SAN FRANCISCO — At Oracle's OpenWorld user conference, executives illustrated the company's ongoing commitment to cloud computing, as they outlined strategies for further growth while unveiling self-learning software-as-a-service (SaaS) products designed to reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and promote innovation within the enterprise.
Mark Hurd, chief executive officer of Oracle, took the stage on Monday morning to reiterate the advantages of moving business operations into the cloud. "This is not a fad, it is a generational shift," Hurd told attendees during his keynote, echoing sentiments he expressed during last year's event. "If all the cloud did was cost less, and you got the exact same thing, everybody would do it. If you told the CEO, 'I have a really big idea: We can do everything exactly the same, no change, but it just costs 30 percent less, what do you think the CEO would say? 'Yes, let’s do it tonight!'" But that is not the only benefit, Hurd pointed out. "You actually get more. The environment's more secure, it's more reliable, it's more extensible, it's easier to use. And guess what comes with it? All of the innovation shifts from your [information technology] budget to the cloud provider's [research and development] budget. So innovation accelerates, and that happens simultaneous to the reduced costs."
To the five predictions Hurd made last year, he added the following:
1. By 2025, 80 percent of IT budgets will be spent on cloud, rather than traditional, IT systems.
2. By 2025, the number of corporate-owned data centers will drop by 80 percent.
3. CIOs will spend 80 percent of their budgets on innovation, not maintanance, which will enable a transfer of funds to R&D.
To help companies see such transitions quicker, Oracle has expanded its SaaS portfolio with updated cloud applications. Newly released, the Adaptive Intelligent Cloud Applications blend third-party data, data from Oracle's Data Cloud, analytics, and behavioral inputs to allow them to adapt and learn over time. These apps aim to offer users customized actions that help them streamline tasks that are specific to their roles within the organization, as they can process data about customers and employees to surface the best recommended actions in a given scenario. For instance, commerce professionals can access these tools to glean insights that help them make better decisions that lead to higher conversion rates, repeated purchases, and increased revenue. A marketing professional will be equipped to reach out to customers with more targeted offers that make sense with each individual customer based on their contexts.
"A company's data is its most valuable weapon. To remain competitive today, companies must access their information in real time to intelligently forecast and grow," said Steve Miranda, executive vice president of applications and development at Oracle, in a statement. "Oracle Adaptive Intelligent Applications leverage anonymyzed information from our extensive Data Cloud to optimize existing Cloud Application functionality. When this is combined with a company's own data, we are able to provide unparalleled customized insights to help enhance business performance."
Oracle has also bolstered its suite of Cloud Applications with enhancements that span business functions, including sales, service, and marketing. The Engagement Cloud offering—an addition to Oracle's Customer Experience Cloud—combines sales and service capabilities; it consolidates sales automation, service request management, knowledge management, and self-service capabilities on one screen, allowing sales pros and service agents to access all of these functions to improve a customer's interaction with the company. According to Oracle, the offering has the potential to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty while improving the chances of upselling, especially for those companies providing "high-touch and high-value customer engagement," such as financial services, consumer goods, communications, and high-tech firms.
Also new is Oracle's Internet of Things Cloud, which analyzes data as it is collected to help companies make decisions that will improve customers' experiences as they use connected objects. The offering could prove useful to companies that need to predict maintanence requirements for equipment, for instance.
In a statement, Ray Wang, principal analyst at Constellation research, said that opportunity abounds for monetizing digital business via such machine learning apps and analytics. Oracle's "large corpus of data, strong expertise in data science, massive compute power, industry and domain expertise, and breadth of application solutions make it well suited to be a leader in the quickly growing space," Wang said.
"We have two big competitors in customer experience,’’ conceded Larry Ellison, Oracle's chief technology officer and executive chairman of the board, during his first of two scheduled keynotes on Sunday night. "Salesforce.com and Microsoft both compete aggressively in this space. They're two large competitors, but we're constantly adding industry-specific features to tailor our customer experience for industries. We're the leader in marketing; we're the leader in commerce, in CPQ. In sales automation, Salesforce.com is the leader, but again—we're their number one competitor."