How Real is The Oracle Automated Database?

Executive Summary

  • Oracle made many ridiculous claims about the autonomous or self-driving database.
  • The reason for the creation of the autonomous database is because Oracle is losing business to the AWS RDS managed database service.
  • Oracle makes is sound as if AI in Oracle’s Automated Database is ARIIA from EagleEye.
  • Oracle upgrades are not free and upgrades have many complications.

Introduction

Oracle has been making great claims related to automation. They introduced something called the “Autonomous Database.” In this article, we will review the claims for the autonomous or automated database.

The Autonomous Database?

Let us begin analyzing the claim being made in the name Oracle has given here. Autonomous means something that runs itself. It would mean that no human intervention would be required to manage the automated database. That is not only is it not an on-premises DBA, but it also does not require management by Oracle or any other entity.

We have been working with databases for years, and we have yet to run into such a database. So it should first be established that this is an enormous claim that Oracle is making.

The Self Driving Database?

Another term used by Oracle in their literature is the term “self-driving.” This seems to imply the same thing as the term automated.

Larry Ellison delivers some preposterous quotes in his explanation of the Oracle Automated Database.

“For a long time people really looked at the promise of AI but it never quite delivered to its promise until very recently. With the advent of the latest version of AI, neural networks with machine learning, we are doing things that hitherto have been considered unimaginable by computers.”

Oracle which is known as being the most expensive database to maintain short of SAP HANA (which has enormous maintenance overhead), Ellison has this to say.

“On an Oracle database running at Amazon, will cost you 5 times what it costs you to run in the Oracle Cloud because it will take you 5 times the amount of computer to do the exact same thing. A Redshift database will cost 10 times more to do the same thing at Oracle Cloud.  And that is not counting the automation of the database function. That is not counting the downtime as Oracle Cloud has virtually no downtime.” 

The Popularity of the Term Automated Database

The following shows Google Trend’s measurement of the popularity of the search term “autonomous database.” Notice the spike in October of 2017. This was when Oracle began a marketing offensive around its autonomous database.

Let us review a some of Oracle’s claims.

“Examples of automation Oracle said it would offer are automated data lake and data prep pipeline creation for data integration; automated data discovery and preparation, with automated analysis for key findings; and automation of identification and remediation of security issues in a developer’s code during application development.”

At OpenWorld in 2017, Larry Ellison claimed

“The new database uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. It’s fully autonomous, and it’s way better than AWS’s database, Ellison said.”

Understanding what AWS Is

Here it needs to be clarified, while AWS has introduced databases like Aurora and DynamoDB, most of AWS is primarily a PaaS/IaaS vendor. And as such AWS’s revenues in databases come from managing databases, it did not develop. Everything from Oracle to SQL Server to open source databases.

So when Ellison says that their new database is “way better than AWS’s database” what database is Larry referring to?
And better for what database? Remember that AWS offers managed Oracle. AWS’s RDS service offers a fully managed service for Amazon Aurora, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, PostgreSQL, MySQL, and MariaDB.

For Oracle, AWS’s managed database service offers the following:

  • Pre-configured Parameters
  • Monitoring and Metrics
  • DB Event Notifications
  • Software Patching
  • Provisioned IOPS (SSD)
  • Automated Backups
  • DB Snapshots
  • DB Instance Class
  • Storage and IOPS
  • Automatic Host Replacement
  • Multi-AZ Deployments

So here Larry seems even to be saying that Cloud Oracle DB is better than AWS’s cloud Oracle DB. The distinction between Oracle and AWS is between Oracle Cloud and AWS’, not Oracle DB and AWS’ database(s).

This perplexing claim is repeated by Steve Daheb of Oracle. In this video, Steve Daheb claims that the Amazon databases like Redshift and Aurora are not open and cannot be ported to other IaaS providers. Steve Daheb seems to miss out on the fact that Redshift and Aurora also cannot be hosted at the Oracle Cloud. Secondly for a company with very little cloud business as a percentage of revenues (roughly 16%) the discussion of cloud is out of proportion with Oracle’s business. Secondly, none the Oracle Automated Database only works (for some strange reason) if it is managed by Oracle. Oracle 18c is not autonomous if installed on premsies — which is where the vast majority of Oracle databases reside. 

Furthermore, AWS has both a BYOL, or bring your own license model. This means that whatever a company purchases from Oracle can be run on AWS.

“Bring Your Own License (BYOL): In this licensing model, you can use your existing Oracle Database licenses to run Oracle deployments on Amazon RDS. To run a DB Instance under the BYOL model, you must have the appropriate Oracle Database license (with Software Update License & Support) for the DB instance class and Oracle Database edition you wish to run. You must also follow Oracle’s policies for licensing Oracle Database software in the cloud computing environment. DB instances reside in the Amazon EC2 environment, and Oracle’s licensing policy for Amazon EC2 is located here.”

Things Oracle Claims AWS Managed DBs Can’t Do?

Ellison went on to say.

“This level of reliability will require Oracle to automatically tune, patch, and upgrade itself while the system is running, Ellison said, adding: “AWS can’t do any of this stuff.”

Again, the only reason that AWS could not do whatever Oracle DB can do is if Oracle does not release its newest DB (Oracle 18) to AWS.

But secondly, AWS already has a managed database service that is considered superior to the Oracle Cloud. So in fact, AWS has been “doing this stuff” for quite some time, but they have been doing with a managed DB offering.

Ellison is not being merely somewhat inaccurate in this case or engaging in normal puffery; he is misrepresenting what AWS offers as well as misrepresenting what AWS does.

Mark Hurd Doubles Down on the Automated Database Inaccuracy

Now let us check Mark Hurd’s comment in the same vein.

“Oracle CEO Mark Hurd said his company’s database costs less because it automates more. He described AWS’ MySQL-based Aurora database and its open source version, Redshift, as “old fashion technologies.” Oracle’s new database, on the other hand, allows users to “push a button and load your data and you’re done.”

Let’s say that Aurora and Redshift are old-fashioned technologies. Aurora was just developed in the past few years. But we don’t need to address the issue; we are merely left over to the side.

Is Mark Hurd aware that AWS provides managed Oracle? This is known to everyone, and so it should have fallen into both his and Ellison’s frame of reference at this point. Why do Hurd and Ellison repeatedly speak as if AWS is primarily a database vendor rather than an IaaS/PaaS vendor? When one software vendor misrepresents the offering from another software vendor, there has to be a specific reason why.

To reiterate, AWS has offered a managed DB service for quite some time.

If Oracle’s new database allows users to push a button and load your data and you’re done, why is the earth populated with so many Oracle DBAs? There is, no database that does not load data with the push of a button, but the question is the maintenance after the data is loaded. Does Mark Hurd work with databases? How much are the technical people at Oracle sharing with Mark Hurd?

When Did Oracle Begin Emphasizing Automation?

It is also curious that Oracle only began talking about automation after they began losing business to AWS. Is that a coincidence or is there perhaps a deeper meaning there?

We think there might be. In fact, the entire automated database narrative seems to be a reaction to something very specific we will address further on.

AWS’s Automation Verus Oracle’s Explanation of the Automated Database

Oracle is ignoring that AWS also has automated features. See the following quotation from their website and are part of the AWS Systems Manager.

“Systems Manager Automation is an AWS-hosted service that simplifies common instance and system maintenance and deployment tasks. For example, you can use Automation as part of your change management process to keep your Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) up-to-date with the latest application build. Or, let’s say you want to create a backup of a database and upload it nightly to Amazon S3. With Automation, you can avoid deploying scripts and scheduling logic directly to the instance. Instead, you can run maintenance activities through Systems Manager Run Command and AWS Lambda steps orchestrated by the Automation service.”

But AWS’s claims are far more reasonable and Oracle’s. But according to Ellison and Hurd, these automated features don’t seem to exist.

The Validity of Oracle’s Claims on AI & ML

Interwoven within the claims around the automated database are AI and ML. Now at this point, a great swath of vendors is now claiming AI and ML capabilities. However, AI is still quite limited in usage. Let’s take the first, which is AI.

To begin, AI is an enormous claim; it proposes that the software is so close to consciousness that it is nearly undifferentiated from an adult human brain.

Safra Katz discusses the topic as if it is old news. She states…

“We have no AI project; we have AI in every project,”

Being on quite a lot of projects with the Oracle DB (although not Oracle applications), there is no evidence of any AI whatsoever. Not only that, but Oracle is also not known for ML. Where is all that Oracle AI hiding?

It’s on every project according to Safra, but we just can’t see it. A very large number of Oracle customers are running old versions of the Oracle DB and may have minimal Oracle apps. Are these customers also using AI?

AI is contained in Alexa or Google Home, and it does not take very long ask Alexa or Google Home questions and eventually determine that neither are anywhere close being conscious.

AI is mostly a buzzword which works best for people with less technical backgrounds.

Now let us discuss ML or machine learning.

Oracle and Machine Learning’s Input to the Automated Database

Machine learning is a broad category of predictive algorithms that are not particularly new. The great thing about ML for marketers is that you can add ML functionality, without having ML be useful at a customer. That is you can add old algorithms, but they don’t necessarily have to work, and there are tons of public domain ML algorithms can be added quickly to any application, enabling that vendor to state that they do ML.

Here is Google Trends on the interest in ML since 2015. Interest has increased.

Notice the change just in 2017 in the interest in ML. Is this really due to the increases in ML capabilities, or because vendor marketing departments figured out they need to jump on that bandwagon? 

Understanding the Method of Applying ML

The method is that insight is gained from the ML or analysis that did not exist before the ML being performed. However, unlike what Oracle states about its autonomous database, ML is not “self-driving.”

An ML approach or algorithm must be first selected. The most common ML algorithm is linear regression, something with which many people are familiar. It is still the most popular form of ML used by data scientists.
Then set against a dataset (which must also be carefully developed/curated by a human) and then the analysis must also be performed by a human.

ML = EagleEye’ ARIIA?

Vendors propose ML being similar to the computer named ARIIA in the movie EagleEye, which eventually coordinates humans from across the US to assassinate the US President because its analytics observed a violation of the US Constitution. It makes for great fiction, but nothing like the computer in EagleEye has ever existed.

The actual ML processing step of the process is the shortest step, which is why ML capabilities do not scale directly with processing capabilities. Vendors imply a revolution in ML that has never occurred in reality, and that most occur on vendor web pages and PowerPoint presentations.

Oracle’s Automated Database as ARIIA for Data?

Now let us look how Ellison plays directly into this movie script orientation of AI and ML.

“Based on machine learning, this new version of Oracle is a totally automated, self-driving system that does not require a human being either to manage the database or tune the database,” Ellison said, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of the conference call with investors.

And Larry Ellison’s statement is also found in this video by Oracle. It states clearly that the Oracle Automated Database required no human labor.

That is curious because ML will not enable the automation of a database. Secondly, where have these capabilities been hiding, only to spring forth when every other vendor is also proposing AI and ML capabilities? Oracle addresses this by saying.

“We’ve been developing this for decades,” Loaiza said

If that is true, they have come forward all of a sudden in a peculiar bit of timing. This is addressed by a commenter on an article in The Register.

“They have sure hidden it well then. Oracle DB patches are some of the most painful and complex such exercises I have ever encountered. Versus say SQL Server where it’s click and go! Not to mention having to allow Java to run the installer for Oracle!” – The Register Commenter

After having the highest maintenance database in the industry, how autonomy is all the way through what Oracle is offering, and watch how Oracle combines automation with the cloud.

“The future of tomorrow’s successful enterprise IT organization is in full end-to-end automation,” said Zavery. “We are weaving autonomous capabilities into the fabric of our cloud to help customers safeguard their systems, drive innovation, and deliver the ultimate competitive advantage.”

But According to Oracle None of This Will Impact Jobs?

Notice how Oracle walks back the implications of these supposed changes when it comes to jobs.

“However, the biz has repeatedly emphasized that increased automation will not mean the end of people’s jobs – instead saying it will simply cut out the monotonous yet time consuming day-to-day tasks.”

“This allows administrators to free up their time… do things they were not able to do before,” said Zavery. “They will have to learn some new things beyond what they were doing before.” – The Register

This is also a curious position to take. It also implies omniscience and a lack of bias on the part of Oracle. Oracle developed a video which is designed to make DBAs feel better about this potential loss of jobs.

 Maria Colgan makes the statement that Oracle DBAs will leverage the cloud. However, there is little evidence of Oracle having much cloud business. 

If what Oracle said about their autonomous DB was true, it would allow companies to use fewer DB resources. How does Oracle know how each company would decide to respond to these changes?

*Note to Oracle; companies do like cutting costs.

A More Likely Prediction (If Oracle’s Claims for its Automated Database were True)

It is quite reasonable to expect the work that is taken over by the hypothetical autonomous database to be taken as cost savings. That is for database resources to lose their jobs. Oracle does not know.

All of this seems to be a way for Oracle not to perturb DBAs that it would like to endorse the concept of the autonomous DB.

But there is an extra problem. Ellison contradicted this storyline in a different quotation.

“If you eliminate all human labor, you eliminate human error,” Oracle cofounder and CTO Larry Ellison said during his keynote address today.

So, Ellison seems to be proposing eliminating all human labor related to the Oracle database.

So which is it?

Do Oracle’s automated databases now mean that DBAs will not be performing backups and patches (lower level database functions), but also not focusing on analytics (higher level database functions)?

Ellison appears to be speaking categorically about eliminating labor in the database function. This means that if Oracle customers purchase their automated database, the last task for the unnumerable Oracle DBAs will be to perform the upgrade to this database and then transition to new careers as the database is now fully automated. But at the same time “eliminating all human labor” apparently won’t cost jobs.

Ok Larry.

We gave The Register a low accuracy on the article these quotations are from as they provided zero pushback on these extravagant claims in the quotes from Oracle this article. Yet, in a different article, The Register did push back on Oracle’s claims.

Oracle’s Explanation for the Sudden Appearance of Automation

Here is how Oracle explains this sudden appearance of such extreme levels of automation in their database.

“We’ve seen lots of mention of machine learning this week. But how much of that is new and amazing as opposed to vanilla automation you’ve been working on for a long time, is not clear. There’s an important distinction to be made between a database that has a number of automated processes and one that is fully autonomous. Customers can choose to just use automation, or to take the plunge and hand over all their management to Oracle’s cloud operations for the autonomous option.” – The Register

  • Here The Register pointed out to its readers a potential blurring of the lines between the low-level automation and the new claims that Oracle has made.
  • But at the same time, The Register blurs the definition between the automated database and a managed database.

Look at this bizarre sentence from The Register:

“Customers can choose to just use automation, or to take the plunge and hand over all their management to Oracle’s cloud operations for the autonomous option.”

Is that a well thought out sentence? Let us think about this for a second.

If a database is autonomous, why would it need to be managed?

It seems like if you spend enough time talking to top executives at Oracle, pretty soon you can’t figure out which way is up.

This presentation is stated as the Autonomous Data Warehouse Cloud, but it does not show any autonomous activities. Rather George Lumpkin simply shows analytics that are available within the offering. The things that George Lumpkin demonstrates should not have be performed the way he is performing them if the database were autonomous. Larry Ellison and the Oracle documentation say one thing, but the demo shows something different. 

Automating Lower Level of Higher Level Database Activities?

But in this article, Oracle made a mistake. In previous articles and materials, they have proposed that even analytics would be automated. Then in this quote, they state something very different.

“Less time on infrastructure, patching, upgrades, ensuring availability, tuning. More time on database design, data analytics, data policies, securing data.”

That is the more basic items are automated. However, in this case, it leaves more time for things like analytics. Yet, in other Oracle quotations, they state that both lower level and higher level database activities will be automated.

Oracle cannot keep a consistent storyline as to how much is automated, it changes depending on which Oracle source is speaking.

Inconsistencies like this occur when something is not real, or that is things are being made up.

Secondly, Oracle assumes that the customer always wants the database upgraded. Let us get into some important reasons why automation for things like upgrades is not as straightforward as Oracle is letting on.

Oracle Upgrades are Not Free

Version 12.1.0.2 of Oracle database that brought in-memory capability cost an estimated $23,000 per processor.

This is explained by The Register:

“This means that once the release – which has a naming scheme that is typically associated with straightforward patch and performance distributions – has been downloaded by IT and the internal database systems have been updated, a less careful database administrator could create an in-memory database table with a single command, thereby sticking their organization with a hefty bill next time Oracle chooses to carry out a license fee audit.”

Therefore, there are implications to upgrades; they can’t necessarily be “autonomously upgraded.” Most of the Oracle instances in the world are on 11, so not even 12 much less the most recent version of 12. How will the autonomous database work for these customers? Remember, they don’t want to be upgraded.

“As a recent Rimini Street survey showed, as much as 74 per cent of Oracle customers are running unsupported, with half of Oracle’s customers not sure what they’re paying for. These customers are likely paying full-fat maintenance fees for no-fat support (meaning they get no updates, fixes, or security alerts for that money).” – NZReseller.

There is some reason these companies are not upgrading to the latest. One major one is that many customers do not feel the new features are worth the time, effort or money.

Quite obviously, if Oracle could upgrade all customers instantaneously to 18, they would, it would give them a significant revenue increase.

Upgrade Complications

What if the automatic upgrade interferes with something that the customer has set up in the database?

This pushes control to Oracle that the customer does not necessarily want.

  • AWS is offering a fully managed database, which means they are taking full responsibility for the database.
  • Oracle, on the other hand, is offering (with the automated database) some lower level tasks to be controlled by a machine, but this should not be taken to be the same thing that AWS is offering.

Oracle’s Support Quality and IaaS Success?

Furthermore, Oracle has had significant problems with its support quality, choosing to perform cost-cutting rather than maintaining quality. So if Oracle has such an issue with support, then why would they be able to provide high-quality IaaS support with Oracle Cloud? Being a successful IaaS/PaaS provider means being focused on service. Since when in the past 15 years has this been Oracle’s reputation?

The Lost of Control to Automation

Getting back to the loss of control, this is addressed in the following quotation.

“There’s a lot of concern about giving up control,” said Baer. “The initial uptake will be modest, and a lot will just be getting their feet wet …Organisations like banks, which are highly regulated, will be the last to surrender control. Oracle’s Daheb conceded customers might still want to manage something themselves. “They might say, this is dev/test, go ahead, automate that bad boy… this is core, customer-facing – maybe we don’t want to do that anytime soon.” – The Register

This is an inconsistency. Is everything going to be fully automated? Because this is the message from Oracle, or are there examples, many examples perhaps of where things won’t be automated?

“But, he argued, “the big thing” about the autonomous database is that Oracle is offering customers the choice and ability to “get to it at whatever pace makes sense for them”. – The Register

This is a textbook pivot.

Pivoting Away from Automation When Challenged

Reality is conflicting with Oracle’s messaging. The reason for this is Oracle is overstating the degree to which customers will be able to automate Oracle. When faced with questions about this reality, the response is that now the customer has the “choice.”

But that is not the marketing pitch. The marketing pitch is things are about to become incredibly automated with Oracle DBs.

“If Oracle’s customers’ enthusiasm for that change is anything to go by, we will be waiting some time before its autonomous database is the norm.” – The Register

We congratulate The Register for pushing back on Oracle here.

Without even knowing themselves, they were able to find out what customers thought and include that in the article.

Why Oracle is Selling This Automation Story

This telling execs exactly what they want to hear. There is no nuance to the explanation of the Oracle automated database — such as AWS obtains economies by managing large numbers of DBs and with its all web maintenance of DBs and elastic offering reduces maintenance overhead. Instead, Oracle’s pitch is that what amounts to a magic box called Oracle automation will automate everything.

AWS is making real change happen with its approach, and Oracle is off talking about cutting slices of cheese off the moon.

The Automated Database for Selling Oracle’s Growth Story Wall Street

Our analysis is that there is very little to the autonomous database. However, Oracle is using the autonomous database as a selling point to Wall Street.

“Under Mark Hurd and Safra Catz, who share the chief executive officer title, Oracle has bet its future on a new version of its database software that automates more functions and a growing suite of cloud-based applications. Last quarter’s results were a reminder that the company still faces stiff competition from cloud vendors including Amazon.com Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Salesforce.com Inc.” – Bloomberg

So both the autonomous database story is inaccurate, and Oracle’s cloud story is inaccurate. Oracle is seeing very little growth in its cloud business. (The financial analysts have picked up on this second story.)

And in our review of several analysts comments around the autonomous database, they seem to lack the understanding of how Oracle databases work in practice to validate Oracle’s claims. They assume the Oracle autonomous database will become successful. Secondly, the observation that we have made, that the autonomous database is the opposite of what Oracle has been about is also not present.

Oracle wins our Golden Pinocchio Award for its claims about the Oracle Automated Database.

Conclusion

Oracle’s claims around the autonomous database don’t hold up to scrutiny. In fact, for the claim of Oracle Automated Database wins our award.

Secondly, Oracle is a curious source for the autonomous database as Oracle has throughout its history had what is widely considered as the highest overhead and most complex and difficult to manage databases. The argument was always that the Oracle DB could do things that other databases could not do. However, part of this was based on the fact that Oracle made such exaggerated claims for its database. But the distinction in upper-end capabilities between Oracle and other far less expensive to purchase and maintain databases has declined.

Now that this is becoming a more broadly understood concept, Oracle is marketing against its traditional messaging (and the reality of its database product).

In this way, the automated database marketing strategy looks identical to SAP’s Run Simple marketing program, which attempted to recreate SAP’s image as complicated to run and use, when in fact SAP is without question the most complicated set of applications to run. However, Oracle has not been able to push the claims of the automated database as effectively as SAP pushed the claims of Run Simple because Oracle does not have SAP’s partner ecosystem or its degree of control over the IT media.

Finally, an article on AWS from Silicon Angle has the following to say several months after this article was published.

“But Oracle’s push doesn’t appear to have had much impact on AWS, whose revenue rose 49 percent in the latest quarter, to $5.4 billion — even faster than the previous quarter. Moreover, Vogels noted that AWS has seen 75,000 migrations from other databases to its own in the cloud since the migration service launched in early 2016, up from 20,000 in early 2017.”

A Review of Sources Provided by Oracle in Response to this Article

As a response to this article, a representative from Oracle provided the following documents.

Artice 1: Automated vs. Autonomous (By Oracle)

https://blogs.oracle.com/database/autonomous-vs-automated?

This article is by someone out of product marketing at Oracle and merely serves to repeat the claims made about the autonomous database, comparing it to inventions like the telephone. This is consistent with Larry Ellison’s claim that the Oracle autonomous database will be similar as an innovation as the Internet. Here is the exact quote:

“The Oracle Autonomous Database is based on technology as revolutionary as the internet.” – Larry Ellison

So the author of the Oracle article compared the autonomous database to…

  • The Invention of the Telephone
  • The Dawn of the Personal Computer
  • The Internet
  • The iPhone
  • The Self Driving Car

Some comparisons were left out. For instance the internal combustion engine, the discovery of DNA and the light bulb. But it is not clear why Oracle restricted its claims to only the some of the most important discoveries in human history.

Our Conclusion from the Oracle Article

There was nothing for me to comment on anew as the claims were already evaluated earlier in this article. This article targeted as people who don’t think very deeply about topics.

Article 2: Oracle’s Autonomous Cloud Portfolio Drives Greater Developer Productivity and Operational Efficiency

The second article was from Ovum. We are not familiar with Ovum as a source, but they were introduced to us by the Oracle representative as independent of Oracle.

http://www.oracle.com/us/corporate/analystreports/ovum-autonomous-cloud-4417640.pdf

First, the location of this report is a problem. It is on Oracle’s website. If you check with Consumer Reports, they do not allow companies they rate to place the results on their websites or in any printed material. Gartner allows the same thing, which is one of many reasons Gartner cannot be considered a true research firm — which is covered in the following article How Gartner Research to Compares Real Research Entities.

This immediately should cause one concern for Ovum’s true independence from Oracle. You will not find any Brightwork Research & Analysis report on any vendor’s website. Why would we? We receive no income from any vendor. Something to understand as soon as an entity accepts money from a vendor the study converts from research to marketing propaganda. All of the vendors that have reached out to Brightwork Research & Analysis asking for research to be performed began with the research conclusion they wanted the study to come to. The idea was that you then assemble the information to support the conclusion.

If we take this quotation, it is instructive of the overall approach of the article.

“While, at the top level, the concept of a fully packaged and managed PaaS should ideally include the provisions for the automation of tuning, patching, upgrade, and maintenance tasks, it is the capabilities driving developer productivity and faster time to value that deliver greater value to users. In this context, Oracle has an early-mover advantage and offers a clear differentiation in comparison to its nearest PaaS competitors. This is in line with Oracle’s strategy to embed artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) capabilities as a feature to improve the ease-of-use and time-to-value aspects of its software products, and not just focus on directly monetizing a dedicated, extensive AI platform.”

The claims made by Oracle are not so much analyzed in this report as they are assumed to be true. The article does not question how it is that Oracle has appeared with such capabilities so recently after offering such a high maintenance database for decades. The article does not read so much as independent research as “dropped in” Oracle marketing material.

The following is an example of this.

“On the data management side, Oracle offers the ability to rapidly provision a data warehouse, and automated, elastic scaling, with customers paying only for the capacity they use. In the context of security and management, Oracle offers ML-driven analytics on user and entity behavior to automatically isolate and eliminate suspicious users.”

Can it Be Detected if the Sentences are From Ovum or From Oracle?

If this were merely a quotation from Oracle that the Ovum author then analyzed it would be fine. But it isn’t. This is Ovum’s statement regarding the autonomous database.

Notice this paragraph uses the same superlatives that would have been used by Oracle to describe the benefits. There is no outside voice in these explanations. If the source were to be removed, it is impossible to guess whether this quotation is written by Oracle or by someone friendly to Oracle.

Our Conclusion from the Ovum Article

Overall, while we never read a report from Ovum previously, this report damaged our view of this entity, and from this report at least, they can not be said to have performed any research at all. Ovum merely repeated marketing statements made by Oracle.

It is difficult to see the distinction between Oracle having written this report.

Article 3: Oracle’s Autonomous Database: AI-Based Automation for Database Management and Operations

http://idcdocserv.com/US43571317

The third report sent to use by the Oracle representative is from IDC. IDG owns IDC. It breaks down thusly.

  • IDG is the overall conglomerate that runs many IT media websites and takes money from any vendor of any reasonable size to parrot their marketing literature.
  • IDC is the faux research arm of IDG. IDC claims it is the research arm of IDG, but we dispute IDG’s claim that they perform actual research and are quite obviously tightly controlled by entities that pay either IDG or IDC which gives them major conflicts. IDG may have been paid directly by Oracle for this article or may have written it because Oracle is such a large customer of IDC.

IDG is a media conglomerate that is neither a journalistic entity nor a research entity that operates to maximize profits in the current media climate where virtually no income comes from readers, and the media entity must fund itself from industry sources. Neither IDG nor IDC ever disclose this ocean of funding that operates in the background. Masses of IDG ad sales reps are in constant contact with vendors and consulting companies negotiating fees and discussing what industry-friendly article will appear where and at what price.

We have extensive experience analyzing IDG produced material. IDG owns eight of the 20 largest IT media outlets including names like ComputerWeekly and CIO. IDG accepts paid placements and produces large quantities of vendor friendly and inaccurate information and is paid by Oracle both for placements and for advertisements. We covered IDG in the following article.

Normally when we review an IDG article which covers SAP, that article will score between a 1 and 3 out of 10 for accuracy.

Now that we have reviewed the conflicts of interest and credibility problems with IDC/IDG let us move to analyzing the content of the article:

The first quote to catch our attention was the following:

“Databases and other types of enterprise software have had heuristics for years that provide various levels of operations automations. Oracle is no exception to this. What is new is the use of machine learning algorithms that replace the heuristics.There are numerous reasons for this — lack of sufficient amounts of data needed to train an ML model, lack of compute power to train the model effectively and in near real time, and lack of a sufficient variety of data coming from different types of users and use cases that helps to broaden the applicability of the algorithms.”

As with the Ovum study, this appears to be a copy and paste from Oracle’s provided information.

Secondly, its foundational assumption, that ML is always superior to heuristics is untrue. In the book, Rationality for Morals outlines how heuristics can often defeat more complicated models that deploy the analysis of more observations.

In this quote, the article repeats Oracle claims which we disputed the benefits of earlier in our article.

“In addition to providing all tuning and maintenance functions, most of which are automated, this service also provides regular software patching and upgrading, so the user is always running on the latest software, and knows that, for instance, the most recent security patches have been applied.”

As we stated, most customers are not even on Oracle 12. They are running older versions of the Oracle DB. Many companies have dropped Oracle support entirely because it is considered such a poor value.

Moreover, upgrading a database has a number of implications, and it is not a simple matter of upgrading automatically. The authors of this report do not account for or even mention any of this.

In this quotation later in the report, the IDC makes a false claim about ML.

“Although machine learning libraries have been around for decades and have been offered as part of many of the world’s statistical packages, including IBM’s SPSS, SAS, and so forth, the use of machine learning by enterprises hasn’t been widespread until recently because these algorithms require a lot of data and a lot of compute power.”

That is inaccurate. Let us look into why.

ML Has Risen Due to Recent Advancements in Hardware?

Computers for many years now have been of sufficient speed to run ML algorithms. And the majority of time in running ML is in data collection and data munging and then analysis. The actual time spent processing is normally short unless very large number of variables are used. (and using so many variables, while now popular brings up a question of overfitting)

When I run ML routines, the results are returned in less than 10 minutes, and I am using a seven-year-old laptop. We have had gobs and gobs of processing power for many years now.

The reason for the rise in the discussion of ML has not been computer hardware related, but due to marketing departments latching onto ML to help market their products. How can this be proven? Because, according to Google Trends, the most significant rise in the interest in ML was from 2014 to the present. How much did computer hardware increase in speed from 2014 to 2017? Furthermore, the interest in ML was greater in 2004 than in 2014. Were computers faster in 2004 than 2014?

ML/AI is very effective at illustrating value to people without a mathematical background.

Our Conclusion of the IDG Report

Overall the IDG report is a restatement of Oracle’s claims around the autonomous database without any analysis. There is no explanation for the sudden appearance of AI/ML in Oracle’s database, and no questioning of explanations regarding AI/ML.

This is like the Ovum report, not research.

Overall Report Conclusions

None of the sources provided demonstrate any thinking and only serve the demonstrate that Oracle has a lot of money to spend on media entities and faux research entities that will take money to repeat whatever Oracle’s marketing team tells them to write.

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References

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/09/08/ellison_and_cos_equity_now_relies_on_a_80_oracle_stock_price_and_cloud_success/
Unrelated article that shows Oracle’s focus on executive compensation. Executive compensation (overcompensation) driven off of stock prices is a primary reason for the release of false information to the public. Lying in public announcements can also be seen as a way of communicating loyalty to the company.

https://aws.amazon.com/rds/oracle/

https://siliconangle.com/blog/2018/06/21/amazon-cto-cloud-offers-database-need/

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/10/08/oracle_openworld_2017_analysus/
In this article The Register pushes back on Oracle’s claims for the automated database.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/oracle/2018/03/30/larry-ellison-oracle-is-revolutionizing-the-database-and-it-service-delivery/#4813b9e87a4d

The Chinese publication Forbes has this article by a Jeff Erickson, who is listed as an “Editor at Large for Forbes.” Its title is Larry Ellison is Revolutionizing Database and IT Service Delivery. One wonders if the author has any conflicts of interest by declaring this? Did Forbes consider this potential conflict? Or did Oracle paying them to publish the article at Forbes assuage these concerns?

This article repeats outlandish claims by Larry Ellison, ensuring Jeff Erickson a good annual review it would seem. Claims include:

“This technology changes everything,” he said. “The Oracle Autonomous Database is based on technology as revolutionary as the internet.”

“To set up, provision, and use Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse Cloud, a user simply answers a few short questions to determine how many CPUs and how much storage the data warehouse needs. Then the service configures itself typically in less than a minute and is ready to load data.

Once the data warehouse is up and running, its operation also is autonomous, delivering all of the analytic capabilities, security features, and high availability of Oracle Database without any of the complexities of configuration, tuning, and administration—even as warehousing workloads and data volumes change.”

This article written by Oracle comes to a surprising conclusion about AWS. Can you guess what it is before reading it?

“AWS Comes Up Short – At the launch event at company headquarters in Redwood City, California, Ellison showed how Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse Cloud can run faster than comparable database offerings from Amazon Web Services, while being more scalable, and costing less.”

That is curious. I would have expected an article written by Oracle to praise AWS. How odd.

“In addition to running faster and thus costing less, Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse Cloud is truly elastic, Ellison said, while the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, ironically, is not. With the AWS service, “you pay for a fixed configuration” and when you want to add CPUs, you have to take the database down and wait, he said.”

Well, AWS’s service sounds truly useless. Probably no purpose in investigating it now is there.

In the following article also by Jeff Erickson…

https://www.forbes.com/sites/oracle/2018/03/27/how-oracles-new-autonomous-data-warehouse-works/#7cf519de5c7f

Titled How Oracle’s New Autonomous Data Warehouse Works

Oracle claims that an Autonomous Data Warehouse Cloud allows a data warehouse to be setup in less than a minute.

“set up a high-powered data warehouse in less than a minute by answering just five questions:

How many CPUs do you want?
How much storage do you need?
What’s your password?
What’s the database name?
What’s a brief description?

“And that’s it,” says Keith Laker, an Oracle lead product manager for the company’s autonomous data warehouse. “Twenty-five seconds and you’ve got a high-performance data warehouse that’s ready to go.”

And once the data warehouse is running, its operation also is autonomous, using the world’s most advanced database platform and machine learning to operate without human intervention, tuning and optimizing itself for top performance and patching itself without taking the system offline.”

Truly amazing. If Oracle has not yet, they should be recommended to Nobel Society for consideration for a Noble Prize.

Finally, after decades, people now have a place to put their data as evidence by the following quotation.

“And that’s it,” says Keith Laker, an Oracle lead product manager for the company’s autonomous data warehouse. “Twenty-five seconds and you’ve got a high-performance data warehouse that’s ready to go.”

And once the data warehouse is running, its operation also is autonomous, using the world’s most advanced database platform and machine learning to operate without human intervention, tuning and optimizing itself for top performance and patching itself without taking the system offline.”

And without a hint of the potential for overstatement, Jeff Erickson finishes off the article thusly.

“Autonomous Data Warehouse Cloud Service is the next-generation cloud service for the whole organization, with high performance and reliability and vastly reduced labor costs because it’s autonomous. The service runs as little as $1.68 per CPU hour, with storage as low as $148 per terabyte per month. Oracle customers can also bring their existing on-premises licenses to take advantage of Oracle’s BYOL program for PaaS services. Get details on the pricing page.”

https://www.oracle.com/database/autonomous-database/feature.html
Very little information is provided about the autonomous or automated database at the Oracle website.

https://www.sdxcentral.com/articles/news/oracles-ellison-touts-totally-automated-self-driving-oracle-database/2017/09/
SDX Central simply repeats Oracle’s claims verbatim in this article.

https://read.acloud.guru/why-amazon-dynamodb-isnt-for-everyone-and-how-to-decide-when-it-s-for-you-aefc52ea9476

*https://www.amazon.com/Rationality-Mortals-Uncertainty-Evolution-Cognition/dp/0199747091

Oracle’s new database uses machine learning to automate administration


VentureBeat simply repeats Oracle’s claims for the autonomous or automated database verbatim in this article.

https://docs.aws.amazon.com/systems-manager/latest/userguide/systems-manager-automation.html

https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2017/10/08/oracle_openworld_2017_analysus/
Good comments on Oracle’s claims.

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/08/11/number_off_oracle_rounds_up_major_database_release_cycle_numbers/
Explains the jump for Oracle 12… to Oracle 18

Not on the automated database but on new the new versioning. Included to explain to readers confused about the jump from 12 to 18.

“So what would have been Oracle Database 12.2.0.2 will now be Oracle Database 18; 12.2.0.3 will come out a year later, and be Oracle Database 19.

The approach puts Oracle only about 20 years behind Microsoft in adopting a year-based naming convention (Microsoft still uses years to number Windows Server, even though it stopped for desktop versions when it released XP).”

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/07/24/oracle_in_memory_database_feature/
Describing costs of upgrading to Oracle In Memory

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