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Taking stock of Oracle AI application and database moves

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Holger Mueller of Constellation Research gives his take on Oracle AI developments, including the Autonomous Database, and explains why the new recruiting module in Oracle HCM Cloud is a big deal.

Oracle AI technology took a leap forward this year with the announcement of Oracle Adaptive Intelligent Applications for finance, HR, manufacturing, sales and marketing, among others -- and the Autonomous Database, which uses machine learning to largely automate database management and security.

What do the Oracle AI moves mean for the vendor and its customers? Holger Mueller, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, gave his analysis in a podcast at the 2017 Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco, where the products were announced.

"We were almost worried that Oracle might miss the whole AI train. So, this year, they caught up on some of them," Mueller said, referring to earlier moves into artificial intelligence by ERP competitors such as SAP and Infor. "The question is, can you have this uber-intelligence across your suite or do you have to build smaller apps?"

Mueller said Infor's Coleman AI platform works across software domains, while the Oracle AI technology is more modular.

Mueller added the main Oracle AI apps are in the customer experience realm, "where Oracle probably is the strongest and has the most experience," but called the new applications for human capital management and finance "exciting."

He said Oracle is going through a fast process of developing AI at multiple levels of its software stack, starting with a foundation of platform as a service and infrastructure as a service.

"That should be a bigger platform for everybody; not just for Oracle building packaged applications, but also for customers building their own," Mueller said.

What's the role of data scientists in AI?

A session on the new Oracle AI for manufacturers featured a data scientist, raising the question of how much human intervention is required for AI's analytical functions.

"I'm always worried when a data scientist steps up," Mueller said. "I have nothing against them -- they are very smart, talented individuals," but it means people are involved.

"Companies cannot rely on single data scientists to do the AI," he said. "It has to be in software, which is why the neural networks are so popular right now, because software architectures can learn and build those neural networks continuously. They don't have to sleep, they don't have to go to the bathroom, they don't have to take breaks, they don't take vacations [and] they don't have bad days."

Mueller called the Autonomous Database announcement "the biggest up-sell ever at an OpenWorld. Who is going to say 'I don't need security,' right now, with everything that's going on?"

Nevertheless, he sees benefits in using AI to help automate database administration and minimize human error.

"I think Oracle learned a lot [with] their Cloud at Customer [suite], where they manage the systems," Mueller said, adding that Oracle is ahead of database rivals IBM and Microsoft in exploiting the cloud.

Mueller also discussed Oracle's migration to software-as-a-service ERP, noting that company officials told attendees that users of its older, on-premises ERP brands -- PeopleSoft, E-Business Suite and JD Edwards -- should consider Oracle ERP Cloud. Oracle's reasoning, Mueller said, was that ERP Cloud had reached "functional parity or functional superiority. That's a major milestone [and] they seem to have caught up on the manufacturing side."

In addition, the new recruiting module in Oracle HCM Cloud filled "the only big crater in the whole HCM suite single-cloud-platform story," he said.

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