Oracle's AWS-Killer Sees Daylight
- By John K. Waters
Oracle's new Bare Metal Cloud Services, part of its next-generation Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) portfolio and a targeted challenge to Amazon Web Services (AWS), is now generally available.
Launched last week, the new IaaS product provides a "bare metal" cloud -- servers with no Oracle software running on them -- in a virtualized network environment that delivers high-performance Database as a Service (DBaaS), network block storage, object storage and VPN connectivity. The new services interoperate with existing Oracle Public Cloud services and can be provisioned on-demand, by console or API, with pay-for-what-you-use billing.
What Oracle is calling its first-generation IaaS has served as the foundation for the company's own clouds. The Bare Metal services represent "Generation 2" and were reportedly built from scratch by a Seattle-based team of rock-star developers who worked previously on Amazon Web Service (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.
Deepak Patil, vice president of development in Oracle's IaaS Platform group, was one of the founding members of the Azure development team at Microsoft. He moved to Oracle just over a year ago to work on the Bare Metal project.
"It was a compellingly awesome proposition for me and others who came to Oracle to work on this project," Patil said in an interview. "Thomas [Kurian, Oracle's president of Product Development,] and the rest of Oracle's leadership said, 'Hey, you guys have built successful, very large-scale, global cloud platforms over the better part of the last decade. You made a lot of mistakes, learned a lot of lessons and talked with thousands of customers. How would you like to take what you've learned, start with a clean slate and build the first second-generation cloud platform in the industry?' I mean really, how could anyone say no to that?"
More important than this particular product announcement, Patil said, is the Generation 2 foundational model and infrastructure on which the core Bare Metal Cloud Services were built. "We took a step back and took a looked at the infrastructure, network and software ecosystems and made some fundamentally differentiating decisions," he said.
At the heart of this new model is the software-defined network (SDN), Patil said.
"One of the things we learned over the past decade is that much of the magic of the cloud happens in the network," he said. "And so for us, the network is the platform. A lot of the Gen 1 cloud platforms out there have, for example, put I/O virtualization in the hypervisor. We took I/O virtualization out of the hypervisor and put it into the network -- a bump in the wire that sits outside the host server. That not only takes the overhead of hypervisor out of the servers, but allows us to fundamentally differentiate with the network. We have built a very flat, non-blocking, completely non-oversubscribed virtual relay network that is highly scalable and secure."
Another differentiator Patil points to: Oracle is the only large-scale cloud provider to build its entire hardware stack in-house. "Having people who are designing my hardware next door to me allows me to integrate the two systems in fairly unprecedented ways," he said.
Oracle's release of its Bare Metal Cloud Services is just the beginning of a wave of releases enabled by this new infrastructure -- this isolation of the management control plane from the servers, Patil said. In the future, Oracle plans to put virtual machines and containers on the same network, and even allow customers to bring "any middle boxes" to the system.
Oracle previewed its new Bare Metal Cloud Services at its annual OpenWorld conference last month. During his conference keynote, Oracle executive chairman and CTO Larry Ellison declared that "Amazon's lead is over." Bare Metal "delivers twice the compute, twice the memory, four times the storage and ten times more I/O at a 20 percent lower price than Amazon Web Services," he said in an earlier statement, adding that this release "represents a huge new cloud opportunity for Oracle to layer on top of our rapidly growing SaaS and PaaS businesses."
Gartner analyst Lydia Leong got an early look at Bare Metal in September. In a blog post she described it as "a true software-defined cloud IaaS offering, provisioned in minutes and billed by the hour. This sets it apart from more hosting-like bare-metal offerings such as IBM SoftLayer, Internap and Cogeco Peer 1."
But she added, "I would characterize this early offering as minimum viable product; it is the foundation of a future competitive offering, rather than a competitive offering today."
John has been covering the high-tech beat from Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area for nearly two decades. He serves as Editor-at-Large for Application Development Trends (www.ADTMag.com) and contributes regularly to Redmond Magazine, The Technology Horizons in Education Journal, and Campus Technology. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including The Everything Guide to Social Media; The Everything Computer Book; Blobitecture: Waveform Architecture and Digital Design; John Chambers and the Cisco Way; and Diablo: The Official Strategy Guide.