November 23, 2017

At the CoreOS Fest 2017 conference last week, Oracle announced it will be making available instances of CoreOS Container Linux on its public cloud in addition to committing to providing access to a Kubernetes container orchestration platform as a managed service.

Bob Quillin, vice president of the Oracle Container Group, says Oracle has already been making extensive use of Kubernetes internally. Now it hopes to pair Kubernetes with CoreOS Container Linux to provide a lightweight Linux distribution to developers who prefer containers. Because so many of the system primitives are included in the Docker container, developers don’t need all the functionality included in larger operating systems.

Quillin says Oracle expects that, given the complexities associated with standing up and then maintaining Kubernetes clusters, more organizations will prefer to consume Kubernetes as a managed service running in the cloud or on-premises. In fact, Quillin believes that, in time, Kubernetes will emerge as a significant driver of hybrid cloud computing across the enterprise.

Over the last few years, Oracle has been expanding its portfolio of managed services delivered in the cloud to include everything from its namesake database to a broad range of platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings. As part of that effort, Oracle is betting large swaths of enterprise organizations have grown weary of managing their own IT infrastructure. Instead, those organizations would prefer to pour more of their limited IT resources into application development.

The Oracle Cloud Container Service traces its lineage back to StackEngine, which it acquired in late 2015. As an early supporter of Docker containers, StackEngine developed a suite of tools for automating the management of the containers. Now Oracle is using many of those tools to drive a managed Kubernetes service. In effect, Oracle is now making a case for becoming a more integral part of the DevOps process by automating the management of the underlying hardware and software infrastructure.

In terms of public cloud computing, Oracle still trails Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure significantly. But, as organizations increasingly shift to microservices based on containers, the company clearly has an opportunity to make up some ground. Rather than defaulting to whichever happens to be their incumbent cloud service provider, many IT organizations are increasingly comfortable operating in a multicloud computing environment. New classes of application workloads based on containers moved into production environments gives Oracle, alongside Google and IBM, an opportunity to compete on more equal footing with rivals such as AWS.

Arguably, AWS didn’t encounter much competition over the last 10 years. That enabled AWS to create a base of application workloads that dwarfs their rivals. In the last two years, Microsoft has new emerged as a clear No. 2 rival. What remains to be seen how—and how much—Oracle and others can distinguish themselves from the rest of the cloud computing pack. Oracle clearly has a strong base of developers and IT organizations that employ its software on-premises. The challenge now is translating that base into a strategic advantage in the cloud.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.