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REDWOOD SHORES, Calif. -- One of the most painful but necessary jobs in any enterprise has been the task of configuring, tuning, patching and securing the legacy databases that pump the lifeblood of such key enterprise applications as ERP, HR and transaction processing. Oracle has been busy with automating many of these processes as part of its "Autonomous" branding, which it is positioning as something akin to self-driving database management.
The push started earlier this year with the Oracle Autonomous Database for data warehouse workloads. This week at Oracle Media Day briefings at its headquarters, Oracle announced similar autonomous capabilities for analytics, integration and application development, saying it was committing to adding "self-driving, self-securing and self-repairing" capabilities to all of its PaaS offerings. The vendor also plans to bring in more autonomous services later this year for mobile application development, chatbots, data integrations, security and transaction processing databases.
Steve Miranda, executive vice president of Oracle applications product development, expects companies to see a big payoff in bringing AI to applications like talent management and payroll. "Companies have to react quick and don't have time to connect different systems and don't want to reinvent those. They are increasingly looking at Oracle Cloud apps to increase those synergies."
Miranda said Oracle's efforts were more akin to Salesforce Einstein than generic AI toolboxes like IBM Watson. Einstein brought simplicity to developing AI on top of CRM. In Oracle's case, these new app development tools are meant to make it easier to add AI functions to a much broader set of data from ERP, HR, transaction processing and other applications. This could include apps for things like proactive maintenance scheduling or supply chain optimization. Oracle's new AI development tools also promise to improve feedback about customer journeys that might span data from CRM, ERP and marketing applications.
Seeking an easier path to innovation
The vendor's commitment to using the Oracle Autonomous Database to automate the database administrator tasks commonly associating with tuning databases could also help encourage more companies to migrate legacy ERP applications and the databases behind them to the cloud, according to several speakers at the media event. Companies will be able to import their existing databases to the cloud, without having to restructure them for other cloud-native databases.
This move to the cloud may also be driven in part by a growing recognition that big enterprise vendors can do a better job at security than most enterprises, said Frank Gens, senior vice president and chief analyst at IDC. He noted security was the top concern when IDC started asking enterprises their biggest concerns about moving core applications to the cloud in 2008. In the latest survey, security was the number two reason companies were now moving to the cloud. Part of Oracle's promise for its autonomous initiative, including the Oracle Autonomous Database, is that it will allow companies to keep security patches up to date, without breaking existing workloads or even bringing them offline.
Oracle Autonomous Database said to reduce grunt work
"There is a large base of enterprise software. People have done lift and shift, but just moving it to the cloud does not make it easy to manage," Gens said. "The idea of using intelligence and automation to take the labor out of it is critically important to simplifying the onramp to the cloud."
IDC expects that 75% of enterprise apps will have AI built into them by 2021. Oracle's work with bringing automation to analytics and application development could play a vital role in helping established enterprises improve applications that sit on ERP systems, he said.
The cloud is quickly moving from basic tools to a platform that makes it easier for organizations to add new capabilities on their existing data. But doing so has been hard because of the challenges of bringing legacy ERP data into modern AI and mobile application development pipelines. A big one has been the grunt work of tuning, patching and optimizing databases, tasks the Oracle Autonomous Database is designed to handle.
Those digital transformation use cases will never happen if enterprises are still spending time and money doing security patches and database tuning, Gens said. "That is all stuff that should be automated. If Oracle's customers are interested in this, we will see more competition coming."
Apps could be the next chapter in the cloud
In the long run, Gens imagines that Oracle's journey to the cloud could be part of a general reshaping in the cloud landscape. The common perception is that the cloud market will converge around three IaaS platforms that include Amazon, Microsoft and some as yet to be determined leader.
But Gens said that the market might also converge at an application level driven by vendors like Oracle, SAP, Salesforce, Intuit and ADP that already provide the security, governance and management enterprises require. These vendors are already taking steps to address complex problems of emerging governance challenges like General Data Protection Regulation. This will save enterprises valuable time in focusing their efforts on adding value. Plus, these platforms are closer to the digital transformation layer required by enterprises, Gens said.