In recent times, Oracle’s stock price has experienced a significant surge, propelling its CEO, Larry Ellison, back into the list of the top ten wealthiest men globally. This success is largely attributed to the company’s successful transition to cloud computing. However, it would be a mistake to assume that Oracle is similar to Amazon, the original cloud computing company. While Amazon was born in the cloud, so to speak, Oracle was dragged into it. This difference creates an interesting basis for comparison between the two giants of modern computing that shows the spectrum of modern cloud computing.
It is interesting to look at the two companies’ history since it pretty much explains the differences. AWS grew out of Amazon in a particular historical context. Following the dot-com collapse, Jeff Bezos faced the challenge of convincing Wall Street that Amazon was not just another retailer, but a tech company. With issues regarding infrastructure and maintenance of other retailers’ websites, Bezos aimed to transform Amazon into a platform company. To tackle these difficulties, he created a solution by offering third parties simple infrastructure primitives that Amazon required to build its own solutions at a faster pace. This laid the foundation for Amazon’s success as a platform company.
Amazon therefore has a retail mindset, prioritizing high volume/low margins and focusing on simple, easily produced products with limited functionality..
Oracle, on the other hand, comes from the other end of the tech spectrum as an enterprise software company and successful purveyor of complex multifunctional and customizable solutions, for which they could charge a premium price. Anybody familiar with Oracle knows that simplicity and transparency were rarely the primary focus, not least when it comes to the structure of the licensing agreements and functionality of its software.
For nearly a decade, Oracle disregarded the emergence of cloud computing despite the demand of their customers. However, they soon realized the importance of cloud computing and quickly shifted their focus towards it. In what seemed like a sudden transformation, Oracle’s slogan changed from “There is no cloud – It’s just somebody else’s computer” to “Oracle Cloud – Complete Cloud Infrastructure”.
Oracle has traditionally operated with an enterprise software mindset, which involves high margins and low volume. Their software has a history of complexity, ranging from license structures to the inner workings of their products. Due to their initial resistance to the cloud, some of their offerings are simply Oracle hosting with a new label.
Oracle provides a comprehensive range of cloud services, focusing on Software as a Service. They started offering these services much later than Amazon. As a result, they are still catching up in many areas, which can be challenging for customers. In contrast, Amazon focuses primarily on Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service, with a more limited range of offerings that appeal to developers. If you require business systems, you may need to seek out other providers. Oracle also appeals to end users working in enterprises through their decades of supplying enterprise systems.
These are generalizations from my years of work helping customers using both platforms and explain quite a lot that you will experience comparing them. You can read more about the history and nature of these two companies in my book Cloud Computing Basics – A Non-Technical Introduction