Oracle OpenWorld 2015 Day Three: Oracle Moves Toward a Safer Cloud Environment

SAN FRANCISCO — Cloud computing promises to offer businesses efficient and cost-effective solutions to modern challenges, but a common concern in recent years has been the security involved with storing or transferring sensitive data in environments that may be susceptible to threats. On day three of Oracle's OpenWorld here at the Moscone Center, speakers detailed Oracle's approach to this issue. Particularly vocal was Larry Ellison, the company's CTO, who in his afternoon keynote laid out for attendees the updates Oracle has concocted to alleviate this concern.

Ethical users "are losing a lot of cyber battles" to companies, individuals, and countries with malicious or self-serving intentions, Ellison pointed out. "We have to rethink how we deliver technology, especially as vast amounts of data are moved to the cloud."

Ellison outlined some rules of thumb and emphasized that while security is necessary at every level, it is vital that it be pushed "as low in the stack as possible," beyond the applications, databases, operating systems, and servers, and within the silicon of the hardware itself. This is largely "because software…can be changed," Ellison said.

Disabling security should not be an option for customers, Ellison argued. While it might have made sense to offer safe encryption as an option in the past, today the risks are far too high, Ellison noted, and cost isn't a great enough factor to justify it. It is inevitable that if security has a switch, someone will eventually forget to turn it on and cause deeply felt damage, Ellison suggested.

To that end, Oracle introduced memory intrusion detection and wide key encryption. The "high-speed encryption" feature promises low performance impact, according to a slide Ellison showed during his presentation. The company has bolstered its M7 chip, calling the new version Silicon Secured Memory. With the added protection layer, security breaches like Heartbleed and Venom could have been prevented in real time, Ellison said.

Thomas Kurian, Oracle's executive vice president of product development, guided attendees through the various product updates in his morning keynote. In a media and analyst Q&A session following the keynote, Kurian noted that over the past year, the company has introduced 183 new software-as-a-service (SaaS) modules. As far as CRM is concerned, the company has reached beyond sales, marketing, and service to offer new products in the area of field service, e-commerce, order management and capture, and policy automation, Kurian said.

"We've also verticalized CRM into a number of industries, because as you know, CRM is different in different industries," he said. The company provides specialized capabilities to professionals in industries ranging from financial services and telecommunications to consumer packaged goods and pharmaceuticals.

When asked how aggressive the company would be in encouraging customers to move from on-premises solutions to the cloud, Kurian said that customers would be permitted to move their databases to the cloud at their own pace. "We're not forcing anyone to move to the cloud," Kurian said. "We think that most customers know exactly what workloads they want to move into the cloud and when."

During a customer panel moderated by Steve Miranda, executive vice president of applications development at Oracle, end users discussed their experiences in moving various business operations to the cloud. When asked whether there was any data they were hesitant to move due to security reasons, Larry Freed, CIO of Overhead Door Company, noted that while the company was uneasy about exposing confidential employee information to a vendor, it ultimately felt a level of confidence in the applications.

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