Oracle – The latest Big Boy to join the Cloud Computing game

Cloud computing received a major shot in the arm with the entrant of the latest big name in the field – Oracle – on Wednesday, 15 December 2010. On that day, Oracle introduced Oracle Cloud Office and Open Office 3.3. While the latter is the latest version of the office suite that Oracle recently acquired in its portfolio after taking over Sun Microsystems, it is the former that has garnered maximum interest.

Oracle describes the cloud computing product as “a web and mobile office suite that enables web 2.0-style collaboration and mobile document access. Compatibility with Microsoft Office and integration with Oracle Open Office enable rich and seamless offline editing of complex presentations, text and spreadsheet documents.” It includes the whole gamut of office applications – word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, database, and drawing software.

Although maverick Oracle CEO hadn’t been particularly interested in cloud computing, perhaps the increased presence of his two major rivals – Microsoft and Google – in that space has finally made him sit up and take notice. Also, as per latest analyst projections, the cloud computing market is set to grow exponentially over the next few years. A report published by WinterGreen Research in July this year projects sales of $17 billion by 2016, up from $3.3 billion last year.

Although cloud computing has been eagerly embraced by individuals and small businesses, larger organizations are still wary of shifting their software services to the cloud. It is this segment that Oracle is targeting with its Cloud Office product. Unlike Google Docs, Oracle Cloud Office is not free, being charged on a per-seat basis depending on the version and level of support. That is the reason it is being offered as a B2B service.

It will run on Windows, Mac, Linux, Web browsers, and smartphones such as the iPhone. In its press release, the company said that “Oracle Cloud Office has been designed to take advantage of a flexible web-scale architecture offering elastic scaling. Customers and partners can leverage Oracle Cloud Office as an on-premise, on-demand or SaaS (Software as a Service) deployment.”

“Oracle Cloud Office and Oracle Open Office 3.3 deliver complete, open and cost-effective office productivity suites that are designed and optimized for our customers’ needs,” said Michael Bemmer, vice president of Oracle Office. “Customers now have the flexibility to support users across a wide variety of devices and platforms, whether via desktop, private or public cloud. With Oracle Office, enterprises can reduce costs while helping to increase productivity and speed innovation.”

Even as Oracle looks to bite a chunk off the cloud office suite space from Google’s Google Docs and Microsoft’s Docs.com (and some of Microsoft’s traditional Office market as well), it is facing a challenge in its traditional database stronghold. Salesforce.com is targeting Oracle with Database.com, and already has a formidable presence in the cloud computing space.  Expect a lot of fireworks in this space.

By Sourya Biswas

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