Recently I had an opportunity to attend the Next Generation Cloud Summit, an event organized by Oracle in Seattle, WA for industry analysts to learn about the latest developments in Oracle Cloud strategy. This was the first Oracle’s analyst summit in Seattle and coincidentally my first time in the Cloud city as well… Apparently, that’s a legitimate nickname for Seattle for a few years already, since all notable cloud service providers are located there, with Google and Oracle joining AWS and Microsoft at their historical home grounds by opening their cloud offices in the city.

Alas, when it comes to weather, Seattle in winter lives up to its nickname as well – it was raining non-stop for the whole three days I’ve spent at the event. Oh well, at least nothing distracted me from learning and discussing the latest developments in Oracle’s cloud infrastructure, database, and analytics, security and application development portfolios. Unfortunately, some of the things I’ve learned are still under NDA for some time, but I think that even the things we can already talk about clearly show that Oracle has finally found the right way to reinvent itself.

A veteran database technology vendor, the company has been working hard to establish itself as a prominent cloud service provider in the recent years, and the struggle to bridge the cultural gap between the old-school “sealed ecosystem” approach Oracle has been so notorious for and the open and heterogeneous nature of the cloud has been very real.

A latecomer to the cloud market, the company had a unique opportunity not to repeat all the mistakes of its older competitors and to implement their cloud infrastructure with a much higher level of security by design (at least in what Oracle refers to as the “second generation cloud”). Combined with a rich suite of business applications and the industry-leading database to power them, Oracle had all the components of a successful public cloud, but unfortunately, it took them quite some time to figure out how to market it properly.

It was only last year when the company has finally stopped trying to fight with competing cloud providers on their terms with tactics like claiming that Oracle cloud is cheaper than AWS (while it might technically be the case for some scenarios, independent tests by industry analysts usually measure cloud costs with completely different methods). Instead, it finally became clear that the company should focus on its unique differentiators and their added value for Oracle cloud customers – such as the performance and compliance benefits of the Autonomous Database, the intelligent capabilities of the Oracle Analytics services and, of course, the cutting-edge networking technology of Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.

However, it’s the year 2020 that’s going to be the decisive push for Oracle’s new cloud strategy, and the company demonstrates its commitment with some impressive developments. First of all, by the end of this year, Oracle Cloud will expand from the current 17 regions to 36, including such countries as Israel, Saudi Arabia or Chile, to bring its services to all major markets. In addition, Oracle is expanding the interconnect program with Microsoft, increasing the number of data centers with high-speed direct connections to Azure cloud to six. This strategic partnership with Microsoft finally makes true multi-cloud scenarios possible, where developers could, for example, deploy their frontend applications using Azure services while keeping their data in Autonomous databases on managed Exadata servers in the Oracle Cloud.

Speaking of “autonomous”, the company is continuing to expand this brand and ultimately to deliver a comprehensive, highly integrated and, of course, intelligent suite of services under the Autonomous Data Platform moniker: this will not only include various flavors of the “self-driving” Oracle Database but a range of data management services for all kinds of stakeholders: from developers and data scientists to business analysts and everyone else. Together with the Oracle Analytics Cloud, the company is aiming to provide a complete solution for all your corporate data in one place, with seamless integrations with both Oracle’s own public cloud services, hybrid deployments “at Customer” and even with competitors (now rather partners) like Microsoft.

My personal favorite, however, was Oracle APEX, the company’s low-code development platform that gives mere mortals without programming skills the opportunity to quickly develop simple, but useful and scalable business applications. To be honest, APEX has been an integral part of every Oracle database for over 15 years, but for a long time, it has remained a kind of a hidden gem used primarily by Oracle database customers (I was surprised to learn that Germany has one of the largest APEX communities with hundreds of developers in my hometown alone). Well, now anyone can start with APEX for free without any prerequisites, you don’t even need an Oracle account for that! Alas, I wish Oracle had invested a bit more in promoting tools like this outside of their existing community. I had to travel all the way to Seattle to learn about this, but at least now you don’t have to!

Of course, Oracle still has to learn quite a lot from the likes of Microsoft (how to reinvent its public image for the new generation of IT specialists) and perhaps even Apple (how to charge a premium and still make customers feel happy). But I’m pretty sure they are already on the right track to becoming a proper cloud service provider with a truly open ecosystem and a passionate community.