Regardless of which forecast you choose to consider, there's no denying that cloud and cloud-related solutions present an enormous opportunity. That's particularly true for companies like Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and IBM (NYSE:IBM) that are focusing their cloud efforts on what is expected to become the biggest piece of the enormous cloud pie: Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).
Oracle (NYSE:ORCL) head honcho Larry Ellison and team are hardly new to the cloud, having recently completed fiscal 2015 with a fairly impressive $2.1 billion in cloud-related revenues, up about 33%. That's not in the same league as Microsoft's triple-digit cloud growth and $6.3 billion annual run rate, or IBM's 60% improvement last quarter and its nearly $4 billion annual revenue run rate, but Oracle's results are hardly chicken feed. And if Ellison has his way, Oracle's new cloud initiative will put it right up there with the big boys.
New and improved
A few days ago, Ellison and a few other Oracle execs announced the introduction of the company's new, comprehensive "PaaS [Platform-as-a-Service] Launch and Cloud File Sharing and Collaboration" suite of services. Ellison didn't hold back when asked what the objective of Oracle's new Cloud Platform hopes to accomplish, saying "Our new archive storage service goes head-to-head with Amazon Glacier and it's one-tenth their price."
As cloud aficionados may know, measured by revenue, Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) is right up there with Microsoft as the leading provider of cloud services on the planet. As one of the first to offer off-site data hosting in the cloud, Amazon.com has had a target on its back for "newbies" like Oracle for some time. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a "$5 billion business and still growing fast -- in fact it's accelerating" according to CEO Jeff Bezos, and much of that revenue is from data storage.
Of Oracle's approximately $2.1 billion in cloud revenues last year, about $1.5 billion came from SaaS and PaaS sales, with the balance generated by its cloud infrastructure solution. Oracle's objective, as Ellison made abundantly clear by calling out Amazon's Glazier, is to garner a bigger share of what is quickly becoming a commoditized product: hosting.
Oracle's double-edged sword
Oracle's new cloud push, at "one-tenth" the price of AWS' data storage service, isn't much to get excited about in and of itself. Why? Because with ongoing price wars, it's becoming more evident by the day that SaaS and related products is where the real cloud revenues will be had.
According to a recent study, in three short years a mere 13% of cloud workloads will be PaaS, and just 28% will be infrastructure-related; that's down from 44% in 2013. Where is all the work -- and by extension revenue -- going? Cloud-based software.
With the unprecedented volume of data collected in today's smartphone, tablet, and growing Internet of Things (IoT) world, hosting all that information is just a first step. Utilizing the data to develop actionable results takes comprehensive analysis, which is why IBM and its powerful data-crunching tools like its Watson super-computer are well-positioned to continue growing in the cloud. The same concept applies to Microsoft, which has long been the king of software and has transferred that strength to its suite of cloud-related solutions.
So what does Oracle hope to accomplish by aggressively going after AWS' low-cost market share? Oracle's hardware business makes up about 15% of total sales, but like Microsoft, software and services is where its bread is buttered. Assuming that Ellison's plan is to gain more data storage clients to get them in the fold, than upsell them to SaaS solutions, Oracle's new cloud efforts could jump-start what has been a so-so effort to date.
The over $2 billion in cloud sales is good, but it's a long road to catch the likes of Microsoft, IBM, or Amazon.com. But Oracle's newly focused cloud efforts are designed to change all that, and are certainly a step in the right direction.