Oracle founder and CTO Larry Ellison has been talking up his latest, greatest database for a couple of years now — but on Thursday the company gave an update as to how well the recently introduced cloud version is selling.
Oracle calls this product the Autonomous Database, because it automatically applies security patches and “tunes” itself to improve performance. The database was first announced in 2017, but a new service that Oracle calls Gen2, which offers the database in Oracle’s cloud along with a bunch of special security features, was announced in October.
As part of the company’s FY 2019 third-quarter earnings report, Ellison said on Thursday that the database now has nearly 1,000 customers, and is undergoing 4,000 user trials elsewhere.
“It’s early days, but this is the most successful introduction of a new product in Oracle’s forty year history,” Ellison said.
He further explained on the quarterly conference call with analysts that the database is key to Oracle’s future.
“Oracle’s future rests on two strategic businesses: cloud applications and cloud infrastructure,” he said.
To date, most of Oracle’s cloud revenue is based on its cloud applications business, which includes its financial applications (known as enterprise resource management, or ERP) and its HR apps (known in the enterprise app world as as human capital management, or HCM).
But the new database is the lynchpin of the “cloud infrastructure” piece, Ellison says, and it is how the company plans to take on cloud mega-giant Amazon Web Services.
AWS offers its own cloud databases, including Aurora and Redshift, and has been very deliberately targeting Oracle’s customers — going so far as to build a tool that makes it easy to switch your database from Oracle to AWS.
Ellison is ready for the fight. Touting better security and faster performance is how Oracle is attempting to woo companies to sign on with its cloud, and not defect to Amazon.
“Our infrastructure technology is highly differentiated from AWS. Each one of our cloud computers has a separate security processor and memory to insulate customers from intruding upon each other,” he said on the call.
Ellison likes to say that this speed and power will save customers money. AWS executives counter that their databases work better for how customers are actually building their software in the cloud. Indeed, Amazon likes to trash talk Oracle’s business model and its treatment of its customers.
On the Thursday analyst call, Ellison discussed one customer, a university that he didn’t name, which ditched AWS for Oracle’s cloud and database.
“We’ve got one customers who’s done a series of tests. They were AWS users. We’ve got these AWS ads that promise ‘cut your bills in half.’ They found we’re running 11.5 times faster than they were running on AWS and they cut their bill by 80%,” he said.
This was a university running an app that used machine learning and computer vision to look at tissue samples and cells for cancer. So, its worth noting, that’s not a typical way to use a database, compared with, say, storing lists of employee information or sales transactions.
This sunny view of Oracle’s important database product was part of Oracle’s third quarter earnings, which offered a healthy beat on revenue and earnings versus Wall street estimates.
Oracle reported revenue of $9.61 billion, down by 1% from the year-ago quarter, that beat expectations by $20 million. Non-GAAP earnings per share was 87 cents, beating expectations by 3 cents. GAAP EPS was 76 cents.
Oracle no longer breaks out its cloud revenue so it’s difficult to see how that all-important business is doing in terms of sales. Management discussed “double digit” growth rates, which would be table-stakes growth for a company transforming itself from an old-school software maker to a cloud company.