The Audacity of Oracle Cloud

Tickers in this article: AMZN RAX VMW RHT ORCL

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- When is a cloud not a cloud?

When it's an Oracle Cloud (ORCL) , announced officially yesterday.

Cloud computing has many elements.

  • Virtualization. We don't care what operating system that program was written under. It will run in our cloud because our hypervisor will make it do so.
  • Distributed computing. We don't care that your data and software are too big for one machine, or that demand might overwhelm one quite suddenly. Use the whole server room.
  • The ability to handle big data sets. Analyzing haystacks to find needles? Cloud does that in a jiffy.

Oracle Cloud has all this. But there are other things Oracle Cloud doesn't have. Commodity hardware? No. Open source? No. Vendor choice? Definitely not.

So why was Larry Ellison smiling yesterday and throwing out attacks on competitors like Muhammad Ali in his prime? That's the audacity of Oracle Cloud.

If you think it would be tough to leave your iPhone for Android, or Windows for the Mac, you know nothing about the pain one of the Fortunate 500 feels in thinking about their database vendor. For a big company, the database is the company. It's the crown jewels, it's the money vault. Lose that and you might as well put out the "gone fishing" sign.

Beyond the database are the key applications that run on it. Your customer relationships. Your business processes. Your enterprise planning. It may have cost millions to build, but it's worth billions, and would cost hundreds of millions to replace.

Oracle's database applications are the pinnacle of what's called enterprise computing. What was once client-server has evolved into an architecture. You increase capacity by buying a server. You pay for your software with per-server license fees, and maintenance fees, every year.

Even if you wanted to switch, who could you switch to? Microsoft(MSFT) ? IBM(IBM) ? OK, name three. And you're talking about a multiyear plan that might cost your CEO his job because it might not completely work. So even what looks from the outside like monopoly control looks from the inside like a devil's bargain that must be made.

Oracle has built a virtually impregnable moat around its customers. They know it, Oracle knows it. If you were Ellison, you'd laugh like Guy Fawkes too.

Real cloud threatens to destroy all this. Amazon's(AMZN) EC2 can take workloads directly off these enterprise systems. VMWare(VMW) and Red Hat (RHT) offer software that can let you do the same on your hardware, in your IT department. In many cases this is open source software. Rackspace's(RAX) sponsorship of an open source cloud infrastructure, OpenStack, has taken it from a sleepy San Antonio, Texas, Web host to an enterprise powerhouse in just three years.