All posts by Maggie Holland

Microsoft and Oracle expand strategic cloud partnership

Maggie Holland

12 Feb, 2020

Oracle has stepped its cloud-focused partnership with Microsoft up a notch by focusing on enterprise interoperability with a new interconnect facility based in Amsterdam.

Given Amsterdam is a strategic European datacentre hub for Oracle, this new location will help companies in the region who use technology from both companies to be able to more easily share cross-application data and move on-premise workloads properly to the cloud, according to the tech giant.

An example cited by the company was the ability for a business to be able to run Windows-based apps on Azure connected to Oracle’s Autonomous Database or Exadata on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI).

“Our customers have understood what cloud means. They’ve made use of our cloud and some of our competitors’ clouds. It’s started to pique real interest in whether they can apply that to [enterprise] workloads,” said Andrew Sutherland, senior vice president of Oracle Cloud in EMEA, at the firm’s Oracle OpenWorld Europe (OOW) event in London today.

“The understanding of cloud and benefits is no longer a push by Oracle. It’s a pull from the market.”

Sutherland said that the creation of the Interconnect was done directly to cater for customers who use both Azure and Oracle solutions, adding “Our job is to overcome the hurdles and we’re doing that at great speed.”

Mestec, a firm that helps manufacturers optimise performance, is one such customer giving a warm reception to news about the latest phase of the Oracle/Microsoft partnership.

“We wanted to build a SaaS-based solution manufacturers could subscribe to.  That’s done great things for our customers, but it pushed the responsibility for the resilience of the infrastructure onto us,” said Mark Carleton, chief operating officer (COO) of Mestec. 

“The next generation was to move to PaaS. The obvious choice for us in terms of database was Oracle Autonomous Database. We’ve also had experience in Microsoft .NET. We were able to port that to Azure in less than a day…We made those [technology] decisions before Oracle and Microsoft announced their partnership… It vindicated our decision.”

Making use of the combined power of both for its smart factory solution – which is reliant on high-performance cloud infrastructure and databases – Carleton believes Mestec will be able to reduce its infrastructure and management costs by 50 percent while at the same time benefitting from a whopping 500 percent boost in performance.

“By connecting Oracle and Azure, we’re able to rapidly introduce innovative technologies into our solution, ultimately resulting in a better, smarter solution for our customers enabling them to make dramatic improvements in manufacturing performance,” he added.

Datacentre and connectivity investment remains a key focus for Oracle. It has plans to add further interconnect locations in Asia and the US West Coast as well as regions dedicated for public sector customers in the US.

In terms of datacentre growth, ambitious plans previously outlined continue unabated, according to Steve Daheb, senior vice president of Oracle Cloud.

“Our focus is to make it as simple as possible for our customers to move to the cloud,” he said.  

“We continue to expand our datacentres. We announced at OpenWorld [in San Francisco] that we were going to almost double our datacentres. We have been opening them at a click of one datacentre every 23 days. By the end of this year, we will have 36 regions available covering the entire globe. It’s a massive investment to meet the demands of our customers.”

Can cloud help on the road towards combating climate change?

Maggie Holland

20 Nov, 2019

Cloud is often seen as a panacea in the sustainability conundrum organisations face when they want to be able to connect and collaborate with customers, partners, and employees without increasing their carbon footprint. 

But cloud has never really been seen as a key weapon in the fight to tackle climate change. Particularly when it the hands of energy providers. Until now, that is. 

Over the last few years, ENGIE has evolved from a traditional utility firm into one that offers low-carbon energy and services and now it plans to use Salesforce and associated technologies to help its customers reach their zero-carbon energy consumption goals. 

“As a very large energy provider, we were part of the problem. Four years ago, when our new CEO joined, we decided we wanted to be part of the solution. We’ve disposed of €15 million of coal and we have injected €15 billion into the sun and the wind,” Yves Le Gelard, ENGIE’s executive vice president and chief digital officer (CDO), said during Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference in San Francisco this week. 

“It’s a radical change. We used to sell energy and [it was a case of] the more the better. [But] right now, 150,000 staff are all engaging with customers to sell less. Less is more. That’s a complete shift. In order to be successful in doing that you need to understand the exact carbon footprint of customers. You need data, you need software and a whole world of digital technologies.”

ENGIE has engaged a number of key tech players to assist with its mission and help it implement a new, global, unified, and customer-centric CRM platform. 

Accenture is tasked with helping with business model definition, operational processes, and IT architecture. It will also implement the technology around the world. 

While Vlocity will be responsible for delivering industry-specific and omnichannel cloud and mobile solutions based on Salesforce, as it works with ENGIE on helping customers across the board with their transformation efforts. 

“Climate change is leading us into a world very different from the one we have known, one in which no one can say, ‘it’s not my problem,’” added Isabelle Kocher, ENGIE’s CEO. 

“We decided to be part of the solution by moving to zero carbon and helping others do the same. Teaming with Accenture, Salesforce and Vlocity has been an important part of this journey, allowing us to get a global view of our customers and move fast to build a more sustainable future. Decarbonised energy and digital technology are the lifeblood of ENGIE going forward.”

ENGIE has residential and business customers in more than 70 countries and will now utilise Salesforce to ensure its employees have 360-degree view of customers, which will be key towards helping them reduce energy usage and consumption. 

“Data matters at two ends of the spectrum,” Le Gelard said. 

“The number one challenge is to digitise the world. We need to install sensors to ensure we are monitoring in real time. You really need to know what’s going on. We also need to help customers understand how to behave. This is a cultural shift. You need to explain the consequences of behaviours to millions of customers and users.” 

Le Gelard also said ENGIE had become more attractive as an employer as an added side benefit of its evolution. He called it “an extremely purposeful change.”

Indeed, the company has seen an 80% increase in the number of CVs it receive compared with its historic role as a traditional energy provider, according to Kocher.

“Isabelle made a very brave decision, saying, ‘I don’t want to be part of the ancient world that we have. I want to invest in new technologies and renewables, and in solutions that support all our clients, all citizens in their zero-carbon transition journeys,”’Gwénaëlle Avice-Huet, ENGIE’s executive vice president, head of the Global Renewable Business Line, and CEO of North America, said in a Salesforce Q&A. 

“Our transition started from the ground. Everybody was asking for change. And I think that’s a tremendous place to be because we have a perfect combination of solutions for a zero-carbon transition.”

Salesforce launches Einstein Voice Skills

Maggie Holland

19 Nov, 2019

Salesforce has launched Einstein Voice Skills, a tool that will make it quick and easy for admins and developers to build customised voice-powered apps for anyone and everyone. 

Unveiled at the company’s annual Dreamforce show in San Francisco this week, the latest addition to the AI-based platform will equip individuals in any role or industry with a handy way to make customer relationship management (CRM) much more personalised. 

Einstein Voice Assistant was announced at last year’s Dreamforce event, so the arrival of Skills is building on that momentum, according to Ally Witherspoon, Senior director of product marketing, Einstein AI and analytics at Salesforce. 

“You probably remember our fantastic announcement around Einstein Voice Assistant last year. [Now] we’re extending Einstein Voice Assistant with the addition of Einstein Voice Skills,” she said. 

“You can build an application for your service agents, your sales manager, your retailers. Whatever their profile in Salesforce, they can have a custom app built for them.”

It can also be deployed in a matter of clicks to build custom apps for business processes, reducing the need for manual entry and, in turn, reducing the likelihood of introducing errors. 

In addition, Salesforce will offer a capability called Einstein Call Coaching. This is designed for managers so they can better analyse call activity and contents, spot trends and, ultimately, optimise the experience customers have by arming sales reps with key insights. 

By making use of natural language processing (NLP) to power voice analytics, the goal is to “drive smarter, more personalised customer engagement,” according to Salesforce. 

Salesforce sees business-focused voice analytics and enhanced capabilities as a natural extension of what people have already become used to in the consumer world through smart devices such as Alexa and digital assistants such as Siri. 

“Voice is a huge shift for the industry and will be as impactful in businesses as it’s been in our homes,” said Bret Taylor, Salesforce’s president and chief product officer.

“With Einstein, Salesforce is bringing the power of voice to every business, giving everyone an intelligent, trusted guide at work.”

What to expect from Dreamforce 2019

Maggie Holland

18 Nov, 2019

Today is what is affectionately known as day zero for cloud giant Salesforce’s annual get together, Dreamforce.

San Francisco will once again play home to more than 171,000 registered attendees, spanning 90 countries, with a wider audience of 10 million expected to tune into proceedings remotely.

The city’s Moscone Centre – and many nearby hotels – will be the main focus of a week of keynotes, more than 2,700 deep-dive sessions and celebrity guest speakers. This year, among others we have former president Barack Obama, David Beckham and – a particular highlight for the writer of this piece – Game of Thrones’ mother of dragons, actor Emilia Clarke, who is also the founder of a SamYou, a charity that supports brain injury recovery.

Apple CEO Tim Cook will also feature, perhaps quite heavily given the two companies have just today announced the launch of two flagship apps.

So, then, what else can we expect from the week ahead?

The link between an array of industries that are using the power of AI, cloud, mobile, voice and other related technologies will likely be high on the agenda. Marco Bizzarri, president and CEO of Gucci is also a keynote speaker, as is Oscar Munoz, CEO of United Airlines. There are myriad sessions featuring other key industry players.

Integration will be another key theme at Dreamforce. We’ ve already seen Salesforce and MuleSoft (a Salesforce-owned company) partner to focus on ‘clicks not code’ to enhance the customer experience so it’s likely we’ll hear more about that this week, too. 

The CEOs of Red Hat and Workday are also on the speaker roster, so we can expect to hear at least a hint of additional further industry collaboration and integration in this respect. Indeed, the cloud giant’s CRM already works with Workday’s HCM in a partnership that goes back many years.

“Come with an open mind, leave with a full heart,” the company says on its ‘Why attend’ page for Dreamforce. I have a feeling given the continued sustainability focus that people will be leaving with anything but closed minds, too.

Indeed, Salesforce today reinforced its commitment to sustainability in a number of ways, particularly when it comes to helping meet Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“This year we’re bringing our commitment to the SDGs to life at Dreamforce and encouraging all of our attendees to take meaningful action,” said Suzanne DiBianca, Salesforce’s chief impact officer and executive vice president of corporate relations.

“Together, we can push further and faster to effectively address the world’s most pressing challenges.”

The headline figures are $17 million (£15.4 million) investment through grants and more than one million employee volunteer hours over the next year. However, in reality, the intention and commitment goes much deeper.

At Dreamforce this year, the organisation will help save nine million gallons of water by supplying beef-free lunches, and – for the fifth year in a row – Salesforce will also be offsetting on-site carbon emissions, employee travel emissions, and conference water usage.

The waste reduction effort goes further, still. More than 150 onsite volunteers will assist with local waste diversion in a bid to help support San Francisco’s 2020 zero waste goal.

This week is Salesforce’s 17th Dreamforce and the excitement out on the streets has already started to build, with the famous pin badges, stickers, and scout leader/ranger hats in full force. So definitely stay turned to the site in the coming days as we bring you all the news and views from the show.

Ultimately, as we approach the conference proper, we can see many things on the horizon. Not limited to innovative technologies and partnerships doing good for customers and their customers being showcased in San Francisco this week.

We also have the good that technology companies and individuals should be and are doing to lessen the adverse impact on the environment and continue to strive for inclusion rather than exclusion and division.

There’s going to be a lot to take in and digest over the next few days, but if everything I’ve been told thus far rings true, it really will be the biggest and best Dreamforce yet.

Salesforce unveils Customer 360 Truth in quest to provide single source of data reality

Maggie Holland

19 Nov, 2019

While data is the new currency of business, it’s worthless without ensuring individuals and organisations can rely on and trust in the integrity of that data. 

So suggested Salesforce co-founder and co-CEO, Marc Benioff, who used his opening keynote at the company’s annual Dreamforce conference to talk about how we have now entered the so-called trust revolution. 

“It’s a trust revolution. Everything is changing in our industry. Everything is changing in our work. It’s an intelligence revolution. AI is becoming such a pervasive part of our world,” he said, setting the scene to announce the launch of Customer 360 Truth, a set of services designs to aid firms in authenticating, connecting and governing customer data and identity. 

“[But] revolutions are not easy and there are gaps. Those gaps are also between us and our customers. We’re able to heal these gaps and bring these things together. That is also why we are building our Customer 360 platform. We have done this together. We are building this together.”

By better understanding customers, organisations will be able to more easily and comprehensively deliver more personalised and exceptional customer experiences. 

“We love data. Data is an important part of everything we are doing and everything that you are doing,” Benioff added. 

“We have moved from systems of record to systems of engagement. We then moved from systems of engagement to systems of intelligence. Now we have moved from systems of intelligence to a single source of truth. 

“As we pursue the truth, it requires us at Salesforce to transform. That is why we have also enhanced Customer 360.” 

Customer 360 Truth provides a single source of the truth by uniting previously disparate data from commerce, marketing, sales, service, and more, to create one, universal Salesforce ID for every customer. This ID brings together behavioural historical data that can come into play during a customer engagement – whether that’s marketing, problem solving, sales or something else. 

During his keynote address, Benioff used State Farm as case in point of what can be achieved through better and easier access to customer data. 

“We want to be about the customer and the customer experience is absolutely dominant in that, “ said Fawad Ahmad. State Farm’s chief digital officer (CDO). 

“I’m proud to say I work for an organisation that has always focused on the customer. We will always be guided by their needs, their dreams, and aspirations. C360 Truth becomes a single, reliable place we can go -regardless of where in the company – to be able to look at, and then leverage,  the intelligence that comes from the platform.’

Salesforce takes AWS relationship to the next level

Maggie Holland

19 Nov, 2019

Salesforce shone the spotlight on enhancing customer service during the first day of its Dreamforce event in Las Vegas by emphasising how important partnerships are in the equation.

“We have partnered with all of the other major companies,” Founder and co-CEO Marc Benioff told attendees during his opening keynote.

“We realise you do have more than Salesforce. We will not create boundaries between us. We will operate as one community.” 

At the same time, as further evidence and recognition of the importance of working with the right partners, the cloud giant confirmed it is expanding its existing partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS). 

“We have an inclusive partnership strategy at Salesforce. We talk a lot about listening to our customers, but we have to think through what they’re saying. Having an inclusive partnership strategy is very important [to that],” said Ryan Aytay, Co-CEO Quip and Salesforce’s executive vice president of strategic partnerships. 

“Companies are making this big bet and spending a lot of money bringing workloads to pub cloud. Salesforce is the world’s number one CRM and we need to be unified with a public cloud provider. That is a part of our strategy. 

“This is a partnership we’ve been talking about for a while. It’s the world’s number one CRM with world’s number one cloud provider.”

The newest element of the pre-existing alliance will see Amazon Connect integrated with Service Cloud, resulting in something dubbed Service Cloud Voice, which will ensure call centre operatives have the best tools at their disposal to deliver a polished customer experience. 

What’s more, by ensuring agents have access to all the information they need at their fingertips, rather than having to visit multiple sources, organisations will be able to increase satisfaction while also reducing costs. 

AI-powered speech analytics – in preferred languages –  will also be provided through Amazon Connect directly to call centre workers to further assist them in answering customer enquiries expertly and efficiently. 

“We have an inclusive partnership strategy. This is very important when you put the customer at the centre,” added Sarah Franklin, executive vice president and general manger, platform, Trailhead and developers at Salesforce.

Other strands of the extended partnership include the availability of AWS educational content on Trailhead and the exploration of ways to make Einstein Voice Skills compatible with Alexa and other smart speakers and assistants. 

“At John Hancock we are focused on making decisions easier and lives better for our customers, and part of how we achieve this mission is through our interactions with them in the contact center,” said Tracy Kelly, AVP Shared Services Contact Centre, John Hancock. 

“With the integrated Salesforce Service Cloud and Amazon Connect solution we can handle millions of calls annually, delivering the personalised and frictionless service our customers expect.”

Both Amazon and Salesforce, along with other industry players, are part of the Voice Interoperability Initiative, which aims to make use of voice-enabled products to deliver greater choice and flexibility through the use of interoperable voice services. 

View from the Airport: Oracle OpenWorld 2019

Maggie Holland

23 Sep, 2019

“Researchers identify cures for cancer. Agro-biologists create smart hives to provide food security for the planet. Aid organisations deliver relief faster. Scientists mitigate climate change and utilities provide safe, cleaner, energy.”

These bold statements were the bread and butter of Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco last week. The unifying element between them all? Data. Indeed, the tech giant talked up the value of data and excelling — not just existing — in a data-driven world during most if not all sessions during the conference.

But it’s not just about hoarding data for data’s sake or trying to make sense out of that data deluge. Far from it. Oracle’s key message was all about using machine learning coupled with human ingenuity so that the “possible becomes achievable.” Or, taking it one step further, Oracle claims it can help people achieve the extraordinary.

While this year’s OpenWorld was filled with more announcements than last year, the common themes of automation, data-focus, integration, and security permeated.

The firm unveiled what it claims is the world’s first “autonomous OS” – named Oracle Autonomous Linux – bigging up its security credentials and ensured the importance of partners was not understated.

Despite all the PR and marketing efforts on ensuring those key themes resonated with attendees, the biggest takeaway for me was that of Ellison’s personal nod to Mark Hurd’s ill-health.

Maybe I’m reading far too much into a simple statement of genuine love, but in a world where we are focused on autonomy, machine learning and robotics, this pure act of humanity shone through for me.

During his closing keynote, about 10 minutes in, Ellison was clearly struggling to hold it all together. So what he said next was really from the heart.

“I would just like to take a moment and say how much I miss Mark Hurd, personally. We’ve worked together for a long time, I love him, and I wish him a speedy recovery,” he said, to much applause and agreement from the audience.

He then quipped: “I don’t have so many friends that I can afford to lose any,” before doing his best to continue his presentation about the company’s Fusion middleware platform.

I’ve been called cynical in my time and, now, I’m ready to be called a sucker, but what Ellison said – unscripted and away from the military operation that is any tech conference, let alone one of Oracle’s – was, I believe, totally genuine.

In a world where tech is so sophisticated, it promises to outpace what humans can do (if it hasn’t already in certain cases) it just goes to show how important humans and human connections still are.

Larry – if you’re ready this, you really pulled on my heartstrings. I’ll admit I had a lump in my throat during the non-Fusion aspect of this presentation. But I really did see through the Silicon Valley veil and the hurt in your eyes and now I know, at the crux of it all, you’re just a guy honestly trying to do good things with technology.

Oracle announces key partnership with VMware

Maggie Holland

20 Sep, 2019

Oracle and VMware have solidified and expanded their existing partnership to better help organisations harness the power of hybrid cloud. 

The latest iteration of the joint focus  – which should be made available in the first half of 2020 – will enable companies to support their hybrid cloud efforts by running VMware’s Cloud Foundation on Oracle’s Cloud Infrastructure (OCI). 

Those interested will be able to migrate VMware vSphere workloads over to Oracle’s Generation 2 OCI to take advantage of the latter’s infrastructure and operational investments, in addition to Oracle’s technical support. 

“VMware is delighted that for the first time, Oracle will officially offer technical support for Oracle products running on VMware. This is a win-win for customers,” said Sanjay Poonen, COO of customer operations at VMware.

“We’re also happy to welcome Oracle to the VMware Cloud Provider programme, which will allow them to migrate and manage workloads running on VMware Cloud Foundation in Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.”

Becoming part of VMware’s Cloud Provider programme means the firm and its vibrant partner ecosystem will be able to sell such solutions. What’s more, it means customers will be able to take advantage of the recent investments Oracle has made in its autonomous solutions. 

The VMware tie-up follows hot on the heels of a multi-cloud partnership with Microsoft, which essentially connects the two services and enables joint customers to leverage historic investments. 

Joint customers also seem happy with the news, which is not too dissimilar to the recent partnership Oracle announced with Microsoft. 

“Oracle and VMware are technology providers that we depend on to run our organisation successfully. As a long-time customer of both companies, we are pleased that this partnership demonstrates – with decisive clarity – that Oracle products are indeed supported,” said Dan Young, chief data architect and manager of enterprise database administration at Indiana University.

“This gives us even greater confidence that we have strategic partners that are working together in our best interest to help ensure that in the event something goes wrong, we are fully supported and will face minimal disruption in our operations.“

Oracle: Our cloud will make things easier not more complex

Maggie Holland

20 Sep, 2019

Oracle claims that its cloud is not only the word’s first autonomous one, but also the only one that’s fully integrated. 

It’s that focus on integration as a key consideration rather than an afterthought that will help organisations navigate their way through the complexity and uncertainty they face in their respective industries. 

So claimed the firm’s CEO Safra Catz during her keynote session at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco this week. 

“Let me tell you why the Oracle Cloud is unlike any other cloud in the world,” Catz told delegates. 

“At the infrastructure layer – from compute to networking to storage – the Oracle Cloud has been uniquely engineered to be secure and autonomous from the start. No other cloud provider even thinks this way. But, we’ve always thought this way. 

“Your Oracle workloads are the Crown Jewels of your enterprise and we know that. The Oracle Cloud eliminates complexity, manual work and – as you heard last night – most importantly, human error. It delivers a degree of reliability, operational efficiency, and automatic security that other clouds just cannot match.” 

Oracle’s focus on built-in automation and integration also minimises risks and cost, according to Catz.

The opening video prior to the keynote talked about oceans of information being processed in the blink of an eye in the increasingly data-driven world in which we live and work.

And the fact that Oracle has been on the same data-driven journey to the cloud so is perfectly placed to understand and help respond to myriad challenges, Catz said. 

“We needed to be a better service-oriented company. It wasn’t good enough to build a great cloud. We needed to use it. We needed our own cloud to be a platform to enable the business changes we were looking for,” Catz added. 

Oracle’s cloud will help firms maximise efficiency and effectiveness, thanks to enhanced levels of functional integration and embedded AI which, in turn, delivers greater levels of business insight, according to Catz. 

What’s more, Catz said using the Oracle Cloud – which puts the user front and centre – would enable customers to “outpace change” due to new features being provided seamlessly every quarter. She dubbed this “continuous innovation without tedious upgrades.”

“Our goal is to deliver innovation in a way that simplifies IT and business functions. And we believe the best way to do this is to engineer all our products to work together from the beginning, each piece benefiting from the capabilities of its underlying platform,” Catz said. 

“I encourage you to try the Oracle cloud out for yourself – for free. Experience the autonomous cloud and see for yourself what makes Oracle so unique and the best choice to achieve business success.”

Oracle takes the wraps off world’s first autonomous operating system

Maggie Holland

17 Sep, 2019

Oracle has trumped its Autonomous Database concept by unveiling the world’s first fully autonomous operating system, taking heavy aim at rivals Amazon and IBM in the process. 

Dubbed Oracle Autonomous Linux, the new OS is available immediately and follows on the self-management and self-securing path as the database that the tech giant launched back in 2017 to great fanfare. 

“Our version of Linux, which we have been working on for almost 20 years, is now autonomous. It is the first and the only autonomous OS in the world. And it’s live,” Ellison told delegates during his opening keynote at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco today.

It’s a highly available system designed for the cloud. It patches itself while it’s running. You discover a vulnerability we fix it. There’s no downtime, no delay. We fix it while it’s running. 

“It drives itself. There’s nothing to do because it drives itself. It does all of this stuff automatically. You can concentrate on building systems that are related to your biz rather than worrying about the underlying plumbing. When you use Oracle autonomous OS in the cloud, the price is just right. It’s free. So, if you’re paying IBM, you can stop!”

The idea behind both the autonomous database and OS is to eliminate the room for human error and, in doing so, make organisations’ large-scale cloud environments far more secure. 

“Autonomous systems eliminate human labour. And, when you eliminate human error, you eliminator pilot error. If you eliminate pilot error on a database, you eliminate data theft. And that – as far as I know – is the only way you can ever eliminate data theft,” Ellison added. 

Citing the Capital One data breach, Ellison alluded to the fact it wouldn’t have been possible using its technologies, saying: “With Oracle Autonomous Database, it’s not possible for customers to configure – there are no pilots to make errors.”  

He added: “In AWS’ cloud if you make an error and it leaves a catastrophic data loss that’s on you… With Oracle Autonomous Database, the system is responsible for preventing data loss, not you.

”Put your data in an autonomous system. There’s no human labour, no human error, no data loss. That’s a big difference between us and AWS.”

Oracle’s latest move will resonate with organisations looking to solve their OpEx challenges, according to Al Gilles, group vice president of software development and open source at analyst firm IDC. 

“This capability effectively turns Oracle Linux into a service, freeing customers to focus their IT resources on application and user experience, where they can deliver true competitive differentiation,” he said.