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At Oracle’s recent cloud computing analyst summit in sunny Palm Springs, the company’s executive team insisted that it sees clear skies for its efforts in cloud computing. The summit was led vr_BTI_importance_of_cloud_computingby senior executive Thomas Kurian, who runs the entire product organization and reports directly to CEO Larry Ellison. He affirmed that Oracle intends to offer the full range of cloud computing – public, private and hybrid models – to its customers and partners. As one of the world’s largest software suppliers Oracle has much at stake to make its database and all tools and applications available in these cloud environments, including managed cloud services. Our business technology innovation research shows this is a smart bet. Cloud computing is important or very important to 57 percent of organizations, and more than half (55%) of cloud users have been using it for more than a year. I noted in 2013 that simplifying IT and innovating in business are key to its software strategy, and Oracle’s efforts since then have executed on this outline.

Oracle has been developing a public cloud for some time, but in the last couple of years it sharpened its expertise and gained customers through acquisitions while refining its focus and investing in technology. Oracle now offers software as a service through its applications team covering HR, customer service, sales, marketing, ERP, finance, the supply chain and other areas. I recently assessed the Oracle HCM Cloud service, which provides a good example of what the company is doing and one that we awarded for 2013 Ventana Research Technology Innovation Award.

Oracle is determined to provide infrastructure as a service and elastic computing services for storage, identity verification, messaging and networking. Here it is competing directly against Amazon, IBM, Microsoft and others. Oracle also offers its platform as a service for using its database and tools in a variety of ways including the Web and mobile to collaborative methods. This strategy also includes analytics and big data. Our big data analytics research found 27 percent of organizations using cloud-based systems for this purpose, and it is gaining momentum as the preferred method of access: 22 percent prefer software as a service for big data analytics, 7 percent prefer a managed service, and 18 percent have no preference. Oracle is confident it can compete on price with other public cloud players. In addition its newest focus in the public cloud is information as a service, which brings corporate and public data together for business needs. Oracle is also strengthening its cloud computing marketplace so its software will be easy not only to access and purchase but also to onboard and use.

The private cloud computing area is somewhat different. CIOs need options to expand their compute power rapidly according to business needs; such a plan once had to be executed in the company’s data center, but now the cloud offers alternatives. In a more controlled manner than for the public cloud, Oracle provides the full life cycle of management through Oracle Enterprise Manager across its applications, platform, database and infrastructure, which can help most IT organizations simplify and reduce their focus on managing their infrastructure and enable them to focus on the value of the information and technology they provide for the business. Oracle offers multiple methods of deploying a private cloud: virtual machines for server consolidation, clustered databases for platform consolidation, and multitenant occupancy for database consolidation. Its private cloud platforms can provide a range of computing services to support applications and even enterprise deployments for use of mobile technology.

Oracle also offers a managed cloud service in which it builds and manages a private cloud environment similar to IT outsourcing except that Oracle owns the software being hosted. In this arrangement Oracle can provide in the cloud any of its applications, platform and infrastructure and can also connect to customers’ on-premises systems. Oracle says that more than 550 customers around the globe are using this service, processing 1.25 trillion business transactions per day; it stores more than 41 petabytes of data as well. In this offering Oracle competes directly with companies that have been offering this type of service in managed and outsourced approaches, including HP, Accenture and TCS. Oracle has been steadily building a strong position for its own outsourcing and managed approach to cloud computing.

These three cloud approaches have in common the Oracle database, running as a database as a service. Supporting it is the Oracle Fusion Middleware as a service that operates its business applications and is the basis to build custom applications by providing user, process, documents, information and identity services. Middleware is also where Oracle is advancing its support of mobile computing and big data as well as batch-to-real-time integration to applications and data across the enterprise and cloud along with Web services support through the REST and SOAP interfaces. Our research shows that integrating data from cloud applications is important to 80 percent of organizations. Oracle is releasing in the first part of 2014 more technology like Java, document and business intelligence as part of its Oracle Fusion Middleware as a service. Oracle has enlisted its Java technology to support the “as a service” concept to help move on-premises applications to the cloud but also to support application deployments. Oracle has worked to ensure its middleware can operate in the Microsoft Azure and Verizon Cloud services. Also part of middleware is the database as a service that is part of the Oracle cloud and of the compute service for elastic computing; it can be provisioned and used on a subscription or a usage basis; customers also can subscribe to backup as a service. Beneath the middleware and the database is the infrastructure as a service, which provides direct support for computing, storage, messaging, identity and notification services. Oracle supports integration of other cloud computing environments such as with its on-premises applications.

vr_ngbi_br_bi_deployment_preferences_updatedOracle also is expanding its presence in application-centric cloud deployments. For instance, its Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud service will be available in 2014; here it plans to provide a range of real-time and self-service analytics and integration of data from the cloud and on-premises systems. Oracle already has been supporting its own BI applications in the cloud, but this step will help it compete in a market where many options have been available for several years. Our next-generation BI research found a need for this in 2013, when 25 percent preferred software as a service for enterprise BI and nearly as many (22%) a hosted private cloud. It is even more important for mobile BI: 26 prefer cloud deployment, 30 percent chose hosted by supplier, and 36 percent had no preference; only 9 percent prefer on-premises for mobile BI. For another example, the Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service is now available, based on its Hyperion Planning software. In BI and planning in the cloud Oracle definitely is not first to market and indeed will have to catch up to build a brand and trust with customers in these areas.

Given its size, Oracle is uniquely positioned with server, database, vr_BTI_BR_top_benefits_of_cloud_computingplatform, tools and applications all operating in the cloud in public and private approaches and as a managed service. Only IBM is close to providing such an extensive software and technology stack. The competitive edge of preintegrating the entire stack in the cloud is a great position from which to grow its business. Our business technology innovation research finds that cloud computing has improved the availability of applications and information for business; one-third (34%) of organizations said it has improved availability significantly. In addition the research found that cloud computing has lowered costs, improved the efficiency of business processes, boosted communications and knowledge sharing, and increased productivity for more than one-third of organizations. The skies look clear and not cloudy for Oracle, which will be delivering more cloud computing on a very aggressive schedule throughout 2014 and 2015. If you are transitioning to or evaluating cloud computing in any manner, from infrastructure and platform to tools and business applications, Oracle is a provider you can’t ignore.


Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer

Many businesses are close to being overwhelmed by the unceasing growth of data they must process and analyze to find insights that can improve their operations and results. To manage this big data they find a rapidly expanding portfolio of technology products. A significant vendor in this market is SAS Institute. vr_Big_Data_Analytics_02_defining_big_data_analyticsI recently attended the company’s annual analyst summit, Inside Intelligence 2014 (Twitter Hashtag #SASSB). SAS reported more than $3 billion in software revenue for 2013 and is known globally for its analytics software. Recently it has become a more significant presence in data management as well. SAS provides applications for various lines of business and industries in areas as diverse as fraud prevention, security, customer service and marketing. To accomplish this it applies analytics to what is now called big data, but the company has many decades of experience in dealing with large volumes of data. Recently SAS set a goal to be the vendor of choice for the analytic, data and visualization software needs for Hadoop. To achieve this aggressive goal the company will have to make significant further investments in not only its products but also marketing and sales. Our benchmark research on big data analytics shows that three out of four (76%) organizations view big data analytics as analyzing data from all sources, not just one, which sets the bar high for vendors seeking to win their business.

In the last few years SAS has been investing heavily to expand its portfolio in big data. Today its in-memory infrastructure can operate within Hadoop, execute MapReduce jobs, access the various commercial distributions of Hadoop, conduct data preparation and modeling in Hadoop and extend it to its data and visual discovery and exploration tools. SAS has architected its analytics tools and platform to use Hadoop’s Pig and Hive interfaces, apply MapReduce to process large data sets and use Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS) to store and access the big data. To exploit Hadoop more deeply, the SAS LASR Analytic Server (part of SAS Visual Analytics) connects directly to HDFS to speed performance. SAS LASR Analytic Server is an in-memory computing platform for data processing and analysis that can scale up and operate in parallel within Hadoop to distribute the computation and data workloads. This flexibility in the architecture enables users to adapt SAS to any type of big data, especially Hadoop deployments, for just about any scale and configuration. To work with other database-oriented technologies the company has built technical partnerships not only with major players Teradata and SAP but also with the new breed of Hadoop vendors Cloudera, Hortonworks and Pivotal, as well as with IBM BigInsights. SAS also engineered access to SAP HANA, which establishes further integrated into SAP’s data platform for analytics and other applications.

At the Inside Intelligence gathering, SAS demonstrated its new Visual Statistics product. Like its Visual Analytics this one is available online for evaluation. It offers sophisticated support for analysts and data professionals who need more than just a visually interactive analytic tool of the sort that many providers now sell. Developing a product like Visual Statistics is a smart move according to our research, which finds that predictive analytics and statistics is the most important area of big data analytics, cited by 78 percent of organizations. At this point visual and data discovery are most common, but we see that users are looking for more. SAS Visual Statistics can conduct in-memory statistical processing and compute results inside Hadoop before the data is transferred to another analytic data repository or read directly into an analytics tool. A demonstration of these capabilities at the analyst summit revealed how these capabilities along with the use of tools in SAS 9.4 could raise the bar for sophisticated analytics tools for business.

vr_Info_Optimization_04_basic_information_tasks_consume_timeSAS also has a data management software suite for data integration, quality, mastering and governance and is working to make the product known for its big data support. This is another important area: Our research in big data analytics finds quality and consistency of data to be significant challenges for 56 percent of organizations and also that 47 percent are not satisfied with integration of information for creating big data analytics. SAS is expanding to provide data quality tools for Hadoop. Its portfolio is expansive in this area, but it should take steps to market these capabilities better, which spokespeople said it will do in 2014. Our recent research in information optimization found that organizations still are spending disproportionate amounts of time in preparing data (47%) and reviewing it (45%) for analytics. They need to address these difficulties to free their analysts to spend more time on analysis that produces recommendations for decision-makers and to collaborate on business improvement. SAS’s efforts to integrate data and analytics should help reduce the time spent on preparation and help analysts focus on what matters.

SAS also will expand its SAS Stream Processing Engine with a new release coming by midyear. This product can process data as it is being generated, which facilitates real-time analytics – that’s the vr_oi_how_operational_intellegence_is_usedthird-most important type of big data analytics according to our research. Applying analytics in real time is the most important aspect of in-memory computing for two-thirds (65%) of organizations and is critical as SAS expands its SAS LASR Analytic Server. Our benchmark research on operational intelligence shows that the processing of event data is critical for areas like activity or event monitoring (said 62% of participants) and alerting and notification (59%). SAS will need to expand its portfolio in these areas but it is fulfilling on what I call the four types of discovery for big data.

SAS also is moving deeper into cloud computing with support for both private and public clouds through investments in its own data centers. Cloud computing is an increasingly popular approach to building a sandbox environment for big data analytics. Our research finds that more than one-fifth of organizations prefer to use cloud computing in an on-demand approach. SAS will have to provide even more of its portfolio using big data in the cloud or risk customers turning to Amazon and others for processing and potentially other computing uses. SAS asserts it is investing and expanding in cloud computing.

vr_Big_Data_Analytics_15_new_technologies_enhance_analyticsSAS’s efforts to make it easier to work with big data and apply analytics is another smart bet; our research finds that most organizations today don’t have enough skilled resources in this area. One way to address this gap is to design software that is more intuitive, more visual and more interactive but sophisticated in how it works with the primitives of Hadoop; SAS is addressing this challenge. Our research finds growth of in-memory (now used by 42%) and Hadoop (50%) technologies, which will have more impact as they are applied directly to business needs and opportunities. SAS is at the intersection of data management and analytics for big data technologies, which could position it well for further growth in revenue. SAS is betting that big data will become a focal point in many deployments and they can help unify data and analytics across the enterprise. Our research agenda for 2014 finds this to be the big opportunity and SAS is fixated on being the vendor of choice for it. If you have not examined how SAS can connect big data architectures and facilitate use of this important technology, it will be worth your time to do so.


Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer

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