Cloud is one of the new buzzwords. Unfortunately, that means it is being applied and mis-applied, to anything that moves. Amazon Web Services is the big player in the 'Infrastructure-as-a-Service' (IaaS) cloud. Salesforce.com is big in the 'Software-as-a-Service' cloud. As a developer, I am most interested in the 'Platform-as-a-Service' (PaaS) offerings.
PaaS allows a developer to deploy their application to run on 'the cloud', without worrying about the concepts of Operating Systems or even servers. Google has the Google Application Engine, Salesforce has its Force.com service. Oracle doesn't really have the same presence in that market. However what Larry Ellison has talked about is the concept of a 'private cloud'.
A private cloud is simply where the IT department of a business structures itself such that it can offer cloud services to the business. Rather than reaching out to a third-party organization, with the attendant commercial and legal interactions, conceptually identical offerings are available within the company.
When Oracle presented the Exalogic machines at Oracle OpenWorld 2010, there was some negative commentary that "cloud-in-a-box" simply didn't make sense. It doesn't....to the user of a cloud service. It does make sense if you are selling to the provider of cloud services. What Oracle unveiled was a machine designed to make it easy for an IT department to parcel up its offerings in the same manner as an external cloud provider.
Obviously Exalogic is not aimed at startups wanting to begin on the cloud. Its market is government and large commercial organisations who have a discrete IT component that provides a variety of services to business. In some cases, these may be through an out-sourcing arrangement. Even if the operation is in-house, many of the largest organisations have separated IT out such that it is seen as a provider or partner to the business, rather than as totally within the business.
PaaS and 'private cloud' coalesce in Application Express. A prime example is the way that Telstra banned the use of MS-Access and consolidated those shared databases into Apex applications1. An Apex private cloud allows the detailed work about servers, storage and operating systems to be managed invisibly by the IT department, while presenting itself as a PaaS provider to the business.
As a further extension to the 'cloud' concept, Commonwealth Bank are going with a Database-as-a-Service approach in provisioning 11g databases on their Exadata platform on an 'as needs' basis for the business, charging back to the business based on CPU and storage volumes.3
1Oracle Application Express - Customer Surveys and Profiles
2 Elevator pitch for Application Express
3 Database as a Service
This article was written by Gary Myers, and is filed under "Oracle Database Development - A View from Sydney'. It covers cloud computing, Platform as a Service, PaaS, Apex and Application Express.