Oracle is getting cloudier. On Wednesday, the technology giant launched its first broad, subscription-based cloud service.
The new Oracle Cloud, presented at the company's headquarters in Redwood Shores, Calif., provides platform-as-a-service access to the company's key products.
The new service will feature subscription access to Fusion CRM, the Oracle Social Network, Fusion human capital management, the Oracle Database Service, and the Oracle Java Cloud Service. The Oracle Social Network is a suite of collaboration tools and services that is intended to compete with the variety of cloud-based social business apps being released by competitors, notably Salesforce.
Oracle had previously launched its Public Cloud in October at the Oracle OpenWorld conference as an integrated set of apps and infrastructure, but this announcement raises the bar and offers subscription-based access to the company's suite of products. Ellison said the new cloud provides everything a client would need for platform, application, custom infrastructure or social business.
As Oracle moves to compete with Microsoft, SAP, Salesforce, IBM, Google, Amazon and others, CEO Larry Ellison has said that one of its competitive advantages will be that each enterprise customer will have a virtual machine instead of a multi-tenant architecture, providing more flexibility and security.
He told a technology conference last week that customers of the Oracle Cloud "will be more secure, more in control and have a much more modern version of the cloud."
Ellison's position represents a turnaround for the high-profile executive, who had previously badmouthed cloud-based computing on more than one occasion.
Now, he says he thought it was "ridiculously hyped," and that his problem with it had been the hype, not the promise. Ellison current position is that cloud-based software offers a "charismatic brand for the next version of computing."
Another attraction is that, according to comments made to news media by Oracle Chief Financial Officer Safra Catz, operating margins for the Oracle Cloud could top 50 percent. But, as with Microsoft and others, the risk to Oracle is that it could hurt its regular sales by making its crown jewels available online.
Oracle has been acquiring companies recently that have major online components and has been retooling its software, in order to get ready for this day. Such acquisitions have included human resources software company Taleo, customer service provider RightNow Technologies, social media analytics firm Collective Intellect, social marketing firm Virtue, and data management company Endeca.
Other companies previously acquired by Oracle include Siebel Systems, JD Edwards, Hyperion and PeopleSoft.
Of course, key rival SAP has not been sitting on its hands, having announced its own cloud-based service in May and having also been on a buying spree. Last month it made an offer for cloud-based commerce network provider Ariba, and it recently purchased human resources software provider SuccessFactors.