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AWS Exec Fires Back at Oracle's Mark Hurd over Cloud Superiority Claims

The war of words among execs at Amazon Web Services Inc. (AWS) and cloud computing competitor Oracle Corp. is continuing, with the latest salvo launched by AWS vice president and distinguished engineer James Hamilton in response to comments made by Oracle co-CEO Mark Hurd.

Hurd was quoted in a Fortune article earlier this month titled "Oracle CEO: We Can Beat Amazon and Microsoft Without as Many Data Centers," wherein he claimed Oracle has an advantage over AWS based on superior hardware, databases, intellectual property and software.

"If I have two-times faster computers, I don't need as many data centers," Hurd was quoted as saying. "If I can speed up the database, maybe I need one fourth as may data centers. I can go on and on about how tech drives this."

The Fortune article went on to provide some context.

"Oracle has said it runs its data centers on Oracle Exadata servers, which are turbocharged machines that differ fundamentally from the bare-bones servers that other public cloud providers deploy by the hundreds of thousands in what is called a scale-out model," it said. "The idea is that when a server or two among the thousands fail -- as they will -- the jobs get routed to still-working machines. It's about designing applications that are easily redeployed.

"Oracle is banking more on what techies call a "scale-up" model in which fewer, but very powerful computers -- in Exadata's case each with its own integrated networking and storage-- take on big workloads."

Last week, Hamilton fired back in a post on his blog (which states opinions expressed are his own) titled "How Many Data Centers Needed World-Wide."

Hamilton's long post, full of numbers, facts and references, starts out thusly:

Last week Fortune asked Mark Hurd, Oracle co-CEO, how Oracle was going to compete in cloud computing when their capital spending came in at $1.7B whereas the aggregate spending of the three cloud players was $31B. Essentially the question was, if you assume the big three are spending roughly equally, how can $1.7B compete with more than $10B when it comes to serving customers? It's a pretty good question and Mark's answer was an interesting one "If I have two-times faster computers, I don't need as many data centers. If I can speed up the database, maybe I need one fourth as may data centers."

Of course, I don't believe that Oracle has, or will ever get, servers 2x faster than the big three cloud providers. I also would argue that 'speeding up the database' isn't something Oracle is uniquely positioned to offer. All major cloud providers have deep database investments but, ignoring that, extraordinary database performance won't change most of the factors that force successful cloud providers to offer a large multi-national data center footprint to serve the world. Still, Hurd's offhand comment raises the interesting question of how many data centers will be required by successful international cloud service providers.

Hamilton then went on to discuss "N+1 redundancy" and a bunch of other technical and nontechnical statements. He ended with: "We will all work hard to eliminate every penny of unneeded infrastructure investment, but there will be no escaping the massive data center counts outlined here nor the billions these deployments will cost. There is no short cut and the only way to achieve excellent world-wide cloud services is to deploy at massive scale."

In this war of words, Hurd and Hamilton aren't the only combatants.

Just before the above exchange started, for example, CNBC published an article titled "Amazon cloud chief jabs Oracle: 'Customers are sick of it'."

The CNBC article, reporting on comments made by AWS chief Andy Jassy at the recent AWS Summit. The article starts out:

Amazon and Oracle don't much like each other.

On Wednesday, two months after Oracle co-CEO Mark Hurd called Amazon's cloud infrastructure "old" and claimed his company was gaining share, Amazon Web Services chief Andy Jassy slammed Oracle for locking customers into painfully long and expensive contracts.

"People are very sensitive about being locked in given the experience they've had the last 10 to 15 years," Jassy said on Wednesday on stage at Amazon's AWS Summit in San Francisco. "When you look at cloud, it's nothing like being locked into Oracle."

Even though its cloud platform is dwarfed by that of industry pioneer and leader AWS, Oracle has long been challenging its bigger rival, as we've reported in articles such as:

Judging from this month's verbal exchanges, that trend is likely to continue on the product front and in the media.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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