Oracle Cloud Has Achieved Momentum Through Differentiation

By Matt Kimball, Patrick Moorhead - March 22, 2024

When Oracle launched its second-generation cloud in 2016, it revealed an architecture designed from the ground up for cloud workloads: Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. In the eight years since that launch, Oracle has spun up 100-plus cloud services supporting more than a thousand government customers and tens of thousands of enterprise customers across 60-plus datacenters around the globe—with another 100 planned.

Oracle Cloud’s nearly $20 billion annual revenue run rate (as reported in the company’s latest quarterly earnings) is driven by growth that outpaces the market. While its applications cloud business grew at a brisk 15% annually, its infrastructure business grew at an incredible 52%. I believe this kind of growth results from Oracle’s strong legacy in helping organizations worldwide tackle their most complex challenges and its reputation for performance, reliability and security.

In the following sections, I’ll look back at the highlights over the past year and make some bold predictions for where OCI will go in 2024.

Full disclosure: Oracle is a client of Moor Insights & Strategy, as are its competitors AWS, Microsoft, Google and IBM.

OCI Has Delivered Differentiation In The Cloud

While OCI doesn’t have the market share of some of its competitors (especially the Big Three of AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud), it competes in virtually every other sense. And in some ways, it presents a more compelling destination for organizations looking to employ cloud services.

To begin with, OCI has global scale. It is comprised of 48 public cloud regions across 24 countries, with an aggressive plan to increase this footprint. In addition, the architecture of OCI’s public cloud regions enables OCI to deploy new regions of any size and to scale up as needed. Further, each OCI region is identical in terms of infrastructure, connectivity, security and portfolio of services. This is important for customers deploying workloads and applications across multiple regions.

Oracle has created a couple of unique OCI offerings for customers that face unique challenges in terms of application latency or data locality. Within the Oracle Cloud@Customer portfolio of products, which includes Exadata Cloud@Customer and Compute Cloud@Customer, Oracle deploys rack-level cloud infrastructure at the location of a customer’s choice. Oracle Cloud@Customer is deployed and managed entirely by OCI, allowing the customer to take full advantage of the cloud experience on-premises.

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Another example is OCI Dedicated Region. It delivers a fully self-contained OCI cloud region in the customer’s datacenter or a location of their choosing (e.g., a colocation facility). By “OCI cloud region,” I mean an exact replication of any other OCI region. For customers that have the highest requirements around security, regulations and data locality at scale, using a Dedicated Region is the way to go. As with Oracle Cloud@Customer, OCI handles the deployment, support and overall operations of the environment while the customer simply uses the service in a true opex model.

To further bolster its portfolio of cloud offerings, OCI introduced several notable new products in 2023, including:

  • Oracle EU Sovereign Cloud — OCI cloud regions located only within the geographic boundaries of the EU, for use by private and public sector organizations.
  • Oracle Database@Azure — A partnership between Oracle and Microsoft in which Oracle databases running on OCI hardware are physically installed in Azure datacenters and managed as an Azure service. (More on this below.)
  • OCI Generative AI Service — An OCI managed service enabling AI across a range of use cases through an LLM API interface.
  • OCI Supercluster — A service that provides the bare-metal infrastructure and high-speed networking required to run HPC and AI workloads.
  • Oracle Compute Cloud@Customer — A fully managed rack-scale version of OCI that can be deployed in a customer’s datacenter or other location of their choosing.
  • MySQL HeatWave Lakehouse — An OCI service that allows customers to query data in a variety of storage formats and automatically build and train ML models. This service is available on OCI, AWS and Azure.
  • Oracle Database 23c Free — A fully featured, entry-level database that is designed to help customers and developers deploy on Oracle database environments.

These are just a few examples of how OCI has differentiated itself in a very competitive CSP market against the Big Three cloud giants. This wouldn’t be possible if Oracle hadn’t leaned on its decades of experience in supporting mission-critical apps and data across the enterprise. That said, it’s worth noting the magnitude of the challenge Oracle is facing. Exhibit A is AWS, the largest cloud service provider, which dwarfs OCI in terms of business customers. In fact, AWS’s latest quarterly revenue of about $24 billion is a few billion dollars higher than OCI’s annual revenue.

Unsurprisingly, services such as Oracle Cloud@Customer, OCI Dedicated Region and OCI Distributed Cloud have landed on Gartner’s Magic Quadrant rankings for Distributed Hybrid Infrastructure and Strategic Cloud Platform Services.

We live in a multi-cloud world. There is not a single IT executive I speak with who sees their organization deploying to—or utilizing services from—just one cloud provider. From my conversations with the team at OCI, they fully understand this. They’ve worked to deliver a cloud architecture complemented by technology and services that enable customers to deploy applications (from Oracle or any other vendor) wherever it makes sense for their business in a frictionless, performant, secure and cost-effective way. This is an innovation that cuts across multiple planes.

OCI Has Attracted Both Unicorns And Established Enterprises

OCI entered 2024 boasting a very impressive customer list. It includes government entities that span local to federal around the globe, plus some of the largest multinationals such as Toyota, Samsung, Vodafone, Wendy’s, United Airlines and FedEx. And for each large multinational organization using Oracle Cloud services, there are thousands of other traditional enterprise customers.

Having these customers is impressive but not surprising, given Oracle’s history. What I do find interesting is how Oracle has been able to attract cloud-native unicorns that seemingly came out of nowhere. A good example of this is Uber, perhaps the granddaddy of born-in-the-cloud organizations. In this partnership, Uber utilizes OCI to accelerate innovation, help deliver new products to market and drive increased profitability. For example, by leveraging Oracle’s depth in the retail space, Uber can better manage the last mile of delivery between its retail partners and customers. At Oracle CloudWorld 2023, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi noted that Oracle Cloud “has allowed us to be able to scale these products in a way that we could have never before . . . And when we look at our growth this year and going to next year, 100% of our growth in compute is going to come on the Oracle Cloud.”

I mention these customers and customer types because they demonstrate the transformation that has taken place at Oracle. The company that once focused solely on building its list of large enterprise accounts is now going out of its way to find companies of all sizes and types to use its services.

Partnerships Have Delivered Value

“Oracle” and “partnerships” are not two words one would have put together just a few years ago. While Oracle undoubtedly had the best data management platform for decades, it was also a company that most customers perceived—correctly—to be less focused on building technology partnerships.

OCI has seen a dramatic shift in the company’s approach to partnerships. Cloud organizations can be successful only if they are open and willing to embrace the strengths of the ecosystem to deliver a differentiated and performant customer experience. In 2023, we saw OCI deepen its partnerships with companies such as Nvidia, Microsoft, VMware and Red Hat so customers could choose best-of-breed technologies in the cloud.

A great example of how Oracle embraces its partners is what OCI has done with Microsoft. Though most would see the two companies as fierce rivals in the enterprise, they’ve long collaborated on driving a better multi-cloud experience with Oracle Interconnect for Azure, a high-speed, secure pipe between Azure and OCI regions.

In 2023, the market saw the relationship taken to a deeper level with the announcement of Oracle Database@Azure. As part of this partnership, customers can deploy their Oracle databases on OCI hardware physically located in Azure datacenters. This delivers performance and simplicity to these customers that nobody would have considered possible not long ago. However, the deep engineering collaboration between these two organizations has created a dynamic in which all parties win.

Of course, OCI’s deployment of bare-metal instances of Nvidia’s H100 GPUs has also been a boon for the company as it powers massive growth in AI. In fact, Microsoft Bing conversational search performs AI inferencing by using OCI compute via Oracle Interconnect for Azure.

These are just a few examples of how OCI is leveraging partnerships to meet the needs of its customers. And these efforts seem to be working, as Oracle Cloud now supports about 1.5 million developers around the globe.

Relevant Product And Service Innovation

I trace Oracle’s success with OCI back to innovation that is directly relevant to customers. This speaks to the fact that Oracle has designed and delivered products to the enterprise for a long time. Oracle understands what its customers want and need and focuses on delivering value in this space. It is not going to pursue innovation simply for the sake of innovation, but rather to solve customers’ problems.

We can see how Oracle has found such success in generative AI as an example of pursuing relevant innovation. OCI’s AI Infrastructure leads the industry in price-for-performance thanks to its OCI Supercluster, a system designed specifically for training machine learning applications such as generative AI. It’s a service that is only possible because of the deep engineering relationship Oracle has with Nvidia.

One last example of OCI gaining traction through innovation in 2023 is Oracle Alloy. This OCI service is a platform that enables partners of all sizes, including organizations such as Nomura Research Institute and TEAM IM, to build and deliver cloud services to their customers quickly. Whether it’s an ISV or an MSP supporting a customer base with unique regulatory requirements, Alloy allows these organizations to quickly create and brand their cloud services with complete confidence in OCI’s performance on the back end.

Closing Thoughts

As I’ve said before, what we’re seeing these days is a different Oracle. I was one of many loud critics when the first-gen Oracle Cloud was launched in 2014. To Oracle’s credit, it heard this criticism and went back to the drawing board to build a second generation of OCI—a cloud environment truly architected for the cloud, from the ground up. Oracle is perhaps the only major CSP to be able to claim this.

Further, Oracle is redefining how to deliver cloud services. Its collaboration with other cloud providers and technology vendors results in real value for customers. I believe this continued innovation through a partnership approach will force an industry-wide reckoning that customers crave—a true multi-cloud market that enables choice without compromise.

The results of Oracle’s efforts speak for themselves. OCI has seen exponential growth over the last five years in terms of both customer acquisition and technical capabilities. From data management to infrastructure to AI, Oracle is innovating across multiple vectors at breakneck speed, so much so that the list of its 2023 announcements related to product innovations, strategic partnerships and key customers is indeed too long to cover in a single article. I expect the same for 2024.

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Matt Kimball is a Moor Insights & Strategy senior datacenter analyst covering servers and storage. Matt’s 25 plus years of real-world experience in high tech spans from hardware to software as a product manager, product marketer, engineer and enterprise IT practitioner.  This experience has led to a firm conviction that the success of an offering lies, of course, in a profitable, unique and targeted offering, but most importantly in the ability to position and communicate it effectively to the target audience.
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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.