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Can Blockchain Reignite Oracle's Cloud Growth?

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Oracle’s cloud growth has slowed but its new blockchain service could provide a fresh spark. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(Note: After an award-winning career in the media business covering the tech industry, Bob Evans was VP of Strategic Communications at SAP in 2011, and Chief Communications Officer at Oracle from 2012 to 2016. He now runs his own firm, Evans Strategic Communications LLC.)

CLOUD WARS — Blockchain’s enormous potential might be just what Oracle needs to reignite its sprawling cloud business, which to date has displayed more promise than performance.

While most tech vendors would stand to benefit from offering a robust set of blockchain services, few if any have as much to gain as Oracle because Oracle already has in place so many of the component pieces required for industrial-strength blockchain networks:

  • a powerful platform;
  • fully compatible SaaS applications;
  • broad and deep cloud security capabilities;
  • compatibility with third-party apps and other blockchain networks; and,
  • just as important as those technological elements, deep vertical-industry expertise.

In fact, when Oracle recently announced the general availability of its Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service, it described the new offering in vividly colorful language of a type the company rarely deploys: “Blockchain promises to be one of the most transformative technologies of our generation,” said Amit Zavery, executive vice president of Oracle’s Cloud Platform business.

Strong words, to be sure—but in early trials, blockchain has shown the ability to radically enhance the security and efficiency of transactions and also track goods through supply chains with greater accuracy and speed and at much lower costs.

Blockchain’s capabilities also extend across a wide range of vertical industries, a point that Oracle made with enthusiasm: “Blockchain has the power to fundamentally transform how every industry does business by making interactions more secure, transparent, efficient and cost-effective.”

And Oracle’s announcement was backed by compelling quotes from several customers across different regions and a range of industries—from banks to olive-oil exporters to cargo-shippers and beyond—with those customers describing how Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service helped them reduce complexity and cost, improve customer experiences, accelerate applications and integration, and boosting transparency for all relevant parties from original suppliers to shippers to end-consumers. (You can check out those comments within the press release here.)

So why do I believe Oracle is uniquely positioned to get a hypercharge from blockchain?

First of all, as noted above, Oracle already has all of the component pieces required for businesses to build end-to-end blockchain networks for production-level tasks.

Second, Oracle has a broad, deep and proven set of PaaS tools that businesses will need to create blockchain networks customized for their specific needs and requirements.

Third, Oracle has not only “horizontal” SaaS apps such as CRM, supply chain and HCM, but also an extensive set of industry-specific applications that’s probably larger than any vendor in the world other than SAP can match—so customers can choose the precise mix of apps, either horizontal or vertical, that will be optimal for their blockchain networks.

Fourth, Oracle has embraced industry standards with its new blockchain service, building the platform on top of The Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Fabric. In the Oracle press release, Hyperledger executive director Brian Behlendorf says, “Oracle’s platform, with its support for interoperability with non-Oracle Hyperledger Fabric instances, will help build further support for open standards and interoperability, while illustrating how quickly, easily and securely businesses can begin utilizing blockchain to improve business processes.”

And fifth, while Oracle’s cloud business doesn’t always move as fast as some of its major competitors move, you can almost always count on Oracle to do things in big, sweeping ways that give the company the greatest market opportunity possible—and that’s exactly what it’s done with its Blockchain Cloud Service.

From the press release: “Blockchain has the power to impact almost all industries and has applicability to verticals from transportation, supply chain and logistics, energy, retail and ecommerce, to financial services, telecommunications and public sector.

“Organizations and industry consortia are already using Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service to help ease transactions, track goods through supply chains, and reduce costs, including global shipping leaders, multi-national manufacturers, food producers and energy marketplaces.”

As those opportunities arise, we’ll keep a close eye on whether Oracle’s able to exploit its blockchain opportunity to new levels of success in the Cloud Wars.

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