Last week at its annual CloudWorld event in Las Vegas, Oracle showed that it, too, is going full throttle on generative AI–and that it has no plans to cower to its biggest rival Amazon Web Services (AWS.)
Before we get into the CloudWorld event itself, it’s important to take a tiny step back to September 14 when the company announced a new partnership with Microsoft that puts Oracle database services on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) in Microsoft Azure. The new Oracle Database@Azure makes Microsoft and Oracle the only two hyperscalers to offer OCI to help simplify cloud migration, deployment and management. Especially when you consider that the partners have achieved rate card and licensing parity so customers can pick the cloud they prefer without impacting cost.
What does it even mean? Basically, database services that were previously available only on OCI are now available via Azure instances with Oracle Exadata server hardware, now co-located within Microsoft-owned datacenters. This enables things like analytics, batch reporting and other tasks to run within and across databases at the same time. Now, users unsure about converting fully to cloud won’t be deterred from going all-in due to fears like performance issues, vendor lock-ins, and the need to recreate workflows on multiple cloud tools. In other words: this is a major power move specifically designed to help both Oracle and Microsoft better compete with cloud market leader, AWS.
What does this have to do with Oracle’s CloudWorld event? In tech today, everything matters. Partnership is the foundation of any winning strategy, and it seems Oracle–and Microsoft, too–think they have a stronger chance to win the race for GenAI together. Just as importantly, the partnership with Oracle Database@Azure is just the beginning.
CloudWorld 2023: A Focus on GenAI
It wouldn’t be a tech event in 2023 unless the focus were on GenAI. During the CloudWorld event, Oracle made numerous announcements about current or planned efforts to distribute GenAI throughout its portfolio of services. The following are just a few:
AI Vector Search: Oracle announced plans to add “semantic search capabilities” using AI vectors to its Oracle Database 23c. AI Vector Search functionalities include a new vector data type, as well as vector indexes and search SQL that allows it to store the semantic content of things like images, audio, text documents, and other unstructured data, organized by similarity. All in all, this means more data can be integrated and accessed more quickly and easily, and especially AI Vector Search enables use of proprietary data in retrieval augmented generation (RAG), the mechanism by which context gets added to a trained AI model to improve relevance. Use cases include things like product suggestions, image searches, sensor data analysis and more.
API-led generative AI Service: Oracle unveiled a new managed service that will allow companies to integrate LLM interfaces in their apps via API. The service is built using LLMs from Cohere, but users will be able to update Cohere’s LLMs using their own data. Models including command (generates text), summarize (summarizes abstract information), and embed (translates text into numerical vectors for LLM use) are available.
The Cohere partnership–and Oracle’s plans to use Cohere’s LLMs to advance GenAI for the enterprise–was announced in June 2023. Yes–three months ago. That’s how fast GenAI is moving.
My SQL HeatWave: Oracle added a new Vector Store to enable companies to operate its MySQL HeatWave data analytics cloud service. The store can ingest documents in numerous formats and store them as “embeddings” that are generated via an encoder model so queries can be run faster. GenAI features include an LLM-driven interface so companies can interact with it in natural language. And the company is enabling cloud choice here as well by adding the Lakehouse capability to Amazon Web Services’ MySQL HeatWave service so customers can more easily map and query terabytes of data in Amazon S3 without paying egress fees.
Fusion Cloud Suites get updated with GenAI: In addition to the announcements above, almost all Fusion Cloud services, including CX, Human Capital Management, Enterprise Resource Planning, and Supply Chain Management, got GenAI updates. There’s also a new Oracle Clinical Digital Assistant for healthcare providers. In fact, numerous Fusion Cloud suites got to better support healthcare enterprise users.
CloudWorld 2023: A focus on vision as much as value
Unlike the Microsoft Event that took place last week, which showcased clear products and solutions, Oracle’s CloudWorld 2023 seemed to focus not as specifically on what Oracle has done, but more on what Oracle believes is possible. We learned that Oracle plans to embed GenAI in all of its products and to develop 50 use cases up front, with more driven by customers themselves. And it checks that Oracle plans to keep customer data security top of mind as it marches forward.
More than anything else, CloudWorld showed that if Cloud is the new Frontier, GenAI is the new weapon for expanding and protecting that frontier, perhaps at whatever cost. Indeed, though its partnership with Microsoft–arguably the leader in GenAI thus far–currently focuses on Oracle Database@Azure, we can all speculate what that partnership may grow to be.
While Oracle didn’t speak specifically regarding pricing, it did say that customers will expect enterprise applications to be infused with AI. AI won’t be an added bonus, it will be the product. And though that might be the case, it seems somewhat foolhardy to jump in head-first before considering the ramifications of such a vision.
Yes, these are exciting times. Yes, GenAI is just getting started. I do wonder which tech giant will be the first to take a step back and ask, “Where are we really going?” before continuing to charge forward.