Last week, I had an opportunity to visit Oracle CloudWorld, the company’s new flagship conference for customers and partners, which is also the reincarnation of the familiar OpenWorld after the three-year break caused by the Covid pandemic. With the new title and location - the event has moved from San Francisco to Las Vegas - everything I felt after stepping into the venue was somehow different and yet the same. On the one hand, I was glad to meet the same crowd and fellow analysts, as well as see many Oracle employees in person after years of just Zoom sessions. On the other – the whole world has changed profoundly because of the recent events, and we all have a different outlook at the current and future business drivers of our industry.

Naturally, this was reflected in the conference’s program as well, starting with the keynotes. Somewhat surprisingly, there was little focus on specific product announcements in the presentations given by Safra Catz, the Oracle’s CEO, and Larry Ellison himself. The former primarily focused on empowering customers to accelerate their digital transformation, which in the current troubling times might be the key not just to success but survival for every organization. From banking and the tech sector to bakers and racing teams – an impressive selection of success stories were presented. To be honest, I’m always more interested in customer stories that involve drama, sudden twists and overcoming unexpected problems. Apparently, Oracle customers have none of those – everything just works faster and costs less.

In his keynote, Ellison has presented his vision of how Oracle is planning to revolutionize healthcare (with help from the recently acquired Cerner, a leading supplier of healthcare information technology). Clearly proud of the COVID tracking solution Oracle created using its APEX low-code development platform, he envisions a platform that makes all medical records for every patient available in every US hospital, making every treatment quicker and safer. To be honest, as a German citizen, I was immediately more concerned about privacy implications of such platforms, but attendees were clearly impressed, if somewhat skeptical whether such an endeavor is even feasible. It will certainly face more than just technological challenges.

Speaking of technology – Oracle, of course, remains a leading database vendor, and announcing Oracle Database 23c, the next long-term support release of the company’s flagship product, was one of the highlights. With more than 300 new features, describing it in detail is definitely out of scope for this blog post, but my favorite announcement was JSON Relational Duality – a revolutionary technology that finally combines the advantages of relational and document databases instead of settling for compromises.

Now data can still be stored in relational format and thus be available for scalable transactional and analytical workloads, but at the same time be accessed and manipulated as JSON documents. This will not just make developers and data analysts happy at the same time. It can also dramatically reduce complexity and improve flexibility of modern applications by eliminating object-relational mappings, streamlining data access via various protocols and APIs and give more weight to the notion of a “converged database”. With additional features like in-database microservice support, stored procedures in JavaScript (and support for Python coming next), and a built-in SQL firewall, the Oracle database will be even more convenient for developers but not at the expense of data security.

It's worth noting however that the company no longer focuses on just one database to rule them all. We have already covered the rapid developments of MySQL HeatWave, Oracle’s cloud MySQL service with built-in acceleration for analytical workloads and machine learning. At the CloudWorld, HeatWave Lakehouse was announced, which supports managing relational and object store data at a 400 TB scale while delivering consistent query performance across this data, thanks to the improved ML-based optimization. In a way, Oracle continues turning MySQL into another converged database that’s familiar to millions of developers around the world and is now available and optimized for multiple clouds.

In fact, support for multiple clouds or even redefining the very notion of multi-cloud was perhaps the biggest topic at the CloudWorld. Again, we have already covered the recent efforts Oracle is putting into establishing strategic partnerships with other public cloud providers or at least making their services available in other clouds to ensure that customers can design their multi-cloud solutions with more choices available and fewer troubles to worry about, such as high latency or egress fees.

But even Oracle’s own cloud is evolving as well. It continues to grow its global presence with 40 current and 7 more regions planned. Oracle is also increasing flexibility for customers to consume its cloud services just the way they need. Building a dedicated cloud region for a large enterprise customer has been possible for some time already, but now it has become more accessible, with dedicated regions built directly in customers’ existing data centers.

And with the recently announced Oracle Alloy, the company now offers a complete infrastructure platform that enables Oracle partners to become cloud providers themselves – offering a full set of cloud services under their own management and branding, customizing capabilities according to different industry and compliance requirements. In more sophisticated scenarios, partners can bring their own hardware or even develop their own services using Oracle’s tools.

Thus, Oracle’s cloud is no longer limited to a specific set of datacenters – it is expanding in multiple directions, interconnecting with other public clouds, branching into dedicated and private cloud deployments or reaching businesses via its partner network. And still, customers can expect to have consistent, convenient, and secure access to the same services they need. And yes, those services may also be faster and cheaper than those offered by some competitors.