With a widespread prediction that 80 percent of all enterprise (and mission-critical) workloads will move to the cloud by 2025, most cloud infrastructure providers are working tirelessly to cater to this unprecedented surge. In March of 2018, Oracle announced the release of its self-driving Autonomous Database designed to provision, tune, patch, update, and secure itself without much or (may be at all) human intervention.
DynamicCIO.com spoke to Steve Daheb, Senior Vice President, Oracle Cloud on the developments so far and what’s in for the future.
Below are the Excerpts:
DynamicCIO (DCIO): What’s the story behind the momentum that started building last year – also called as one of the most successful launches in the history of Oracle – the Autonomous Database? Can you narrate the story in short?
Steve Daheb (SD): It’s an interesting story and certainly there’s nothing that happened overnight. We can trace the origin of the story in the history of the company. Oracle has been around for four decades. We invented the first commercial RDBMS (database) during the late 70s. So, what you see the company delivering today, is part of this evolutionary journey. It is thousands of engineering years’ worth of database optimisation – from 10G automated memory management to what we have done in the latest version. This is an infrastructure that started with InfiniBand, and clusters in the past and now runs on Exadata in the cloud. Today, with the help of advances in machine learning, we can download the open source algorithm, drop it on to the Oracle database and it becomes autonomous! While it’s not as simple as I said, it indeed has been quite a journey. We continue to progress and continue to use emerging technologies, advance the capabilities to introduce something that is truly game changing. That’s the reason we feel Oracle Autonomous database is as momentous as introducing the database for the first time, if not more.
It brings a totally different dimension to how databases had been deployed and used in the past. Autonomous provides a totally new set of capabilities like self-driving, self-securing and self-repairing. The focus is now on passing the value of a database to the user without the hassles of owning it. It is also about democratising the process of information access. E.g. in a start-up, which has just a few people, even a marketing intern can also fix the database if it is Oracle Autonomous. The old paradigm in which a user had to necessarily have a physical space, a rack to put the servers, storage and network gear, and a DBA now appears crazy after the launch of autonomous. Users can now absolutely focus on building blockchain applications and other new interactive applications without worrying about the deployment of database. Isn’t it amazing? We are finding a universal appeal for autonomous. CIOs can now focus on more important things – things which are more customer-facing and innovation-centric. Autonomous database helps respond to customers’ needs faster.
DCIO: You mentioned about the universal appeal among a diverse set of companies. What all unique features does this offer that were non-existent earlier? Can it be tweaked to the need of a particular company?
SD: It’s a great question. Autonomous is not only the game changer, but also one of the simplest databases enterprise IT or DBAs have ever seen. Essentially, the automation allows customers to provision, secure, update, manage errors and performance as they want. Oracle Autonomous Database services for transaction processing and data warehousing are built on Oracle Database 18c, which is our latest edition. It’s in-database analytics and focused machine learning algorithms for security, authentication and auditing makes it stand apart and appealing. It also comes with an extensive library of machine learning algorithms which help in making great predictions such as customer behaviour, segmentation of customers, profiles of customers etc. This, on one hand, helps organisations identify better selling opportunities and on the other, also detect anomalies and frauds. These are just a few of the many capabilities that drive the next level of innovation.
For example, there is this United States-based company trying to solve the problem of lab results. When a patient goes and takes a critical blood test, s/he is told that the results will take a couple of weeks. With autonomous database the time has been cut down from two weeks to just 30-minutes. This results into faster time of prognosis, faster time to prescriptive treatment and also faster time to recovery. With this kind of intelligence, the DBAs and CIOs can use both the time and skills to get more involved in capturing value out of the data rather than database management.
If you want to have it completely autonomous, you can now do that. From putting patches to addressing issues like data sovereignty, internal procedures etc. it give customers absolute flexibility and choice. That’s what makes it unique and game changing.
DCIO: How autonomous is the Oracle Autonomous Database? What type of companies will it suit the most?
SD: Ever since the announcement of general availability of Oracle Autonomous, we have over 1000 paying customers and nearly 4000 other companies trying it before taking a decision to buy it. The database has a horizontal appeal. Today, the importance of data is felt in every industry vertical be it banking, technology, transportation, healthcare, retail, education or any other. Most organisations are not only data-dependent but also data-driven. While the data sets may differ from industry to industry in terms of what they do with it but collecting data and analysing data is a universal practice.
In terms of the automation, as I said earlier, it provisions itself, it tunes itself and secures itself. We really do not need to sit down and say: “I need a database that has my set of applications.” Oracle Autonomous database automatically tunes, scales and does everything. It automatically patches itself. If there is a patch that is available, it will automatically download and apply the patch.
(A great example of how Oracle Autonomous database has worked is the Golf equipment company TaylorMade Golf has deployed it. The company reported that it has improved the database performance by 40x post deployment. That means 40 times faster than its old system. That’s a quantum jump in the performance and an excellent case to refer to. It’s possible that not all companies may be able to achieve this kind of jump in performance and Oracle certainly doesn’t commit it but one can imagine the leap.)
DCIO: You mentioned that Oracle Autonomous database saves up to 80% on administrative costs and also takes care of the risks. Can you elaborate on it?
SD: It’s true! It does cut administration costs up to 80 percent and allows the scarce/costly technology resources to focus more on high-value projects. That has been possible only because Oracle Autonomous Database is based on superior machine learning algorithms. The R&D has worked really hard in ensuring that the administrative processes are simplified and automated. It doesn’t stop merely at 80% cut in administrative costs. It also cuts down on the running cost of a database. You are saving on capacity, storage or compute. It can scale up when you need it and scale down when you don’t. All of this is done automatically.
Let’s talk about risks. According to a recent security report, 85% of security breaches occur after the pertinent common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVE) threats come to light and are published. This may lead to to fines, loss of data, and in many other cases a huge damage to the brand/company’s reputation. These are huge risks for business. And surprisingly, there is already a patch available for most of these vulnerabilities. And therefore, self-patching is a killer application in the Oracle Autonomous database. Many organisations will be interested in it just because it can do so.
DCIO: How is industry reacting to it? You must be talking to a lot of potential customers, what’s their initial reaction?
SD: People are really excited. That’s what we heard during the earnings call too. If the product wasn’t innovative and game-changing, there wouldn’t have been over 4000 trails happening today. It is already amazing to see companies talking about how they are going to implement Oracle Autonomous database. By reducing the number of routine tasks performed manually by a DBA, the organisation can refocus the DBA’s efforts to higher-level work that creates greater business value, such as data modelling, data architecture and planning for future capacity. As companied to legacy databases, it is fast, easy, elastic, secure and compliant.
Oracle Autonomous database is available to customers through a variety of consumption models including subscription-based, use-based. One can consume it like any other cloud service.