Oracle is one of the tech giants that started operations in India several decades back. It continues to hold a solid grip in the enterprise tech space globally as well as India. In an exclusive interaction with Sreejani Bhattacharyya and Niraj Sahay of Open Source For You, Saravanan P, Head-Technology Cloud Engineering, Oracle India talks about the tech innovations Oracle is working on, how it is helping the developer community and how Oracle is adapting to the recent changes in the landscape. He also talks about the 25th anniversary of Java and its impact.
1. Can you tell me what your role at Oracle is presently? What kind of responsibilities and areas are you working on?
I lead the Technology Cloud Engineering team at Oracle India. We are a team of hands-on cloud technology experts. We closely collaborate with customers as technical consultants and trusted advisors to help them make the right technology choices as part of their organizations’ journey to the cloud. A key area of responsibility is to help evangelize the power of our second generation, modern cloud infrastructure and advise customers on the best practices for a successful cloud experience.
2. What are your top three priorities presently?
Our first priority is to help enterprises and developers take advantage of Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and accelerate innovation, by helping them focus more on their core business, and not get caught up with routine IT management. Customers have started to realize the importance of transforming into data-driven organisations. So we’re helping them understand how they can unearth deeper, more meaningful, actionable business insights by using Oracle Autonomous Database. And given the ever-evolving cyber-security landscape, with the variety and enormity of cyber-threats on the rise, we’re educating customers on the need for a security-first culture across the board. On this front, we are constantly innovating to help our customers improve their organisations’ security posture to cope with the dynamic cyber-threat landscape.
We are also collaborating closely with our partner ecosystem. Partners & ISVs are a vital part of our customer outreach program, and we rely on a set of core partners to fulfill our customers’ requirements of data migration to the cloud, and for keeping the customers’ IT operations up and running, completing the cloud lifecycle.
To achieve the above two, we are building a strong technical team with hands-on cloud engineering experience, to help customers derive maximum value from their Oracle Cloud services.
3. What are the biggest technical challenges you are facing in managing these products on a day-to-day basis? How do you overcome them?
The saying ‘Change is the only constant’, couldn’t be truer when it comes to technology. The pace of change is unprecedented, and customers are always keen to ensure the technology they invest in and use doesn’t become obsolete soon. Customer expectations are very high on this front, they want technically superior products at the lowest cost. As Oracle, one of the things we do is to always help customer map out their business priorities across the short and long terms and collectively agree on the right technology architecture and offerings instead of pushing piecemeal technical solutions. The technology innovation framework we help customers build will effectively address their current pain points, while creating an on-ramp to support their future growth and expansion plans.
4. How did Oracle adapt to the changes that has come with the current unprecedented situation?
As an organisation, we are well-versed with remote working, having started to use technologies like Zoom for collaboration much before the current challenging situation emerged. We empowered our employees with necessary resources and support, to ensure they can continue to serve customers, while also staying safe themselves. Given it was a time when our customers relied on us the most to keep their businesses up and running, we focused on making it possible for our customers to continue running their operations with minimal disruptions and quickly adapt to the challenges.
5. How is Oracle engaging with the developer community in India?
Oracle has always had a robust developer engagement program in India. We run programs actively throughout the year. We recently concluded a highly successful edition of Oracle Groundbreakers Yatra – this was the India edition of our worldwide global virtual developer summit. It witnessed commendable participation from the local developers. We continue to organize regular virtual meetups, knowledge-exchange workshops and developer deep dive sessions. These help us gain feedback from the developer community and has often helped in fine-tuning our offerings.
One of our recent developer-centric innovations is the Oracle Autonomous JSON Database. Built on the Oracle Autonomous Database foundation, it helps app developers focus on what they do best – create breakthrough apps, and not get bogged down with routine database administration tasks. With this, developers can provision new databases in a matter of just a few minutes, scale up or down – all with zero downtime, to focus more on the next big app they are building. Databases patches are applied online automatically. It also comes with superior security capabilities. The key things to note is that our Autonomous JSON Database delivers 2X more throughput, while costing 30% less vis-à-vis competitive database configurations in the same category.
6. How is Oracle encouraging more startups to innovate? Any programs you run to support them?
We have a very different approach to empowering startups to help them build breakthrough solutions for the new decade. Our Oracle for Startups program is a virtual accelerator program, helping us collaborate deeply with startups to forge strategic, mutually beneficial, business partnerships – for not just the startups, but for our customers, and of course Oracle as well. Starting off with free cloud credits, our partnership with startups expands to include a rich collaborative journey with opportunities for engaging with our vast global community of mentors, technical experts, and marquee customers. In short, together, we’re fostering a virtuous innovation cycle.
7. What do you think is more important – innovations or continuous improvement?
Why should you pick one over the other, when you can do both in parallel? I believe both are equally important to marry an organisation’s short term priorities with long term growth objectives. And today, technology makes it possible.
8. In terms of hiring, what do you think are the must-have skillsets for techies right now?
If anything, 2020 has taught organisations to improve agility and business resilience, because of the unprecedented situation globally. What we are seeing is increased proliferation of some of the most promising technologies, with more commercial success. AI/ML continues to be a huge area of opportunities, because I truly believe the industry has barely scratched the surface of possibilities. Edge computing is expected to be the next big opportunity. And technology paradigms such as blockchain and chatbots will further evolve and be in vogue at least for the next decade or two. Technology practitioners are in a unique position to shape much of how the world lives and transacts in the new decade, so it’s going to be a super exciting and equally challenging era for software, with developers truly becoming the kings, as the saying goes in the technology world.
Techies that look to deepen their expertise in some of the above mentioned areas, as well as data science and analytics, will continue to be sought after. Further, given the dynamic cyber-security landscape and shortage of quality cyber-security talent, it’s going to be an alluring career option as well.
9. Why do you think Oracle has an edge over competition?
In the digital economy, data has indeed become the new currency. As Oracle, we have managed the bulk of the world’s data, securely, for forty plus years. We’re bringing all of that experience and expertise into helping our customers prepare for the new decade, with our second generation cloud infrastructure and industry-leading SaaS portfolio. Today, we are the only enterprise-grade cloud provider with a full-stack cloud presence – spanning IaaS, PaaS and SaaS. Generational innovations such as the Oracle Autonomous Database are proving to be great growth engines and efficiency boosters for our customers.
10. How open is Oracle in adopting open source and contributing to open source?
We are fairly active and committed on the open source front. Oracle contributes both as a leader as well as a key contributor to a vast number of open source communities. We are a founding member of the Linux Foundation, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, also the Eclipse Foundation as well as the Java Community Process. Further, our employees contribute significantly to efforts spanning Java to Linux, Kubernetes to Fn etc as well as across various GitHub communities.
Beyond open source software, which is just one route to preserve technology choice, we are fairly aggressive on the open standards front as well. Today, Oracle is a member of more than 90 standards setting bodies, with several hundred employees engaged via leadership responsibilities, participation via administrative and policy committees, or even technical working communities. Open standards, just like open source, are a great avenue for users to both control their own technology path as well as avoid lock-in with a vendor or a set of vendors.
11. How do you think India is performing in the open source space right now?
With the democratization of technologies such as cloud, AI/ML now fairly mature, open source has become much more viable and mainstream today, and India is on the right track for scaling open source adoption.
12. As you are a tech leader, what kind of innovations can we see from Oracle in the very near future?
Oracle is known for its strong focus on innovation via consistent, sizable R&D investments and efforts. Like I mentioned earlier, our flagship innovation in recent times – the Oracle Autonomous Database – is a generational innovation. It’s the world’s first and only self-driving, self-securing and self-repairing database.
We will continue to innovate, with customer-centricity in mind, and we will work closely with our customers and partners, while keeping an eye on the market trends.
13. As a tech leader, what are the leadership mantras you swear by?
Both as an organisation for Oracle, as well as for me at a personal level, customer-centricity is the key. Our world revolves around customers, and every employee is responsible for helping our customers solve their complex business problems, to better serve their end customers. Ultimately, it’s imperative to develop into a trusted advisor for each and every customer.
14. Java has completed 25 years, what would be as per you the most significant achievement and why?
Java has an unparalleled legacy in the developer world. Its massive following globally in the developer community, is testimony to how much Java has impacted our lives as individuals and organizations. From helping remotely control the Mars Rover in 2004, to helping teach kids programming on Minecraft in 2020, Java has consistently been the world’s most popular and loved programming language, and we are really grateful to the vast number of influencers and champions in the Java community for this.
15. With so many languages gaining popularity, do you still suggest developers to build career around Java?
Absolutely. It’s been 25 years of innovation, and yet Java continues to be the world’s #1 programming language, with over 69 percent of full-time developers using it globally. Today, Java has emerged as a preferred language for development spanning a number of technology paradigms – from DevOps to AI/ML, AR/VR to Big Data and Analytics, Continuous Integration to Mobile and Chatbots, amongst others. For microservices too, Java is the preferred development language. We’re consistently focusing on R&D at any given time during the year to make Java even faster, younger and much more reliable. In the last couple of years, we have moved to a six-month cadence for new releases for Java, with an eye on empowering the developer community with speedier innovations, far greater predictability and of course greater stability.
16. Any innovation that we may see with Java in recent releases or anything new that developers should be looking up to in 2021?
As part of our most recent six-month release, we have made available Java 15, with new feature additions to help developers improve their productivity and application security. This latest release has been a result of industry-wide development that spanned open review, weekly builds as well as deep collaboration between Oracle engineers with members of the global Java developer community, via the Java Community Process in addition to the OpenJDK Community.