Oracle’s cloud business is steadily gaining momentum. The Silicon Valley-based firm’s total cloud revenue was up 51% in Q1 at $1.5 billion. “With revenue growth now at an annualised run rate of $6 billion, and a growth rate of 51%, we are the fastest growing cloud company at scale,” says Mark Hurd, CEO of Oracle and a board director. Oracle’s cloud business in India is also growing as it has acquired several hundred cloud customers in recent months. Oracle is one of the largest MNC employers in India. The country accounts for Oracle’s largest R&D investments outside the US. “India has seen strong GDP growth, has a very strong economy and new leadership—all of this has been positive for the economy and for business,” Hurd tells Sudhir Chowdhary in a recent interview. Edited excerpts:
Can you give a synopsis of how business has been in Q1?
Our SaaS revenue has grown quickly, our applications business revenue (this includes on-premise support, on-premise licence and our SaaS revenue together) grew 17-18%. The market is growing at 3-4%, so we gained a lot of market share in Q1 in applications. Our database business also continued to grow. We had strong bookings in the cloud and as a result, our earnings per share grew double digits. We announced many new and exciting releases at Oracle OpenWorld in all of our businesses—applications and platform, probably the autonomous database was the most exciting one.
Oracle has witnessed one of its biggest transformations in history (moving from database to cloud). How has that changed your market position?
Oracle made a decision to focus on cloud technology seven to eight years back. That was really the beginning of some of the outward views of our change in the company. However, we started innovating in cloud R&D, further back than that. Now, with cloud, we are changing how our sales forces are deployed, how we are compensated, how we are building on cloud services as opposed to just providing cloud products. Almost every aspect of the company is being touched in this transformation. It has also given us a chance to grow in markets such as, for example, in applications. While we believe we have the most advanced and modern cloud solutions for today’s enterprises (across all layers of the cloud—be it IaaS, PaaS, SaaS), it is a very exciting time for us as we get to go into this market with a ‘reset’. And what I hear from customers is really this opportunity to ‘reset’ where they are in IT—our customers have a lot of issues, and the opportunity for us to collaborate with them to give them a better, more flexible, more expandable, secure, lower cost IT environment is a great opportunity.
Where does hardware fit in Oracle’s overall business agenda?
Hardware is a broad category for us and we have a very differentiated capability through our product, engineered systems. We designed engineered systems to be pre-integrated to minimise costs and enable customers to carve a clear path to the cloud when the time is right. They are architected, integrated, tested, and optimised to work together and with this we are taking infrastructure optimisation to the next level. With engineered systems, we can do consolidating, simplifying and modernising of the infrastructure, both on-premise and in cloud. We are working with our customers as they embark on their transformation journeys.
Where is the cloud market headed now? How big is it and what part of that pie does Oracle want to lead in?
The business-to-business (B2B) IT industry (which is about half of IT, while the other half is consumer technology), is a little less than a trillion dollars. If you add up the cloud piece, the end of last year it was probably about $50 billion. So, it is a small piece of the overall market, but yet it has put the entire industry into a big set of changes. I believe the market is going to continue to grow 30-50% while the other part of the market will continue to decline. You will see a change in different parts of the IT industry, 24% of all production applications are now in the cloud. That number was less than 10% just three years ago. Then, 15% of the world’s datacentres have gone away just in the last year.
How far has the market moved to achieve complete digital transformations?
Not very far. You will find that almost every customer is at the beginning of a transformation—whether you call it cloud or digital. Some companies have made the early stages of investment, but there are very few that are running their business in the cloud. Unless they are new businesses who have all their applications in the cloud. I would say, this is a beginning of what’s going to be, an almost, complete transformation of our industry.
You announced you would hire more personnel for cloud. You also set up a digital sales organisation, to tap into the burgeoning SMB market. Why now and how have these investments shown returns?
We built brand new campuses in different parts of the world, including US, Asia Pacific and Europe to house our digital sales organisation and we hired a lot of people. We started this a few years ago. Our strategy has been to get the absolute best of people to give them the absolute best training, to put them in the best facilities, to give them the best tools, sell them the best products. Historically, we had a direct sales force that did face to face selling. These are digital natives, they are digital salespeople and we operate over the network, we communicate over the network and interact with customers digitally. We think this is the way selling is going to evolve over the next decade.
How has your APAC, including India, business performed? Do you see the digital disruption wave impacting business here?
India is a very attractive market. It has seen strong GDP growth, has a very strong economy and new leadership—all of this has been positive for the economy and for business. Also, India continues to have a strong set of skills in the country, so there’s an opportunity for tremendous change in IT and the IT infrastructure. Historically, India has been a services economy and there’s the opportunity for Oracle—to bring incredible intellectual property into that economy. That’s why we are continuing to invest in India.
India’s vibrant start-up economy has opened immense opportunities for cloud platform companies such as Oracle. Can you share your thoughts on this.
We had some of the start-up finalists from the Oracle Startup Cloud Accelerator programme participate at Oracle OpenWorld. Technology start-ups have really evolved because of the cloud. Even five years ago, it was hard to get access to computers and software licences, which used to be expensive for start-ups. But now, because of the cloud the best technology has become easily accessible to them.
What role can Oracle play in accelerating India’s ambitious Smart Cities and Digital India programmes?
We would love to participate and our team has been very engaged in trying to help India get to the next generation of systems. The nice thing about the next generation systems is they get to do multiple things at the same time. They get the opportunity to lower their cost, to increase their innovation and get the opportunity to be more secure. When governments build their IT infrastructure, the core problem tends to be the old model whereby they buy an application, then customise that application but the service for that application is lacking. But with our systems, governments can get an application with a bunch of features that automatically go into the application and modernise the application. This is a big transformation.
What’s the next big thing for Oracle?
I would like to get through this big thing (which is cloud). There are so many elements in the context of this transformation—digital, cloud, AI. I don’t hear people talk about Big Data or analytics as much, but you could argue on a continuum—of the ability to leverage data and information—both feature sets of this change. In my opinion, organisations, over the next seven to eight years, are going to witness this continuum movement to infrastructure-less, datacentre-less environments where they get IP, they get capabilities. They are going to see changes in user interfaces and in the ability to integrate information. It will be a seamless ability through any interface where one can get access to enterprise data the way they want to, when they want to, how they want to—this is the ability to transform data into action, in real time.