answer is to put a slice of the cloud in your own data center. Oracle has pioneered this approach with its Cloud at Customer program, which first launched in early 2016. The service provides the same hardware and software platform that Oracle uses in its own cloud data centers and puts them into a “cloud machine” that lives in the customer’s data center. “We are essentially stretching out our public cloud to reach the customer’s data center,” says Nirav Mehta, the Oracle vice president of product management who is responsible for the cloud machines at the heart of the program.
The program offers the same look, functionality, and subscription pricing model that customers would experience if they were dialing up a cloud service from one of Oracle’s own data centers. “They just pop open a browser and run the cloud service as if they were using Oracle Cloud,” says Mehta. Oracle also patches, maintains, and updates the Cloud at Customer application remotely. If organizations don’t want any online connection back to Oracle, Oracle can send staff on site for updates.
This week, Oracle unveiled a major expansion of its Cloud at Customer offerings to include higher-performance infrastructure services, and more than double the available Oracle Cloud platform services, which include database, big data and analytics, integration, application development and security. The biggest news, however, might be the addition of Oracle’s fast-growing cloud applications, including Oracle ERP Cloud and Oracle HCM Cloud via this model. Bank of America is one of the early Oracle ERP Cloud customers using this model, and AT&T is a major Oracle Database customer. Both wanted the operating advantages of the cloud while keeping their data on premises.
Oracle also launched a Cloud at Customer offering dedicated to big data with optimized hardware—Big Data Cloud Machine is designed to help organizations easily compile and analyze massive amounts of information.
A Chance to Modernize in the Cloud
Every company comes to a point where they want to refresh an enterprise application and the hardware it runs on, says Mehta. Many opt to move to the cloud so that the cloud provider keeps their application on the cutting edge and provides access to cloud-native development tools. “They don’t want to keep refreshing the status quo,” Mehta says. With Cloud at Customer, even more data-cautious and regulated companies can choose the cloud when upgrade time comes around.
“We don’t want to leave anyone out of the cloud party,” Mehta says.
Although the program has enjoyed success in its first year and a half, with customers in more than 30 countries across six continents, the crop of new infrastructure and platform services and the addition of business applications will push Oracle further out in front of all other cloud providers.
“No other company is doing this so comprehensively,” Mehta says, “because it is legitimately very hard.” The effort took extra years of development and tooling, he says, “to make sure we can do this on premises as well as we can do it in our own cloud.”
While other hardware and software companies are building alliances to attempt to piece together a similar offering, they will find it difficult, says Mehta. “Everything is fine, until something breaks,” he says. And how many companies will have to coordinate the response?”
This is a crucial part of the service, he says, “because to be really simple you need one point of contact,” he says. “To bring that level of turnkey support and maintenance to the customer’s premises requires some maturity in how we manage these systems on every continent,” Mehta says. “We have the field organization and we have the remote support organization that makes all this possible.”
The opportunity to change the equation for customers is huge, Mehta says. “The market has for too often said, ‘Move your application and your data to the cloud.’ It sounds like a forced journey that can only happen in one way,” he says. “Oracle has also addressed the other question, which is to ask, ‘What if the public cloud moved to your data or your application where it already lives?”
Jeff Erickson is director of content strategy at Oracle.