Oracle OpenWorld, its annual marquee event which starts on Sunday, can be overwhelming. This year, the agenda shows more than 1,800 sessions spread across 12 venues in and around Moscone Center. That section of San Francisco shuts down to cars for much of the week. The sessions cover Oracle’s ever growing product portfolio, Industry solutions and partner presentations. Then there is no shortage of bands and parties.
This year I reached out to Letty Letbetter in Analyst Relations and requested her help customizing a SaaS-heavy agenda. She is arranging for SaaS specific executive and customer meetings during my time. She also arranged a sneak preview from Steve Miranda, Executive Vice President, Applications Development. Here are some of the topics we covered. Look forward to more from him next week as Oracle will be out of its “quiet period” by then
SM: Larry Ellison and other executive keynotes will highlight our cloud products across the board - applications, infrastructure, platform, data as a service. You will hear how we got here through years of investment and steady progress across the board. We believe that significant investment has led to our strong growth rate (Oracle reported Q1 FY17 GAAP SAAS and PAAS Revenues were up 77% - see here) but also differentiates us going forward. It wasn't like, hey, the world changed and we took our existing stuff and hosted it. We built for the cloud and in the cloud from scratch.
On the applications side, the SaaS sessions, you will hear that same tone but represented much more in terms of customers. So my general session will have several brand-name customers - Vodafone, Clorox, GE Digital, Pella and Profound Medical. They are all running different aspects of the cloud - ERP, core manufacturing, financials, SCM, sourcing automation, marketing and service.
The first question to each will be - tell us about your company, tell us what you're trying to address, but what I really want to get to is the second part which let's say are a tougher set of questions, that I get every day from our customers, in terms of their movement to the cloud. As an example, I get security questions every day from customers moving to the cloud. So my questions to the panel will focus on customers considering the cloud and potential challenges to their move. And customers with real experience on live cloud products can directly talk to those questions.
Examples: Vodafone, you have cloud security concerns, have data residency concerns, because you run across Europe. How did Oracle address that? Second is the speed of innovation and agility. GE Digital, a new division within GE, how are we keeping up with what you need? What are you after? Another will be customization in the cloud. The Pella Corporation, can you tell us how were you customized before and what have you done to simplify business processes, how our cloud software allowed you to configure where you used to customize, and how you've used PaaS as an additive part to that?
Most of these customers are larger companies. Profound Medical will represent smaller brands. They happen to be running our manufacturing app as well. Throughout the conference this year you will see bigger brand names. Last year you probably saw a larger volume of smaller companies. This year you will see the trend of larger companies also moving to our cloud.
“Adaptive Intelligent Applications”
SM: We are excited to launch an amazing new category of applications. You will see them in Larry's kickoff session on Sunday. I’ll give a demo. It is a new set of applications we are launching called Adaptive Intelligent Apps. Basically, what we're doing is leveraging our data cloud, which I know you're familiar with (having profiled BlueKai), together with machine-learning algorithms and incorporating that into our transactional applications to derive better BI/better decision-making, and frankly, a new category of applications. The first one which we'll launch and demo is our next best offer, next best action - essentially a recommendation engine off of our cloud commerce.
If you think about how we use our data cloud today for marketing, we track, as you know, cookie data, mobile phone data, actual credit card purchase data, and we have what we think is the richest ID graph in the world, so that's an ID graph to match your cookies and your activity with your email address, with your social handles etc., and better able to serve ads to you, either online or offline via email. We are taking that same capability to recommendation engines in the commerce space. This is different than what you might see from some e-commerce stores who, if you've shopped there before or if you have an account there, or if you're a loyalty card member, they can recommend based on previous activity. With ours, you need not have any previous activity whatsoever on the site, or even if you shop for things on other sites, we will have that information and be able to give you the best recommendation and the best starting launch page. (Steve then proceeded to do a quick demo him sitting in CA and me in FL. I don’t want to blow his surprise, so you will have to wait to see it Sunday)
As you know (from my recent book on automation, Silicon Collar), there is a lot of talk about machine learning. There is quite a bit of best-in-class open source software but we think the two things that will differentiate us now and long-term. First is the data which we use to tune our machine-learning algorithms. We think we've got the richest consumer, real-time, continuously updated, data set in the world, to tune those algorithms with. Second, we'll be able to deliver these things not in an abstract manner - here's the data set and here's a learning algorithm. We will deliver it in conjunction with the applications so that you have smart and adaptive applications based on not only your internal data but your external data.
Sure, our competitors are going to talk about it (Salesforce is expected to announce its Einstein AI offering at Dreamforce next month) but I have no idea how one will build a machine-learning tool without a data set on which the machine can learn from. I think they will have an interesting time responding to us and it will certainly be a competitive area for us.
You will hear about a number of industry specific innovations. In financials, we have brand new support for public sector with budgetary control encumbrance, and we have a brand new module for revenue management around IFRS support. In HR, we've continued the innovation in terms of globalizations as well as public sector, and a brand new app similar to our lifestyle apps you have seen before, a new one around corporate giving and corporate donations, so tracking both at the employee level and having corporate programs do that incorporated with their HR system.
In both HR and finance, we will introduce our cloud-based student system. In core manufacturing, we've expanded portfolio to include newer planning functionality. In logistics, we just announced the acquisition of LogFire, so we will talk more about warehouse management applications. In CRM you'll see a host of new features for Telco, Financial Services, CPG, and health care as well.