Archive for October 2017

Oracle: All the New Stuff Inside Everything

Oracle Open World 2017

As expected, Oracle OpenWorld 2017 (Oct. 1 – 4 2017) featured a large number of announcements. The debut of Oracle 18c, the latest version of Oracle’s eponymous database, grabbed the most attention. Given it’s billing as an autonomous database and Oracle’s flagship product, this is not suprising.. While the idea of a database infused with machine learning that automates all types of database management functions is intriguing, it overshadowed the real impact of Oracle releases. Oracle 18c was only one of several AI-infused “autonomous” products. Instead, the sum of Oracle’s presentations amounted to adding machine learning into all levels in the Big Red Cloud Stack. AI is now integrated into Oracle’s SaaS, PaaS, IaaS cloud products. Oracle didn’t stop with machine learning either. They have imbued their applications with analytics and blockchain technology too. Oracle have made this technology available from within Oracle Cloud Applications and Oracle+NetSuite, providing advanced technology to mid-market organizations through large enterprises.

In essence, Oracle has made sure that all the new technology that everyone has been hearing about for so long is everywhere in the Oracle ecosystem. That’s very exciting. Previously esoteric technology is now available to the corporate masses in a more cost-effective manner. This strategy mirrors Microsoft’s but with greater depth in large enterprise applications. Until recently, organizations that saw value in these new software technologies would have had to hire experts and maintain expensive systems themselves. By integrating them into enterprise applications in domain specific ways, organizations can reap the benefits of advanced software without the cost of building and maintaining it. This approach makes sense; Technology such as machine learning, analytics, or blockchain doesn’t need to be custom built for most organizations. Managing a supply chain using blockchain, for example, will be similar across organizations. The same is true for sales analytics and machine learning for recruiting.

If an enterprise does need to create specialized uses of these technologies, Oracle makes that easier by providing them as cloud infrastructure services. While data scientists and developers trained in blockchain are still needed, the cost and complexity of building, managing, and maintaining the infrastructure is borne by Oracle. Having these advanced technology stacks prepacked as cloud services also means a faster start. Developers can begin writing code immediately instead of having to waste time spinning up the infrastructure. Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and IBM all offer all or some of this technology via the cloud as well. For Oracle loyalists though, the decision to implement just became easier since they no longer have to introduce a new vendor to deploy these types of systems. The tie-in to enterprise cloud applications also simplifies adding customer capabilities to common enterprise applications.

By integrating these three new technologies into everyday enterprise and mid-market applications and providing them as a service, Oracle is making them more accessible to a greater number of organizations. Oracle customers can now gain the benefits of new technology with less of the work or distraction of building it all themselves.

Quantum Computing Gets a New Player

Feynman Diagram

This was originally published on the Amalgam Insights website.

Last week (the week of September 25th, 2017) Microsoft made a huge announcement at its annual Ignite and Envision conference. Microsoft has become one of a small number of companies that is demonstrating quantum computing. IBM is another company that is also pursuing this rather futuristic computing model.

For those who are not up to date on quantum computing, it uses quantum properties such as superposition and entanglement to develop a new way of computing. Current computers are built around tiny electron switches called transistors that allow for two states, which represent the binary system we have today. Quantum computers leverage quantum states that give us ones, zeros, and combinations of one and zero. This means a single qubit, the quantum equivalent of a bit, can represent many more states than the bit can. This is, of course, a gross oversimplification but quantum computing promises to deliver more dense and exponentially faster computing.

There are a number of problems with practical quantum computing. The hardware is still in a nascent stage and must be cooled to a temperature that is quite a bit colder than deep space. This makes it much more likely that quantum computing will be purchased via a cloud model than on-premises. The other inhibitor is that there is no standard programming model for quantum computing. IBM has demonstrated a visual programming model that shows how quantum computing works but is clearly not going to be a serious way to write real programs. Microsoft, on the other hand, showed a more standard looking curly bracket programming language. This application layer makes quantum computing more accessible to existing programmers who are more used to the current model of computing.

When quantum computing becomes practical – I would predict that is at least 5 years away, perhaps longer – it won’t be for everyday computing tasks. The current model is already more than adequate for those tasks. It’s also unlikely that the capabilities of quantum computers, especially the information dense qubit, and costs will have much a place in transactional computing. Instead, quantum computing will be used for analyzing very large and complex data sets for simulation and AI. That’s fine because the AI and analytics market is still new and the future needs are not yet completely known. That future computing needs is what quantum computing is meant to address. Even today’s big data applications can stretch computing capabilities and force batch analytics instead of real-time for some use cases.

Microsoft’s entry into what has been an otherwise esoteric corner of the computing world signals that quantum computing is on the path to being real. It has a long way to go and many obstacles to overcome but it’s no longer just science fiction or academic. It will be years but it is on the way to becoming mainstream.