Analysis: Oracle says autonomy now, AI with everything by 2020

Oracle is automating and AI-enables its cloud platform. But is AI simply the new direct debit? Chris Middleton reports.

Oracle has announced that it is rolling out AI-based automation across its Platform as a Service (PaaS) cloud offerings.

The enterprise vendor says that the new machine-learning-based additions will enable its cloud platform and developer applications to self-optimise, maintain, update, and patch.

The move follows the launch of its ‘self-driving’ database last year, and extends Oracle’s autonomous capabilities across much of its cloud product line.

Cutting the drudge

Oracle’s stated aim is to reduce customer costs while enabling in-house IT teams to refocus on adding value to the business – in traditional ‘cloud hype’ style.

“We want to provide autonomous capabilities to eliminate the human labour associated with provisioning, upgrades, backup, recovery, and troubleshooting,” said Amit Zavery, executive VP of product development for Oracle Cloud.

A core challenge with PaaS is that “a lot of patching doesn’t happen automatically and a lot of systems don’t get upgraded regularly,” he added.

Also included in the product refresh are tools to enable developers to add chatbots to applications more easily, with a library of use cases that can be customised.

“Once a user defines the kinds of things he wants to integrate, we can take over connecting systems, doing the mapping, and providing endpoint connectivity,” said Zavery.

Securing the automated cloud

New security tools also use machine learning, said Oracle, and analyse user behaviour patterns to intercept data leaks.

This is in line with the new security trend of behaviour modelling. This is essential in large IoT applications, for example, where it may be impossible to secure a range of smart devices independently.

“The future of tomorrow’s successful enterprise IT organisation is in full end-to-end automation,” said Zavery.

“We are weaving autonomous capabilities into the fabric of our cloud to help customers safeguard their systems, drive innovation, and deliver the ultimate competitive advantage.”

Oracle also announced that it is opening 12 new data centres worldwide.

Another big bet on AI

Oracle is making a big bet on machine learning and autonomy in the same way that IBM has refocused its business on cognitive services and Microsoft is putting AI centre stage.

Oracle CEO Mark Hurd emphasised the point on Monday when he predicted that more than half of all enterprise data will be managed autonomously by 2020. “AI will become integrated into everything. It’s not a question of if, but when,” he added. “This has everything to do with macroeconomics, business model strategy, and technology,” he said.

In other words, business innovation and agility will be essential if and when traditional sources of growth dry up.

Which brings us to Oracle itself…

Internet of Business says

While its on-premise revenues remain five times higher than those of its cloud portfolio, Oracle’s traditional growth in on-premise tech has hit a plateau. However, its quarterly cloud revenues are up 44 per cent year on year.

So Oracle itself is being forced to get smart. After 10 years of Oracle supremo Larry Ellison slamming the cloud as vapourware, the all-too-public u-turn is complete. In traditional Oracle style, it has simply branded its logo on the cloud and pretended the previous decade was a dream.

But buyer beware. When it comes to the new mantra of ‘AI with everything’, all enterprise buyers of platform, infrastructure, and software services should consider this. As automation grows, transparency and trust will become critical issues, regardless of who the vendor might be.

When any services can simply upgrade themselves or add new features autonomously, who is approving any extra costs and any new vendor revenue streams? In these circumstances, AI could simply become the new direct debit, with all the associated problems that may ensue.

There’s no suggestion that any vendor would use AI to print money for themselves; merely that customers should manage their deals carefully and keep an eye on Ts & Cs.

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Oracle gives its cloud-based business apps an AI boost

Oracle business apps get AI boost

Smart factories and connected warehouses are among the business functions set to benefit from new AI-powered Adaptive Intelligent Apps from Oracle.

Modern artificial intelligence (AI) shouldn’t just be capable of supporting “sophisticated decision science”, but also do it in a way that it is hidden from users and embedded in the software that they use to perform day-to-day work tasks.

That’s the view of Steve Miranda, executive vice president of applications development at tech giant Oracle. At the company’s Oracle Open World 2017 conference in San Francisco, the company has today announced new AI-based apps for employees in finance, human resources, supply chain, manufacturing, commerce, customer service, marketing and sales.

Read more: Oracle beefs up its IoT efforts in smart factories push

Adaptive Intelligent Apps

The new Oracle Adaptive Intelligent Apps are built into existing Oracle Cloud Applications, making it possible for “business users from across the organization to quickly and easily take advantage of the latest advancements in artificial intelligence,” said Miranda.

By embedding AI in existing apps, he explained, the company has eliminated the need for integrations in order to combine “first and third-party” data with advanced machine learning.

The announcement builds on the company’s first introduction of its ‘adaptive intelligence’ concept in its customer experience (CX) apps earlier this year. Now, it is expanding the reach of AI across a much wider swathe of its cloud-based enterprise applications.

Read more: Bloodhound Project teams with Oracle in world land speed record attempt

Smart manufacturing and logistics

In theory, any of the business functions set to benefit from these new apps is likely to have some kind of IoT data from connected devices that could potentially prove useful for fuelling AI-based decision-making – but it’s clear that supply chain and manufacturing professionals are particular targets.

In supply chain, for example, new AI capabilities in Oracle’s Supply Chain IoT applications will crunch through data from connected equipment in warehouses and logistics centres. “The applications use predictive analytics and machine learning techniques to detect and analyze key signals in device data and then to act on these insights through their associated business functions and connected processes,” said the company.

In manufacturing, similar thinking applies. New AI-powered capabilities will enable companies to more consistently meet their production goals, based in part on the intelligence that comes from plant floor machinery. According to Oracle: “The new capabilities drive factory and shop floor improvements by demonstrating how incident detection, root cause analysis and smart resolution are performed within minutes in a connected factory.”

Some of the data powering Adaptive Intelligent Apps, meanwhile, will come from the Oracle Data Cloud, which the company claims is the largest third-party data marketplace in the world, with a collection of more than 5 billion global consumer and business IDs and more than 7.5 trillion data points collected monthly.

Read more: Oracle broadens IoT cloud offering with four new solutions

Substantial opportunity in AI arms race

The market for AI and for AI-enabled applications is “substantial”, according to David Schubmehl, an analyst at market research company IDC. “We expect this to be a rapidly expanding area for both enterprise and commercial development as organizations race to embed predictive and prescriptive capabilities into their applications portfolio to deliver smarter software solutions to customers,” he said.

In other words, this could be a money-spinner for Oracle if its customers prove to get as hooked on AI-based decision-making as the company clearly hopes they will. But big competitors such as SAP, Infor and Microsoft are also working hard to embed AI into the software need to run smart factories and connected warehouses – so AI is fast becoming an arms race.

The quality of ingested data, however, looks likely to be an important differentiator, Schubmehl claims, as it will determine the resulting recommendation, action or output delivered. “Vendors with a strong foundation of first and third-party data to fuel machine learning have a clear and distinct advantage in the market, providing strong, targeted AI-enabled solutions for their customers.”

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Oracle beefs up its IoT efforts in smart factories push

Oracle beefs up IoT efforts in smart factory push

Oracle has announced a tie-up with Mitsubishi Electric on smart manufacturing and new AI and machine learning enhancements to its Oracle IoT Cloud offering.

Tech giant Oracle has announced a collaboration with Japanese electronics and electrical equipment manufacturer Mitsubishi Electric to develop an IoT platform for smart manufacturing.

Mitsubishi Electric, it seems, has used Oracle’s cloud technologies to develop a new platform for factory automation, FA-IT Open Platform, which uses edge computing to collect data from machinery and business applications and analyse it on production sites.

The idea here is that Mitsubishi Electric, along with other third-party software partners, can use FA-IT Open Platform to create new applications for manufacturing-sector customers, presumably offering them on a software-as-a-service basis. At the platform’s heart are a number of Oracle technologies, including Oracle Database Cloud, Oracle IoT Cloud, Oracle BI Cloud and Oracle IoT Production Monitoring Cloud.

“Mitsubishi Electric develops advanced technologies and products for rapidly emerging factory automation,” said Toshiya Takahashi, corporate executive group senior vice president for factory automation systems at Mitsubishi Electric Corporation. “By adding Oracle Cloud services to this platform, we believe that it will be possible to visualize factories and build an application development environment. In order to provide the platform to customers early, we will also work with partner companies, including IT companies, to develop applications utilizing the platform.”

Developing such IoT systems from scratch, the two companies believe, is a task that few manufacturers are willing take on their own. Instead, the partners are planning to help them speed up the process by offering ready-to-use smart factory apps.

Read more: Bloodhound Project teams with Oracle in world land speed record attempt

Significant enhancements

Oracle has also announced what it terms “significant enhancements” to its Oracle IoT Cloud, to include built-in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities to power so-called digital twin and digital thread capabilities.

The company’s Digital Twin offering gives manufacturers a digital representation of physical assets and equipment, allowing them to see current, historical and predictive data that relates to them, so that they can monitor the health of an asset (a piece of machinery, for example) and how it’s performing. They can also perform ‘what-if’ scenarios, to simulate, for example, what the impact would be on business performance if that asset was taken out of action or, indeed, deployed on more jobs.

The Digital Thread offering, meanwhile, provides a connected business process framework that feeds data from supply chain management (SCM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, along with assets, so that they can track an asset throughout the entire supply chain process, “from product design and order fulfillment, to manufacturing and product lifecycle management, to warehousing and transportation, to logistics and procurement.”

Oracle also introduced new industry solutions for digital field service, smart connected factories and digital fleet management.

“IoT holds the potential to transform today’s siloed operations into a modern, interconnected, digital set of workflows with real-time visibility and responsiveness,” said Bhagat Nainani, group vice president of IoT applications at Oracle. “Oracle continues to push the boundaries of IoT to help our customers significantly simplify their IoT deployments. By receiving real-time data streams enhanced with predictive insights, they can reach new levels of intelligence and a much quicker realization of ROI.”

Read more: Oracle & Wind River: fixing pumps, performance bumps & diagnostic lumps

Standardization: challenges ahead

Oracle has been staging something of a push on its IoT efforts lately, as have rivals such as SAP and Infor. What these companies, and others, are aiming for is an approach that melds data from devices and sensors with that held in the enterprise applications that make up the bulk of their revenues. The argument is this: IoT devices collect a lot of data, but companies that deploy them don’t currently get enough value back from them – and they won’t, unless they can tie that information in with the data that sits in back-end operational systems.

One of the biggest challenges here, however, is that many manufacturers – particularly large, multinational ones – don’t have a single ERP or SCM platform. They have countless systems, running in siloes, in different regions and individual manufacturing plants. Consequently, the effort to persuade them to standardize on single, global platforms looks set to continue for Oracle and others.  

Read more: Oracle broadens IoT cloud offering with four new solutions

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