Data Sheet—Monday, September 29, 2014

September 29, 2014, 12:25 PM UTC

Good morning, Data Sheet readers, and welcome to a very busy week. Microsoft plans to chat up its latest operating system update tomorrow, and IBM officially transfers its low-end server division to Lenovo on Wednesday. Meanwhile, more than 60,000 people are in San Francisco being briefed about Oracle’s quest for dominance in cloud computing. Find out what the ever-outspoken Larry Ellison had to say last night in today’s FAQ column.


Overhauled Windows gets Sept. 30 debut. An invitation-only event in San Francisco will cater to business customers. Microsoft is backtracking on widely criticized, consumer-centric interface changes in Windows 8 (such as the elimination of the "Start" menu). The preview is due in October; the commercial release won't be out until 2015. Microsoft needs to do something fast, since Windows 8's marketshare actually slipped over the last two months. By the way, it is finally opening its New York retail store—five blocks from Apple's Fifth Avenue flagship location. ZDNet


Microsoft slashes pricing. The company reduced prices for 61 Azure cloud computing services, including backup, security and database applications. (It charges by the month, hour or gigabyte, depending on the offering.) Customers with enterprise agreements will see even bigger cuts. eWeek


Corporate boards still sidestep technology discussions. Here's a puzzling statistic: more than half the 863 directors polled as part of an annual PwC survey have never discussed their company's response to a cybersecurity breach. The good news is they realize they should pay more attention to that, along with big data strategy and cloud computing policies. Plus, more boards use external technology advisors to keep them informed (38% versus 26% in 2012). 

Feds save $1.1 billion by consolidating data centers (so far). Most of the progress from a massive consolidation project set in motion four years ago comes from the Defense, Homeland Security and Treasury agencies. The federal budget office wants to shut down 40% of the government's data centers, cutting costs by $3.3 billion through the 2015 fiscal year. It's still got 9,658 of them (as of May 2014).

Hewlett-Packard explores new dimension for 3-D printing. Some projections size the 3-D printer market at $5.4 billion by 2018, as manufacturers embrace them for prototyping and other design processes. HP hasn't managed to get a product out yet (its delayed offering is due in October), but apparently its research division is already developing technology that works with glass rather than the usual plastic or metal. Gigaom


Big banks fund predictive analytics company. Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Merrill Lynch are among those participating in a $13.5 million round for Context Relevant, which has put a big focus on financial services. They each get a board seat as thanks. This adds to the $21 million the company just raised in May, bringing total funding to $42 million.


Ellison: Oracle already dominates cloud computing

Oracle CTO Larry Ellison famously dismissed the high-tech industry's "nonsensical" obsession with cloud computing just five years ago. Now, he calls it an "inflection point" for the company he founded in 1977.

"Our cloud strategy has been about building and buying," Ellison proclaimed during his speech Sunday night at Oracle's annual customer conference in San Francisco, referring to the massive investment it has made since 2008.

For starters, Oracle offers 100s of enterprise planning, human resources and marketing applications delivered as a service—more than any other company. He offered mind-numbing product lists and customer statistics as proof to the detriment of competitors, particularly Salesforce (mentioned frequently during his hour-long talk), Workday and SAP.

Far more compelling to long-time Oracle customers are new technologies outlined by Ellison that let them "move any Oracle database to the cloud by pushing a button." This service—supported with 19 state-of-the-art data centers—will position the company as a formidable competitor to Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and other companies that offer storage and server capacity as a service.

"Oracle helps you modernize while preserving your investment," Ellison said.

This particular technology was actually first introduced and hinted at two years ago. What's different now is Oracle's decision to offer the same commodity pricing as Amazon and others, plus its big focus on embedding transaction acceleration and data protection into this service. "It's the most important piece of engineering we've done in security for a long time," Ellison said.

By the way, if businesses want to move a database back into an on-site data center later, that's not a problem with Oracle's service, he said. It's also not something that's easy to do with competitive cloud offerings.

All of these things are a major point of differentiation between Oracle and its enterprise application rivals.

"We have to do this because of the promise we made to our customers more than 30 years ago," he said, referring to Oracle's long-time commitment to ensuring compatibility between different generations of its software. 

Another thing Oracle will use to support its sales argument: 19 out of the 20 top players in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) world use Oracle's database to run some or all of their services including Salesforce, SAP and NetSuite, according to Ellison. The holdout is human resources apps company Workday.


Why you shouldn't wear Google Glass behind the wheel. A scientific study at the University of Central Florida has confirmed what you figured out already: sending a text using voice commands with hands-free, high-tech eyewear is just as distracting as trying to do so with a smartphone. That's just one reason at least eight states are taking steps to keep them off your head while you're driving. Reuters    


Gartner Symposium ITxpo 2014: Compare notes with peers. (Oct. 5 – 9, Orlando, Fla.)

Splunk .conf2014. Glean intelligence from machine data. (Oct. 6 – 9, Las Vegas)

Dreamforce: 1,400 sessions about the largest cloud ecosystem. (Oct. 13-16, San Francisco)

Strata/Hadoop World: Big data tools and techniques. (Oct. 15 – 17, New York)

QuickBooks Connect: SMBs, entrepreneurs, accountants and developers. (Oct. 21 – 23, San Jose, Calif.)

IBM Insight 2014: Big data and analytics. (Oct. 26 – Oct. 30, Las Vegas)

TBM Conference 2014: Manage the business of IT. (Oct. 28- 30, Miami Beach)

AWS re:Invent: The latest about Amazon Web Services. (Nov. 11 – 14, Las Vegas)

Gartner Data Center Conference: Ideas for operations and management. (Dec. 2 – 5, Las Vegas)