Oracle Cloud World: Ellison Talks Up Security and Future Cloud Plans

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison made a last-minute appearance at the company's Cloud World event in San Francisco this week, adding some C-level cheerleading to the daylong showcase of Oracle products and evolving cloud strategies, offering advice about the proper systems for attracting and keeping talented people and fielding questions from attendees that ranged from observations about Oracle's late arrival to the cloud to concerns about NSA intrusions.

Ellison spent much of his prepared presentation talking about Oracle's Human Capital Management (HCM) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, declaring that HCM and CRM are "the most important in the enterprise," because a successful enterprise is "all about people."

He also argued that social media has become an essential element, both internally and externally, of the enterprise. "You have to enable all of your employees to connect with one another and the company, to understand the mission and [the company's] values, and what's expected in the job."

The company has built a Facebook-like social network into its HCM system, he pointed out, providing users with a modern interface for this type of communication that other enterprise software companies have failed to offer. "If you look at the kinds of industrial [as opposed to consumer] interfaces we built 10 or 20 years ago -- the kinds of interfaces that SAP built -- they're just not appropriate in the 21st Century," he said. "They're not appropriate in the age of Facebook and Twitter and shopping at Amazon."

Oracle's Social Cloud service integrates a suite of "social relationship management" (SRM) components, including so-called social listening, social engagement, social publishing, social content and application and social analytics.

Ellison also declared that IBM and SAP are no longer his company's rivals and, that instead, Oracle now competes with a "whole new generation of cloud companies," including IaaS provider Amazon and SaaS provider Salesforce. Many of the conference sessions focused on Oracle's broad cloud strategy, which includes infrastructure-as-a-service, software-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service and it's currently emerging database-as-a-service.

"We just swapped a bunch of big guys -- IBM and SAP -- for a bunch of other guys," he said, calling them "small but agile."

Ellison shrugged off a question from the audience about how Oracle responds to customers' worries about potential NSA intrusion into the company's namesake database management system.

"To the best of our knowledge an Oracle database has not been broken into for a couple of decades," he said, "by anybody." He earned some applause by adding, "It's so secure [that] there are people that complain!"

Oracle systems separate the data from administrator access, Ellison pointed out, which adds to the security of the systems. "Mr. Snowden never could have gotten into an Oracle database," he said.

But in a recent blog post from security researcher Dana Taylor claimed to have discovered two vulnerabilities in Oracle Forms and Reports, "…which affected 10.x and 11.x and possibly older versions," and which she reported to Oracle. The company responded to her reports, she wrote in the post, by saying that these were not vulnerabilities. Oracle was unavailable for comment at press time.

Among Oracle's first database customers, Ellison noted, was the Central Intelligence Agency. The DB was one of his and Oracle co-founders Robert Miner and Ed Oates' first products, developed in the 1970s at their startup company, Software Development Laboratories. The project was code named "Oracle." The company changed its name in 1982. Oracle has long touted the high level security in its systems and has even gone as far as use the label "unbreakable" in promotions back in the early 2000s.

One attendee asked Ellison why Oracle seemed to be coming late to the cloud.

"Well, I think I started the first cloud company, called Netsuite, which is a year older than," he said. "So how can Oracle be late to the cloud?"

He went on to point out that Oracle is a company that offers dozens of applications for a big enterprise marketplace, as well as a database and middleware, which has complicated its move to the cloud. "As we come into the cloud, we come in very differently from someone like Salesforce, which came in with a single sales automation application…"

"You can say that we were late," he said, "but it's not because we started late. We started close to 10 years ago. It was just an enormous task."

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].