In mid-October, Oracle will be conducting its annual OpenWorld customer conference, and one sure topic to be premiered will be Oracle Autonomous Transaction Processing.  Supply chain focused IT support teams, and indeed, supply chain functional teams shouldOracle OpenWorld stay abreast of this technology.

The following is why.

In our Supply Chain Matters coverage of last year’s OpenWorld conference, we reflected specially on the Oracle announcement of an autonomous database that literally manages itself utilizing machine learning. It was undoubtedly a rather significant announcement, one that prompted some cynicism from Oracle competitors and perhaps the IT community that supports various supply chain management systems.  As Oracle executives openly pointed out at the conference, such an achievement was extraordinarily difficult to achieve from a technical perspective.

What Oracle has been up to is establishing a virtual, fault tolerant systems architecture that provides the ability to call upon virtual “hot” backup server instances. Think of limitless capacity available in periods of peak transactional demand such as holiday or seasonal order processing and fulfillment needs.

In our reflection commentary, we painted an analogy in that a totally autonomous database relates to the eventual availability of an autonomous Online Transactional Processing (OLTP) system, the nerve center for most of today’s operational order management, manufacturing, customer, or service fulfillment systems. In laypeople terms, an OLTP system foundation is in complex databases, transactional messaging, analytics, networks and the highest levels of data and systems security.

Coming to Market

In August, consistent with Oracle’s stated timetable, the enterprise technology provider announced the initial availability of Oracle Autonomous Transaction Processing, described as: “a fully managed database tuned and optimized for transaction processing or mixed workloads.”

What this implies is the following:

Operational Scalability in the Cloud

This next step is leveraging and building upon the capabilities of Autonomous Database Cloud, including automated database scaling and management, monitoring, tuning, and planned updates applied to a literal autonomous OLTP system available on a Cloud platform. There is built-in fault tolerance which means that if a server were to fail, applications keep running on a parallel server.

To reinforce such a commitment, Oracle declares 99.995 percent in uptime in its service level agreement. That implies a considerable amount of potential uptime for transactional systems, the equivalent of two and-one-half minutes of downtime per month, or a maximum of 30 minutes annually. This is an important consideration for today’s round-the-clock calendars for processing Omni-channel orders and servicing customer needs.

Data Security

The database architecture defaults to full data encryption to ensure that all customer, product, and any other sensitive data is protected. Oracle designed a machine-learning based continuous security monitoring capability that monitors for suspicious logins or suspect intrusions, such as an unfamiliar, multiple login.

Consider that prior cyber-attacks involving supply chain wide systems have involved hackers cloning contractor or service vendor login credentials.

External attack detection quarantines malicious activity, avoiding further potential data loss. Any required security fixes are done automatically, without human dependence, to limit exposure to known threats. No waiting to contact appropriate IT support or to roust people out-of-bed.

Unique to Oracle Cloud is the software tool, Oracle Data Guard, upon which if IT support people, internal or third-party, have privileges to perform administrative tasks related to data, they will not be able to see any sensitive customer or other data without knowledge of the encryption key. That includes Oracle support teams as-well. Hackers would have to either find a way to get around this encryption or gain access to the particular business encryption key.

Pay For What is Actually Needed

Oracle’s announced licensing model is metered, meaning that Cloud computing infrastructure is virtual and any required added compute resources can be enabled automatically or business user initiation.

Businesses pay based on actual compute and data storage needs, or in cases of idle or slower transactional needs, can scale-down compute and storage capacity.

Think about all those internal data centers with capacity to be able to support either peak or normal business periods. Think about a shared ride analogy, no need to buy the second car that sits idle in the driveway during the week.

What it Implies

Oracle’s ongoing autonomous Cloud computing development efforts are clearly targeted to be a market alternative to Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and other Cloud platform utility providers.  That includes various application software providers that elect a third-party Cloud platform to support such systems.

Oracle Founder and CTO Larry Ellison recently admitted that AWS pays Oracle millions of dollars in annual license revenues to maintain its Oracle-based technology stack. (We heard the actual number) All of that is now going to change with an aggressive head-to-head battle looming among these two providers.

In the meantime, concerns regarding the risks of deploying business critical transactional systems in a virtual, autonomous private or public Cloud setting can soon be addressed. That can literally save a ton on internal IT infrastructure and annual maintenance costs, which can free-up budgets for needed supply chain business process, applications, or advanced decision support needs. Once more, IT budgets can be better aligned to actual business operational and transactional needs.

Think of that pesty IT shared services tax with the hidden allocation formulas.

As noted in last year’s OpenWorld focused commentary, Oracle is again raising the technology bar. When a technology company proposes to be a trusted partner in mission critical systems and applications, the challenge is not just in convincing us that technology has found the answer, but that a technology company is willing to take on the responsibility of being your trusted partner, in the good times as well as the not so good times.

This year’s OpenWorld will be another test as to customer buy-in.

Indeed, the timing is impeccable and brilliant. There will be skepticism, doubters, and resisters, with belief in legitimate concerns. But just like autonomous cars, the wave is definitely on the horizon and the option is to ride the wave or possibly be swamped by that wave, by an industry disruptor who has figured out that there are new robust and more cost-effective options in deploying and maintaining transactional systems.

As always, we will continue to ascertain all of the implications and advise clients and readers, without being caught-up in the hype cycle.

Line of business and supply chain functional teams have similar responsibilities in remaining educated on faster advanced technology cycles that have more far-reaching implications.

Bob Ferrari

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