SAN FRANCISCO — Most of the keynote addresses and breakout sessions at Oracle's OpenWorld last week were devoted to the company’s far-flung suite of cloud and on-premises applications and services while providing technical assistance to developers.

But if you listened closely, you heard Oracle is also trying to adapt to the wave of computing that is more about context and awareness instead of raw power. There was no Tony Robbins appearance (he’s attending Salesforce's Dreamforce, instead) but some of the speakers and outside analysts tried to spin an inspiring tale about what the push to not just the cloud, but a smarter cloud, could mean.

Adaptive Intelligence Application

One such speaker was Vishal Sikka, the CEO of Infosys. His time on the Oracle stage was devoted to the ways that businesses must adapt to ever-increasing computing power, reminding the audience about how the average iPhone is in many ways more advanced than the computers that powered the Apollo moon landings.

“We have to keep thinking differently. Every business must think about what new innovations mean for us,” he said. “What are the ways in which we can break out of the present context?”

The pep talk was applicable to the new Adaptive Intelligence Application rollout. It’s not AI in the sense of how consumers may use the technology, such as Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa. 

Instead it’s a business-focused set of apps that can learn in real-time. They can analyze customer data and allow businesses to tune and weigh priorities in order to glean more insights about the user base.

That type of move is essential, according to Sikka, who painted the picture of a bold future of interconnectedness that requires companies to get prepared.

Learning Opportunities

“It's more than connectivity but it's about a really deep sense of when the world around us is becoming physically connected,” he said. “There are so many ways that are changing the way we experience information. Virtual reality and other new channels of experience are leading into an ubiquity of available information. That basic connectedness and the importance of expertise in many different channels is creating an opportunity where things that are knowledge-based are becoming services.”

Oracle’s Long-Term Challenge

All that high-level talk, however, sounds nice until you dig into the details. That’s where it’s going to be a long-term sprint for Oracle in adapting to the brave new world. There’s fresh competition from Salesforce, which sought to steal Oracle’s thunder by announcing its own AI plans the day before OpenWorld launched.

Oracle is also challenged to get buy-in for its new suite of service offerings. While artificial intelligence and machine learning are the trendy terms that everyone wants to hear, the company needs to make its money through more traditional routes like its Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS).

Chad Eschinger, a Gartner managing vice president, said it’s still quite early to gauge the efficacy of such initiatives, though they’re the ones to watch.

“Oracle is investing heavily and will continue to do so. With IaaS we’re seeing the early days of it’s efforts, which I expect to accelerate over the coming months and years,” he said. “Its PaaS and SaaS investment will also continue with rigor either through internal or external investment. SaaS is generally accepted as the most competitive pillar today with the others being more so in coming years.”

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