The interview: Jon Paul, sales director, Oracle

8 Oct 2014

Jon Paul, Oracle Ireland sales director

Oracle Ireland sales director Jon Paul’s observation on CIO buying trends is probably the best way to sum up Oracle in 2014: “People shouldn’t just buy tech because it is shiny and new. It has to be secure and reliable.”

At Oracle OpenWorld last week in San Francisco the software giant started 37 years ago by Larry Ellison pretty much took over the city. Some 60,000 software and business professionals around the Moscone exhibition complex and booked out every hotel in the city.

Only someone with the power, wealth and influence of Ellison (now 70) could shut down an entire street in one of the world’s greatest metropolises and drape the winning boat – a giant catamaran – from last year’s Americas Cup across it.

If there was one message that was clear from the entire event it was this, Oracle not only embraces the cloud, Oracle pretty much is the cloud as we know it. True when you think of how the database giant’s technology powers not only large tracts of the internet but entire electricity, water, retail, transport and media networks, to name just a few industry verticals.

A second learning was that as technology proliferates and becomes increasingly simple to use in the form of mobile apps and digital services, the complexity at the back-end is only increasing.

This is a big problem, says Oracle CEO Mark Hurd, when you consider 75pc of applications in business have been modified. They are all pre-social, they are all pre-cloud and are expected to deal with the realities of today’s world. “Over 80pc of IT spend is spent keeping the apps working,” Hurd lamented.

A third learning is the sheer scale of Oracle and breadth of its products. At Oracle World the company unveiled over 60 new SaaS applications alone and made it clear that the company is prepared to dominate and win across the holy trinity of technology today: SaaS, platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (SaaS). To give you perspective, it is taking on Amazon in the infrastructure world, and in the SaaS world. Ironically, these two companies are most likely running core parts of their infrastructure and services on Oracle platforms.

Engineered Systems

Oracle Ireland sales director Jon Paul who likens his task in the Irish market as that of an editor, honing down Oracle’s broad product offering to fit and match specific industries of scale.

“An Irish telco would have hundreds of thousands of subscribers, whereas its counterpart in Mexico might be serving 50m subscribers. So it’s always a challenge to make the technologies relevant to Irish organisation. Basically we select specific industry applications and solutions and organise and aggregate them in a way that is specific to a use case.

“When we go to a CIO we say ‘yes we’ve got something for every problem’ but trying to find a relevant use case, that’s what’s important to them.

“In the business we are in, people don’t buy tech because it is shiny and new, they buy it because it is secure and reliable.”

The new Oracle is hellbent on occupying the worlds of SaaS, IaaS and PaaS through the delivery of what it calls Engineered Systems.

In this new world, gone are the old Oracle books and boxes in the server room only to be replaced by entire systems built in weeks to fit a certain spec and delivered in working order. These systems can either sit on a company’s data centre infrastructure, rest in an Oracle data centre in the cloud, or both.

“Today the key is to deliver products as a stack of technology ready to consume.”

He said that Oracle technologies like its Taleo marketing automation tool or its Responsys HR package are consumed in most cases via the public cloud by organisations that include Aer Lingus and Google.

“Many other companies are building out public and hybrid clouds where they keep the cloud capability in their own data centre and under their own control or have it delivered by a partner like Oracle in a managed fashion.

“We think it is important to give CIOs choice, let them dictate the service levels, how it is managed, where it is managed, and if they choose to they can hand the risk and complexity over to someone else, which could be Oracle or our partners.”

During the Oracle OpenWorld conference Larry Ellison said that both Oracle and Apple were very similar insofar as they believed in designing hardware and software to work in harmony.

That’s why the Engineered Systems idea is relevant right now, said Paul. “Engineered Systems are scalable units, you just add a machine each time. By standardizing to Oracle it means we can move more quickly and take all of the world. The Apple/Oracle analogy is particularly appropriate. Everybody is upgraded at the same time. When we fix a bug we engineer it for everyone, whereas in a traditional environment CIOs and IT managers face patches and testing to make sure things work.

“Give us a problem and we will deliver the core platforms as a solution.”

Pockets of brilliance

Paul reiterated Hurd’s point about the average company spending 70pc to 80pc of their IT budgets just keeping the lights on.

“These kind of dependencies just create delay and inertia. Companies are holding on to old technology because think they have no other choice so they’re using up budgets they could be spending on other things like marketing and innovation.”

Summing up the IT landscape in Ireland Paul says it is hallmarked by “pockets of brilliance.”

He explained: “There are a lot of innovative, global first organisations doing unique and exciting things.

“On the other hand there is so much that can be improved in areas like the health system which is lagging behind other markets. Worldwide health organisations are using single patient records for gathering information on everything from lab tests to doctor visits. It will be a huge job to link all of this up.

“In Ireland those systems just aren’t there. We need to establish a single patient record system in the country.”

He said that there are many “global firsts” in Ireland also with organisations like Ordnance Survey Ireland steaming ahead in terms of mapping technologies and Icon gaining considerable ground in terms of clinical research.

Paul believes that with the onset of the internet of things the possibilities are endless when it comes to changing how information is gathered. “One organisation that used to handle clinical records via handwritten notes is now processing this data as DNA records. The data reach is going further and further down the chain.

“We will soon get to a point where doctors will be able to base decisions on patient recorded outcomes whereby patients are using their iPhone to measure temperature.

“Ultimately for companies to innovate and be disruptive it has a lot to do with their business models and where they want to go as an organisation.”

Big trends for 2015

Paul believes security will be one of the defining issues of 2015 and businesses will need to demonstrate that they can process data in a safe and reliable fashion.

“The transformation of businesses to reduce costs and become agile will also be critical – firms are taking a mop and broom to legacy systems. Another key trend will be digital business – being able to interact with consumers in a richer and more conversational manner. Mobile, social and business intelligence will be at the heart of this transformation.”

And Oracle will also be at the heart of this transformation. “In Ireland your gas bill is likely to come off an Oracle system. When you book flights or pay your road tax, it’s likely to be on an Oracle system. In many ways our systems have become fundamental to the economy because it is our systems that are keeping the networks running.

“No one sees this, but they are using our systems all the time.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years